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Hippie Capitalists and Other Rare Wonders of the Modern World

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How 'bout them apples?

The New Yorker has run a pretty good profile (PGP) of Whole Foods co-founder and Chairman CEO (and recently resigned CEO chairman!) John Mackey, cover boy on our January 2010 issue. You will learn there such tidbits as the fact that Mackey's dad was CEO of "a health-care company, which was sold…for nearly a billion dollars," that "sometimes the store deploys 'dummies,' wooden or cardboard devices hidden under mounds of produce, to create an illusion of greater supply" (shakes fist if true in Washington, D.C.), and much more than you probably ever want to know about the skinny vegan's sex life.

Profiler Nick Paumgarten does a good job with the material, if even he does lean a bit too heavy on the what-a-paradox! theme. For example:

It's a welter of paradoxes: a staunchly anti-union enterprise that embraces some progressive labor practices; a self-styled world-improver that must also deliver quarterly results to Wall Street; a big-box chain putting on small-town airs; an evangelist for healthy eating that sells sausages, ice cream, and beer.

You mean…it's possible to treat employees well without a union, improve the world without voluntarily denying yourself access to capital, eat healthy without giving up delicious (and perfectly healthy) sausages, ice cream, and beer? Wonders will apparently never cease.

But the real attempt to view a Kodachrome world through a black-and-white lens comes in these two passages:

He can't help but speak his mind, out of which spring confounding ideas and conventionally irreconcilable contradictions. The man who has perhaps done as much as anyone to bring the natural-foods movement from the crunchy fringe into the mainstream is also a vocal libertarian, an orthodox free-marketer, an admirer of Milton Friedman, Ronald Reagan, and Ayn Rand. In the 2008 Presidential election, he voted for Bob Barr—Ron Paul wasn't on the ballot.

Total subtitle abuse

The right-wing hippie is a rare bird […]

"[C]onscious capitalism" [is Mackey's concept that] some people, smelling an oxymoron, or worse, snicker at. His idea is that business should have a higher purpose—that, just as doctors heal and teachers educate, businesspeople should be after something besides money. It may be an easier argument for a grocer to make; he feeds people, and if he feeds them properly he heals and educates them, too. But it borders on humbug when you apply it to, say, Wall Street. Consciousness, as it relates to capitalism, is in the eyes not so much of the beholder as of the capitalist.

Really? Are we still in a place where it comes as a shock that some right-wingers (let alone libertarians) are crunchy, and that some successful capitalists are hippie idealists? I daresay former hippie Steve Jobs has been chasing after something besides the do-rey-mi all these years. Google has that slogan for a reason. And far away from the conventional longhairs-learn-venture-capital legend of the Silicon Valley there are hundreds of thousands of restaurant owners, toymakers, publishers, cardboard box factory-owners, record label entrepreneurs, eBay auctioneers…you name it, who wake up in the morning motivated by the conviction that they are making their little corner of the world a little bit better.

OK, it's not the shoes

What's more, there isn't a New Yorker writer among us who doesn't make his own consumption choices based at least a smidgeon on the presumed consciousness of the capitalist providing it. There's a reason why my French brother-in-law wanted an American Apparel T-shirt for Christmas, why many Peet's customers wouldn't dream of setting foot in a Starbucks, why insufferable "college radio" fans in the mid-'80s (*cough*) fetishized music from indie labels. We tend to patronize companies that seem to share our values, whether Trader Joe's, In-N-Out Burger or Dischord Records.

As for Wall Street, I'll just quote the president of the United States:

the truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in $8 or $10 of loans to families and businesses.

While that's not actually true, there is a broad point underneath it: You really would rather have a capital market than not, whether you own a retirement plan, a beloved mom-and-pop store that would like to raise cash, or the conviction that the federal government can borrow gobs of money to pay for beautiful social programs forever and ever. Those hated Wall Streetsters may look or act unconscious (especially in your fantasy life), but without the liquidity they help provide our economy would be unconscionable.

