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Canadian bank goes in for “struggle sessions”

As several commenters here note, a big feature of the current “woke” cultural revolution is how corporations have been actively going along with the drive towards “diversity” and “inclusion”. As I like to point out, free enterprise capitalism at most competitive is arguably the best way to drive out irrationalism and bigotry – an irrational firm that blocks the advance of men and women because of race etc is likely to lose money and be outperformed by firms not run in such a way.

Let me repeat: bigotry is a cost. (Check out this article about racism, the Jim Crow laws, and free markets.) Which is why it is wrong to claim that capitalism is somehow intrinsically racist.

Some of the actions that firms take to make their products, services and hiring polices more supposedly enlightened have, however, backfired if they contrast with actual reality. A case of about a year or so ago is Gillette, the brand of Proctor & Gamble, which decided that a way to connect with younger men was to denounce “toxic masculinity” and make out that many men are a bunch of loutish, beer-swilling boors who like barbecues. Seems like a winning, er, strategy. That was a case of a business that decided to trash its core audience – men. Great work, chaps!

Another, more recent example of how a commendable desire to avoid bigotry has tipped over into Maoist-sounding insanity comes from Royal Bank of Canada, Canada’s largest bank. I got a press release the other day. Here goes:

“At RBC, we acknowledge wide-spread systemic racism has disproportionately disadvantaged Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) for far too long, significantly impeding the ability of those communities to compete equally in opportunities for economic and social advancement.”

I like how the bank refers to “systemic racism” without a need for scare quotes. It uses the term without any sign that this is controversial or might be contentious. It refers to it as a fact.

But the kicker is in the following, and I suggest anyone who thinks of working for RBC and similar institutions, had better take note of this “struggle session”:

“The only way we can truly represent the communities we serve and harness the potential of our diversity is to grow the number of BIPOC leaders across our bank. We’re starting with enhancing our existing company-wide Unconscious Bias training, and making anti-racism and anti-bias training mandatory for all employees.”

In other words, everyone – whether they have been hauled before HR for a supposed misdeed or not – are going to be lectured about their “unconscious bias”, just to be sure there are no gremlins inside their heads. No more using “micro-aggressions” such as the term “colour-blind”, or too much reference to dodgy stuff such as “merit”, “professionalism”, or, god forbid, “boosting shareholder value”. (Running a bank to make a profit – how fucking evil would that be?)

And RBC is hardly going to be an exception. At more or less any large organisation, this is going to be the standard, not the exception. I wonder how many people who try to get a job there (and given the wreckage caused by the lockdowns, people may not be able to be choosy), will have hours of their lives wasted while some HR idiot asks them to talk about their “unconscious racism” rather than learning about how to deliver services and products, or come up with new ones.

Part of this will no doubt play to the fact that part of the contemporary higher education system is churning out people with degrees that have limited traction when it comes to building successful business, but might be absolutely perfect for jobs in HR. Expect further gains in demand for people working in “diversity and inclusion” but who can barely comprehend a balance sheet, a profit-and-loss account, or for that matter, compound interest.

One consequence of all this is that people with an ounce of self respect, if they think they must work for a large corporation for a while to learn skills and build contacts (which is what I did) will want to break free asap, and work for themselves, and run their own businesses. If corporate HR continues down a route of compulsory indoctrination about “critical race theory” and all the rest, no-one of real talent or enterprise will want to waste time there. And when the lousy shareholder performance shows itself, you can bet that those arguing for all this will not own the consequences. And they won’t be willing to confront the fact that a firm’s future is increasingly under pressure if it spends more on HR “resources” than R&D.

There is, of course, a more “pragmatic” reason why firms such as RBC and others are doing things such as this. They are covering their behinds, and fear (with some justification) what could happen to them if they don’t go along. Read that press release again, folks, and note that while it talks about hiring goals, there is no specific time-frame or reference to quotas (yet). Ryan Bourne has this measured article saying that some of this corporate “wokeness” might not even be all bad at all, and just how firms shift with the times. But even Bourne realises how some of this culture war stuff is getting dangerously out of hand.

60 comments to Canadian bank goes in for “struggle sessions”

  • If you have money in RBC, move it.

  • Stonyground

    The Gillette ads still make me laugh whenever it gets mentioned. I used to use Gillette shaving products, those ads made me switch to Harry’s, which are better by the way. I wonder if anyone got a bollocking over it, spending money on advertising that sends your customers running to your competitors is a pretty spectacular own goal.

  • Duncan S

    I read “BIPOC” and my brain says “BiPolar”. Maybe that’s just my unconscious bias from family history. But then I start typing “BIPOC” on my phone, and predictive text suggests “BIPOLAR”. Hmmm.

  • Plamus

    Stonyground, for what it’s worth, P&G bought Gilette for $57B in 2005. The brand value of Gilette today – $14B. The guy who was director for the Gilette brand at the time of the toxic masculinity ads has been promoted to Senior VP for Grooming for all of P&G (not just Gilette).

  • Mr Ed

    Any UK worker who is subjected to this sort of Maoist self-criticism thing whilst in the UK could bring a claim for detriment in employment contrary to The Equality Act 2010, which could be direct discrimination or harassment on the ground of race (not just their race, but race as a concept, but particularly if it is targeted at white employees, such as, say, a Latvian worker whose alleged unconscious bias arising from the history of slavery is denounced). The basic allegation would be creating an offensive environment on the ground of race or subjecting the worker to a detriment of being harangued, of course if the employer trains all employees in an even-handed fashion in its policies and the requirement for acceptable conduct in the workplace, that is just fine and not unlawful. It’s only singling out people on the basis of a protected characteristic that gets employers into hot water.

    If anyone is so treated and so is tempted to bring a claim, please bring in as additional defendants (called ‘Respondents’) the individual managers involved in the offensive training so that they can be, if the claim succeeds: (i) personally liable financially for any award for injury to feelings (ii) cited online as discriminators in the register of judgments, so that the rest of us know of their tortious actions.

    It seems to me that Gillette owner P & G and its big ‘rival’ Unilever are in a race to the bottom in the PC stakes. I am avoiding ‘brands’ wherever possible in favour of independent producers not run by marketing departments in the hands of lefty graduates.

  • The guy who was director for the Gilette brand at the time of the toxic masculinity ads has been promoted to Senior VP for Grooming (Plamus, July 8, 2020 at 4:04 pm)

    Is it just me or does “VP for Grooming” have slightly unfortunate connotations? 🙂

  • bobby b

    Niall Kilmartin
    July 8, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    “Is it just me . . . “

    Oh, good. I was thinking it was just me, which didn’t seem to be to my credit. 😛

  • The Wobbly Guy

    One consequence of all this is that people with an ounce of self respect, if they think they must work for a large corporation for a while to learn skills and build contacts (which is what I did) will want to break free asap, and work for themselves, and run their own businesses. If corporate HR continues down a route of compulsory indoctrination about “critical race theory” and all the rest, no-one of real talent or enterprise will want to waste time there. And when the lousy shareholder performance shows itself, you can bet that those arguing for all this will not own the consequences. And they won’t be willing to confront the fact that a firm’s future is increasingly under pressure if it spends more on HR “resources” than R&D.

    You underestimate the persistence of leftoids in pushing their agenda. They will close down opportunities for new businesses through regulations and choke off possible competitors using the power of the state.

    Controlling how you think through every single aspect of your life – it’s for your own good!

