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No Need to Boycott Whole Foods

August 18, 2009

Whole+Foods+John+Mackey+pic+05-21-08I consider health care reform a pressing moral issue, strongly favor the public option, and am disappointed that politicians have deemed single-payer out of the question. With that said, the logic behind boycotting Whole Foods based on an op-ed written by CEO John Mackey is totally unclear to me.

The Mackey piece strikes me as a relatively thoughtful, articulate defense of a free-market approach to reform. By contrast, many of Mackey’s conservative comrades have preferred to spread rumors and lies about ObamaCare over engaging in honest debate: whereas Mackey gives us eight specific recommendations for reform, Palin, Beck, et al have given us death panels and rationing.

The distinction between Mackey and some of his fellow conservatives is an essential one. When Glenn Beck recently remarked that he considers Obama a “racist” who “has a deep seated hatred for white people,” a number of advertisers pulled their spots – and they were quite right for doing so. Beck’s remarks were as offensive as they were unfounded. Pulling the ads had nothing to do with political ideology; it had to do with Beck’s lack of basic decency, regardless of his ideology. By contrast, 11,000 members of Facebook are boycotting Whole Foods, simply because they disagree with the views of its CEO.

What, exactly, do the boycotters wish to accomplish? If Mackey were simply to keep his mouth shut, then progressives would lose a thoughtful voice on the right to contend with. Given the scarcity of such voices (at least on health care), is this a gain? Perhaps the idea is that the pro-market view itself is simply reprehensible; that no decent person could oppose reform along the lines opposed by Obama. If so, boycotters are failing to make another important distinction: between Mackey and Mackey’s ideas about health care. Mackey the CEO provides us with quality organic foods; Mackey the man does not consider health care an intrinsic right. The one has nothing to do with the other — unless you want to take an extremely black-and-white view in which the world consists of Us (progressives to be associated with) and Them (conservatives to be avoided).

But aren’t conservatives supposed to be the ones with the primitive “with us or against us” ideology?

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