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Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.

From 1984 by George Orwell

When it comes to doublethink, Big Brother ain’t got nothin’ compared to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). For those of you woke folk (no doubt the vast majority of the people who read my column) who’ve never heard of ALEC, let me help indoctrinate you into their Orwellian World. Let’s start with the homepage of their website which proudly declares that:

“The American Legislative Exchange Council is America’s largest nonpartisan [emphasis mine] voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets [emphasis mine] and federalism. Comprised of nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators and stakeholders from across the policy spectrum, ALEC members represent more than 60 million Americans and provide jobs to more than 30 million people in the United States.”

As Orwell makes clear, doublethink is a complicated concept to understand and something difficult to do well. So before addressing ALEC’s sophisticated application of “doublethink” to the idea of “free markets,” let’s ease our way into this by first addressing its claim to be nonpartisan, defined by Oxford Languages as: “not biased or partisan, especially toward any particular political group.” Strap on. You’re gonna love this!

Their 100 percent Republican but 50/50 gender split eight-member leadership team is led by CEO Lisa B. Nelson. Nice to see ALEC appreciates at least the gender form of diversity even though DE&I, along with climate change, are trigger words for the anti-Woke/ESG cabal I’ve been writing about. And will continue to do so.

Ms. Nelson has a very impressive resume. She managed to shake off the shackles of her political science and international relations degree from the Woke University of California at Berkeley to serve as the Public Affairs Liaison for the U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich from 1995 to 1998. She worked for the conservative National Review magazine founded in 1955 by conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. Ms. Nelson also helped him found the National Review Institute in 1991 whose “mission is to preserve and promote Buckley’s legacy and advance the principles of a free society through educational and outreach programs.” I yearn for the days of thoughtful and principled conservatism in the GOP’s Pre-Trump Cult era (dare I take hope from the midterm elections?) when bipartisanship was possible. Stay tuned for more on this.

Ms. Nelson also proudly serves as a board member of the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF). SFOF bemoans that “Politics in federal and state government is increasingly polarized.” It then helpfully explains that the cause of this is that “Elected officials at all levels are under increasing pressure to adopt progressive policies that undermine economic freedom and hurt economic growth.” Hmmm. Silly me thought that polarization required two poles. SFOF could be breaking some new ground here in theoretical physics with its concept of “Unipolar Polarization.” It might be possible to integrate this with doublethink. I have two degrees from MIT but neither one is in theoretical physics so please give me some time to work on this.

ALEC has a large 23 member board of directors. In their typically homey little bios (e.g., spouse, children, grandchildren, hobbies, and church affiliation) only three clearly identify as Republican: Representative Seth Grove of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Speaker Philip Gunn of the Mississippi House of Representatives, and Representative Dan Laursen of the Wyoming House of Representatives. I guess why state the obvious unless there are personal reasons to alleviate any doubt about one’s true red color, right?

ALEC’s alumni includes six Governors, 13 Senators, and 65 Representatives for a total of 84 politicians. All of the Governors are Republican, the only Democratic Senator is Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and the only two Democratic House alumni are Tom O’ Halloran of Arizona and Ed Perlmutter of Colorado.

Finally, ALEC has 95 State Chairs. This was too many for me to check the political affiliation of each and every one. Nearly all of them are from Red States with a few Purple ones thrown in. So I did the non-random but scientifically astute approach of examining the members from a handful of True Blue States: Delaware, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Each has state has one member, compared to two or even three in the red and purple states. And, yup, the ALEC member from each of those states is a Republican. Including Representative Nicholas Boldyga of my home state of Massachusetts. I’m so proud!

Many may struggle with the adjective of “nonpartisan” in what is virtually a 100 percent GOP group. But this isn’t true doublethink. It is simply artful, if deceitful and misleading, labeling. The kind of thing people worry about with ESG.

The Center for Media and Democracy has written about ALEC and presents a different view. It states that “ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that.” [emphasis in original“ “Secretive meetings” of “corporate lobbyists and state legislators” work to craft “’model bills’ to change our rights that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line at public expense.” These model bills are core to the theory of change of ALEC. “Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills.” So far over 1,000 of these bills have been crafted and with an impressive track record of a 20 percent success rate. ALEC knows its stuff and must feel irreplaceable in its important mission.

