So, if the electoral benefits of rhetorical and practical appeasement of labor are at best inconclusive and labor’s social policy remains as left-wing as it has been for the past generation or two, why might some conservatives be pushing ahead with union-empowering policy advocacy anyway? Here one must note that Big Philanthropy—the liberal institutions that shovel billions of dollars into left-wing advocacy and culture—has provided major funding to American Compass. And American Compass is the leading institution involved in developing and promoting union-sympathetic conservatism.
The two largest known Big Philanthropy contributors to American Compass, the Omidyar Network Fund and the Hewlett Foundation, provided that funding explicitly as part of projects the Chronicle of Philanthropy characterized as aiming to “transform the economic system” away from what Heritage calls the “principles of free enterprise, limited government, [and] individual freedom” that direct its own mission.
Omidyar Network Fund’s “reimagining capitalism” project has provided American Compass with $500,000 in “current investments” as of April 2023, according to the Omidyar Network’s grant list. Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder who founded the Omidyar Network Fund and its related constellation of nonprofit and for-profit philanthropic groups, may be familiar as a foe of conservatives thanks to Omidyar’s funding of groups that have bitterly targeted Donald Trump and his supporters. These efforts are connected to former Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and former de facto Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Evan McMullin. But the Omidyar Network’s “call to reimagine capitalism” is even more radical.
A reading of Omidyar Network’s manifesto makes clear that the “capitalism” the philanthropy (and presumably its grantees) would build is profoundly left-wing in its social principles and statist in direction, if not outright socialist. The second of its “five pillars” is “Build an Explicitly Anti-Racist and Inclusive Economy,” which opens with the following ideological affirmation:
America cannot divorce itself from its legacy of human exploitation, anti-Blackness, and slavery. It is deeply embedded in our economy. As a result, the current economic system exacerbates many of the inequities that rip at the fabric of our society and the well-being of our people: racism, classism, and sexism—to name a few.
Structural racism has led to codified and continuous disempowerment, as the original sin of slavery present at the birth of our nation gave way to the era of Jim Crow and decades of redlining, employment discrimination, and mass incarceration.
Another pillar proposes “inalienable rights”—not to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—but rather to “a humane standard of living and social protection systems that help people who are struggling survive crises and shocks find employment, and access healthcare and education, as well as . . . protect the aging, the disabled, and the young.” The liberal desire to take good things like healthcare and education and turn them into “rights” to be provided by the taxpayer is not new. It would be familiar to Sen. Robert Taft (R-OH) of Taft-Hartley fame or to former Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL), who led the opposition to Lyndon Johnson’s statist Great Society and led the filibuster that defeated legislation that would have abolished right-to-work laws.
Another pillar makes veiled demands for ESG investment and corporate management rules (“When incentives in securities and corporate law prioritize shareholders above all others, we embed a too narrow set of priorities”), tax increases, increased administrative power (“government must be funded with appropriate revenue and the capabilities to execute on these mandates”), and central planning (“government must drive innovation, growth, and investment”). The Heritage Foundation and conservatives in general have long opposed just such statist policies.
Other “reimaginings” target the hot-button issues of today. In addition to the anti-racism inspired by Ibram X. Kendi described earlier, Omidyar’s call asserts, “We also must urgently address our warming planet and environmental degradation, including how current economic theory incentivized depletion and is actively failing—and worsening—our environment.” Even a somewhat squishy Republican like the more partisan than ideological Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would not let that pass without dispute, much less Heritage scholars and donors.
The listed acknowledgments to Omidyar Network’s “Call to Reimagine Capitalism” shares a name with the acknowledgments of the Project 2025 Mandate chapter on labor issues: Oren Cass, the head of American Compass.
But Omidyar Network is not the only left-wing philanthropy funding American Compass as part of a program to promote the abandonment of what passes for free enterprise in the contemporary era. According to the grant list on its website, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has provided American Compass with nearly $1.5 million, much of it explicitly related to development of “alternatives to neoliberalism.”
To conservatives used to loathing anything “liberal,” that might seem unobjectionable on its face. But when one looks deeper, one sees that this funding is part of a larger campaign, backed by a foundation commanding $13 billion in assets and spending up to half a billion per year on its programs, to replace “principles of free enterprise, limited government, [and] individual freedom.”
To prove this we can consult a 2018 manifesto-memorandum by Hewlett Foundation president and legal scholar Larry Kramer. (Notably, Kramer also signed the release bond for disgraced Democratic mega-donor, “effective altruism” advocate, and cryptocurrency billionaire Samuel Bankman-Fried.) In 2018, Kramer wrote to the Hewlett board outlining his theories on how Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek’s free-market, low-regulation economic philosophies (which he termed “neoliberalism,” a sobriquet that almost all Friedman’s followers would reject) became the governing paradigm of American political economy. He then proposed how leftists like himself could create an intellectual network to foster a new, statist regime that supposedly aligns with the times.
While that manifesto did not detail what the new regime would look like, it set out the model to develop a “successor ideology” that would replace free enterprise with state control.
In the next installment, Project 2025 would abandon the Taft-Hartley consensus principle of union voluntarism.