  • Plamus

    Niall and bobby, I don’t know how far I’d be pushing good manners and what it says about me too, but I’ll note that the same person had earlier been Director for Global Oral Care – not a joke.

  • Flubber

    Here’s the issue with making propositions like “Let me repeat: bigotry is a cost.” and then backing them up with facts is, its just a waste of time.

    The entire BLM narrative is bollocks. The numbers don’t support it. Simple as that.

    But it doesn’t matter. You’re dealing with religious fanatics.

    You may as well argue with a devout Muslim that their religion is bullshit, because Mohammed was a slave owner and a pedo.

    They wont hear it.

    This needs to be tackled at source.

    The education system needs a colossal enema.

    Wont happen though.

  • Stonyground

    And to think that I was put out when the company that I worked for started going in for corporate team building crap. I had a long and acrimonious email exchange with my manager over my refusal to take part in go cart racing. I then had a discussion with my wife and decided that there was enough in my pension plan to move my retirement forward two years.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Wobbly: You underestimate the persistence of leftoids in pushing their agenda. They will close down opportunities for new businesses through regulations and choke off possible competitors using the power of the state.

    True up to a point. Part of this is about buying time, in the hope that the insanity burns itself out by increasingly hurting the Left for not being “woke” enough. The fact that J K Rowling and even, god help me, Noam Chomsky signed a letter denouncing cancel culture the other day shows that even some on the Hard Left are getting worried. As I have long suspected, so-called “progressives” realise that they are never going to be “woke” enough to satisfy the “woke” cult, as cult it is. And I hope the revolution eats its own, and that a fightback gains traction. This is going to take several years.

    So avoiding the corporate HR woke-fest is a temporary ploy to stay sane and solvent, not necessarily one that is going to work in all circumstances.

    A question is that at what point does the “great silent majority” start making a noise?

  • bobby b

    “A question is that at what point does the “great silent majority” start making a noise?”

    November 3rd, over here at least.

  • JohnK

    Stonyground:

    You should have gone go karting, it sounds like fun.

    I used to work at the Abbey National in the 80s and had a great time at a training course in Wales. I did some abseiling and made a raft. Very enjoyable, but of course sod all use when it came to making decisions about a mortgage. Still, team building and all that.

    But overall you have a point. The brainiacs who ran the Abbey National as a building society decided they would be able to run it as a bank. It turned out they couldn’t, and the venerable old brand ended up disappearing and becoming the Santander Bank. But do staff at Santander know how to make a raft?

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Flubber: But it doesn’t matter. You’re dealing with religious fanatics.

    I am not addressing these people, whom as you say are members of a mass cult. These posts on Samizdata are written for people who hopefully contain enough rationality to be worth addressing, and who can glean arguments to use when they think about this stuff.

    Bear in mind of course that a lot of the BLM crowd are white, and on a power trip. Woke is to them what owning a Rolex or a nice house was to an earlier generation – a status symbol. Except that in the latter case, you had to often put in some work. Wokeness is instant status, and that explains the mania to out-do others by taking more and more extreme views, indulging in crazier behaviour, engaging in self-abasement (taking the knee, washing the feet of black people, paying reparations, or whatever).

  • GregWA

    We have of course had all kinds of “training” for decades now, sexual harassment, is maybe the oldest. When I took that “class” at work a decade or so ago, I was lucky enough to sit, in the back of the room, next to a young man and woman (in their 20s; me 40s) from our South. I heard her whisper to him, “I thought ‘harass’ was two words?” They laughed; me too.

    Pity they have been replaced by the woke…or so we are meant to think. All this noise online, in the press is from the usual suspects. The vast majority think otherwise or so I hope.

    As bobby b says, we’ll find out in the US on Nov 3.

  • Stonyground

    I had enough of doing sport that I didn’t want to do at school to last me a lifetime. Now, as an adult, I don’t have to accept that kind thing and I don’t.

  • Alsadius

    FWIW, I work for RBC. I’ll be very curious to see what this training looks like.

    That said, we have several batches of mandatory annual training (anti-money-laundering, legal compliance, etc.). This will just be another one, and if it’s like the others, it’ll be five minutes a year that I spend clicking “next” without reading, because the answers are all really obvious. They do it to say they’ve done it, and to reduce their liability if they get sued, not because it actually makes any difference to someone with an IQ above room temperature. We all know that treating black people and white people differently is bad, and we all know what answer the multiple choice question wants from us when it asks about it.

    I expect ten multiple choice questions, and eight or nine of them to have the answer “Report it to HR”, just like eight or nine of the compliance questions are answered with “Report it to Compliance”, and eight or nine of the AML questions are “report it to the Anti Money Laundering group”. And if you somehow get it wrong, you have four tries to get 8/10 correct on questions with three possible answers. This is just how corporate HR works. They want to be seen to do good, but they don’t want to take much time out of our work schedules. It’s wokeness theatre, not Maoism.

  • mikee

    Alsadius, it is wokeness theater only until until a Maoist wants it to be Maoism.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Alsadius
    This is just how corporate HR works. They want to be seen to do good, but they don’t want to take much time out of our work schedules. It’s wokeness theatre, not Maoism.

    You will have to let us know your experience. I have also done these sorts of things. HR is there mostly for legal cover — dealing with the numerous job destroying, productivity killing human resource laws on the books. However, this sort of thing is often different from the courses you describe — I have done many of them. You do a course on computer security, HR doesn’t give a toss as long as they check the box. But HR is full of “racial and gender studies” grads, who are fanatical about this sort of thing. For many (and especially if they bring in an outside training group) they are not just checking boxes, they want you to genuflect. It is like I mentioned before. O’Brien didn’t just take Winston and Julia out back and shoot them, he wanted their souls first. He wanted them to be converted to the right way of thinking first. It is the ultimate in violence. Not just attacking your body but attacking your soul, your beliefs, your heart. And, if you really want to understand these people you have to ask the question why. Why did O’Brien spend all that time, energy and resources to make Winston obey, want to obey? Why, when a bullet costs fifty cents? This question is the most important question in that novel, and I think it is one that is brushed over very quickly by most readers.

    The best you can do in these seminars is keep your head down. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are open to debate. They are evangelicals, trying to steal your soul, convince you that you are a sinner and that your only redemption is obeisance, repentance and paying of indulgences. #askmehowiknow.

    It is one of the reasons I have run my own business for decades. I still have to deal with this crap, but much less so.

  • Alsadius

    Mikee: Yes, but we’re a gigantic bank. None of them want Maoism.

    Fraser: Maybe, but it’s not how they’ve rolled on any other topic – we’re very low on bullshit meetings for an org of our size. I don’t expect there to be seminars in the first place. The worst I can realistically imagine is one speaker being on stage for one hour at our department conference, since they always have a few fluff speakers. But that’s purely passive, and a lot of people just play on their phones during that stuff(with no ill effect). If it’s any worse than that, I’ll re-evaluate.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “But HR is full of “racial and gender studies” grads, who are fanatical about this sort of thing. For many (and especially if they bring in an outside training group) they are not just checking boxes, they want you to genuflect.”

    This has always been the case. When society has social norms it considers important to enforce on its members, the zealots who feel most passionately about the importance of compliance are the first to volunteer for the committees and enforcement groups and campaigns to stamp the boot.

    Torquemada wasn’t just doing a job, ticking boxes. He believed.

