In the era of woke capitalism, political lines are shifting as the traditional champions of free markets and government regulation seem to have swapped roles. The rise of ESG principles in business has led Republicans to advocate for increased government oversight, while progressives like Rep. Maxine Waters find themselves embracing free-market ideologies. This shift has given rise to a new right-wing movement willing to wield government power to shape economic and social outcomes, challenging the notion of consistent and principled defense of civil and economic liberties within the two major political parties.
Market Institute President Charles Sauer writes in Real Clear Markets:
“Can you name the congresswoman who recently accused the opposing party of being “anti-capitalist, anti-investor, anti-business, and anti-American”? Perhaps it was Marjorie Taylor Green, or Lauren Boebert? No, believe it or not, the quote came from Rep. Maxine Waters referring to Republican attacks on Black Rock CEO Larry Fink for promoting ESG: environmental, social, and governance factors in business. ESG is one of the poster children for woke capitalism which, according to Jasper Goodman writing in Politico, has led the major parties to change sides. Republicans are now championing increased government regulations of private business. And progressives like Maxine Waters are championing free markets.
It is true that the rise of woke capitalism has contributed to the rise of a new right-wing movement more comfortable with using government power to shape economic and social outcomes. This new anti-woke capitalism has manifested itself not just in the House Republicans’ attacks on ESG, but in Gov. Ron DeSantis’s battles with Disney and other businesses. Of course, the main target of these attacks is “big tech.” Conservatives have allowed their anger at the deplatforming of dissenting to lead them to support legislation giving government new powers over tech companies. These conservatives seem to have forgotten that no matter how well-intentioned government regulations may be, they inevitably have unintended consequences that often harm the very people they are intended to help.
The abandonment of free market economics by large parts of the Republican Party and the conservative movement does not mean that Democrats have suddenly become Ron Paul revolutionaries. Democrats may (correctly) push back on Republican attacks on private corporations when they promote woke ideas, but Democrats also support schemes to “encourage” businesses to adopt their own agenda. This is why, after the Twitter Files revealed the extent to which government agents were leaning on social media companies to censor speech, Democrats not only sided with the government but attacked those exposing the censorship. Democrats also support imposing new regulations on big tech. The difference between anti-big tech Democrats and their Republican counterparts is that Democrats want to use government power to force tech companies to silence anyone whose political views are more than six feet to the right of AOC.
Nor have Democrats dropped their support for corporate welfare, especially for green energy companies and others whose products are compatible with the progressive agenda. Democrats also remain committed to forcing private companies to adjust their hiring practices to comply with federal “equal opportunity” laws, and even favor using state power to force businesses to participate in activities—such as same sex marriage—that violate their deeply held religious beliefs.
Imagine a major corporation coming out against the pro-abortion mandates popping up on state ballots in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Does anyone seriously think Democrats would defend the First Amendment rights of business in such a case?”