Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why I am NOT boycotting Whole Foods

John Mackey the founder and CEO of Whole Foods is a free-market libertarian about health care reform. He recently pinned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing that any "public-option" and all heavy government regulation of health care must be resisted.

I have often argued against such a view on this blog and I continue to think it is both false and very dangerous. That said, I fail to see why Mackey's having such views would lead to a large-scale movement to boycott whole foods. But such a movement exists, and it is large - check it out on facebook.

Admittedly Mackey's views reflect the "pro-rich" and "pro-corporate" outlook that is doing so much harm to so many people. But most places we shop are run and founded by people who share these views. Mackey is also, to some degree at least, anti-union ... but again, is this cause for a boycott? I am pro-union. But I don't care about trying to change the minds of people like Mackey, I care about fighting for legislation that will make it easier for people to form unions and give unions greater legal protection.

As CEOs go Mackey is actually not too bad. Whole Foods is a big supporter of animal rights - even PETA likes them! - and environmental ethics - Mackey himself donates an impressive amount to such causes. And Whole Foods treatment of its employees is better than most. Honest. Mackey actually has a pretty responsible view of the social role of business and wrote a good article on it I have used his ideas when teaching business ethics. I don't agree with Mackey's views, but he is far from the poster child for corporate greed and irresponsibility. If we must boycott Whole Foods, then we must boycott far more companies than we might be willing or capable of boycotting.

The real problem, however, is that a boycott of Whole Foods misses the heart of the problem. It is relatively easy to wag our fingers at "greedy CEOs" and even to refuse to shop at their stores. But such actions do NOTHING to actually repair our damaged political system. Our system is designed to put profits over people, to favor corporations above the public good, and to subsidize big business with tax-payer dollars. It is this system we must change.

We need to work toward changing the political system so that it no longer favors the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the rest of us. We need to work hard - not to let Mackey know we hate his views on health care coverage - but to actually make viable and effective health care reform law.

Rather than boycott Whole Foods I intend to work hard to change the political system that screws people. Boycotting Whole Foods is, in the end, pointless. Mackey may have whatever views he would like ... who cares?! Let's change the system, we won't change Mackey's mind.

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  1. What do you think about boycotting Glenn Beck?

  2. I think that makes more sense. Beck actually acted out his little fantasy of killing Nanch Pelosi on air! And his comments are much more prone to incite violence and fuel ignorance.

    But the boycott there is a little different. In Beck's case sponsors are boycotting the asshole.

  3. But the change you seek can be accomplished only by boycotting Mackey and his ilk not despite it. The guy is anti-public health care, anti-union and you still shop there?!

  4. Well, Color of Change called for viewers to boycott the show and write advertisers to express their disappointment that their commercials ultimately support a guy who publicly called the President a racist. Now, I find this distasteful and see no evidence to support So I obviously disagree with Beck. But the guy is also entitled to his opinion. We shouldn't tread on that entitlement by engaging in an organized effort to shut him up, just because we don't like what he says.

  5. I did not know about Color of change. Yeah I agree, that's silly. I think we should all not watch him because he is a dishonest and ignorant hack ... but an organized boycott? I don't see a need for it. If people want to watch this moron spew his venom and idiocy, then they are entitled.

  6. Sir -

    Can you explain to me why neither side has picked up and trumpted tort reform as one of the easiest, most effective and money-saving measures for health care reform? You want to know why our health care costs so much? Look in to how much it costs to insure a specialist for one year. Government - public plan or not - cannot lower the cost of health care. It can simply mandate care, and then refuse to pay the bill. Reforming the tort laws would save hundreds of millions. I am optimistic enough to believe this could happen, but cynical enough to think both parties are face-down in the feed bin of campaign donations. I would appreciate a blog about this topic; I feel it is under addressed.

  7. I think the issue of tort reform and costs that you raise is a valid one. I shall try and come up with a post on it, I think it should be adressed, thanks for bringing it up.


Comments from many different points of view are welcome. But I will not publish any comments that are hateful, insulting, or filled with profanity. I welcome and encourage dialogue and disagreement but will not publish any hate speech.