    It was the same when society was more religious and lectured against the perils of sin and heresy. It was the same when society lectured on the importance of conforming to gender roles – men should be manly, and women should be ladylike. It was the same when the ‘Lavender Scare’ lectured on the dangers of homosexuality. It was the same when segregationists warned of the dangers of letting blacks into white establishments. It’s the same today when people warn us against the dangers posed by the transgender, breaking society’s rules on gender segregation. They were and are not just ticking boxes. They believe that society would fall apart, collapse into chaos and corruption, if it did not follow their rules. They were saving the world.

    Some are true believers. They act because they know they are right and just and good, and their enemies are wrong and wicked or corrupt or deluded. Some follow the herd for the sake of a quiet life, or because they assume the herd leaders know what they’re doing, or because that’s how life is, and how it’s always been.

    Nothing has changed about the nature of humanity. The only thing that has changed is the rules. What was compulsory is now forbidden, and what was forbidden is now compulsory. The boundaries are redrawn. The wheel turns.

    “This question is the most important question in that novel, and I think it is one that is brushed over very quickly by most readers.”

    Agreed.

    Orwell’s book was not purely a prediction of the future, but a commentary on the consequences of unchecked human nature as Orwell had observed it in his past and present. It’s ‘predictions’ come true because human nature remains the same. And true believers think everybody should believe the same as they do.

  • Stonyground

    There are aspects of human nature that baffle me. The modern Marxists are just about as wrong as it is possible to be. Karl’s ideas have been rigorously tested in the real world ever since he expressed them and in every time and every place, unmitigated failure has been the result. This is why they are so keen on censorship, their ideas simply cannot stand in a world where everyone’s opinions can be freely expressed and discussed. But why would anyone want to hold opinions that can be so easily demolished and then defend them only by forbidding dissenters to speak? If I am wrong about something I want to know about it, so that I can make corrections and stop being wrong.

  • James Hargrave

    ‘HR’, an inhuman idea, is surely one of these make-work activities for all those graduates we produce nowadays (minds, such as they are, full of entitlement and poppycock). Obviously, the great HR managers of the past were folk like Sauckel and Speer.

  • llamas

    Alsadius wrote:

    ‘That said, we have several batches of mandatory annual training (anti-money-laundering, legal compliance, etc.).’

    That reminds me of one of the most-spectacular blacks I put up at my last place of employment. We also were subjected to various annual indoctrination sessions. One of them was the direct result of an unfortunate incident where a sales group of our company that dealt with government contracting had sought to obtain an advantage by being a bit too free-and-easy with a) Colombian snuff and b) introductions to ladies of negotiable virtue. As a result, we simple engineering peons, who were locked away in the basement anytime a customer came near, had to sit though hours of Dilbert-grade tedium telling us not to ever do that.

    I sat through this mind-numbing synapse-theft for the mandatory hours, but then came the Q&A. Bad mistake.

    Me – ‘ . . . . so what you’re telling me is, no matter how effective it might be, no matter what I do, under no circumstances whatever should I ever offer the customer either a) hookers or b) blow? Just so’s we’re clear?

    The Trainer – Absolutely. That’s the exact message. You have grasped it perfectly. Well done!

    Me – (pause for effect) Well, I think I speak for all my co-workers here when I tell you – Chance would be a fine thing!

    It’s not often you can get a laugh like that one got. But the management was Not Amused. I don’t work there anymore.

    llater,

    llamas

  • neonsnake

    expect ten multiple choice questions, and eight or nine of them to have the answer “Report it to HR”, just like eight or nine of the compliance questions are answered with “Report it to Compliance”, and eight or nine of the AML questions are “report it to the Anti Money Laundering group”

    Agreed, 100%.

    It’s just another of the anti-money-laundering, or anti-bribery, GDPR, or anti-whatever courses. Not a hill worth dying on.

    They haven’t embraced Maoism, or Marxist-leninism, or even the so-called Frankfurt School. That’s um, a bit LOL.

    Just a little bit tinfoil hat. They’re not laying us off left right and center for any other reason than profit.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “But why would anyone want to hold opinions that can be so easily demolished and then defend them only by forbidding dissenters to speak?”

    Because the problem to be solved is what they care about, not Marx’s proposed solution.

    Socialism is motivated by sympathy for the downtrodden, and envy and resentment of the rich and successful. People feel they work hard and get nowhere, stuck in miserable dead-end jobs, with bills to pay, constant obstacles and set-backs, while they see other people swanning around having a good time and getting paid pots of money for no work. It’s unfair. Sometimes people see other people having to work hard, and still suffer, and feel guilty about their own relatively easy life. They feel sympathy. They want to make the world a better place, and not feel the guilt of being an exploiter. Fighting to fix the world makes them feel like one of the ‘good guys’ again.

    The problem comes with the proposed solutions to this problem. The simplistic, most direct solution is to redistribute the wealth and freedom from the rich who don’t need it to the poor who do. The simplest, most direct solution to bad people doing things you don’t want them to do is to ban it, regulate it, punish it. If the world is not as you wish it to be, use compulsion to force it into the right shape, by the most direct route. But this doesn’t work in practice. People resist, and find ways round your regulations. And even where people obey, the economy falls apart, because it depends on price signals and rewarding success. The productive stop producing, because you have taken away the incentives to produce. The failure is seen as due to sabotage and deliberate malicious resistance, all disagreement is sabotage, and the regulations get ever tighter and the punishments harsher to try to force the solution to work, which makes the problem worse in an unending positive feedback cycle, until society collapses. Famine, atrocity, civil war.

    But people don’t understand why their simplistic solutions don’t work. All they know is the passionate need to solve the problem. But economics and science and statistics are hard, and most people struggle even with basic arithmetic, let alone more complex concepts. Few ‘Marxists’ have ever actually studied Marx’s economics, or could give a coherent explanation of them. Just as few Christians have read the Bible (they refused for years to translate it from Latin into English precisely so their congregations couldn’t read it), and few Global Warming believers know any meteorology or atmospheric physics. (And for that matter, few of those most passionately opposed to Marxism, religion, or Global Warming alarmism know anything of the economics/theology/physics either.) Studying is hard work. The discipline of open-minded self-criticism is even harder. They prefer easy, direct ideas, even if they’re wrong. The feeling that you have the answers is comforting, compared to being lost in a dark and dangerous universe out of your control.

    They’re sheep following the herd because on their own they’re lost and scared, but as part of the herd they’re comforted that even if they don’t understand all the details, they can be confident that they’re part of a herd that does.

    Religions give easy, direct answers to all the world’s most fundamental questions and concerns. They’re not true, but that’s not what’s important. It’s a lot more comforting than “We don’t know.” And it’s very disturbing to be told “What you have been taught, and spent your whole life believing, turns out to be wrong.” Marxism is just another religion, and it’s just as opposed to heresy as all the others. What matters is not being right, but being certain. Being in control. Having the answers. Working to make the world a better place, even if you have to use force to shape it so.

    But the phenomenon is not exclusive to Marxists. It’s featured throughout all of human history. We all do it.

  • Phineas Phosgene

    “Let me repeat: bigotry is a cost.”

    Is that true? In the 60s and early 70s landlords and employers frequently discriminated against ethnic minorities. There is one famous report (no, I can’t find it) in which a black man looking for a place to rent is turned down again and again and the discrimination is explicitly stated.

    The point is that this is all happening in the private sector – where people do it for the money. Maybe they knew something we do not. Maybe bigotry was profitable.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “There is one famous report (no, I can’t find it) in which a black man looking for a place to rent is turned down again and again and the discrimination is explicitly stated.”

