Politics Over Profit: The Hazards of Big Corporations Inflicting Self-harm to Bash Trump
A Beautiful Theory: John Nash’s Equilibrium Theory and Governing Dynamics revised Game Theory in ways large corporations are using to shape profit strategies even today. Or in ways they did, before it became more important to destroy Donald Trump.
In Nobel Laureate John Nash’s seminal and brilliant economic work, (immortalized in one of the last, truly decent non-SJW Hollywood films, A Beautiful Mind) he summarized and enhanced one of the defining economic truisms of a presumably free market system: Companies and competing individuals, by maximizing profit and minimizing loss, can be counted on to act in their own best interests and in the best fiduciary interests of their businesses and personal fortunes. Individual ambition serves the common good.
The imitable Dr. Nash, as you’ll recall, won the Nobel Prize in economics by famously augmenting Adam Smith’s postulate with his own equilibrium theorem containing an additional caveat which says that best outcome in any competitive vector always accrues when actors within a free market system compete not just vigorously, but also compete with mindful awareness of a morality of not damaging the marketplace, or harming the conditions required for the game to continue at its highest and most profitable levels, regardless of winner. In other words, morally selfish capitalism. A novel concept.
“What then are we to make of it when some of the largest companies in the history of capitalism begin doing things and making decisions grounded not on the predictable guiding principles of profitability and best business practice, but based purely in divisive socialized rhetoric and the desire to inflict political damage on their ideological opponents…”
What then are we to make of it when some of the largest companies in the history of capitalism begin doing things and making decisions grounded not on the predictable guiding principles of profitability and best business practice, but based purely in divisive socialized rhetoric and the desire to inflict political damage on their ideological opponents, regardless of the damage to their own business models and sustainable growth potential, profit and loss be damned? Political leanings aside, a company must try and remain neutral in situations like this, but if that isn’t possible, then the alternative is definitely not opponent-bashing, or worse, denying business to people whose political stance may be different from yours. Social media banter being one thing, which let’s be honest-bring a few worthy online reputation management companies into the picture and all will soon be forgotten. But doing something much more tangible than that would be to call all the shame upon oneself. I would submit that we are in uncharted and potentially untenable waters with a list of unknowable and unintended consequences as long as Colin Kaepernick’s hate mailing list, or longer. Certainly much longer than Dunce-Kap could ever throw a dependably tight spiral. But I do digress.
In the era of Donald Trump, the political behemoth, we are watching the tautly interesting unfolding of a marketplace plot twist heretofore unseen in the annals of American monopoly money-play and economic aggrandizement. So great apparently is the atomic weight of Trump’s presence on the ideological stage that hatred for Trump, revilement and derision of Trump and an apparent need to display full plumage and coterie of Trump Derangement Syndrome on a corporate scale now exceeds everyday vanilla business considerations like, say, making enough money to not go bankrupt by the end of the year. Or, at the very least, not tanking the company stock price by engaging a decision that permanently alienates roughly 75% of your potential customer base and inspires former customers to burn your merchandise for fun on Youtube. Shareholders must love this new game. Or, likely not.
Consider just some most recent examples as proof positive that if 2009 was the death of moral hazard at the hands of, “Too Big to Fail,” 2015-present is the corporate age of “Hating Populist Politics, (and Donald Trump) Even if it Costs our Company Billions and Billions to Just DO It.”
On Tuesday, sports apparel giant, Nike, watched $4.5-billion in market capitalization evaporate in a stock price plummet directly presaged by their hiring of NFL take a knee protest poster boy, Colin Kaepernick, the very man many sports fans blame for ruining the NFL.
Last month, social media megalith Facebook suffered a largest-in-history, $150-billion single day drop in company valuation, largely because of privacy and censorship policies, including the blocking and shadowbanning of conservative voices and the throttling of conservative and Pro-Trump messages. Founder and chair Mark Zuckerberg’s personal losses in the carnage? $16-billion and counting.
Earlier this year, Dick’s Sporting Goods decision to remove AR-15’s from inventory at their Field and Stream stores resulted in a Trump, gun crowd boycott that tanked earnings and sent corporate PR into scapegoat mode, singling out Under Armour as a brand with “significant weakness,” as reason for sluggish returns. Bull feces.
