The Transformation of the American Economic System: ESG and Woke Capitalism

Everyone knows.  The twenty-first century United States’ landscape portrays two Americas sleeping in separate rooms.  Some Americans contend the classical liberal model of self-governance and individual liberty has failed and urge that a system centered on social justice deserves a try.  Meanwhile other Americans fervently embrace American founding principles and refuse to give them up without a fight.  Overt conversations, if they can be characterized as “conversations,” are socially ubiquitous.  Calls for American society to become centered on social justice versus its traditional Christian, constitutional basis are loud and clear.  Yet less pronounced but equally as impactful stirrings are also disrupting the American capitalist economy.  The argument for economic transformation is similar: opponents argue capitalism had its chance and has failed. It has failed to produce equal amounts of wealth for every person. It is a corrupt, predatory, crony scheme to enrich the rich at the expense of everyone else and needs to be replaced with a more virtuous economic model. The American Left has offered a reformed economic model in  “stakeholder capitalism.”   This “more virtuous, more equitable” system takes into account stakeholders rather than shareholders and fully integrates not only financial concerns but social and environmental concerns in its business practices.  This economic system is already considerably well rooted in the American enterprise at the corporate boardroom and Wall Street level.  This essay will address the grand effort to transform American capitalism to a corporate socialist economic model. 

  1. Woke Capitalism

First, what is the genesis of the term? The word “woke” is obviously the past participle of the verb “to wake.”  In the 1960s the African-American community began applying the word in common vernacular to mean “well-informed” or “up-to-date.” 1  By 2017 the Oxford English Dictionary added to the word’s formal definition “alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.” A subsequent 2018 op-ed in the New York Times, “The Rise of Woke Capitalism” was a catalyst for mainstreaming the term and now many have heard the term “woke capitalism” while essentially everyone has experienced it.  Major corporations are partaking in a new style of overt corporate activism.  Corporate participation in communities is no longer primarily employee community service work days or canned food drives or donations to local and national charities, twenty-first century corporate activism is involving itself in high, politically-charged progressive propaganda such as Common Core, Black Lives Matter, #Me Too, MENstruation.  Preaching progressive politics to consumers whose primary interests are in purchasing tennis shoes, leggings or a cup of coffee is not only annoying but it is also detrimental to the social fabric of the culture in that it serves to shape social and political opinions.  Those engaging in “woke capitalism” seek to shift the American psyche to support their preferred economic, social and governance policy positions (emanating from Sustainable Development Goals).  Before approaching the next level of understanding, it is worth contemplating why so many corporations choose to participate in highly-charged political activism that is essentially incongruent with normal corporate capitalist objectives …
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The Troubling Roots of Communism

Just as debate serves to challenge an asserted premise, political movements rise to challenge an existing order.  Political movements result either from raw hunger for conquest or utopian visions for coping with human suffering.   As such the communist vision was conceived to defeat and replace the “bourgeois” capitalist, religious existing order dominant in nineteenth century western civilization .  According to communist philosophy, economic inequality and religion are the drivers of the human problem. Global peace and human harmony are only achievable via a complete overthrow of the existing order with full replacement by a classless, secular society.  Karl Marx, the progenitor of the communist vision, detested the “bourgeois” capitalist system which he asserted was driven by callous, greedy, self-interested bourgeoisie who reduced the personal worth of workers to a value-exchange proposition. For Marx, the capitalist system necessarily gave rise to an exploitive, ever-changing market of products and services that aspired to infect every cranny of the globe.   He considered “Free Trade” nothing more than “brutal exploitation” of the working class.

“The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe.  It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.”  1 

Accordingly, the capitalist impulse would be responsible for a crisis of overproduction.  Normal engagement in industry and commerce would result in “too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry and too much commerce.” 2  Furthermore, the existing social order, clinging to religious, moral, philosophical, political and legal beliefs that gain their legitimacy from their said inherent validity, goes unchallenged.  Concepts such as Freedom and Justice are esteemed as eternal truths. Communism firmly rejects the notion of eternal truth as well as the notion of historically recognized validity of religion and morality. 3  For example, bourgeois marriage is little more than legalized private prostitution.  Or, the concept of “The Family”  is a method by which the capitalist transfers his private gains while still enjoying the benefits of exploiting his children for labor. 4  The communist recognizes these human inequities and seeks resolution by overthrowing the bourgeois supremacy and seizing political power so as to instate a new political order.  The transformation would necessarily begin with a revolutionary overthrow of the ruling class by the working class, the common people and the masses who would temporarily maintain a dictatorship.  Once in power, the communists would implement ten political policies which, theoretically, would provide for the dissolution of the state making way for a classless society free from conflict, economic inequality and social disharmony.  The ten policies to be implemented after the overthrow include:

      • abolition of property in land
      • heavy progressive tax
      • abolition of right to inheritance 
      • confiscation of property of emigrants and rebels
      • centralization of credit to the state by means of a national bank
      • centralization of means of communication and transportation
      • bringing factories and instruments of production into a common state plan

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Unifying in Truth

Once the new administration takes office, calls for unity will begin.  But with increasing frequency, calls petitioning for unification rally around ideas and matters that are not anchored in the truth of God’s word.  Christians must develop a keen skill of distinguishing between humanistic, man-centric calls for unity versus biblio-centric summons to join in fellowship for His purposes ;  to refine our discernment to distinguish not only right from wrong but right from almost right.  Bear in mind, evil doesn’t destroy, it perverts, distorts and deceives. Unity alone is not always virtuous.  Men unify for both good and wicked purposes.  Discernment is to be wary of calls to unify for purposes that require you to abandon your commitment to truth.  

Unifying to Build

Human beings are hardwired for community and fellowship.  We have a natural, innate desire to coordinate, cooperate and create- this is clear;  yet, also evident, these qualities may be applied for either righteous or sinful purposes.  Sinful purposes aren’t always driven by evil or malign intent.  Sometimes an unrighteous cause is simply being misled to participate in distortion or subtle deviance.  Genesis 11:1-9 depicts the problem of unification for unrighteous purposes:

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.”  They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.  4 Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. “

8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.  9 That is why it was called Babel – because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world.  From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” 

The incident in the plains of Shinar illustrates how a misled call for unity for humanistic purposes ends in consequence.  

Against God’s Purposes

Why would unifying to build a city with a tower to the heavens be in contravention with God’s will?  The effort was burdened with three cardinal flaws:

      1. its genesis was of humanistic versus biblio-centric origins
      2. it was doomed by the hubris of mankind
      3. it was an exercise in rebellion against God

i. God’s explicit command to Adam and Eve (Gen 1:28) and later to Noah …
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Sustainable Development: What it is and what it isn’t

Whether due to President Trump or to the natural course of events, the global liberal world order is being questioned.  …
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Pompeo’s Crusade for Human Rights: Commission on Unalienable Rights

Given the spirit of the age it might be prudent to refine the American conception of “freedom” and “rights.”  Regarding …
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