“...a big mule hitched behind a cart full of corn, contentedly eating its contents, while a much smaller mule struggled to pull the cart forward.”
—Bibb Graves describing Alabama’s economic elite, circa 1926
As long as politics holds a threatening sway over money-making, there will always be money-makers ready to use politics to protect their harvest and feast first while everyone else carries the load. Though Alabama’s “big mules” have changed over the last century, they still hold outsized influence over who's doing the pulling and who’s doing the eating in the Heart of Dixie.
Consider, for instance, how Alabama’s big mules reacted to anti-ESG legislation.
In early May, 1819 News reported on the anti-ESG bill moving through the Alabama Legislature, noting that “Birmingham-based Regions Financial and the company's lobbyist, senior vice president and head of state government affairs and economic development Jason Isbell, were behind the pushback against the bill that would prohibit government entities from contracting with companies that use ESG criteria to discriminate in business practices and leverage economic power for political and ideological objectives.” 1819 News further noted that the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) was also opposed to the ESG bill.
Though hardly surprising, mere “first-at-the-table” cronyism seems insufficient to explain the pushback from Alabama’s big mules over these anti-ESG efforts — nor is it believable that the richest economic interests in the state all hold some undisclosed devotion to the woke global agenda. Sure, I’ll bet that a few true-believing, globe-trotting progressives hold positions of power in C Suites across Alabama, but I’m also willing to wager that state leadership largely remains culturally conservative, even at the highest levels of corporate governance.
No, something else, something much bigger, has Alabama’s big mules spooked. Truth is, in today’s globally-planned mixed economy (“stakeholder capitalism” as the World Economic Forum calls it) Alabama's corn cart is only one of many harvests being brought to the worldwide market. For every big mule in Alabama, there are even bigger mules bringing up the rear of the global economic caravan, and they’re eating most of the corn and the cob too.
What’s worse, these bigger mules aren’t satisfied with simply feasting first; they want to tell the entire world why, what, when, and how to eat in the name of equity and “sustainability.”
“The large investment firms most notably involved in the ESG scoring system include BlackRock and Vanguard along with Goldman Sachs, State Street, JP Morgan Chase, and Fidelity. Governments, including the United States through its SEC rules, are joining in on the ESG program now as well,” author James Lindsay writes, “and this may be partly or largely due to the influence these companies have but also the influence wielded by large NGOs like the United Nations and World Economic Forum. There are strong reasons to believe these organizations, public, private, and NGO, are colluding under conspiracy to mandate ESG policy upon corporations of every size via different mechanisms.”
That said, would you believe that Vanguard and BlackRock are the top two shareholders in Regions Financial Corp?
This seems to explain why Regions lobbied so heavily against the anti-ESG legislation making its way through the halls of Goat Hill. Add the threat of federal regulations, as well as other adverse legal actions by foreign governments, and Regions Bank — along with the entire BCA — begins to look smaller and smaller, cowardly even, in their pro-ESG policy suggestions to Alabama’s legislators.
Turns out Alabama’s crony cartel is just a larger cartel’s puppet. Turns out some mules are bigger than others.
If the Alabama Legislature does succeed in passing anti-ESG measures, it will be contrary to the interests of not just the state's craven economic elites, but also the global forces increasingly shaping the rules of the game in the international marketplace. The battle against ESG in Alabama is not merely a local struggle against cronyism or the self-serving interests of the state's lily-livered corporations, it is part of a broader struggle for the preservation of economic liberty and the principles of free-market capitalism.
If the forces of stakeholder capitalism (aka Commies) continue to gain ground, the implications for economic freedom, individual liberty, and the principles of limited government could be profound. Ultimately, the outcome of this struggle will determine the future of not just Alabama's economy, but also the global economic system at large.
Will the forces of stakeholder capitalism triumph, ushering in a new era of collectivist decision-making and top-down control? Or will the defenders of economic liberty and free-market capitalism succeed in preserving the principles that have underpinned the remarkable prosperity and innovation of the past two centuries?
The fate of Alabama's big mules, and the countless smaller mules that labor under their load, hangs in the balance. Alabama’s economic elite could at least do their part in fighting for freedom, rather than cowering as they cautiously chew on their wealth. Claiming their cowardice is wise policy is the stuff of tragedy.
As long as politics holds a threatening sway over each man’s natural liberty to buy, sell, and trade as he sees fit, the political jockeying over who’s doing the pulling and who’s doing the eating will never truly be over. On this side of Eden, I suspect some bigger mule is always going to eat first as the rest struggle to pull the cart forward — all while the fattest mule plays the fool that he feasts for the equity of all.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email email@example.com.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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