Whole Foods is a company Glenn loves to hate. He has a great deal of respect for CEO, John Mackey, but he doesn’t love the $1,400 they seemingly charge for a glass of milk. Mackey is inherently libertarian, though his views sometimes stray towards over-regulation when it comes to issues like organic food laws and providing comfortable transportation for live lobsters (?!) on their way to various Whole Foods outposts. Regardless, one thing is for certain, Mackey understands capitalism, and he eloquently expressed his views on the free market system in a recent interview.
“Very smart guy,” Glenn said about Mackey on this morning’s radio program. “You know what I love about libertarians? We don't agree on everything, but capitalism is the way to go.”
MACKEY: Whole Foods is very frequently criticized, most recently in the New York Times, for being a – you know, one of the big corporations that is corrupting organic. And just because we're large, a lot of suspicion and mistrust just because there's such an anti-corporation mentality by a lot of people in the country.
His remark touches on the growing problem in this country – people are being told not to trust corporations because they are painted as large, scary, greedy, selfish, exploitative, sociopaths that care about nothing but turning a profit. This is simply not true, and Mackey continued his defense of the free markets by talking about the ‘good’ corporations do.
MACKEY: Well, capitalism of course itself has been amazing. It's been – our first chapter in our book is extraordinary success, or capitalism. The second chapter is why isn't capitalism better loved? And we put forth the thesis that we need a new narrative for it. We need to think about business differently, that business has the possibility to have a higher purpose besides just making money. There's nothing wrong with making money, but that's not particularly inspiring. And every other profession in the world, from doctors, teachers, engineers, architects, lawyers, if you ask what their purpose is, and it refers back to some type of contribution they are making to other people. And business is the greatest value creator in the world. Business creates value for its customers, for its employees, for its suppliers, for its investors, for the larger communities it's part of. They're the value creators. We are the value creators. We're the heroes. And yet that's not the narrative that's told about business. So we're telling that narrative, and at the same time we're challenging business to be more conscious and to take their value creation to a higher level and understanding that all of these stakeholders they're creating value for are connected together and so you ought to strategically organize your business in such a way that you can optimize value for all of those stakeholders.
“That's amazing,” Glenn said. “That's exactly the way people should be running their companies.”
Agree or disagree with Mackey politically, his commentary is spot on. “He's right about capitalism,” Glenn continued. “And yet, because of politics, they will take him down. People will go and they will demonize him, and they'll make his job harder.”
Ultimately, capitalism is what creates the wealth and prosperity that allows people to live good and productive lives. It employees people and creates a profit, while providing services for the public. “The best thing you'll ever do to help people is this company and running it well and turning a profit,” Stu said to Glenn. “That helps all the employees who work here. All those people go and spend their money in the economy. They essentially, in effect, employ other people with that money. This is, what you – I mean, charities are fantastic and obviously they're very much needed, but capitalism is really what brings prosperity and wealth."
Unfortunately, with the current narrative painted so solidly anti-corporation, it won’t be easy to convince people of the good that can come from big business and free market principles.
“They just don't see it,” Glenn concluded. “They don't see how you can be a corporation and be good.”