Reason's main Mackey file here, including this video:

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107 responses to “Hippie Capitalists and Other Rare Wonders of the Modern World

  1. an evangelist for healthy eating that sells sausages, ice cream, and beer.

    I do not find this paradoxical.

  2. This is all well and good, but every time I go into a Whole Foods, I just want to strangle me some yuppies.

    1. Hmmm, sounds like a potential spin-off from the Dexter series.

      1. Warty would be Masuka though, not Dexter.

        1. Nah…Warty’s not nearly as cool as Masuka thinks he is (?).

    2. Dope-smoking redneck is the summary of Austin in the late 70s? Thank God for the nuance of New Yorkers. Are there any more provincial asshats in the States?

      1. whoops. Stupid threaded comments. Did you not realize I had changed my mind and wanted to make a different point? I think the intarwebz are broken.

    3. Mackey:

      “It said?I’m paraphrasing?it said, Lifetime after lifetime after lifetime you have been angry at God. You have blamed God for all the problems in the world,” he says in “Passion and Purpose.” “And not once have you ever looked at the real source?you and all your brothers and sisters have created this state of being that you’re in. Not God. God is just pure love. . . . I got up. I started running around my house, because when I read it, it intuitively rang true for me.”

      lol hippie fag with a rich daddy

  3. But it borders on humbug when you apply it to, say, Wall Street. Consciousness, as it relates to capitalism, is in the eyes not so much of the beholder as of the capitalist.

    And yet, if you asked him about kindly old Grandpa Buffett, I suspect this guy would gush so so hard that you would need to change your socks.

  4. He stepped down as Chairman, not CEO.

    1. Thanks. Reading are hard.

  5. the truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in $8 or $10 of loans to families and businesses.

    What bank is that? I’d like to borrow some shares.

    1. He’s talking about the multiplier.

      1. Nah, he’s talking about fractional reserve banking. The multiplier is what causes a dollar spent by Obama and his economic team of dazzling brilliance generate $3 or $4 in spending in the rest of the economy.

        1. BSJ,

          In fractional reserve banking the fraction lets you calculate the multiplier.

        2. Wait, is my snark reader broken too?

    2. In fractional reserve banking, a reserve requirement of 10% (the current reserve ration:http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/reservereq.htm) means $1 in capital can produce $9 of loans. (and 11.11% means 8 bucks, and 9.09% means 10 bucks)

      The real world Fed system is a bit more complex, because the loans go both ways, (and lending practices are currently comparatively tight, and there’s current interest paid on reserve holdings) but the prez ‘actually’ is going with enough truthiness for government work.

  6. Interesting. But I’m pretty sure that hippies are communalists, not capitalists. You’d never see a hippy participating in a pyramid scheme like capitalism… and most hippies I ever knew… weren’t into owning, but instead, sharing. Hippies are into potlucks, barnraisings, love, Christianity, anti-establishment, anti-competing, love-not-war, etc. No business today, especially ones that use the green papers with the pyramid scheme symbol on the back… can meet the criteria of being called hippy. Not even close. Busyness as it happens today… is the establishment… which is to be removed. Go hippies! Goodbye capitalism pyramid scheme-o-servitude/inequality.

    MaStars – Capitalism System Fighters

    1. Guess you never ran across Ben & Jerry?

    2. You forgot the beer bread, man, the beer bread…and balling…first balling, then the beer bread.

      Whoa, as I was scribblin’ this on the screen, man, the layers just started peelin’ A-way.

    3. I’ve known people that could be called hippies. Drop-outs, of sorts, not into owning a lot of stuff that they can’t carry around or that they wouldn’t mind leaving behind, but definitely prepared to pay their own way. Often capitalists in the sense that they ran their own businesses, both legal and illegal, sometimes small-time temporary operations, sometimes ongoing concerns.