In two days, expect a quarterly earnings report from Camping World, headed by founder and CEO Marcus Lemonis who shot to facebook meme fame for suggesting that Trump voters and supporters aren’t welcome in his stores. Turns out, Marcus was actually referring to anyone who engages in so called ‘hate speech,’ and racist rhetoric, but his message was so confusing and irreparably muddled as to leave Camping World a permanent target of Trump support boycott. Friday’s numbers will tell the tale of the ongoing damage.
Perhaps it is all much adieu about nothing. Perhaps the new normal is the predestined and final splintering of the gospel of corporate mass appeal as the surest route to large profits, with balkanized oppositional groups of social justice warriors drinking Starbucks and wearing Nike and Levi Strauss they bought at Target, scowling sideways (or screaming like unhinged banshee fiends) at patriots wearing Wranglers and American Eagle while eating Chik-Fil-A and In-N-Out burgers. Quasi gang warfare colors of political Crips and Bloods in a new age of red-state, blue-state hatred. Perhaps.
What’s increasingly apparent is that the gilded elite endowed with golden parachutes inside their mahogany and granite boardrooms actually BELIEVE they are making decisions that the majority of America will embrace. And it makes sense. Trapped as they are inside the cacophonous echo chamber of their CNN, New York Times, MSNBC bubble, the glittered intelligentsia of corporate America are bathed in the merciless litany that a majority of America with money to spend hate Donald Trump and despise his populist followers with the same vehement passion as do the talking heads and pencil pushers whose words they consume. They wrongly conflate an enforced monopoly of mainstream media propaganda with cultural consensus. Nothing a decent market analysis and a focus group anywhere outside Manhattan wouldn’t fix, but hey. What’s a $4.5-billion virtue signaling booboo between friends?
And in a way both ironic and fitting, the socio-corporate iconography I’ve just described is exactly analogous to the political turmoil and tumultuous divide that now afflicts our Republic. The central question for all of us, even as Trump’s Magic Wand economy roars at growth rates unseen in Millennial lifetimes and with unemployment at record lows for minority populations and across the board is, “Do economic performance and prosperity still matter?” Or, do virtue signaling, politically correct thumbsucking, Trump-hating and gun barrel dictatorship of leftist-socialist economic policy supersede having a job and a chance for a better life, even if it means crashing companies and indeed, the whole of the national economy just to spite a man who apparently wants more for the American people than some American people are capable of wanting or pursuing for themselves?
“When incentive to excellence is removed there can only be less excellence to achieve and enjoy. A harbinger of impending mediocrity and malaise, writ large. A sad, sad refrain in the history of a nation built on doing more, striving higher and generating expanding opportunity for all, that will now be less bombastically American than she’s ever been before.”
In simpler and less esoteric terms, if being the best no longer matters and is no longer rewarded, then by guaranteed necessity, the level best in any human endeavor can only go down. With incentive to excellence removed there can only be less excellence to achieve and enjoy. A harbinger of impending mediocrity and malaise, writ large. A sad, sad refrain in the history of a nation built on doing more, striving higher and opportunity for all, that will now be less bombastically American than she’s ever been before. Equally frightening, she’ll be filled with people who don’t really even seem to care.
Death of moral hazard, decline of meritocracy and now the death of dependable pursuit of self interests by competing companies means that all of us will inevitably suffer with fewer choices in the marketplace, lower quality standards for the goods and services we receive and an overall decline in the standards of excellence that we as good capitalist consumers have been trained to expect and enjoy. None of those are good things. They signal a civilization and society in retraction and decline and an arrival of generations comfortably inclined to expect and strive for less, both in their own lives and in the pursuits they might undertake that just might knowingly or unknowingly contribute to the betterment of themselves and others. The rise of the American idiocracy and the fall of the Shining City on a Hill.
The next two elections will answer a great many questions and seal the fates for all of us, in the new age of Love Trump-Hate Trump-Hate America for every remaining marble on the floor. But especially those still made in the United States.