Social Justice

Markets Deliver Social Justice Better Than Government Does

Elizabeth Nolan Brown argues in The New York Times that we can thank "feminism, but also free markets" for the ongoing purge of predatory men.


Globe Photos/Sipa USA/Newscom

Markets are much more effective handmaidens of social justice goals than government is, I argue in a New York Times piece responding to NBC's firing of 20-year Today Show veteran Matt Lauer.

"Social media takes a lot of punches for enabling sexual harassment," I point out, "but the past two months have shown that it has also provided consumers with an unprecedented power to make their market preferences heard loud and clear. And right now, the market is demanding that companies do something about sexual predators and pests in their midsts."

Lauer's dismissal is the latest in a long list of powerful private-sector men felled by recent revelations of workplace sexual misconduct—Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, and Louis C.K., to name just a few. From my op-ed:

"Everybody knew" is the stomach-churning line we have heard about so many men revealed as serial sexual offenders in the workplace. And yet they held on to their cushy jobs for years. What changed? Companies like NBC, HBO, Netflix, CBS and the Weinstein Company are more vulnerable to our outrage than ever before.

While this gives many sides something to gripe about—that it didn't happen sooner, that victims weren't believed earlier, that this purge may ensnare the innocent—there's an optimistic note we shouldn't overlook: Consumers now have more power to make themselves heard than ever before. And this is forcing big corporations to reconsider how they respond to scandals, how they hold bad actors accountable, and the weight they attach to character—something those in political power have much less incentive to do.

To attest to this, look no further than Nancy Pelosi's response to allegations involving Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), or the response from Alabama Republicans all the way up to President Donald Trump on child-chasing Roy Moore.

"Character may no longer count in politics and public service—if it ever did," I write,

but it matters more than ever in the private sector, where consumer preferences prevail….As we observe and adjust to the sociosexual storm we're all in, let's appreciate the powers and paradigms making it possible: feminism, but also free markets.

Read the whole thing here.