      Anyway, I s’pose that if you choose to define “hippies” as “*not* capitalists” then they’re not. To me that’s like defining “baseball fans” as “not dog owners.”

      1. that’s silly. The correct definition is: “soccer fans” = “cat owners”.

        I guess somebody didn’t read the memo!

        1. Not called “soccer fans.” They are “supporters.”

          1. shouldn’t you expand this to include all athletic supporters, then?

            1. Of course! And their ladyfriends, too. We call them “merkins.”

              1. ah of course!

                your yuppie, not-afraid-of-evolution stance has confused me. And excited me.

                I’m so excited and confused
                Confused and excited.

                ooh! *runs off to frolic in the meadow and dress up in a hemp thong*

    4. Busyness as it happens today… is the establishment… which is to be removed.

      Right. Hippies: Anti-establishment, not anti-authority. A subtle difference, but an oh-so important one.

      Because they’re into sharing. So start sharing goddammit, or you’re gonna find yourself clapped in irons.

      1. Paul, join or starve, get a job or die, do as you’re told or else, firings, terminations, marching to the corporate vision… those are all capitalism things, not commune things. Pyramid schemes (capitalism) are pyramid shaped due to classings/inequality. Communes are flat and try their best to be egalitarian *decision by committee, slow but fair and all sides heard and weighed). Laws will exist, whether you use economies/rat-racing, or communes/love/share. Commune authority is huggy and teachy… not like the “jail-em” iron fist of capitalism/ownership laws/authority.

        I think you’ll find that ownership by individual is a tug-o-war nightmare compared to the abolishment of ownership, and instead, the use of custodianships. Look at the USA military supply/survival system. See any money? Noooo. See ownershipism? Noooo. See any monetary discrimination? Noooo. See “team” cooperation and caring? Yep. See some commune-hater standing around calling “team” things like that… fascist? Likely.

        Now look at capitalism. Not too long or you’ll vomit from its disgustingness. NOBODY is born equal in capitalism.

        SOME of us don’t do rat-racing. Are we still allowed to stay on the planet? Barely. Do we get to have freedom to avoid economies and ownership? Noooo. Can the USA claime to be a freedom-loving country? Hardly. If you think forced-joining of an imperialism (competer’s church) slave-corp at age 18 is freedom, you’re bamboozled.

  7. They sold out to the Man, man.

    1. Sounds like a scam to me.

      1. You’ve been paying attention.

  8. Where does the expression “crunchy” come from?

      1. Some association of breakfast cereal or hiking food with certain beliefs? Why did the term become “crunchy” — which could indicate pretzels, or any number of other foods — instead of simply “granola”?

        1. It probably also applies to their underwear.

  9. [T]here are hundreds of thousands of restaurant owners, toymakers, publishers, cardboard box factory-owners, record label entrepreneurs, eBay auctioneers…you name it, who wake up in the morning motivated by the conviction that they are making their little corner of the world a little bit better.

    Indeed, one may be benevolent without being altruistic. Leftists have never understood this. Coercion is their tool of choice.

  10. Goodbye capitalism pyramid scheme-o-servitude/inequality.

    Did you learn this nuanced analysis at an Ivy League school?

    1. This sounds like TonyChadMorrisism.

      1. TonyChadMorrisism

        Where do you place the accent in that?

        1. Up his ass with an inside-out cheese grater (Tony’s ass, that is).

          1. No, up his ass with a red hot poker.

  11. In which world is sausage, ice cream, and beer healthy?

    1. Pennsylvania dutch country…true story.

    2. In the world wherein the guiding principle of consumption is moderation. Were you asking a serious question?

  12. Wow this is incredible dude. What do you think of that?

    RT
    http://www.privacy-resources.es.tc

  13. Colin, i for one would rather live for fifty years in a world that has sausage, ice cream, and beer in it than forever in a world without any one of those things.

    Also, i initially typed your name as “Colon.”