    The issue there is one of poverty and culture, not race. A certain subset of tenants had a habit of damaging the property – people who were poor, ignorant, criminal, without the respect for other people’s rights and property. That cost money. But it is difficult to assess a person’s character on a brief interview, especially when they are on their best behaviour. So people picked easier proxies for the characteristics they really wanted to target. Accent, appearance, whether clothes are neat or scruffy, tattoos, etc. are more visible markers of the hidden characteristics that cost money. But such indicators are often of very limited accuracy. Some well-behaved good workers dress scruffily, and some right bastards wear smart suits. So you’re trading ease-of-testing against accuracy-of-testing. The inaccuracy costs both sides. Landlords lose income from good tenants mistakenly identified as bad. And good tenants with an appearance that popular opinion associates with bad character find themselves locked out from any opportunity to better themselves, and thereby fix the problem. It’s self-perpetuating.

    The problem is using a visible, obvious characteristic as an inaccurate proxy for a different one. The majority of cats have four legs. Fido has four legs. Therefore Fido is a cat. Logic like that has a high cost.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Stonyground
    There are aspects of human nature that baffle me

    I don’t think it is complicated, we are simply not a very logical species.The number of decisions we make logically is a pretty small percentage of the decisions we make as a whole, even for a smart, engaged person like yourself (or myself).

    We make decisions based on what our pattern matching brain thinks will advance our goals — wherever they might be in Maslow’s hiearchy of needs. What am I going to eat? Our species struggles with the tension between our logical decision and our base, visceral desires. Want to feel good about yourself? Advocate and even work toward a social system that makes you feel warm and gooey inside. Want to satisfy your needs for bonding with the herd? Join groups of people of shared interest, and work toward a common goal.

    And many of these desires come from things that are really due to our chemistry. One of the most resource and life consuming things you can do is to have children. For sure nature gives us certain compensations and joys from our children — you know, so that we don’t eat them, like some species do — but this need to reproduce is a deep desire that comes simply from the molecules in our body — our true “purpose” to propagate our DNA.

    I read somewhere that the key to motivation is to consider two things: passion and progress. When you are working on something about which you are passionate, and you are seeing progress toward your goal, then you have no problem with motivation. If I were to extend that I’d add a third “p” — people, when you are working with someone, with a shared passion, a shared goal and a shared sense of progress, you will be driven and happy.

    So honestly, we naked barely evolved apes, big bags of chemical machines, driven by deep base and visceral desires — one might not ask “why do we make emotional, illogical decisions” but instead ask “why do we ever make logical decisions at all”?

    It is the triumph of the human species that we have made even tiny progress against our very nature.

  • William H. Stoddard

    I find myself haunted by the thought of Heinlein’s Friday, where there is a spasm of terrorist attacks all over the Earth, and it turns out to be rival factions within the Shipstone corporate empire contending for power. It’s hard not to wonder if all those corporations adopting the slogans of the mobs may not be supporting and encouraging mob violence for some sinister purpose of their own.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Nullius in Verba
    The problem is using a visible, obvious characteristic as an inaccurate proxy for a different one. The majority of cats have four legs. Fido has four legs. Therefore Fido is a cat. Logic like that has a high cost.

    There is another important point about this NIV, and that is the cost of reversing a bad decision. So, if you make it hard to fire people, then you make it hard to hire people. If you make it hard to evict bad tenants, you make it hard to rent property.

    Employment laws make it really quite hard to fire people in many places, though less so in some states in the US than others. However, federal impositions on top of that raise the cost, so that even terrible employees in large firms can easily take a year to fire — and god knows what damage the can do. And this is also so with rentals, especially rent controlled rentals.

    And a second point here — often you are limited in the questions you can ask that would be productive. Let’s say a lady comes in my office looking for a job. Lets say she has a certain shape around her waist that makes me want to say “Congratulations, when are you due?” Any sane person would have to factor in the fact that you are going to go to the expense of onboarding her, only to have her walk out the day she comes productive, lock up the job for 12 months, and potentially quit. But, you are not allowed to say that to her or you’ll have a lawsuit on your hands. So do you quietly and carefully document some other reason for not hiring her? Definitely not, your honor, I would never do something like that.

    Here in the USA if I hire someone I have to provide benefits. The difference between providing benefits for a single person and a married person with a family is probably $15,000 a year. But again, I am not allowed to ask that question, even though it CLEARLY is material to the cost of hiring him/her.

    I “know a guy” who was director of software dev at software company in the UK. One of his team stopped turning up for work, for months and months, but corporate would not let him terminate him. Eventually he found out why he wasn’t turning up — he was in jail convicted of GBH. Even after they found he was in jail it STILL took them three months to fire the dude.

    I was talking to some of my partners about hiring an administrative assistant. Their salary would probably be $40k per year. If they are single my total employment cost is going to be maybe $50k per year, if she is married with kids, it’ll be more like $65k per year. That is the difference between hiring them and not, but I am not allowed to ask the question. So what do I do? I hire an offshore VA or course, and some perfectly nice person doesn’t get the chance to take the first step on their career ladder.

    So, unfortunately, that makes landlords and employers look for danger signals in hiring and renting, much to the disadvantage of people in those categories. I used to hire people all the time, and it is a nightmare, even in a pretty liberal state like Illinois. I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end. Now? I use contractors, and I offshore stuff.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “If they are single my total employment cost is going to be maybe $50k per year, if she is married with kids, it’ll be more like $65k per year. That is the difference between hiring them and not, but I am not allowed to ask the question.”

    Yes, that’s the trouble. The question you really want to ask is “What are my costs of employment going to be, hiring you?”, but that’s a complicated/impossible question to answer, so instead you ask “Are you single?” as a proxy for it. It’s not the same thing.

    And then of course, people start asking the question about “Are you a right-winger?”, because of the PR costs associated with the scandal when you say the wrong thing on Twitter, you’re traced to your employer, and the mob demand you be fired just after you’ve finished your expensive training and are about to become productive. It’s not the same thing, of course, but you can’t ask the question you really want to.

  • Phineas Phosgene (July 9, 2020 at 7:10 pm) et seq., there is excellent detailed discussion in Thomas Sowell “Race and Economics” and later books of his about the economic values and costs of using visible/easy-access proxies for the information an employer or renter really wants to know. (You and/or others on this thread may of course already know this well – but if you need to open someone’s mind, or fill your own with examples, Sowell is a good place to start.)

    Part of Sowell’s analysis details how routinely PC actions make using such proxies more economically rewarding (and some comments in the ‘et seq.’ above contain examples).

    A prejudice is by definition uneconomic – if it is a prejudice then it is not a valid description of reality. A stereotype is the verbal equivalent of a statistical summary: (modulo the potentially greater vagueness of words) it is as accurate or inaccurate as the statistical statement it implies.

  • But why would anyone want to hold opinions that can be so easily demolished and then defend them only by forbidding dissenters to speak? (Stonyground, July 9, 2020 at 5:27 pm)

    Burke’s answer, 230 years ago:

    He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper. This amicable conflict with difficulty obliges us to an intimate acquaintance with our object and compels us to consider it in all its relations. It will not suffer us to be superficial. It is the want of nerves of understanding for such a task, it is the degenerate fondness for tricking shortcuts and little fallacious facilities that has in so many parts of the world created governments with arbitrary powers. They have created the late arbitrary monarchy of France. They have created the arbitrary republic of Paris. With them defects in wisdom are to be supplied by the plenitude of force. They get nothing by it. Commencing their labors on a principle of sloth, they have the common fortune of slothful men. The difficulties, which they rather had eluded than escaped, meet them again in their course; they multiply and thicken on them; they are involved, through a labyrinth of confused detail, in an industry without limit and without direction; and, in conclusion, the whole of their work becomes feeble, vicious, and insecure.

