Ideas Have Consequences

Ideas Have Consequences

The other day, Devon Eriksen – an engineer, science-fiction author, and somebody I know precious little about other than that – wrote an interesting if somewhat overstated Twitter/X post about the recent controversies involving J.K. Rowling.  Rowling, as you may know, is the author of the Harry Potter series of books who is currently embroiled in a spot of controversy in Great Britain over her refusal to acknowledge the present social dogma that men can become women and women can become men.  As a feminist, Rowling has been fighting this fight for years, with early criticism of her position helping to popularize the (supposed) pejorative “T.E.R.F” – i.e. “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.”  Rowling believes that women are different from men, unique and special.  Only women can carry and sustain life, give birth, be mothers.  Consequently, the effort to deny that women are different from men who wear dresses and makeup profoundly (and understandably) offends Rowling and has placed her at odds with those who purport to speak for the LGBTQ community.

At the beginning of this month, a Scottish hate crimes law passed three years ago went into effect.  The law, which is alleged to protect marginalized groups, creates a new class of crime called “stirring up hatred” which, as The New York Times puts it, “makes it a criminal offense to communicate or behave in a way that ‘a reasonable person would consider to be threatening, abusive or insulting.’”  Rowling, finding the whole business rather tiresome, made a point of using her vast social media reach to refer to “trans women” as “men” and to dare the Scottish police to arrest her accordingly.

Anyway, over the weekend, Rowling penned a long tweet/post articulating her beliefs about kindness, fairness, decency, empathy, and the entirety of her efforts to protect the status of women from encroachment by psychologically unwell men.  That, in turn, prompted the long-ago-mentioned post by Eriksen, who wrote the following:

[Rowling] doesn’t understand that “transwomen” are simply doing to women what feminists did to men decades earlier.

First feminists demanded inclusion in men’s private, unisex environments. Then they demanded that those spaces be changed to suit them. Then they demanded that no male-only space exist, anywhere. And the cosmic irony of all of this is that this is a large part of the reason why “transwomen” exist in the first place.

Boys raised without any spaces or groups for boys. Raised without any acknowledgement, or accommodation, for the sex-specific needs of boys. Boys raised solely by women, in environments designed for girls, treated as defective girls, medicated into insensibility with modified methamphetamine if they dare to act like boys….

And still Rowling is surprised when some of them grow up wanting to be girls, and move into the women-only spaces, which were never abolished when the men-only spaces were?

Now, as I say, this post is interesting.  That’s not to say that it’s necessarily entirely accurate.  Indeed, I disagree with much of what Eriksen writes here.  What he does get inarguably right, however, is that the political controversies du jour did not come out of nowhere.  They did not spring fully formed into society like Athena from Zeus’s forehead.  They came from somewhere.  They are the products of all the thoughts and actions taken prior.  Eriksen says, for example, that “ideology” – radical feminism, in this case – has “high-order consequences.”  Richard Weaver, the great-grandaddy of American conservatism put it more simply in the title of his 1948 classic book, Ideas Have Consequences.

When I first read Eriksen’s post, I thought briefly, about writing something on it but decided quickly to pass.  I revisited the idea yesterday, after seeing that Jamie Dimon released his annual letter to J.P. Morgan shareholders.  As you may have heard, Dimon remains somewhat less than optimistic about the state of the national and global economies.  Among other things, his letter warned that “All of the following factors appear to be inflationary: ongoing fiscal spending, remilitarization of the world, restructuring of global trade, capital needs of the green economy and possibly higher energy costs due to a lack of needed investment.”

This is interesting, especially the final two factors: “capital needs of the green economy and possibly higher energy costs due to a lack of needed investment.”  Whether Dimon realizes it or not, these two factors are intricately related.  More to the point, they’re both related to things that he and people like him have thought, said, and done over the last few years.  You will note that Weaver doesn’t say that only important and profound ideas have consequences.  Indeed, many of the worst and most deleterious consequences in history have been caused by shallow, ill-conceived, and self-centered ideas.  And that’s precisely where Jamie Dimon fits into this story.

Although he doesn’t get anywhere near the credit his competitor Larry Fink gets for the now-paused shift to a “sustainable,” stakeholder-friendly economy, Dimon nevertheless played a key role in the rise of ESG and all of that sordid business.  He appears at two different spots in the introduction to The Dictatorship of Woke Capital, first as the St. Augustine of ESG (“Dimon wants the Lord to make him chaste, but not yet.”), and more notably as the guy who led the Business Roundtable when it “redefined” the purpose of a corporation:

In August 2019, the Business Roundtable (BRT)—a nonprofit organization whose members are the CEOs of the largest corporations in the United States—issued a state­ment in which it declared that its members had agreed to be less focused on shareholders and more focused on stakeholders. The chairman of the Roundtable—none other than Mr. Dimon—declared in a press release that “The American dream is alive, but fraying.” He implied that only by redefining the purpose of a corporation can that dream be saved. “These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.”

Although Dimon and many of his BRT colleagues would probably just as soon we forget what they did nearly five years ago, their declaration was a watershed in the history of American business and markets, the moment at which the CEOs of the nation’s biggest and most important corporations told their shareholders, essentially, to go pound sand.  Or to put it in the context of his letter yesterday, that was the moment that Jamie Dimon fully embraced and proselytized the ideas that are, in large part, responsible for the inflationary potential of the “capital needs of the green economy and possibly higher energy costs due to a lack of needed investment.”

Regular readers may know that I wrote a piece on the BRT’s “redefinition” that I quote from frequently.  In that piece, I warned specifically that the BRT’s decision would seem harmless enough and maybe even quite clever, until, that is, it didn’t:

The simple truth of the matter is that the constant, ongoing, and presumably never-ending access that major corporations have to exceptionally cheap capital makes pleasing everyone at all times seem plausible and, moreover, perfectly sensible. If we can continue to keep our balance sheets looking stellar – through manipulation and access to easy money – then we can keep shareholders happy, we can keep management happy, we can keep employees happy, we can keep elected officials happy, and we can engage in a little politicking on the side because…why not? Who is going to complain?

The problem here is that eventually, something has to give. Eventually, the Fed will have to acknowledge that it has strayed far from its mission and – guess what! – inflation is suddenly a serious issue….Eventually, something has to give. And when it gives, some, maybe all, stakeholders will suffer.

Well, we’re suffering now, as inflation remains, as they say, “sticky.”  And if Dimon is right, we’ll all suffer more in the not-too-distant future.  He and Larry Fink and the rest of the stakeholder advocates bear some responsibility for that, just as the radical feminists bear some responsibility for the current state of affairs between the sexes.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.