    That is all.

    1. I think I could find substitutes for sausage, ice cream, and beer.

      1. Like ground-meat patties, gelato, and, um… no, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.

  14. Where does the expression “crunchy” come from?

    Pants.

    Dreher’s version of “crunchy” boils down to sublimating Massachusetts Puritanism into cultural signals of Whitey-leftism. Which is redundant.

    So?pants.

    1. They don’t clean them, so they become stiff and crunchy?

  15. Beer-and-sausage smoothies; it’s what’s for dinner!

  16. Can I substitute steak, cookies and bourbon? ‘Cause I’ll definitely give up sausage, ice cream and beer if I can live forever in a world that still includes the former.

  17. I like betting on libertarian CEOs. T.J Rodgers and Cypress Semiconductors (and, ironically enough, Sunpower) made me some healthy scratch a few years back. Maybe I should take a flyer on Whole Foods?

  18. There’s a reason why my French brother-in-law wanted an American Apparel T-shirt for Christmas, why many Peet’s customers wouldn’t dream of setting foot in a Starbucks, why insufferable “college radio” fans in the mid-’80s (*cough*) fetishized music from indie labels. We tend to patronize companies that seem to share our values, whether Trader Joe’s, In-N-Out Burger or Dischord Records.

    Because they were left out above, I feel the need to include Wikipedia links for Starbucks and Trader Joe’s. 😉

  19. I was in Whole Foods on Sunday and overheard some girl say to her male companion that she found it strange that a heath food store should sell beer. I suspect that same observation is made quite frequently.

    I like their beer selection and their wine selections isn’t bad either. I came out with some nice Australian and Chilean ones.

    And if they hadn’t sold out of sausage I’d’ve gotten some of that too. They had a special on free range chicken breasts so I got some of them.

    1. fascist. I only eat free-forest chicken, the kind of chicken that runs free in packs through the woods. Tastes a little like squirrel though.

  20. Dov Charney is great in that he drives feminists nuts. Who knew a Canadian was capable of that, in addition to creating a successful business clothing hipsters and cultivating a rockin’ mustache?

    1. Whoa, how about an NSFW warning on that link, Dagny?

    2. Dov Charney is a creep, but many women are stupid enough to want to get paid by him.

  21. This is the genius of Whole Foods: you go for the great selection on yummy food & beer, and get the added bonus of seeing a variety of hilarious characters in their natural habitat. Like the dude who is so anti-plastic-bag that he puts his vegetables directly on the conveyor belt thingy. Or the unwashed hippie couple with matching white-people-dreads and homemade hemp clothing. Sustenance and entertainment! Thanks, Mackey.

  22. Sausage is healthy so long as it’s made with pure ingredients: meat, organs, spices. Unfortunately, most are cured with all sorts of crazy “sodium ____________” additives. Nitrate/nitrite-free sausage is basically as healthful as fresh meat. Note: pepperoni pizza is not a health food.

    Beer, in moderation, is neutral. Fermented grains contain a host of B-vitamins, although you can get the same thing with sprouted-grain bread. A small amount of alcohol is probably good for you, thinning the blood somewhat. Those positive effects are probably cancelled out by the easily-absorbed beer sugar. At least, it’s probably neutral in moderation. Note: this doesn’t apply to American mass market beer.

    Ice cream is bad for you. Just too much sugar.

    1. life is bad for you. We should boycott it.

    2. Since the whole point of sausage was to take the poorest quality parts of the beast and preserve them for future consumption the whole curing with ‘all sorts of crazy “sodium ____________” additives’ becomes an essential part of sausagemaking.

      On the other hand refrigeration has made such means of preservation pretty much irrelevant in the modern world.

    3. Beer, in moderation, is neutral. Fermented grains contain a host of B-vitamins, although you can get the same thing with sprouted-grain bread.

      I found some sprouted-grain bread in my pantry the other day. Well, it was sprouting something all over it. I threw it out.

