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Crisis in National Character: What are We Becoming?

Much is being written in the areas of law and ethics on the “character” of corporations, their corporate cultures, whether the corporation is a moral agent, etc. These writings focus on Aristotle and Virtue Ethics, Immanual Kant and Kantian Ethics, externally imposed Corporate Compliance and Ethics Programs mandated for public corporations by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and external evaluations by courts when following the United States Sentencing Commission’s guidelines for the sentencing of organizations.

However, very little attention, if any, is paid by the academic writers to the cultural environments in which our corporations operate and function and the effects of those cultural environments on corporate character. Some recent writers are, however, acknowledging the deleterious effects of “wokeness” and how corporate leaders are bending at the alter of wokeness and modifying their corporate philosophies under the guise of “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) which has been the mantra for corporations and management teaching in business schools for years. The umbrella of CSR has provided corporate leaders “cover” to change the course of their corporations from a focus on shareholders to a more broad social focus. While that is certainly acceptable if the focus is on the recognition of social and moral obligations (not legal) to the more broad communities to which corporations might have moral obligations, corporate leaders are using the cover of that umbrella to rationalize their turn to wokeness.

This turn has been recognized by the following authors in their noted books: Stephen R. Soukup, The Dictatorship of Woke Capital: How Political Correctness Captured Big Business (2021); Vivek Ramaswamy, Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam (2021); and Ben Shapiro, The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent (2021). This move has been supported by academia and graduates of certain universities who are now populating levels of corporate management as recognized by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in their book titled The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018). The effects of this drift on the quality of citizenship has also been articulately recognized by Victor Davis Hanson, the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Military History and Classics at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and Professor Emeritus of Classics at California State University in his book titled The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America (2021).

These authors and others are taking high profile positions that certainly are not in this present day politically correct or woke-sanctioned to call our collective attention to the eating away of the American culture by conscious and calculated strategies by the Left to undermine the institutions in which we have always had trust and felt a degree of security and stability which are essential to the proper functioning of our form of government. If the Left can undermine our institutions, our trust in those institutions, and our sense of security and stability arising from them, which have always contributed to our national character, then a vacuum will be created which the Left will rapidly fill with an authoritarian philosophy.

Examples of this strategic undermining are the undermining of our law enforcement system, our legal system, the rule of law, and the attack on First Amendment values in our universities through the advent of vague and overbroad speech codes, free speech zones, and “safe places” where the tender emotions of our future “leaders” are not bruised.

On other levels, the presence of sanctuary cities openly defying our immigration officers and our immigration laws; Leftist prosecutors releasing criminals, many of who are multiple offenders, onto our streets after arrests with little or no meaningful bail requirements; and Leftist prosecutors enacting non-prosecution policies for certain crimes thereby leaving hardened criminals on our streets to pray as parasites on an intimidated citizenry are merely additional examples of Leftist policies which are strategized to undermine and eat away at our national character so that the resulting void can be filled by authoritarian agents.

American businesses, Capitalism, and the free market, which have always been symbols of our sense of American individualism, as recognized by Tocqueville when he came to America after the great cause and observed, from the perspective of a person who had lived under an autocratic monarchy, our unique and individual national character and wrote his two-volume Democracy in America, have now joined the lists of targets of the Left and that strategy seems to be working. American businesses that were once the last bastions of a free people who believed in free markets and the central importance of private property are now adrift to the authoritarian Left.

The solution, if Americans still want a solution, is multi-faceted and complex. However, I suggest that one component of the solution must come from the faith community to help restore the moral values that are the glue that binds a moral people together and tethers a society to something beyond the natural self-serving tendencies in human nature.

“Skip” Ames is a full-time faculty member, teaching Law, Ethics, Law for Accountants, and Ethical Leadership at Troy University. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.


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