Home Opinion COLUMN: Corporate ‘virtue signaling’ is free market at work

COLUMN: Corporate ‘virtue signaling’ is free market at work

Capitalists: “Free markets are great. They can resolve conflicts so much better than big government.”

Private companies: “Dear black people, we don’t want to offend you. So we’re going to remove some words and images that might anger you.”

Capitalists: “Noooo, you guys are letting big government liberals win!”

People are so disgusted at how businesses are bending over backwards in a desperate attempt to say “we care,” that they’re missing out on one of the most important lessons in economics: “People respond to incentives.”

Markets are illustrating what capitalists have always been saying, but many of my fellow free market lovers are too busy being angry at “belief in racism” to even celebrate their own victories.

“But it’s virtue signaling!”

Of course it is.

Capitalism is one big profit-based system of virtue signaling.

When your bartender or barista makes you feel like you’re the most important person in the universe, do you honestly believe that’s because they actually love you?

Businesses work hard to make their customers *feel* respected and appreciated out of their own self-interest.

When businesses signal “we love you,” that’s not a “tragic victory for PC culture.”

That’s a slam dunk for free markets.

It’s exactly what we should expect in an environment of competition and customer accountability.

While government service providers are busy debating with their “customers” about the mere existence of the problem, businesses are trying to make their customers feel satisfied. And if they get it wrong by coming off as too insincere, the market will punish them.


These are healthy incentives at work.

Imagine if the provision of security services operated according to this dynamic.

T.K. Coleman is director of entrepreneurial education at the Foundation for Economic Education and co-founder of Praxis.

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