For what I mean by “moral usurpation” read The Destructivists, or view this, this or this video.
A “currency” is a means of exchange or the quality of being generally accepted. An elision of these interpretations is my meaning here.
In The Destructivists I explain how a manipulated moral standing can be used as a power trading currency within a triumvirate of elite power centres (the Woke Industrial Complex). Whilst other forms of power are indisputable – such as control of police forces, the ability to create laws, access to large amounts of cash, or control of the media – you might feel in contrast that “moral standing” is a rather nebulous commodity. Can moral standing really be traded effectively as a “currency” like those other forms of power?
In this post I expand upon how moral currencies are, in practice, manifest in very concrete terms. These examples serve to illustrate how hyper-elite players – those who stand to gain power as a result – coercively manage the adoption of these “moral currencies”.
Currencies Manifest as Processes
One needs to distinguish between the knowing actors (the generally invisible hyper-elites) and the masses of willing employees, and other stakeholders, who probably believe they are doing good in the world. We shall look at Athena Swan, DIE (Diversity, Inclusion and Equity), and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance metrics). These examples of moral currencies deploy highly systematised processes to impose coercively their desired instruments of control (viz power) via the faux-morality of moral usurpation.
In the UK, Athena Swan was originally dedicated to advancing women’s careers in Higher Education and research, initially in STEMM subjects but then also more broadly (see my 2015 description here). However, Athena Swan now embraces the broader DIE agenda.
Athena-SWAN is part of the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), formally a private charity. It is funded by educational granting bodies, universities, professional scientific institutions and Government departments. A large proportion of these funds originate from central Government with the result that a nominally independent charity actually promotes the policies of a political agenda. This promotion is coercive.
Athena Swan operates a system of awards, the achievement of which depends on demonstrating compliance, in practice not just in theory, with the objectives of the DIE agenda. These awards relate to specific departments in specific universities. Failure to achieve a suitable award will result in your department failing to get research funding. In short, hire women, blacks and LGBTQ or get no money.
Athena Swan, like DIE generally, discriminates openly against white males – promoting the interests of everyone but. This betrays the political, rather than empirical, motivations which lie behind it, because white males (together with black Caribbean males) are the bottom of the heap as regards access to university.
DIE (Diversity, Inclusion and Equity)
In the wider world, especially that of employment, the DIE agenda is well embedded. Rather than a formal body promoting the agenda, it was promoted initially through the action of moral usurpation and the resulting moral coercion. Most large corporations voluntarily adopted quotas for the employment of women, BAME and LGBTQ – the latter invariably in excess of their prevalence in the general population. In respect of sex, the legally obligatory gender pay gap reporting is one particular coercive mechanism deployed in this area.
As we will see, the true purpose of DIE is not to be nice to women or blacks or gays, but to disempower those holding power (white males) and to undermine meritocracy (which is a barrier to imposing other employment criteria).
DIE within the corporate world is now subsumed into the broader ESG programme.
ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance. Yes, I know – that sounds like an incomplete phrase, like something made up by someone whose grasp of English grammar is not too good – not to mention “environmental, social and governance” of what exactly?
The corporate finance institute defines ESG as “the framework for assessing the impact of the sustainability and ethical practices of a company”.
ESG is to corporations what a social credit score is to individuals. It serves the same purpose: control by an authoritarian elite in the guise of social responsibility and moral loveliness.
The “social” part of ESG consists mostly of DIE subsumed within this larger programme. The “Governance” part is largely “corporate wokeness”. The “Environmental” part is dominated by the climate change agenda. All these things are classified under “sustainability”, though without any coherent reason why. However, that buzz word serves to clearly link ESG to the UN’s Agenda 2030. ESG is the mechanism for coercively imposing Agenda 2030 in the corporate world.
The impact of ESG or DIE on a corporation’s bottom line can be argued either way. Sometimes it is claimed that ESG is financially beneficial. But if reality breaks through, that’s ok because it only enhances the corporation’s moral standing if they take a financial hit for the sake of social benefit. Those who are behind the ESG initiative do not care if individual corporations find the process financially beneficial or damaging. Their purpose is neither the financial health of individual businesses nor even the progress of the agendas ostensibly promoted by ESG. Their purpose is to harness corporate financial power and to place the reins in their own hands.
I amplify below how ESG is being enacted and what lies behind it.
The Appeal of these “Moral Currencies” to the Elites and the Public
It is worth itemising in brief the great appeal of these initiatives…
- Always be aware that the true purpose of these initiatives is not to support that which is overtly promoted, but to undermine or destroy that which they are designed to eclipse (men, whites, meritocracy, corporate independence). And the true purpose of that is to obtain control. This key issue is amplified below.
- The hyper-elites do not principally want money. They already have that. They want power – which means control. This requires removing the disobedient from positions of influence where they might be disruptive. This is what cancel culture is.
