Virtue Signaling, Virtual Downfall


There is an article on Powerline this morning about, A-new-low-in-corporate-virtue-signaling. It touches upon the recent trend of corporations to take initiate a policy or program to support a particular issue. The article takes on a company called WeWork. In an e-mail, co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Miguel McKelvey said the company won’t serve pork, poultry or red meat, and it won’t allow employees to expense meals that include those meats to the company. Fish will stay on the menu. This policy is supposed to save the environment and animals by limiting consumption.

Will WeWork save the animals, the environment, or lower employee cholesterol with this policy? Is it intended to? The Powerline article demonstrates that this policy will not have the desired effect. It will not lessen the slaughter of animals raised only for food. The points Powerline makes are all good. But in trying to identify the cause and effect of such a policy Powerline reaches too far afield. The real effect isn’t the one intended by WeWork: “look at us we care, we’re doing something.” It is the unintended consequences, largely negative that will infect the corporate culture.

Here’s a scenario for you: a WeWork account executive has a dinner meeting with a client who looking for office space nationwide. It could be a substantial contract. The meeting takes place at a fancy restaurant. If the client and entourage order steaks; who pays? According to the WeWork policy, the company will not. Does the account executive lay at the rules, at the outset,? “You can have fish, fish, or vegan for an entree. Is it reasonable to expect the account executive to pay out of his pocket? It would seem that this policy is doomed to failure. There is a fix; it is called lying.

In the mid-eighties, I was a Police Academy Co-ordinator in the Texas A & M University System. The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a Standardized Field Sobriety Program. Texas A & M obtained a grant to teach police officers how to implement the program at the department level, an instructor’s development course. The curriculum called for real drunks as training aids. Since time was limited it was deemed more efficient to provide our own drunks rather than rely on chance.

We recruited a cadre of drinkers, served them alcoholic beverages in a controlled environment, and then set them loose on the students. The lesson plan, request for proposals (RFP), and grant application made it plain that alcoholic beverages, a line item of $20,000, were required to make the program work. Think about the level of review for a moment. NHTSA instructional staff had to have the curriculum reviewed and approved. The NHTSA administration had to approve the RFP. A board at NHTSA had to review the grant requests. The mechanism for funding was via the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) which had a similar evaluation scheme in place. Finally, Tx A & M had to respond to the RFP and institute the lesson plan. All of these disparate agencies had one common rule. No federal, state, or university funds can be used to purchase alcoholic beverages. Texas A & M would not allow the program to be held in university facilities because of the no alcohol ban.

The solution was simple, barbeque dinners. My father-in-law owned a restaurant and catering business. Periodically, I would place an order at the liquor wholesaler, on his account. I would get my booze and present him with the bill. He would then submit an invoice for X number of barbeque dinners and everybody in the chain paid off like a slot machine. Everybody knew nobody knew; find a reference to alcohol on any of the receipts.

Five years after I left A & M a lobbyist for the university system was caught in a similar scheme. He was charging room rent and canapes for a hospitality room in Austin. There is not a doubt in my mind that the powers that be up and down the University chain of command knew and approved his activities. He is probably out of prison, by now, he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to ten years.

The problem with virtue signaling is that the resulting policy is unworkable in daily situations. This requires people to cheat, oftentimes they cheat with the connivance of managers and supervisors. Once the “cheat” becomes institutionalized it may as well not exist. Pretty soon other unworkable policies, laws, and procedures come under scrutiny, new cheats are put in place and the original policy is forgotten.

In the mid-eighties, the International Chief of Police (IACP) did a study of over 50 police departments and their policy regarding the use of deadly force. Without exception, they found that there were essentially three policies. There was the policy envisioned by the Police Administration, the interpretation of the policy as taught by the training staff and the policy as practiced by the line offices. While all three shared some traits they still were not in agreement.

It occurred to me, as I wrote this, that the perpetuation of unworkable policy and law is as good an explanation as any for the current laissez-faire attitude towards obeying the law.

Consider it has been over forty years since LBJ came up with the great con called the great society. Generations of poor have been through the system. They have learned, the system doesn’t work, unless you work the system. Generations have been taught it is okay to lie, cheat, and steal. This philosophy has carried over to serve as a model for the democrat’s way of governance.

In law enforcement, every time he makes an arrest the line officer has to deal with the District Attorney, grand jury and possibly a trial court. Popular culture aside the police, DA, and court are independent entities and serve as a check and balance.

MIddle to upper-level managers of the FBI do not have to deal with the courts. They write and enforce the policy that governs decision making within the agency. They also interpret the rules. This means that they are virtually unchecked in their quest for power. Everybody of virtue knows that Hillary is the next President, so anything that can be done to discomfort her opponent is a virtuous act. Everybody knows that Trump is illegitimate therefore the Constitution, agency charter and obligation to support the administration are null in void.

There used to be some semblance of honor in politics, those days are gone. I can’t help thinking about the duel fought between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Substitute Peter Strzok for Burr. It is likely Strzok would have shot Hamilton while he was getting out of his carriage and then declared it a fair fight.

The whole premise of Virtual Signaling is to give the impression of doing the right thing without actually accomplishing anything.

What would Tony do?