New Op-ed: It’s Not Left vs. Right, It’s Big vs. Small
The primary contradiction in our society, the fault line that defines our politics and economy, is not Left versus Right. It’s big versus small.
Anyone surprised to see corporate America (an anachronism in itself) kowtowing to cultural Marxism is trapped in the old Left-Right map that tells us “capitalists oppose Marxists.”
But today’s landscape is dominated not by capitalists but instead by corporatists—and by any objective assessment, corporatism and socialism are birds of a feather.
Take John Kenneth Galbraith, the darling economist of the 1950s and ’60s. He posited a triumvirate of big business, big labor, and big government efficiently managing American society for endless affluence. No need to worry about a cold or hot war with the Soviet Bloc. In the “New Industrial State” he envisioned, the bureaucracies of Soviet Communism and Western corporatism would converge.
A half-century earlier, G. K. Chesterton noted little difference between (nominally capitalist) corporate bureaucracy and socialist bureaucracy. Insofar as a socialist society “was criticized as a centralized, impersonal and monotonous civilization, that is an exact description of existing civilization . . . [T]he unification and regimentation is already complete . . . Capitalism has done all that Socialism threatened to do. The clerk has exactly the sort of passive functions and permissive pleasures that he would have in the most monstrous model village . . . exactly the tastes and virtues he could have as a tenant and servant of the state.”
Centralized ownership of property and the means of production are hallmarks both of corporatism and Marxism. Both corporatism and socialism stand in opposition to a truly humane and free society founded on faith and privately owned, widely distributed property.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis believed the consolidation of ownership pursued by Wall Street financiers was the socialist’s best friend.
“Just as Emperor Nero is said to have remarked in regard to his people that he wished that the Christians had but one neck that he might cut it off by a single blow of his sword, so they say here: ‘Let these men gather these things together; they will soon have them all under one head, and by a single act we will take over the whole industry,’” Brandeis observed.
We are closer to that beheading now than many realize.
Small Business on the Brink
Small business startups are at a historic low. The Kauffman Foundation, citing its own research and U.S. Census data, reports the number of companies less than a year old as a share of all businesses had declined by nearly 44 percent between 1978 and 2012. MIT researchers found the four largest companies in the average industry had a significantly larger share of sales in 2012 than they did in 1982.
The consolidation of the financial industry coincides with consolidation in other industries. Small regional banks have been the prime lenders to small businesses, and as these banks get swallowed up or regulated out of existence, the independent businessman goes down with them.
Self-described progressives tend to be happy with this development. They profess to be for the little guy, but that does not include the owners of little businesses, a group that tends to be conservative. As opposed to small businesses, big corporations readily fall in line with the leftist social justice orthodoxies.
The long list of large companies giving millions to the Black Lives Matter movement is just the latest manifestation of the Left’s long-running alliance with corporatism and distrust of small holdings.
Historically, progressives and reformist liberals regarded small business as the enemy. They regarded monopoly as an inevitability, and the regulated monopoly was their preferred economic model. Gabriel Kotko documents how Progressive Era regulation served to entrench rather than dislodge big business and big finance.
The first generation of progressives considered the corporation to be more modern, efficient, and therefore more desirable than the small independently owned shops and workshops, which they saw as backward and dirty. There was more than a whiff of racist, anti-Catholic, and anti-immigrant bias to their ideology.
Robert Moses, a product of the Progressive Era, sacrificed “dirty” neighborhoods in pursuit of his “scientific” urban planning. In the same vein, sanitary chain stores would replace the filthy mom-and-pop butcher shops and grocers.
Popular postwar historian Richard Hofstadter sneeringly dismissed small businessmen, farmers, populists, and other critics of concentrated financial and corporate power as backward, mentally ill racists and proto-fascists yearning for a past when WASPs were supreme. When Hillary Clinton smears half of Americans as deplorable and Nancy Pelosi says Make America Great Again really means “make America white again,” they are echoing Hofstadter.
The civil rights advances of the 1960s helped cement the stereotype of small shop owners as grubby racists who should be replaced by more enlightened corporate chains. (Ironically, many black small business owners were displaced by their better-capitalized and now integrated competitors, despite Martin Luther King’s exhortation to support black-owned enterprises.)
Corporate Woke Hypocrisy
Now we have global corporations showcasing their concern for social justice when, in fact, it is these same companies that are responsible for creating the problem in the first place.
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon kneels in front of a bank vault. Tim Cook has Apple donating to organizations that challenge racial injustice and mass incarceration. General Motors CEO Mary Barra says her company is as focused on social injustice as it is on the bottom line.
But Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Detroit outsourced entire industries to China. They can end the income inequality, lack of opportunity and other inequities they decry by bringing those jobs, many of them once held by black Americans, back to the United States.
Tim Cook sees “deeply rooted discrimination . . . in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive.” Yet Apple’s offshore tax avoidance schemes starve “underserved school systems” of the resources he then wants the rest of us who can’t hide our money offshore to pay.
“We can have no society worth celebrating unless we can guarantee freedom from fear for every person who gives this country their love, labor, and life,” says Cook. Yet Cook should not be counted as a “person who gives this country their love, labor, and life” because he has given those things to the Communist Party of China. He has handed to our enemies money and technology that never would have existed were it not for the people of the United States of America.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra lectures us about the “unconscionable list of black Americans who have lost their lives” but she ignores the unconscionable list of black Americans who have lost their livelihoods thanks to her “global supply chains.” Flint, Michigan used to be Buick City. Now, GM’s Buick SUV is made in China.
Barra strikes a courageous pose, writing, “We stand up against injustice—that means taking the risk of expressing an unpopular or polarizing point of view, because complacency and complicity sit in the shadow of silence.”
Just don’t expect her to risk expressing an unpopular or polarizing point of view inside the People’s Republic China. Rather, Cadillac sponsored a propaganda film celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.
Sitting in the shadow of Apple and GM’s silence is their complacency and complicity in the enslavement and extermination of the Uyghur people. A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, “Uyghurs for sale,” found slave labor from the CCP’s concentration camps in Western China are working in factories supplying 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, GM, Gap, Nike, Samsung, BMW, Sony, and Volkswagen.
Uyghur Genocide, Corporate Profit
The Chinese Communist government has facilitated the mass transfer of more than 80,000 imprisoned Uyghur Muslims from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country between 2017 and 2019.
The Uyghurs transferred out of Xinjiang typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances.
Watchtowers, barbed-wire fences, and police guard boxes ring a factory in eastern China that manufactures shoes for Nike. Uyghur workers are unable to go home for holidays.
Uyghur workers were transferred directly from one of Xinjiang’s “re-education camps” to another factory supplying sportswear multinationals Adidas and Fila.
Several Chinese factories making components for Apple or their suppliers are also using Uyghur labor.
When the CCP is not conscripting Uyghurs for its export industries, it’s erasing this ethnic minority from the face of the earth. The party forces intrauterine birth control devices, sterilization, and abortion on hundreds of thousands of Uyghur women.
“It’s genocide, full stop. It’s not immediate, shocking, mass-killing on the spot type genocide, but it’s slow, painful, creeping genocide,” Joanne Smith Finley of Newcastle University in the U.K. tells the Associated Press. “These are direct means of genetically reducing the Uighur population.”
Nothing says “systemic racism” like genocide.
So where are the calls to defund China?
Global corporations make token payments to anti-racism activists in the United States while funding the CCP’s racist dictatorship in China and sowing the destitution that causes unrest at home.
Should it ever come time to pay reparations, present the bill to these companies.
Curtis Ellis is the senior policy advisor for America First Policies.