Of all the things anyone has written or said about John Mackey the word CONVENTIONAL has never been used unless to describe him. Those who were amazed at his comments regarding the health care debate or his assessment that Whole Foods sells mostly junk clearly need to increase their intake of gingko biloba because their memory isn’t very good. After all Mackey is the man who told American Public Radio’s daily business show Marketplace that he opened his first store as a way to meet girls. He isn’t someone concerned with his image.
Mackey envisions a world of free enterprise guided by ethical capitalism and notwithstanding complaints among some store level workers, his company has mostly managed to live up to his vision.Before renouncing all compensation Mackey never earned more than $437,000 a year (excluding options, which while lucrative still don’t minimize this point). The chain’s work has been lauded as visionary by organizations promoting fair trade, organic farming and other social values that Safeway or Stop & Shop only pretend to care about.
Yet Mackey’s failure to consider the lessons of history, the exploitation of labor and the integrity of American business suggests that his vision doesn’t extend beyond Austin. We won’t list our complaints about the chain. Too many carpers and cynics do nothing but rant about them day after day. But what will we say is that his misguided belief in the power of capitalism to lift every boat left him looking a fool or worse, like a dispassionate greedy businessman, neither or which he is. Too bad he lookslike a fool especially to those progressives whose causes he has so often championed.