Capitalism awakened: companies should not get into politics, left or right
Some companies are getting more to the left, but others are getting more to the right, that’s not how to stop them.
Shold on Are American Businesses Getting Even More Politicized? It could happen soon.
Over the past year, I have spoken with dozens of business leaders concerned about the rise of liberal politics in the C-suite. Many of them think it’s time to fight back – that right-wing CEOs should mobilize their companies to fight their left-wing peers. Forget about competition on price or quality. There is an emerging rivalry over issues that shouldn’t be about business in the first place.
The roots of this trend are relatively recent. To be sure, companies and CEOs have been in politics for decades. Businesses have a long history of donating to politicians and causes of all ideological backgrounds. In the 1980s, many companies broadly supported President Ronald Reagan’s economic agenda. Companies such as Ben and Jerry’s have a long association with liberal politics, while Mike Lindell of My Pillow is a well-known attorney for Donald Trump. But over the past year, American businesses appear to have become more brazenly politicized – and more blatantly one-sided – than ever.
Business after business, the most controversial issues are now systematically addressed, and the C suite approach seems uniformly liberal. See mass opposition to Georgia’s recent electoral law, huge reviews of Alabama abortion regulations, and strong support for federal legislation who would be limit religious freedom in the name of gender equality, among many other examples. Opinion of the elites is overwhelmingly in favor of this transformation, and I’m sure new political CEOs love to be told they’re “on the right side of history.” There is even a name for what they do: “awakened capitalism. “
But many business leaders disagree with this brave new world. CEOs tend to fall on the right side down the aisle, and while that dynamic may change, a large percentage of the business community still does not subscribe to liberal views. Whether fans of Trump, limited-government types, or religious conservatives, most have historically avoided such overtly political questions, especially in their entrepreneurial capacity. Many wonder: why should I remain silent?
As a longtime Conservative Catholic, I am deeply concerned about the business trend. It is frustrating to watch companies and business leaders choose sides. While I disagree with many of their positions, I am much more concerned that they are ignoring the role of business – and potentially even breaking it. Businesses are designed to deliver innovation that improves lives. Signaling virtue tends to interfere with this important work. The same is true of jumping head first into the conflicted world of political wrangling.
Right-wing business leaders would be foolish to follow this path. As tempting as it is to fight fire with fire, we would be much more likely to burn things down, starting with our own businesses. Awakened businesses are already seeing consumers and activists target them for their political stature. Former President Trump is calling on supporters to boycott companies who criticized Georgian law. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for a boycott of Goya after her CEO praised the former president. Four in ten Americans, on both sides of the aisle, are now avoiding companies for political reasons.
Then there are the political ramifications. When a company tilts to one side on a partisan issue, it immediately upsets elected officials on the other side. Take Delta Air Lines. He befriended the National Democrats by criticizing Georgia’s electoral law. But he has also made enemies of the Republicans of Georgia, who control the state legislature and have passed a bill to punish Delta financially. The “good” side of history is only an election on the bad side, with its corporate advocates being treated as such.
Some businesses may think of political interference as a form of insurance, but it is also a slippery slope towards corporate welfare. When companies get into the habit of currying favor with political leaders, it doesn’t take long for them to try and earn handouts, exclusions, bailouts, and other unfair benefits. Forget awakened capitalism: it’s crony capitalism, where business and government get along to the detriment of everyone.
Above all, by meddling in politics on the right or on the left, corporations will only contribute to the break-up of America. Since January, more Americans trust businesses than trusting government, probably because corporations, by creating products and advancements that improve life, unify in ways that politicians do not. Why in corporate America would we reject that trust by adopting the divisive style that people don’t like? If the business community splits into liberal corporations and conservative corporations, some will surely find a market niche. But there’s no point in the country for companies winning over some customers by suggesting that others are not just bad but bad.
So what should a right-wing entrepreneur do? Or a leftist who is worried about the current trend? Perhaps the best approach is to take a stand – against corporate involvement in political issues. CEOs should speak up and say that business is better than political demagoguery. A new one with seven digits and more Consumers First Initiative advertising campaign calls American Airlines, Coca-Cola and Nike with this precise message: serve your real customers, not potential political masters. The business community as a whole should be saying the same thing, loud and clear.
The alternative is to court disaster. If companies go into the business of politics, then politics will dominate business. It’s a surefire way to undermine our economy and stifle the innovation and opportunity Americans deserve. We do not need two warring business circles because the country will lose. American businesses should be less politicized, not more.