As many people know by now, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, dropped a bomb into the laps of his liberal clientele by publishing an editorial on health care reform in the Wall Street Journal. They immediately started a boycott movement, which seems to be growing daily. I disagree with the assumptions on which Mackey’s ideas are based—but I’m not in favor of the boycott either.
It was naive, even stupid, for Mackey to make any kind of public political statement. I suppose it’s not unheard of for business people to express their opinions—but they do so at the risk of losing customers who disagree with them, no matter which side of the political spectrum they live on. Still, what Mackey did is different from businesses that parlay their profits into support for a cause, such as Domino’s Pizza, or Curves, both of which are virulently anti-abortion and contribute heftily to anti-choice groups. (Note: See comment from Domino’s Pizza, below.) Nor does Mackey’s editorial fall into the same category as the Glenn Beck Show, currently under boycott for Beck’s offensive statements, including calling President Obama a racist. Glenn Beck is supposed to be reporting the news; instead he abuses his platform by spewing myths and outright lies to a huge audience of viewers who think they’re watching the news.
I don’t like Mackey’s editorial; I disagree with his premises. His basic bottom line assumption is that Americans—or any people—don’t have an intrinsic right to health care. He’s correct, in a way: rights aren’t intrinsic. But we as a society can decide, and have decided, that in a civilized world, everyone deserves proper medical care, whether or not they have enough money to pay for it. That’s the basic assumption behind health care reform.
Another of Mackey’s assumptions is that people have the ability to almost entirely control their health. “We should be able to live healthy and largely disease free lives,” he says, “until we are well into our 90’s and even past 100 years of age.”
I’ll drink to that, by god: we should be able to live disease free forever! The fact that most of us don’t, however, is most frequently beyond our control. We can do all the right things to keep ourselves at optimum health–but again, Mackey is naive to believe it’s that simple. I don’t know anything about the man, but I’m willing to bet my Medicare (a government-run program) that he has never, for instance, been close to an infant with a mysterious life-threatening ailment that requires lifelong medical care. Hell, I’ll bet he doesn’t even know anyone who can’t afford to buy apples in his store!
Without sharing certain basic assumptions, agreement between people is almost impossible. Considering the gap between our assumptions, and our life experience, there is no way John Mackey and I could possibly see eye to eye on health care rights and reform.
But for all that, this is a free speech issue if ever I saw one: all the guy did was express his opinion. Liberal customers of Whole Foods, shocked by Mackey’s editorial, are being as naive as he was in writing it: did they really think the owner of this upscale supermarket chain was a socialist because he sells food that’s honestly organic? Or because he treats his employees somewhat decently? Everyone knows he’s anti-union—so why didn’t they boycott the store over that?
News Flash: John Mackey is a capitalist—an honest capitalist, but a capitalist none the less.
I don’t watch Glenn Beck. I wouldn’t eat a Domino’s Pizza if it was the last one on earth and I wouldn’t walk a treadmill at Curves if my life depended on it. I will, however, go on eating organic vegetables from Whole Foods on the occasions that I can afford to buy them.