- By loudly supporting causes which have been successfully, but often fraudulently, positioned on the moral high ground, the elites expiate their privilege-guilt and replace it with a glow of ostensible niceness.
- Because DIE or ESG are presented as socially and morally desirable, the unknowing majority of those involved in the business are keen to support such initiatives, and so the elites gain full employee engagement.
- The same applies to the public at large. The top-down approach of DIE and ESG is joined in a pincer movement by the bottom-up approach which creates zealots via the education systems. There is a ready supply of the morally infantilised whose mission, in their minds, is social justice. But these people, most vociferous in seeing fascism everywhere, are actively engaged in its promotion.
The Purpose of ESG/DIE is Authoritarian Control
The objective of the DIE agenda is not primarily to be nice to women or ethnic minorities but to undermine meritocracy. Why? Because once hiring and promotion based on meritocracy is abandoned the way is clear to favour people based on something else. And whilst this “something else” is ostensibly related solely to identity group (which is bad enough) in practice the way is clear to smuggle into the process other considerations – such as preferencing those who are likely to be compliant or helpful to other agendas.
If the society in question has an active social credit score system, then that social credit score can be used to decide upon hiring and promotion whilst appearing to be above board. After all, a valid “social credit” would be expected to reflect such desirable factors as Diversity, Inclusion and Equity. In practice, certain Identity Groups will indeed be favoured as well as the system serving the purposes of covert control.
In the case of universities or corporations, the creation of Diversity Officers provides the ideal opportunity for the ideologically aligned to be hired into a position of considerable influence.
As DIE is to individuals, so ESG is to corporations.
The purpose of ESG is not solely (or even primarily) to promote “sustainability”, or any of the environmental, social or governance issues advertised, but to undermine the conventional “corporate meritocracy” based on commercial success.
Some commentators will focus only on how ESG has replaced purely commercial motivations by wokeness. But this misses the point. Whilst the wokeness is an end in itself for the infantilised zealots who play a key role in driving the ESG process, it is merely a by-product as far as the controlling hyper-elites are concerned. The true purpose of ESG is to bring the corporate financial engine under the control of the authoritarian and unaccountable elite “stakeholders”.
Just as DIE smashes meritocracy, so ESG undermines independent companies operating in a free market and subject only to a commercial standard of success. This is the smashing of the corporate level of meritocracy. ESG replaces this with a very unfree system in which the standard of success, upon which access to investment funds are based, is subject to control by unaccountable bodies who are then able to impose their own agenda. By this means the economic engine becomes yoked to an authoritarian government-stakeholder axis.
As Vivek Ramaswamy has noted, once corporations cease to have profit and shareholder value as their motivation, how can one know what is controlling them (see Appendix)? The “merit” of corporations used to be measured by their bottom line; but ESG is changing that. Now corporations are being judged on their ESG scores – the corporate equivalent of a social credit score.
“Who cares?”, you might think. Well, you should because the corporations themselves do. Why? Because the ESG system is being imposed upon them by those on whom they are reliant for investment cash – the hedge funds, investment and asset management institutions.
“Go woke, go broke” is misleading. The investment companies ensure that the reality of the funding environment in which corporations now operate is that failure to go woke will ensure they go broke. If an individual business ends up going broke anyway, perhaps as a consequence of going woke, that is just collateral damage as far as the hyper-elite authoritarian players are concerned.
All the major investment funds now insist on ESG credentials. Look for yourself. Here’s the top funders, with illustrative links to their commitment to ESG,
- Goldman Sachs
- Bridgewater Associates
- Renaissance Technologies
- Man Group
- AQR Capital Management
- Two Sigma
- Nuveen Investment Management
If you browse that material you will see evidence of the coercive aspects of the ESG agenda. For example, the Man Group tell us that “exclusions lists are a basic method to incorporate ESG”. In other words, “comply or you go on the funding black list”. As for “impact on returns” we read, “there is evidence that some G metrics have a real impact on returns. The picture is more mixed for the E and S”. You can see that same observation in several of the above sources. The oft-repeated claim that ESG is financially beneficial is simply false. But the ESG lobby is unconcerned as that is no part of their agenda.
Similarly, in this videoed panel discussion you will hear references to “if companies are not willing to engage in these issues we may choose not to invest”. They unashamedly prefer “women led businesses” and groom aligned persons for seniority, referring to “bring up the next generation of leaders”.
If the impetus for corporations to adopt ESG is clear, due to the coercive influence of the funders, what exactly is in it for the funders themselves? The answer is several things,
- The hyper-elites within the asset management institutions achieve their desired control over the corporations;
- This control is further enhanced because ESG scores themselves can very easily be manipulated – and, like social credit scores, actually measure obedience to their masters rather than being a genuine metric of social benefit;
- The funding institutions do very well financially out of it too.