    It is this inability to wrestle with difficulty which has obliged the arbitrary Assembly of France to commence their schemes of reform with abolition and total destruction. But is it in destroying and pulling down that skill is displayed? Your mob can do this as well at least as your assemblies. The shallowest understanding, the rudest hand is more than equal to that task. Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years. The errors and defects of old establishments are visible and palpable. It calls for little ability to point them out; and where absolute power is given, it requires but a word wholly to abolish the vice and the establishment together. The same lazy but restless disposition which loves sloth and hates quiet directs the politicians when they come to work for supplying the place of what they have destroyed. To make everything the reverse of what they have seen is quite as easy as to destroy. No difficulties occur in what has never been tried. Criticism is almost baffled in discovering the defects of what has not existed; and eager enthusiasm and cheating hope have all the wide field of imagination in which they may expatiate with little or no opposition.

    Maoism today, unlike the French revolution back then, is not “what has never been tried”, so criticism is less baffled, but what never changes is the demand that it be silenced.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Alsadius: I expect ten multiple choice questions, and eight or nine of them to have the answer “Report it to HR”, just like eight or nine of the compliance questions are answered with “Report it to Compliance”, and eight or nine of the AML questions are “report it to the Anti Money Laundering group”. And if you somehow get it wrong, you have four tries to get 8/10 correct on questions with three possible answers. This is just how corporate HR works. They want to be seen to do good, but they don’t want to take much time out of our work schedules. It’s wokeness theatre, not Maoism.

    That may be comforting at one level, but bear in mind what Maggie Thatcher used to refer to as the “ratchet effect” of socialism: the process only has a forward gear, not a reverse one. Every new aspect of this “theatre” might on its own be received by staff with a roll of the eyes, but it adds up. And it adds to costs. As I said, HR departments mushroom: there are more reports, more “consultations”, more time spent in this kind of area. And among those who go along with the “theatre” is a sort of a growing level of contempt, including contempt even for themselves in having to put up with it. It is like rain on a corrugated iron roof after a while. Work is not all meant to be enjoyable or fulfilling, but all this woke “theatre” dulls what creative pleasures productive work generates. It means people will “watch the clock” a bit more, and think about building and creating a little less.

    Small steps add up. This “theatre” goes from being a bit of tedious background noise to a full set-piece orchestra blaring away.

    In any event, feel free to pass on how these RBC sessions go. I am sure others on here who work in corporations can share experiences. I may do so from where I come up against it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Fraser Orr: “if you make it hard to fire people, then you make it hard to hire people. If you make it hard to evict bad tenants, you make it hard to rent property.”

    Exactly right. It is depressing how this point is not more widely understood. Look at how there is constant pressure to make it more difficult to evict tenants (and the UK’s “Tory” government recently passed laws doing precisely that) and then people act all surprised when complaints are made that there is a lack of rental properties. Actions have consequences: who would have thought?

    So, unfortunately, that makes landlords and employers look for danger signals in hiring and renting, much to the disadvantage of people in those categories. I used to hire people all the time, and it is a nightmare, even in a pretty liberal state like Illinois. I could tell you stories that would make your hair stand on end. Now? I use contractors, and I offshore stuff.

    Same at my firm. We have a small core permanent workforce and outsource a fair amount to contractors, and keep things under review. Again, when you hear people bleat about zero-hours contracts and the like, do they ever stop to wonder why this more “agency” approach to employment is on the rise?

  • neonsnake

    I am sure others on here who work in corporations can share experiences.

    The place where I used to work (we’re a “big” company, all of the UK-based readers have heard of us) had a truly staggering number of workstreams and groups for this kind of thing. I have rather mixed feelings on them. On the one hand, they send a signal to the relevant people that they’re “welcome here”, and a message that bullying would not be tolerated. Whilst it should be obvious that there is a cost to bigotry, and we’d all like to think that people treat employees on the basis of their value to the company, we’re not calculating machines; even if the managers understand that Brenda (black woman) is as good or better a worker than anyone else, if her direct colleagues (who may not be able to see that she’s better than them, or indeed because they can see that she’s better than them) don’t like black people and are constantly sniping at her and making racist cracks, then she’ll quit.

    On the other hand, the groups and sessions themselves were often not so great, quite patronising, and were pretty eye-rolling (FWIW, I have some skin in the game, as it were, although I declined an offer to help run some of the sessions. I’m not sure I can fully explain why, other than a vague feeling of not wanting to be token-ised, I guess).

    At the back end of last year, we had a “Capital Markets Day” – I’m not in finance, so someone jump in that can explain it better than me, but essentially a day of “selling” the company to investors, as I understand it. During the many presentations, these various Social Responsibility campaigns were mentioned, to much approval from the investors.

    I’d recently read some articles which suggested that investors liked Social Awareness stuff (which surprised me) – but there’s apparently a decent correlation between companies who have such policies, and openness and transparency in your records and actions – basically, you’re less likely to be fraudulent, or to have a Tesco-style “let’s not pay our suppliers because we’ve not hit our numbers” scandal.

    After the day was over, I was chatting with my CEO, and I asked why he’d mentioned the Social Awareness stuff. He basically repeated the above paragraph (without me prompting), so it seems to be relatively well-known.

    I *do* agree that a lot of it is theatre, and I do think that some of it is PR-based (not in itself necessarily a bad thing, if done with a light touch).

    But it does genuinely seem to have some “hard” benefits, as well as some “soft” ones.

  • bobby b

    I’ve sat through my share of equality presentations and computer-courses while at my last big employer. They always struck me as similar to the ethics courses required in law school.

    If you have an employee who truly needs such training, you’ve already lost, and you should have picked your people better.

    They’re a CYA tool for the corporation. You’re not going to change anyone – but you can then document that you tried, which helps when those people get you into lawsuits.

  • I wonder how RBS’ training will handle Canadians chanting, “Jews are our dogs”.

    It will be ‘unacceptable’ of course – but will it be more or less unacceptable than saying, “All lives matter”?

  • Alsadius

    Dude, it’s banking. If you tolerate anti-semitism, you’ll lose huge amounts of your staff.

    I’d probably get fired for “Jews are our dogs”, and I’ve said “all lives matter” in workplace chats without consequences. (Admittedly, I wasn’t using it as a slogan – I was making the point that both ALM and BLM are obviously correct, and people mostly just care which one you use because of signalling – but still.)

  • Fraser Orr

    @neonsnake
    I’d recently read some articles which suggested that investors liked Social Awareness stuff (which surprised me) – but there’s apparently a decent correlation between companies who have such policies, and openness and transparency in your records and actions – basically, you’re less likely to be fraudulent, or to have a Tesco-style “let’s not pay our suppliers because we’ve not hit our numbers” scandal.

    FWIW, I’d like to know more about this. Why do companies advocate for these things? I certainly understand that some individual investors might care, but why would big institutional investors care? I guess there are some isolated cases where they are restricted in what they can invest in because of some ethical rules imposed by their fund, as a kind of selling tool. But that is not very widespread.