Okay, I’ll man up (which is more than I can say for ALEC and SFOF) and admit that this is a partisan view from the left and I lean more left than right. So let’s take the most recent example of an ALEC initiative that was just brought to my attention yesterday by a lawyer friend of mine. He sent me this article: “Lawmakers Asked To Curtail Free Speech Until Investors Stop Seeing Gun Manufacturers As A Bad Investment.” Here we see doublethink being enacted in exemplary fashion. LME. It’s kinda complicated so please read carefully. The reader can then draw his or her own conclusion about ALEC.

The article inspired me to do a bit of research and I found ALEC’s “Eliminate Political Boycotts Act.” Somewhat curiously—or perhaps simply through overly excited anticipation—it cites December 1, 2022, as the “Date Introduced.” Whatever the date, it is “AN ACT relating to state contracts with certain companies that engage in economic boycotts based on environmental, social, or governance criteria.” That dreaded ESG again 😱! ALEC has artfully prepared the legal language for this act to be easily introduced into any state legislature that is enamored of it.

The guts of the Act is that “a governmental entity may not enter into a contract with a company for goods or services unless the contract contains a written verification from the company that it:

i. does not engage in economic boycotts; and

ii. will not engage in economic boycotts during the term of the contract.”

The elements of this act are eerily similar to the Texas Section 809 Boycott Provision which I have already shown to be based on a logic of quicksand. This Act has pretty much the same problems and others. In particular, the Act gives the Attorney General broad enforcement powers such as requiring a purported boycotter to being examined under oath; examining any record, book, document, account or paper deemed necessary; and impounding the same “until the completion of all proceedings undertaken under this article or in the courts.”

As with Texas Section 809 it all rests on the meaning of the word “boycott.” Here the Act provides this helpful definition: “’Economic boycott’ means, without an ordinary business purpose, refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or otherwise taking any action that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, limit commercial relations with, or change or limit the activities of a company.”

Which begs the question of “ordinary business purpose.” The Act states that ordinary business “does not include any purpose to further social, political, or ideological interests.” And how is this determined? It includes, but is “not limited to (i) branding, advertising, statements, explanations, reports, letters to clients, communications with portfolio companies, statements of principles, or commitments, or (ii) participation in, affiliation with, or status as a signatory to, any coalition, initiative, joint statement of principles, or agreement.” Sounds to me that pretty much anything under the sun can be seen as evidence of boycotting.

And now, drum roll please, the doublethink! For most people “free markets” means people being free to make buying and selling decisions based on the information they deem relevant to their economic interests. I’m sure ALEC has this same definition. Yet in order to enforce its Act, the Attorney General can, at his or her whimsy, decide that the decision to, for example, underweight or divest the stock of, say, an oil and gas company, is an ideological act. What if it’s just not that good of a stock. Or its time to sell at the peak to buy at the trough of another company? Or for sector rotation?

ALEC’s doublethink maintains that for free markets to remain free it is necessary to restrict the freedom of those who might make decisions based on criteria that an Attorney General can whimsically define as “ideological.” Even if they are based on a sound economic rationale. The AG as the all-knowing Big Brother.

As Orwell explains, ““At the apex of the pyramid [of Oceanic society] comes Big Brother. Big Brother is infallible and all-powerful. Every success, every achievement, every victory, every scientific discovery, all knowledge, all wisdom, all happiness, all virtue, are held to issue from his leadership and inspiration.”

Remember this about doublethink. “The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt.”

The Act is a conscious process. But its application will be unconscious. Here the sheer genius of the Act is revealed in Section 2 since the government entity can take a pass on exercising its Big Brother Boycott powers based on such things as “constitutional or statutory duties” regarding financing, “obtaining the supplies or services to be provided in an economically practicable manner,” or some unspecified number of other reasons.

Consciously pass the Act to threaten the financial community. Unconsciously don’t enforce it should it prove to be inconvenient. But everyone will consciously know that Big Brother can always intervene to ensure free markets. By taking away the freedom of others.

Hat’s off and respect to ALEC for the most superb application of doublethink I’ve ever seen.