A Crucial Choice for Business: Conform to Social Pressure or Defend Freedom?

by | Jul 30, 2020

Business—and the rest of us—cannot afford to conform to social pressure but must find the courage to speak up and defend freedom.

This is my first post in a while, despite having wanted to comment on the campaign underway to destroy individual rights: the right to liberty and free speech as well as the right to property—and thereby, the right to life and the pursuit of happiness. I have written to defend freedom and individual rights so many times before that I thought there is nothing new to say.

But these are dangerous times, as the threats to our freedom to live our lives as we choose are increasing rapidly from movements that want to abolish individual rights and replace them with collectivism, using force to ensure conformity. So I write again to defend freedom, urging business to do the same—because its flourishing, and that of ours, depend on it.

What movements threaten our liberty to live as we choose? Any movement that aims to force us into submission and remove protections against such force.

The environmental movement—the irrational, anti-human factions of it—is fighting against the right to use property freely to create and trade material values for profit. For example, environmentalists have attacked and prevented the production of oil, the building of nuclear power plants, and the development of hydro-electric dams—all crucial sources of energy for protecting and benefiting human life. (Don’t take my word for it; read Michael Schellenberger’s new book Apocalypse never: How environmental alarmism hurts us all, or Bjorn Lomborg’s False alarm: How climate change panic costs us trillions, hurts the poor, and fails to fix the planet).

More recently, the pro-human anti-racism movement has been hijacked by organizations such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) that, consistent with their founders’ Marxist ideology, use destruction of property (such as ransacking and looting stores) and physical violence (such as beating, or killing, store owners) in alleged protest against police brutality and systemic racism. Such organizations also want to take away the right to free speech by demanding the “canceling” from the public domain any language or views they disagree with.

BLM  has also been advocating for defunding and even abolishing (not merely reforming) the police. In other words, it is demanding the removal of an important protection of individual rights.

The irony of the so-called anti-racism movement is that instead of advocating true racial equality—ignoring the pigment of a person’s skin in evaluating their character and conduct, the movement elevates it. Skin color is believed to determine an individual’s rights and how they should be treated, which reverses the racial discrimination that African-Americans have historically endured.

Many businesses have embraced both of the environmental and BLM movements in an attempt to appease their critics, and with the hope of protecting their brands and profits. For example, many media companies have silenced or “canceled” views that don’t comply with the environmentalist and the alleged anti-racist orthodoxy. For example, the Philadelphia Inquirer fired a long-time editor who made the mistake of writing “all lives matter” in an email—which is considered racist by the BLM. Bari Weiss, journalist at the NY Times who has been writing from an individualist viewpoint resigned after publishing a letter describing years of harassment from the NYT colleagues disagreeing with her views.

Mark Zuckerberg is a counter-example in resisting the pressure, likely from woke employees as well as advertisers, to ban views from Facebook that don’t fit the prevailing narratives on climate change and race relations. Kudos to Zuckerberg, and shame on corporations canceling their advertising on Facebook to try to force it to conform. Hope Zuckerberg persists in encouraging free discussion between diverse viewpoints.

Media companies (with the exception of Facebook and a few others) have paved the way by their example and by shaping opinions through non-objective journalism. Other companies have also succumbed and appease the popular narratives and welcome restrictions on their freedom to produce material values (whether shale oil, nuclear power, or hydro-electricity), or to do business with whomever they choose, on mutually agreed terms, regardless of skin color.

But these companies are doing so at their peril.

By ceding its freedom and the individual rights that protect it, business undermines its existence that rests on the production and trade of material values for profit. Our lives and standard of living depend on business producing material values, motivated by profit maximization—which requires freedom. Without the freedom to innovate, produce, and trade, we’ll descend back to the Dark Ages of tyranny, collectivism, and poverty.

Therefore, business—and the rest of us—cannot afford to conform to social pressure but must find the courage to speak up and defend freedom.

Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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