    I also think sometimes it is the executives imposing their values on the company. I don’t necessarily say this pejoratively. For example, I heard Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) who pointed out that he would not spend money to add features for the blind or deaf were he only focused on profit, since obviously they constitute a very small market. Which I think is an interesting example. However, if adding features for the blind and deaf caused the price of an iPhone to be twice as high, I think Cook would be less inclined to do so. So, I think there is a small amount of wiggle room to express your ethics, but it isn’t large. (FWIW, ADA compliance is fairly expensive to implement in software, but I suppose ADA lawsuits are expensive too. And if you are looking to make some money and know a blind person, the vast majority of big company websites out there are definitely vulnerable to lawsuits over ADA compliance.)

    And I think Apple is a good example — a company that likes to convey that it is very hip and woke, and they do that is a kind of market position.

    But I think there is probably more to it than that. And I don’t know what it is.

  • bobby b

    “But I think there is probably more to it than that.”

    In the US, you can thank CalPERS – the California Public Employee Pensions System – and numerous other huge public pension investment overseers from the states and the federal government.

    They control massive amounts of investment money, and they are run by people who are very afraid of insulting the wrong social movements, and who enthusiastically push green/socially progressive investing, ofttimes to the detriment of their investment strategy. The largest ones tend to be very very progressive.

    In my last year at my last big employer, CalPERS was looking to purchase a large chunk of our stock. In their DD period, we had to submit lots of departmental documentation on minority hiring, atmosphere for certain demographics, male-female balance, etc.

    They would not invest without this documentation.

    Anyone looking for extremely large chunks of money ends up courting the pension funds. Their “democratic” investing style means you jump through those hoops.

  • neonsnake

    FWIW, I’d like to know more about this.

    Here’s a couple of examples.

    I don’t think either of them were amongst the articles I read last year, but a quote from the second one reads:

    Michelle Crozier, director of sustainability and social impact at Adobe, explains the reasoning for this preference: “From an investor standpoint there is an increased interest in ESG reporting, as it shows that companies are ultimately becoming more transparent by disclosing key ESG metrics and decreasing the risk in a particular investment.”

    (I just typed “importance of corporate social responsibility to investors” into google to get to these – there’s lots more articles, all saying basically the same thing, if you have the time and inclination!)

    From here:

    A vast majority of professional investors view investments in community action and philanthropy not as a waste of money that could be returned to shareholders, but rather as an indicator of a corporate culture less likely to produce expensive missteps like financial fraud, according to the second annual Corporate Responsibility Survey sponsored by insurance company Aflac, in partnership with by FleishmanHillard Research and Lightspeed GMI.

    So it does seem that there’s benefit in the “hard-nosed” sense, as well as a more “emotive” one.

  • Paul Marks

    Moving money out of this bank is pointless – as MOST of the major Corporations are now dominated by Frankfurt School of Marxism ideas.

    Indeed MOST the basic institutions of Western nations are dominated by Frankfurt School of Marxism ideas – because these ideas have long dominated the EDUCATION system (the schools and the universities).

    That the Frankfurt School of Marxism dominates the West (including Diversity-Woke “Conservative” Central Office in the United Kingdom) is not exactly news.

    What can be done?

    At this point I suspect that nothing can be done – the cultural decay has gone too far.

    Death would appear to be the least bad option at this point – but I could be mistaken.

    If President Trump wins (against all the odds – and against the power of the Corporate Media produced by the Marxist education system) in November, perhaps (perhaps) there will be some sort of fight back against the Frankfurt School of Marxism.

    So we shall have to see what happens on November 3rd – but I have very little hope, as the forces of evil (for that is what they are) control almost everything.

  • Paul Marks

    In case anyone thinks I am exaggerating……

    The Economist magazine (yes my standard example – but it is justified) presents itself as an ANTI Marxist pro “Free Market” publication and in this week’s issue the cover ATTACKED racial (i.e. Frankfurt School Marxism – B.L.M doctrine) promising to tell us what was “wrong” with this evil Frankfurt School Diversity-Woke doctrine. So, stupidly, I opened the Economist magazine.

    “Lexington” is the name the Economist magazine gives to its main “journalist” based in the United States – so what did “Lexington” have to say to counter the Marxist BLM thugs who have looted, burned and MURDERED their way through so many American cities?

    Nothing. Instead “Lexington” claimed (without evidence) that President Trump (who has actually bent over backwards trying to get black support) is engaged in vicious “race baiting” – but Lexington went much further than this.

    Citing, with approval, the work of a Frankfurt School academic – “Lexington” declares that Christians in the United States in general are racists, especially “Evangelicals” (i.e. believing Christians) who are, supposedly, the most “racist” of all.

    Well J.P. if the Marxist agitprop (for that is what it is) of “Lexington” is what passes for ANTI Marxist “Classical Liberal”, “Free Market Journalism” – what hope is there?

    Is there any hope at all?

  • Alsadius (July 10, 2020 at 7:55 pm), I can well believe your description of the current culture and if the training is of the “tick ten boxes” kind some have discussed above then it will remain so. Others have warned about what such training can be like when outside believers are brought in (or unfortunate woke hires gain control of it). It is in that latter case that my (somewhat grimly) comic post may not be just a joke.

    I hope the gentle variant will be the one you experience, and will be interested as, if and when you can comment.

  • So it does seem that there’s benefit in the “hard-nosed” sense, as well as a more “emotive” one. neonsnake (July 11, 2020 at 6:37 am)

    It does seem that it is predicted there will be benefit. A great many PC policies predict beneficits which careful study reveals did not happen – and that the PC did not care or notice did not happen.

    Our free speech beliefs predict that cancel culture would be very bad for this kind of openness. One can imagine a cycle – the beginnings of openness on any subject do indeed create a generally more open culture in the firm, but then political correctness, now empowered in the firm, imposes a new closed culture, very capable of being worse than the old.

  • Paul Marks (July 11, 2020 at 7:15 am), interesting: do I understand you aright that The Economist was doing a kind of bait&switch? On the cover: “What is wrong with Cancel Culture?” Inside: “What on earth could even vile President Trump pretend is wrong with wonderful, race-prejudice-cleansing Cancel Culture?”

    The Economist’s EU-love protected me from ever paying to read it even in the old days. I trust you likewise avoided putting money in their pocket.

    Moving money out of this bank is pointless – as MOST of the major Corporations are now dominated by Frankfurt School of Marxism ideas.

    The degree varies and some resist – and there are banks HQed in Switzerland (and either stereotypes about Jews are even falser than I thought or there are banks HQed in Israel).

    It’s like saying that voting is pointless, because all politicians are the same. Most politicians are disappointing but some are more disappointing than others. The media want you to believe that resistance is futile (it’s the same game they played at the start of Obama’s first term) – so don’t give them the satisfaction of agreeing.

    I also note that we can wait for Alsadius to let us know whether it is evil but minor box-ticking or gross and aggressive evil. As, if and when Alsadius dare no longer say ‘all lives matter’ that will/would be significant.

  • neonsnake

    It does seem that it is predicted there will be benefit. A great many PC policies predict beneficits which careful study reveals did not happen – and that the PC did not care or notice did not happen.

    No, the benefit to the company is clear – it attracts investors. Whether the benefit to the investors is as clear may be open to debate, but that’s a different issue. From what I’ve read, the correlation between CSR is at least considered to be real, and therefore in a practical sense should be treated as real.

    Previously, I’d always considered CSR in a much softer sense. I’ve never been against it in principle (whilst smirking at some of the clumsy practice), but it was always from a perspective that the owners of the business should be allowed to practice whatever principles they believed in – although my personal opinion is that a business should be, preferably, upfront about it.