In contrast to the corporations themselves, who are obliged to take this medicine, ESG-constrained funds have been tremendously lucrative to the financial institutions and their stakeholders (i.e., the hyper-elites) at the heart of this radical shift in corporate governance. According to the Heartland Institute,
“…it is BlackRock, the world’s largest private asset manager, that has stood to gain the most. BlackRock holds a stake in almost every public company with its $7.4 trillion in assets under management, and it has leveraged its size and diversification to fully reap the benefits of ESG investment. BlackRock’s iShares Global Clean Energy ETF is one of the largest ESG funds in the world….Is it a coincidence that BlackRock is run by Larry Fink, who has largely spearheaded the stakeholder takeover and is a board member of the World Economic Forum?”
As for an individual company’s ESG score, it is fairly meaningless. According to Two Sigma, one of the main ESG funders,
“ESG ratings are all over the place. In the investment industry, it’s well-known and researched that ESG ratings differ substantially by provider. Dimson, Marsh, and Staunton found that ‘companies with a high [ESG] score from one rater often receive a middling or low score from another rater’ and that correlations between ESG ratings from various providers were minimal.”
This video tells a history in which ethical investing was initially promoted by left-leaning individuals with a personal experience of the 1930s depression, the McCarthy era and the Vietnam war. Whatever view one might have on the desirability of ethical investing, these originators were at least honest in what they were doing and trying to achieve. But the video ends by observing that there are now only a few niche investment funds which promote this honest form of ethical investing. It refers to “dubious practices” by the current ESG-driven funders (cue Al Gore). The video ends on the note that ESG funding, rather than being socially beneficial, can “make things even worse”. One of the originators of ethical investing referred to the transition to ESG as “making success the mother of defeat”, noting that the “little people” had disappeared from the picture under ESG.
In short, ESG is the moral usurpation of the original purpose of ethical investing.
It’s worth noting that the above video was made by Bloomberg which is itself an ESG funder. Another Bloomberg video, ESG Ratings Are Not What They Seem, argues just that – stating that ESG ratings can be the exact opposite of what people think they are. It focusses on trashing the market leader in ESG scoring, MSCI. If you are a true believer in the climate change narrative then you’ll be disappointed by what this video reveals. Whilst the talk around ESG is replete with references to climate change and carbon emissions, it seems that they don’t figure much in actual ESG scores. Instead this video argues that the ESG score is more a reflection of the impact of the world on the corporation rather than the reverse. Quote, “the idea that investing in these funds is doing anything to make the world better – it’s really, really hard to see how that’s the case”.
The video ends with a statement that Bloomberg LP (the parent company of Bloomberg News) does itself “compete to sell sustainability ratings and data to money managers”. Even more remarkably they note that Bloomberg LP has a partnership with MSCI, whose operation they just trashed. Moreover, it is clear from the video that all they see wrong with the current system is that the ESG ratings should truly promote the climate change agenda, rather than merely pretending to do so.
There is genuine challenge out there, though. In this video interview of the CEO of Nuveen the interviewer asks bluntly whether ESG is just a scam to make money for funders. What follows is the sort of bullshit you’d expect.
There is a certain amount of scepticism in regard to ESG, but this generally focusses on the inadequacy of the ESG ratings or the cash value that ESG investment products have for the funders.
The greater threat in respect of ESG/DIE is recognised by relatively few commentators, namely that these initiatives implement the moral usurpation mechanism in order to transfer power into the hands of political actors.
And yet a political system in which authoritarian social policies are allied to the economic power of the corporations is the stuff of which CCP-style fascism is composed. This is the threat which lies behind ESG, revealed most clearly when ESG is interpreted as the corporate analogue of social credit systems.
Appendix: The Danger of Corporate Power in Political Hands
“Our contemporary understanding of capitalism is influenced by a little-appreciated intellectual feud between Milton Friedman and Klaus Schwab. In September 1970, Friedman famously wrote in The New York Times Magazine that the purpose of the corporation was to pursue profit. He argued that ‘the doctrine of ‘social responsibility’ in business, if ‘taken seriously would extend the scope of the political mechanism to every human activity’. He warned that its proponents were ‘preaching pure and unadulterated socialism’ and ‘undermining the basis of a free society’.
Yet as Friedman argued for shareholder primacy, other prominent economists organised against him. In 1973, Schwab, the World Economic Forum executive chairman, wrote the ‘Davos Manifesto’ calling for a new ‘Code of Ethics for Business Leaders’. Executives were no longer simply to seek a return on investment for their shareholders, Schwab declared, but to ‘serve’ their workers and employees, as well as societies, and to harmonize the different interests of the stakeholders…..”
“It was to be left to a class of capitalist leaders to decide just what that meant. So every January they met at a ski resort in Davos, Switzerland, to pontificate about ‘ethical capitalism’”.
