MINOT, N.D. -- “Why did Wells Fargo fiance this pipeline when it was widely seen to be environmentally unstable?”

That was a question Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left wing media darling and ideological martinet, asked Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan during a recent hearing.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

The pipeline she’s referring to is the Dakota Access Pipeline. You’ll remember that the project, hugely important for North Dakota’s energy economy, was the target of violent protests organized by political zealots roughly three years ago.

Sloan’s response was that Wells Fargo analyzed the pipeline and reached a conclusion about it’s safety which simply wasn’t in line with what Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow progressives believe.

But the purpose of this column isn’t to relitigate the case for that pipeline, but rather to talk about the tactic Ocasio-Cortez was deploying.

The demagogues of another era held hearings and asked “are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party.”

Today’s demagogues ask if you’ve ever supported the fossil fuel industry.

What Ocasio-Cortez was trying to do, albeit clumsily and with all the gravitas of a middle school student council member, is use her elected position to bully a private bank into conducting their business in a manner that’s in line with her political values.

It’s not a surprising move for someone who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. After all, socialism is government control of the means of production. While Ocasio-Cortez may not be talking about nationalizing the banks (not yet, anyway), she and her fellow ideologues can control a lot by bullying the people who provide capital for our economy.

You can’t do much in business or industry, whether it’s building a new store or a new pipeline, without capital.

It’s clear that Ocasio-Cortez intends a sort of ideological litmus test for capital allocation.

Before you accuse me mongering conspiracies and reading a bit too much into the grandstanding of a first-term congresswoman, I would invite you to research something called ESG standards.

The acronym stands for Environmental Social Governance, and while supporters cast it as promoting ethical and sustainable investment, in reality it’s an ideological doctrine.

A way to control capital, guiding it toward projects which have favored political status and away from those which do not.

Instead of the marketplace responding to the dictates of supply and demand, it will instead be channeled to preferred outcomes by our modern apparatchiks.

Again, defenders of this trend will tell us that it’s for our own good, but isn’t that always how it is?

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies,” C.S. Lewis once wrote. “The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.