    If Tim Cook wants iPhones to be as accessible as possible, and is still able to be profitable with it, then good on him.

    If Chick Fil A want to donate to anti-LGBT+ causes then, well, not “good on him”, as such, but that’s their right, and I simply won’t eat there. It goes both ways. I’m sure that the owner considers it to be his Corporate Responsibility to do so. (“allegedly”, and whatnot, to cover my arse)

    But beyond the “soft”, I hadn’t realised until I briefly looked into it last year (undoubtedly prompted by a discussion here) that there are genuine actual monetary benefits. It did honestly surprise me.

    There’s a key point, often over-looked, but one I’ve been thinking about recently (prompted/slashed encouraged by a recent comment of Fraser Orr’s). You have to be able to have other choices than an iPhone, if you don’t fancy paying whatever premium is added to an iPhone for it to be accessible, so that you can exercise your freedom of choice. In a more trivial sense, there needs to be other restaurants offering chicken-based fast food so that I can exercise my freedom of choice…

    Without those choices, or the possibility of those choices, the argument falls flat on its face. This is where we converge, from two different directions, on government imposed regulations and barriers to entry. They have to go, or the whole thing is pissing in the wind.

  • James Hargrave

    Farce is a form of theatre.

    The amount of politically correct drivel oozing out of company annual reports as they tick one box after another is truly depressing, and, of course, requires reams of paper, killing all those cuddly trees. Now, obviously, I need to invest in businesses that do none of these things – my form of ethical investing.

  • Fraser Orr

    @neonsnake
    Michelle Crozier, director of sustainability and social impact at Adobe, explains the reasoning for this preference: “From an investor standpoint there is an increased interest in ESG reporting, as it shows that companies are ultimately becoming more transparent by disclosing key ESG metrics and decreasing the risk in a particular investment.”

    Honestly, neonsnake, that sounds far more like an excuse than a reason, especially from someone whose livelihood depends on it.
    Bobby’s suggestion makes more sense: that some big pension funds, pressured by their members, are part of the reason. Though I find it hard to believe one pension scheme, no matter how large, has that much influence. Perhaps there are a lot more, and they form, together enough of a constituency to matter.

    I think also there is a growing threat of boycott of business that don’t say these things from customers. It is one of those low probability, high consequences sorts of a threat — the likelihood is low but if you get caught up in a viral mania it can have very serious consequences for your business. So perhaps paying a little protection money isn’t bad.

    Plus I think there is a growing legislative threat. I mentioned the ADA (which many, many people are exposed to) but I think that is just the beginning. I could easily see SOX being extended to include reporting on a lot of woke garbage too.

  • bobby b

    Here’s a good (albeit three year old) article on CalPERS and their social-goal investment strategy and its costs to California taxpayers.

    If you add up their investment assets with all of the other states and the fedgov pensions following suit, you may not come to the conclusion that the absolute dollar-total of their funding drives investment strategy across the country. But what does happen is that orgs looking for capital face small costs to comply with CalPERS requirements, but face a large one if they do not, simply because this avenue of cash-raising – huge pension funds – then disappears.

    It’s much like the pressure that automakers face to comply with California emissions standards for all autos across the country. It’s cheaper to make one set of autos than two, and they don’t dare lose all California sales – so California drives the trend even though it doesn’t account for the mass of sales. CalPERS drives the national social-investing trend.

  • neonsnake

    Honestly, neonsnake, that sounds far more like an excuse than a reason, especially from someone whose livelihood depends on it.

    Ah, right. Yes, I see what you mean.

    Had I not seen the same sentiment echoed in lots of places, I’d possibly agree. As it was, I hadn’t actually considered that angle; I came more from the side of “Given that her livelihood depends on it, it’s likely that she’s done her research”. I’m less cynical, maybe? (teasing)

    I mean, think of all the other things she could have (and did) say – just for an example, she could have focused in on the benefits of a more-engaged workforce who believe in the values of the company they work for (I’ve seen that argument elsewhere as well), and kept it to that. That’s quite a PR friendly thing to say, whilst also nodding in the direction of “and it has actual tangible monetary benefits”.

    But for it to be yet another example of the “investors like it because it indicates transparency and a diminished likelihood of costly mistakes” indicates to me that there’s something in it. I’ve just seen it in too many places, said by too many people of different stripes and persuasions, to dismiss it.

    I think also there is a growing threat of boycott of business that don’t say these things from customers.

    I tentatively, but increasingly, agree with this – I think you’ve nailed it with the low-risk/high consequence part.

    I don’t shop with Tesco, and haven’t done for some years, because of how they treat their suppliers. As someone who dealt with suppliers from the “Tesco” side, I had certain ethics and morals regarding how to treat them. Deliberately withholding payments to hit a year end number would fall foul of that. But I don’t make a huge deal of it, and I don’t go out of my way to encourage others to do the same, unless it comes up. I very much rather doubt that anyone in Tesco is bothered by the sudden lack of my business from 2013 (or whatever) onwards… 😉

    (that’s my “tentatively”)

    But I suppose that the opportunity now exists, should I choose, to start some viral campaign against them, were I so inclined and skilled at social media. I guess that’s my age showing…

    (that’s my “increasingly”)

    And again, this happens on “both sides”. I’m not interested enough to dig deep, but prima facie, Gilette took an absolute beating after “that ad”. If someone wants to make a case that their misfortunes were *not* to do with that, I’m all ears, but my initial, and largely uninformed, suspicion is that it was.

    I personally suspect that whoever signed it off thought that they’d be finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist, and badly misjudged their customer base, who were not as “woke” as they imagined.

    After all…us woke hipster types long ago grew our lumberjack beards and/or switched to more environmentally friendly safety razors, didn’t we?

  • neonsnake

    CalPERS and their social-goal investment strategy and its costs to California taxpayers

    Only reason I’m not engaging with this is that I genuinely don’t have a clue about it. I buy it, by I have no further opinion or knowledge to add!

  • neonsnake (July 12, 2020 at 5:26 pm), I share your feelings as regards Tesco (or other large firms – I’ve seen a little of the same kind of thing in my time) managing its cash-flow at the expense of its smaller suppliers when in default of its signed contractual obligations.

    As regards your abstract consideration of a campaign against a large company behaving in this way, I feel it would have one significant difference from the sort of social media boycotts we see today. They are attempts to impose changes desired by the woke. Yours would be an attempt to make a company fulfil specific quantifiable obligations that it already formally acknowledged, according to moral rules the society of which it was a part already held.

  • Fraser Orr

    I don’t know the details of the Tesco thing, but, to me, it sounds like a cost of doing business. If Tesco isn’t paying their bills why do they continue to sell to Tesco? Obviously, for outstanding bills they can look for help from the courts of whatever arbitration scheme they have. They might feel that that would jeopardize future business with Tesco — but if Tesco is such a bad customer that would be a plus not a minus. However, the smaller producers have judged that selling through Tesco, with all the associated bullshit, is profitable to them. So, I’m not sure what the problem is exactly.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand the bullying tactics going on. When you are big, you have power. But the flip side of that is that when you are small you have to be flexible.

    I am not at fan of these boycott movements. They are a very powerful tool in the hands of completely irresponsible, unaccountable, and generally stupid people. Let me say again — the world would be a better place without twitter.

  • Mr Ed

    Yours would be an attempt to make a company fulfil specific quantifiable obligations that it already formally acknowledged, according to moral rules the society of which it was a part already held.