Elsewhere Ramaswamy notes that,
“Society gave corporations superpowers. Foremost among them was the gift of limited liability. In return, society demanded that companies use that power for only a narrow set of activities – namely to make products and services – to prevent them from wielding too much power in our politics and other noncommercial spheres of our lives.”
He goes on to note,
“Advocates of classical capitalism like Milton Friedman…ignored the way in which limited shareholder liability would create titanic corporate monsters with power heretofore unimagined, offering no coherent theory for how society should constrain the power of these monsters outside the marketplace.
By contrast, advocates of stakeholder capitalism were correct to acknowledge a social contract between shareholders and society in which shareholders owe something back to society in return for the great gift of limited liability. They were also correct to recognize that the social contract was one which demanded restraint from corporations. They erred only in surmising that this social contract was ‘implicit’ and that corporate restraint was about tamping down the pure pursuit of profit. To the contrary: if limited liability was the quid from society, the mandate to maximise shareholder value was the quo from corporations.”
I commend the following further observation by Ramaswamy to your closest attention in the context of what ESG is doing to release corporate power into the hands of political and self-serving unaccountable actors,
“The requirement to maximise profits wasn’t just about protecting shareholders, as Milton Friedman types had assumed. It was about protecting the rest of society from a Frankensteinian corporate monster. That’s why we keep the monster trapped in the cage of capitalism: to protect democracy and other civic institutions from a monster that, once unleashed, would exercise more power than any business or person ever should.” (His emphasis).
Ramaswamy goes on to opine that the great gift of limited liability should be confined to companies pursuing purely commercial objectives, i.e., maximising profit. Where corporations, including funders, choose to pursue other objectives – even if dressed up as “social responsibility” – they should lose the protection of limited liability. Their directors and shareholders will then be personally exposed to the resulting financial liability.
I’m bound to observe what you describe is essentially a part of the “crises of capitalism” that should usher in the revolution and the eternal classless society. All from the identification of the tendency towards monopoly. The sheer scale of these monopolistic bodies means their managers and owners are incredibly remote from any need to consider anything other than their personal notions. Perhaps this is easiest to see in the projects of the individual “western” oligarchs specially those with their own space programmes, continental health programmes and multinational educational and environmental programmes. But beyond those who court publicity are many more equally untrammelled by concern about the details of how immense wealth and power are generated. The so called crash demonstrated how such people could mobilise literally 100s of millions of taxpayers to experience “austerity” to rescue their corporations. Or indeed inflict “a cost of living crisis” on 100s of millions largely produced by their own sanctions against Russia and its “oligarchs” . As the Governor of the bank of England leg slip 80% of effect is about the war and most of that the sanctions disrupting the flow of basic commodities.
However I think the truth ag the core of this is less logical than many suppose. There is of course the practical protection the corporations get from their dominance, the fate of many Russian oligarchs demonstrating their lack of leverage in the western corporations/political/administrative machinery.
However I do think that many of what you refer to as the elites actually do believe in “progressive” ideas and are simply following their notions, fully aware that they are far distant from any actual consequences of their dabbling and virtue signalling. After all in the UK we point the finger at the French Grandes Ecoles while almost all those in charge know each other from just two Universities and a few fee paying schools.
Much as we make a huge mistake in not accepting that some muslims genuinely believe in paradise and martyrdom, or the CCP in the historical inevitability of capitalism, socialism and then communism I think it quite likely that the few in the “Davos” club have a similarly common belief set which they can indulge.
And what do these gods who know best hate most? Small businesses, popular politicians, white van man, religious extremists, families, “populists”, yellow vests. All those things that disturb their urbane control.
I suppose I have hopd in the fact that it is in fact such a small group of people who count. For if they shift then we all do. And of course there are jolts to the “system” such as Putin’s aberrant action in pursuit of nationalism.
Yes, good points. In short, we are all, the “great” and the small, driven by our psychology.
Indeed. But the psychology is not “fixed” and the number of people whose psychology really affects things is relatively quite small. Shifting things is a lot easier than one might suppose so long as the “right” people are persuaded. A good example is “trans”. Which has been a “thing” since I realised Jan Morris, a favourite read of my youth, had been James. Yet quite suddenly it went from an entirely marginal curiosity in public life to one that influences schools, policing, “public” debate and corporate governance and public funding. This was not the result of some huge change in public opinion nor its importance in voting patterns. But by the shift in already influential lobby groups to use their influence to make it so. Crucially by making public funds conditional on adopting Stonewall standards. In fact the very same as Athena Swann, more targeted and therefore even more remote from public opinion. The hopeful bits to me are in the inherent fickleness and contradictory nature of human psychology and the fact that it is the view of relatively few that counts in terms of action. For instance the power of Athena Swan would dissipate if a decision was made not to consider it in funding awards.