E-Pluribus | June 24, 2022
Do Paypal and Etsy believe in science, inflation claims another victim, and Woke Capitalism by any other name...
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Colin Wright: I Got Thrown Off Etsy and PayPal for Expressing My Belief in Biological Reality
Some companies that provide (or purport to provide) content-neutral services, such as Etsy (crafts) and Paypal (electronic payments), are nonetheless wading into content with their policies that reflect political, cultural or social positions. While protected in those choices by the First Amendment, the impact of these decisions can have outsized impact on users whose positions conflict with those of the companies, as Colin Wright found out, writing for Quillette.
Earlier this month, I received an email from Etsy, a large online store that allows everyday folks to sell their (often self-crafted) merchandise, informing me that the company had “elected to revoke [my] account privileges permanently” for violating Etsy’s policy against selling merchandise that “promotes, supports, or glorifies hatred or violence towards protected groups.” Etsy says the decision was made with “great consideration,” following a “comprehensive review” of my account.
[ . . . ]
The problem here isn’t just Etsy: The same activists who seek to deplatform people like me often will complain to numerous other online services, in hopes that their complaint will land in the inbox of an ideologically sympathetic employee. (At the same time, they will sometimes sprinkle in lurid personal accusations, as when independent-minded author Jesse Singal was falsely maligned as a predator by high-profile trans activists who’d become furious at Singal’s mainstream media prominence.)
[ . . . ]
It’s true that these large online services are free to adopt their own policies, and can ban people for any reason they want—or for no reason at all. And it is also true that small business owners who use such services can migrate their shops and payment systems to other providers. But in many cases, this involves huge attrition costs, as there will always be a substantial drop-off in support when customers are asked to log on to new services, a process involving the creation of fresh accounts with new usernames and passwords. As noted above, I hadn’t yet accumulated a large donor base through PayPal. But if this ban had been imposed years down the road, it could have been financially devastating.
Moreover, while I search for a new online home, how can I be confident that any new site I pick won’t also be similarly captured by woke ideological bias? Substack is unusual in that it has dedicated itself to free speech and ideological pluralism (much to the consternation of the chattering classes), which gives me some peace of mind. And Stripe, the payment service utilized by Substack, has taken a similar stance. But platforms such as Patreon made similar promises in the past, only to later cut off long-time customers and ban them without notice (which is what sparked a Sam Harris-led boycott of Patreon in 2018).
Read it all here.
Wai Wah Chin: The Other Inflation
The rising price of gas and groceries and other goods is rightfully of great concern to the average citizen, but Wai Wah Chin at City Journal says grade inflation should be of concern to all of us as well. If other considerations are more important than performance in determining scores, the value of education itself will soon be overinflated.
What do the education bureaucrats who gave us this grade inflation have to say for themselves? They can no longer deny that grade inflation is real, so they turn to “equity” as a defense. Beginning in 2020, for example, the San Diego Unified School District eliminated “non-academic factors” from grades. Sounds reasonable, until you read the fine print: the new policy allows students to hand in work late, redo poorly graded assignments indefinitely, and even cheat without receiving a lower grade as a penalty (“reflection” and counseling are the approved responses to academic dishonesty). To justify the policy change, San Diego administrators cited the fact that black and Hispanic students receive D or F grades 20 percent and 23 percent of the time, respectively, while white and Asian students do so just 7 percent and 6 percent of the time. “For months, the district has been working on multiple areas of its operations, including grading, in efforts to make them more anti-racist and equitable, partly in response to social justice protests that erupted over the summer in response to George Floyd’s death.” Somehow, “equity” makes its way into justifying pedagogical “improvement” with lowered standards.
[ . . . ]
Grade inflation attacks the very core of education, starts a vicious circle for the further corruption of educational integrity, and leads to our schools becoming mere diploma mills. The circle must be broken. Standardized testing is our most potent antidote to grade inflation and its destructive consequences. Objectivity, anonymity, uniformity, transparency, third-party independence—all these features make standardized testing highly effective in precisely the areas where grades tend to fail. Indeed, that’s why advocates for inflated grades are so keen on discrediting standardized testing (which they do badly): they wish to conceal the devaluation of standards.
Read the whole thing.
George F. Will: Business beware, ‘stakeholder’ capitalism is parasitic progressivism
It is difficult to keep up with all the acronyms these days, but George Will at the Washington Post warns about the latest trend in investing: ESG (environmental, social and governance). When “stakeholders” (or “everyone”, as Will see it) have more say than shareholders, the right to control one’s own property has effectively been lost.
A former governor of the Bank of England (Mark Carney), the head of the world’s largest investment firm (Larry Fink of BlackRock) and the CEO of the largest U.S. bank (Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase) have joined forces to make capitalism “sustainable” through “ESG” (environmental, social and governance) investing. Although fashionable, this is of dubious legality. (See below: fiduciary duty.) The Economist’s “Schumpeter” columnist notes that sanctimony accompanies such “financial do-goodery.” Of course: ESG appeals to people for whom mere business — the creation of wealth and opportunity — lacks the cachet of politics.
Although progressivism presents itself as modernity on the march, its stakeholder doctrine echoes feudalism. Phil Gramm, a former U.S. senator, and Mike Solon, president at US Policy Strategies, writing in the Wall Street Journal, note that in feudalism’s “communal world,” workers had obligations to the church, the local aristocracy, the guild and the village: These “stakeholders” leeched away portions of what workers produced.
Today, Gramm and Solon say, about 70 percent of corporate revenue goes to labor, and 72 percent of the value of publicly traded U.S. companies is “owned by pensions, 401(k)s, individual retirement accounts, charitable organizations, and insurance companies funding life insurance policies and annuities.” So, the wealth of workers, and of current and future retirees, is diminished when “stakeholders” get corporations to sacrifice the goal of maximizing economic value to noneconomic, generally political goals.
Read it all.
Glenn Greenwald with a reminder of how the judiciary works:
David Mastio, formerly of Gannett and USA Today, with a thread on his experiences with the leftward shift of those organizations (excerpts below, click here for the whole thread):
And finally, Wesley Yang on post-liberal progressivism: