HomeSocial & PoliticsOpinion | Vivek Ramaswamy’s Long Shot Run at the Republican Nomination

Opinion | Vivek Ramaswamy’s Long Shot Run at the Republican Nomination

Mr. Ramaswamy came up in an elite world where some people employ the idea of charity or progressive impulses to get ahead, first in admissions, then in business, and they sometimes become deluded or self-interested ethical consumers. “Whatever justice is, surely it can’t be attained so incidentally, by just picking the right shirts, the right burgers and the right bankers,” Mr. Ramaswamy writes in the book “Woke, Inc.” He’s bothered by that thing many also dislike, which is a hedge fund putting in place a superficial diversity effort intended to disrupt as little as possible to prevent a lawsuit or make money, or a corporation with an aspirational brand made of cotton produced in the Xinjiang region of China.

This is the world summarized by Sam Bankman-Fried last year in a DM he later claimed he thought was off the record: “this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths and so everyone likes us.”

In “Woke, Inc.,” Mr. Ramaswamy’s solution is to separate politics and business. He argues that both stakeholder capitalists and Milton Friedman devotees miss something in the corporate system we have: A sole focus on fiduciary duty and profit maximization keeps corporations from becoming extragovernmental bodies like Dutch colonial trading companies.

But it’s also not as if the only time anyone cares about racism in America is to sell Pepsi or to get into Columbia. The practical implications of keeping business and politics separate become complicated quickly for this reason — the economy is made up of millions of individuals who live in the larger world. “This is a business,” as Dolly Parton said of her decision to remove “Dixie,” the nickname for the South often associated with the Confederacy, from the Stampede, two dinner show attractions she owns: She didn’t want to offend the prospective customer. What if Chick-fil-A wants to stay closed on Sundays? What if a company wants to market fratty beer to trans people and supporters as customers in and of themselves? What counts as maximizing profit, or respecting the employees, and what counts as politics? What is politics?

Over the last decade, many presidential candidates — especially the long-shot, unconventional kind in both parties — have talked in secular-spiritual ways about voids in American life, and the corruption among elites. There are different theories of the case (technological change, inequality, institutional decline, loneliness), including the omnipresence of corporations and the emptiness of material goods for justice. The vision that markets and capitalism would liberalize the world and accelerate the realization of a pluralistic America, full of choice and privacy and respect, has begun to dim.




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