Stephen R. Soukup’s great new The Dictatorship of Woke Capital: How Political Correctness Captured Big Business, from Encounter Books, describes how the Left has taken its long march to the last remaining non-leftist institution—corporate America. It is doing so, by Soukup’s telling, via “woke capital”—defined by him as “the top-down, antidemocratic means by which some of most powerful and best-known men and women in American business are endeavoring to change capitalism, the securities markets, and the fundamental relationship between the state and its citizens—and to ‘save’ the world.”
Soukup is vice president and publisher of The Political Forum, which provides research and consulting services to the institutional investor community. He also directs the The Political Forum Institute, a nonprofit.
His straightforward explanation of increasing, and increasingly destructive, “wokism” in the country’s for-profit sector necessarily includes the role of some who are also in, and/or are acting through, the nonprofit sector. In a portion of the book identifying players engaging in these activities, he helpfully overviews the work of some of the most-prominent billionaire philanthropists in the U.S., and groups they support.
They are Michael Bloomberg and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), Laurene Powell Jobs and her Emerson Collective, and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff.
The decidedly sector-bending nonprofit SASB “wants very much to be the approved arbiter of what does and does not constitute ‘sustainable’ business practice,” according The Dictatorship of Woke Capital. Started in 2011, it shortly thereafter became, “more or less, an operation of Bloomberg LP. Bloomberg Philanthropies made its first grant to the organization in 2012 and continues its heavy support to this day.” Bloomberg himself chaired SASB’s board from 2014 to 2018.
SASB’s standards “often have little to do with sustainability, and almost entirely reflect left-wing priorities that are informed by the neopragmatism of the stakeholder theory movement and … general academic Lefitism,” according to Soukup. “SASB is perpetually agitating to have the” Securities and Exchange Commission “adopt its standards as the Commission has adopted the standards of the Financial Accounting Standards Board ….
“SASB has become a de facto regulatory agency—and one with no check on it whatsoever,” he continues. It “offers a workaround—that is to say, it offers a quasi-regulatory solution to the problem of a disappointingly intransigent electorate” that wouldn’t, were it informed about and given the chance to render a judgment on the enterprise, approve.
Along with other similar projects, the Bloomberg-funded SASB’s rules do not “have anything whatsoever to do with actual American government ‘regulators,’” Soukup goes on. Separate and apart from, but curiously related to, what would otherwise be the government sector’s responsibilities, “[t]hey are, in fact, extra-regulatory standards created specifically to circumvent the U.S. government and to establish an ideal regulatory machine, answerable only to its members and not to the typically ignorant and intrusive masses.”
Bloomberg’s publishing company itself also rates companies’ compliance with woke environmental, social, and corporate-governance (ESG) principles, of course, explicitly relying on SASB standards in doing so, Soukup notes.
Apple founder Steve Jobs’ widow and Bloomberg’s friend Laurene Powell Jobs—“as a philanthropist, as an activist, as a businesswoman, as a political donor, and as a shareholder—has been among the most aggressively ‘progressive’ billionaires in the country, if not the world,” according to Soukup.
“She has used Emerson Collective and other organizations that she’s funded to push a variety of progressive causes, especially the case for coercing business to curb carbon emissions,” he continues, and she’s “a significant player in a variety of worlds—business, media, politics, tech—pursuing a hardcore Leftist tack in each.”
And Salesforce founder, chairman, and chief executive officer Benioff “has donated to a number of organizations dedicated to achieving largely left-wing political and social ends, and has made an enormous production of having his company boycott states that pass laws that offend his political sensibilities,” according to Soukup. “Having made his billions as a cutthroat capitalist, Benioff is now, more or less, a corporatist.”
Soukup quotes Benioff as writing, “At my company, we baked philanthropy into our business model from day one, leveraging one percent of our technology, people, and resources to help nonprofits around the world achieve their missions.”
Soukup concludes The Dictatorship of Woke Capital with a declarative call to depoliticize business and markets, convincingly writing that such would preserve liberty “and the spirit of innovation and expression that harnesses liberty to create wealth and prosperity.”
His book helps make the case that a depoliticization of philanthropy and the charitable sector would be warranted, as well.