In an interview with Jan Jekielek on “American Thought Leaders,” Vivek Ramaswamy outlined “the unholy alliance of big government, corporations, and woke dogma.” He also addressed the ongoing intrusion of communist China into the United States through its promotion of “wokeism.” Ramaswamy is the founder of several successful companies, including Roivant Sciences, a biopharmaceutical company, and author of a new book, “Woke Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social Justice Scam.”
Here are excerpts from this important interview:
Mr. Jekielek: You make a pretty interesting case, and in some ways, it’s kind of counterintuitive. You basically say that stakeholder capitalism is supposed to create accountability, but it actually does the exact opposite and empowers America’s enemies in the process. Incredible.
Mr. Ramaswamy: It’s counterintuitive because stakeholder capitalism is the philosophy that a business ought to serve not just its shareholders, by pursuing profit, but also ought to serve other societal interests, including those of not only employees, but other societal stakeholders, ranging from minority communities to the climate. Now on the face of it, that sounds pretty benign.
But the argument I make in the book is, first of all, it’s actually a violation of American democracy to concentrate in the hands of a small group of investors and executives the power to not only decide what products get voted to the top, but also what ideas get voted to the top. And that’s the role our democracy plays, where everyone’s voice and vote count equally.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s actually quite fascinating to learn some companies do have the Chinese regime as a major stakeholder, but don’t really disclose that very much and instead focus on all the much prettier-looking stakeholders here in America.
Mr. Ramaswamy: The great policy error over the last 30 years in the United States was thinking that we could use capitalism as a vector to spread democracy abroad, that we could export Big Macs and Happy Meals and think it would somehow spread democracy in places like China.
What we’ve learned over the last 30 years is that China has actually turned that model on its head. Instead of using our money to get them to be more like us, they’ve now used their money to get us to be more like them. They’ve sent back Disney movies and Nike sneakers as Trojan horses to advance their values.
I’ll tell you what I mean. Companies relentlessly criticize the United States for social injustice, as the woke brand of stakeholder capitalism or what we call woke capitalism does. Nike criticizes racial injustice. Disney criticizes injustices ranging from transphobia to states’ policy on abortions.
As these companies criticize the United States, they also don’t say a peep about actual human rights abuses in China, such as what’s happening in Xinjiang Province today, where over a million Uyghurs are enslaved in concentration camps and subjected to forced sterilization in some of the worst human rights abuses committed by a major nation since the Third Reich in Germany. These companies don’t say a peep about it.
Mr. Jekielek: Vivek, frankly, I have the same worry, deeply. There’s a famous quote: “The issue is not the issue. The issue is the revolution.” We’ve heard this a lot. In all of these Marxian systems that we’ve seen over the years, the issue is the revolution. The division is actually a major part of the purpose of the ideology, even if many of the people participating in it don’t fully realize that’s the case.
Mr. Ramaswamy: You’re spot on. I heard a really dark joke, but it reveals the way in which foreign actors have recognized that very fact, to be able to divide us from within. I talked earlier on the show about how China is using wokeism. By the way, they even have a Chinese word for wokeism—“baizuo.” They’re using that to divide us, using that as a chink in our armor to divide us from within by getting corporations to criticize injustice here without saying a peep about injustice over there and deflecting accountability for their human rights abuses.
The joke was that, let’s say that Mao Zedong suddenly wakes up from the dead and returns to China in his second coming, and he’s talking to a farmer in the countryside. He asks the farmer, “Oh, do we have a food shortage? Do we have enough food for our people?” And the farmer first tells him, “Oh, yes, the food shortage ended a long time ago. Now we have so much food. We have too much food that our people are actually starting to get sick from diabetes.”
And Mao Zedong goes, “Oh, OK, very good. Very good. But weren’t we supposed to produce more steel than Britain within a few decades?” This is something that Mao Zedong actually laid out as part of his central plan as well. And they said, “Actually, even one of our provinces today alone produces more steel than all of the United Kingdom put together.”
And he says, “OK, very good, very good. But most importantly, what about the Cultural Revolution led by the proletariat in the field? How is that going?” To that, the modern Chinese farmer says, “Oh, we don’t do that anymore. We outsourced that to America.”
There’s something dark in that joke, but that actually reflects the essence of what’s going on. Ironically, communist China has embraced our capitalist worldview, the American pursuit of excellence, and the inner American animal to be No. 1. They’ve now imported that as their own and have exported their modern wokeism, which is really the avatar of the old school Chinese communism—the Red Guard was effectively sent over here to undermine us from within.
And I’m sorry to say it’s working masterfully for them. This becomes the beginning of the end of American greatness and the American empire, unless we’re able to actually turn that around and harness and rediscover our own culture of excellence, our own culture of the unapologetic pursuit of excellence through our system of free enterprise, and through our democracy in ways that require seeing past the superficial demands of the woke movement.
Mr. Jekielek: As we finish up here, you actually have a very interesting idea about how to create a common U.S. identity again, and this is through civic engagement. You argue for mandatory civic engagement. I find that a pretty fascinating idea.
Mr. Ramaswamy: One of the ways I talk about doing that is weaving civic service into education. For example, taking the institution of summer break itself, you don’t have to change a thing about life structure. You don’t have to change a thing about infringing on the liberty of free adults, because taking children to school is already mandatory. But let’s weave into school the component of civic service, of actually serving your country.
Our civic duties ought to be shared equally. That’s something we can instill starting at a young age that builds solidarity around the idea of a shared American identity, rather than a fractious group identity, which is the woke way.
Reviving that shared Americanism and that shared American identity dilutes the woke agenda to irrelevance.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity by Jeff Minick