    It might even be possible to call that a conspiracy to defraud if the intent is shown to evade liability to pay a sum at the point when it is properly due. It is the sort of thing that if enforced might bring commerce to its knees (as if current governmental efforts weren’t enough), but if the City of London Police Fraud Squad had the evidence and were to obtain a warrant pursuant to those offences, and arrested the board of Tesco during their AGM, it might make a salutary lesson to others.

    And if you were really mischievous and Tesco had sent an email pertinent to this via a server in the USA, wire fraud charges carrying 30 years a count might also make some sit up and take notice.

  • neonsnake

    I’m going to reply to stuff in what might appear to be a slightly random manner, but it’s in order to try to construct a coherent post (I’m sometimes clumsy in my words, and lockdown appears to have not helped 😉 )

    Here goes:

    I am not at fan of these boycott movements. They are a very powerful tool in the hands of completely irresponsible, unaccountable, and generally stupid people

    I have no problem with the principle of boycott movements. I’m very much of the opinion that you should have the absolute right to shop or not shop at any destination, for any reason or for no reason at all. The flip side would be being forced to shop somewhere, or not being allowed to attempt to persuade someone to also not shop there.

    If a certain retailer is doing something that you personally disapprove of, you must be allowed to withdraw your custom. You must also be allowed to try to persuade me and anyone else who might listen, with all your might, to follow your lead.

    (you shouldn’t be allowed to, say, threaten to burn down the retailer’s premises unless they change their ways, nor to threaten me physically if I continue to shop at said retailer).

    That said – and this might open me up to accusations of inconsistency – I won’t do that myself. I’ll quietly withdraw my business, and discuss it if I think it’s relevant, but I’m not hugely interested in persuading the rest of the UK contingent here to boycott Tesco.

    I’ve a few reasons why; I’ve this idea that if that was to happen, the people that would suffer would not be the board. Instead, I suspect that they’ll be lay-offs at the lower end when the share price drops or whatever. That makes me a bit queasy, and is not something I’d want to be responsible for.

    Another thing is that lets say that I flat-out state that I think that “People who shop at Tesco are immoral!! How very dare they!”.

    I reckon it will take about 5 minutes before someone tells me the (completely true) story of their dear old Nan, who can’t drive, can’t use the internet, is living off her tiny pension and her local Tesco Express is the only shop within Zimmerframing-Distance. Calling her immoral would make something of a twat…

    I’m reasonably picky about where I shop. I won’t lie, I’m not 100%. I haven’t “cut plastic out of my life” or anything, and I default to Amazon Prime an embarrassing amount of the time, when I think I should probably be supporting “local” or “small” businesses more. I am very “good” with where I buy food, however.

    But it’s important, I think, to realise that I have the “ability” to do so. I know that “privilege” can be a dirty word, but my privilege is that I’m reasonably well-off, able-bodied, and because I don’t have kids, I’m time-rich in relative terms. In many ways, I’m that “middle-class white kid”. I’m able to spend time going between the local farm shop, the butcher, the grocer, the local corner shop for dried lentils, spices and stuff. If it takes a few hours, what’s that to me? I also have the time to cook lentils from scratch, and to sit on google learning how to cook “whatever”.

    That in itself is a form of privilege. It’s not the kind that most people will admit to, but that’s the privilege of your well-off, “liberal” (US-sense, not classical), Guardian-reader, gravel-drived, Moby-listening (etc etc etc, I’m labouring the metaphor for comedic effect) holds. That’s a privilege that needs “checking” as such, before I make pronouncements like “Tesco shoppers are immoral!!” – and sometimes I fail.

    They are attempts to impose changes desired by the woke.

    Niall, I appreciate the comment, and the sentiment behind it, sincerely.

    But, an honest appraisal would be – do you think I’d stop there? I don’t know if I would.

    Fraser, in 2015 (I got my dates wrong earlier), Tesco had a scandal where they deferred payments to suppliers until after their Year-End, in order to hit their profit numbers. Whilst “late payments” are not unusual, this was unprecedented. There’s email evidence of people being told to not pay suppliers, and to unilaterally deduct payments for margin enhancers.

    (If anyone wants payment terms, margin enhancers, etc explained, I’ll do so, but for now I’ll assume understanding in the interest of not teaching people to suck eggs)

    In the abstract, I suppose that those small companies could put it down to the cost of doing business. In the specific, an amount of them were not able to service their debts, and went under (Tesco were able to force them onto, say, 90-day terms due to size. The smaller companies were only on, say 30-days with their own suppliers, and ran out of credit. This is essentially what happened back in 2008/9 when credit was withdrawn).

    I have a tendency to look at the specific, rather than the abstract.

    In my mind, the “cost of doing business” should not have to include not being paid when your contract says you should. I know you didn’t mean it like this, but there’s an element of “well, if she wasn’t wearing those heels” about it, if you know what I mean?

    If there is something that all libertarians, of whatever stripe, should agree on, I would think it’s the primacy of contracts?

    So maybe, they’d done their due diligence, and understood that they’d have to accept a few late payments. But I don’t think they should have to accept payments being deferred in that manner. That seems beyond the pale, to me, and enough for me (on top of everything else) to say, ok, I will not patronise your stores.

    I don’t like bullying, and that’s what it boils down to. I’m aware that bullying can work both ways – sometimes the little guy can gen up enough support – and when that happens, I try to weigh it up as honestly as I am able. What then tends to happen, is that I come down on the side of the little guy. In many, or most, circumstances, that ends up with me being on the side of the, uh, “woke”.

    So, in the interests of honesty, I’m trying to portray to Niall, and to Mr. Ed, that whilst in this case we may agree, re. Tesco, (let’s say hypothetically that I’m right about them – hypothetically, because let’s not discount Fraser’s points), but in the same terms, let’s say that (again, purely hypothetically for now), I’m right that Chick Fil A do donate money to anti LGBT causes.

    If I were morally “allowed” to go for one, then what would stop me from going after the other?

    And then on the other hand, let’s say that I’m not against the message of the Gilette ad (just go with it. Please don’t argue the actual ad, for now, we’ll have plenty of chances in the future, I’m sure/ But for the purpose, assume, rightly, that I’m not offended by it, and was moderately in favour of the message…). What’s the difference?

    I do mean “me”, I’ve tried hard to be very open and honest, and I know that I am “PC” and “woke” in many persons’ eyes, and I have slightly/very different viewpoints to many.

    This feeds into Fraser’s point about boycotts, and our (joint?) unease of them.

  • Paul Marks

    Niall I am sorry for not getting back to you – I did not know you had replied.

    In case anyone thinks I have been unfair to the Economist magazine – I did read their main article, not just the Lexington “Christians are racists” Frankfurt School Marxist article.

    I the main article the way the Economist magazine “attacked” racial ideology is to say that there should be more government welfare spending for EVERYONE – not just black people.

    Ever bigger government. Fabian Socialism, is called by the Economist magazine “liberalism” – they pretend that ever more welfare spending gives the population “opportunities for progress”.

    It is as if they have learned nothing from the disaster than the “Great Society” government schemed have been over the last 55 years – because the Economist magazine has indeed learned nothing.

    Today Mr Biden, or rather the puppet masters of this senile mannequin, has proposes another two TRILLION Dollars of “Green” government spending on top of all the other TRILLIONS of spending he has already promised.

    If anyone thinks the Economist magazine will condemn this proposed insane government spending – I have a nice bridge to sell you.

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