Tue 18 Aug 2009
|OPINION | August 17, 2009
The Opinionator: Whole Foods Fight
By Eric Etheridge
A health care op-ed by the C.E.O. of the food chain is causing some to boycott its stores.
Quite frankly, I’m not surprised by any of the liberal outrage… John Mackey is a libertarian (the first HuffPo guy has it all wrong — an easy misrepresentation) and for obvious ideological reasons would be against government-run healthcare. But Mackey is also proof that doing good doesnt have to be altruistic… but if its not, it definitely has to be profitable. For obvious business reasons, if Mackey’s company is already providing good healthcare benefits, a government-led health care initiative would undercut Whole Foods Market’s competitive advantage.
The problem with the original WSJ op-ed (which most of his boycotters will probably overlook) was that Mackey wrote it in his capacity as WFM CEO, rather than his personal capacity. Apparently even after the “Rahodeb” fiasco, Mackey has yet to learn a few lessons in PR. In speaking on behalf of his company, obviously like this article says, he railed against most of the demographic of his own company. But had he written in a personal capacity, he could have (though probably wouldn’t have) easily been forgiven.
Personally, the only thing I ideologically disagree with Mackey on is ending government mandates regarding what insurance companies may cover. But then, I’m not a free-market libertarian, so that makes sense to me that Mackey would propose such an idea. It is also the reason why Mackey asserts that “all countries with socialized medicine ration health care by forcing their citizens to wait in lines to receive scarce treatments”: a libertarian would obviously choose the free-markets to decide resource scarcity allocation — in opposition to a liberal, who would look toward government to determine resource scarcity allocation.
What Mackey writes is nothing new, is nothing earth-shattering, and is nothing that is out-of-line by libertarian standards (“many of our health care problems are self-inflicted” not the least of his statements). It’s thus no surprise he chose to go to the right-leaning WSJ for publication. What is ironic is that the well-educated consumers who threaten boycott fail to recognize any of this — further proof of the ideological polarization and incivility to which the United States is headed (this is not to mention that, as indicated in the Times blog, those on the far left are likely supporting farmers’ markets and co-ops, rather than corporate America). Opposing viewpoints are treated with incredulity, rather than any form of rational discourse. But this is another subject…
Again though, I come back to the fact that the byline should have read “The author writes in a personal capacity,” theoretically (though not realistically) avoiding such ridiculous conflict. Those who are boycotting Whole Foods Markets on the basis of Mackey’s op-ed are just plain pound-wise and penny foolish.