Thursday, June 15, 2006

Whole Foods Republicans

First, there were Bobo's.

Then, South Park Republicans.

Now, could there be "Whole Foods Republicans"?

Admirers of Whole Foods CEO and co-founder John Mackey seem to think so.

Whole Foods Market, which calls itself the world's leading retailer of natural and organic stores, boasts 184 upscale grocery stores across North America and the United Kingdom. A frequent customer, I believe that the opening of a Whole Foods is an asset to nearly any community. Yet, it seems an odd petri dish for a new kind of Republican. The left-wing publications that fill the stores' magazine racks prove that there is a dissonance between the political views of the stores' CEO and the views of the customers who have helped make him rich.

Mr. Mackey has a vision to change that. Mr. Mackey recommends improvements in the "positioning and branding" of the "freedom movement." Mackey says that, although he supports the legalization of drugs, pornography, and prostitution, the freedom movement should devote less attention to these decadent and unpopular goals. Unless the movement wishes to remain "small" and "unimportant," the movement should focus instead on issues that are not only more appealing, but also far more critical to improving the country: "creating educational choice, privatizing social security, de-regulating health care, and enacting meaningful tort reform."

Now, Mackey certainly wouldn't describe himself as a Republican. As one of the few libertarians who actually votes for Libertarians, he is an unlikely leader of Whole Foods Republicans. Nonetheless, on each of the four issues he highlights, his views fall squarely on the Republican side of the aisle. Moreover, he explicitly rejects the Lefitist philosphy of his "naive" and "idealistic" youth, and observes: "Despite the unbelievable horrible track record of Leftist ideology, millions of young Americans continue to migrate to an intellectual bankrupt Left because the Left still seems to be idealistic, and that idealism is magnetic to the young."

Although I strongly recommend reading the whole thing, I provide the following excerpt for link-o-phobes:

At the time I started my business, the Left had taught me that business and capitalism were based on exploitation: exploitation of consumers, workers, society and the environment. I believed that "profit" was a necessary evil at best, and certainly not a desirable goal for society as a whole. However, becoming an entrepreneur completely changed my life. Everything I believed about business was proven to be wrong. The most important thing I learned about business in my first year was that business wasn't based on exploitation or coercion at all. Instead I realized that business is based on voluntary cooperation. No one is forced to trade with a business; customers have competitive alternatives in the market place; employees have competitive alternatives for their labor; investors have different alternatives and places to invest their capital. Investors, labor, management, suppliers—they all need to cooperate to create value for their customers. If they do, then any realized profit can be divided amongst the creators of the value through competitive market dynamics. In other words, business is not a zero sum game with a winner and loser. It is a win, win, win, win game—and I really like that.

However, I discovered despite my idealism that our customers thought our prices were too high, our employees thought they were underpaid, the vendors would not give us large discounts, the community was forever clamoring for donations, and the government was slapping us with endless fees, licenses, fines and taxes. Were we profitable? Not at first. Safer Way managed to lose half of its capital in the first year—$23,000. Despite the loss, we were still accused of exploiting our customers with high prices and our employees with lower wages. The investors weren't making a profit and we had no money to donate. Plus, with our losses, we paid no taxes. I had somehow joined the "dark side" — I was now one of the bad guys. According to the perspective of the Left, I had become a greedy and selfish businessman. At this point, I rationally chose to abandon the Leftist philosophy of my youth, because it no longer adequately explained how the world really worked.

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