  23. Organic food is good, m’kay?

    Mr. Mackey

  24. So Mackey’s father was a billionaire?

    Well, that certainly explains why such an idiot got the money for getting Whole Foods started.

    A rich man is either a thief or a son of a thief.
    Or both.

    1. Mackey’s family gave him $45,000 to start the company. Wow, he’s one lucky guy to have his billionaire daddy give him so much money to start his own business. He must be a thief!!

      1. And paid for his college degree and used his contacts to get investors, etc.
        If you think he only gave his son $45,000 then you’re an idiot who actually believes the bullshit myths this guy’s trying to create about himself.

        1. Poor Kyle. No rich daddy to buy him a life.

          1. But when you’re tied to your mother’s apron father’s wallet,
            no-one talks about castration…

    2. The article says he was CEO of a company that sold for $1 billion. I doubt he got to keep all of it.

      1. Somehow I doubt he complained.
        Call it a deformed Notre Dame resident.

    3. A rich man is either a thief or a son of a thief.
      Or both.

      All public property is theft.

      1. All property is theft.
        We’re all thieves.
        The difference is that I’m OK with that.

  25. Those hated Wall Streetsters may look or act unconscious (especially in your fantasy life), but without the liquidity they help provide our economy would be unconscionable.

    Well, I think about how unconscionable it is right now thanks to our reliance on made-up money as provided by the Federal Reserve…

    1. All money is made up.
      It’s part of the collective consensual hallucination, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn…
      Also:
      fuck Whole Foods,
      fuck hippies,
      fuck vegans,
      fuck spoiled upper-class fags like Mackey.

      1. don’t let this guy near your television with a shotgun.

        1. Somewhere along the line, I think Kyle said “Fuck those meds everyone says I should be taking.”

          1. Damn straight!
            I want ORGANIC Zoloft, damn it!

            1. I recommend the free-range Prozac.

            2. I recommend the free-range Prozac.

              (This line to bypass the squirrels who marked first line as spam.)

              1. Those squirrels need some serious meds, too.

      2. Not all money is made up, Kyle – just the one issued by the Federal Reserve. That’s all.

        1. You’re made up.
          And you’re a towel.

  26. It’s depressing how economically illiterate the literatti is.

  27. Note: pepperoni pizza is not a health food.

    You know, if I were to bother to nitpick inconsistencies at WF it would be to point out the freezer section full of processed foods.

    I’m almost willing to credit “organic” with a premium in terms of flavor and nutrition when it’s applied to fresh vegetables purchased from the hippie at the local Farmers Market the day they’re picked or the next. But when the food in question is a frozen pizza shipped from the other end of the country and labelled ostentatiously “organic”, I’ll call a bullshit.

    The fact is, though, that I really doubt that the local hippie market gardener’s wares would be less tasty if he were to judiciously apply some synthetic fertilizer and pesticides, while still otherwise giving his garden his normal care and attention.

    Oh, and the “homeopatic remedies” and close to half of the “nutritional supplements” at Whole Foods are pure scam.

    1. Organic–meh. Local farms, on the other hand, can get you fresh and tasty goodness.

      1. I keep promising myself that I will find the time and energy to start gardening again.

        Food you’ve grown yourself can be so tasty.

        1. My brother is into gardening, hardcore. I’m intimidated by his obsession.

  28. Ooh, ooh, Gawker is bitching about Mackey, Reason is for hipster libertarians, and Nick and Matt are awesome dudes, despite their secretly Republican philosophy! All is right in the world.

    1. Why do Nick and Matt get a pass? They’re every bit the assholes that the rest of us are!

      1. You don’t have photos of Nick Denton from the mid-1990s.

  29. From the comments in the Gawker article (many of which are equally hilarious):

    I’m going to go ahead and blame South Park. The carbon monoxide-like libtard gas it leaks has led thousands upon thousands of kids in my generation into equating “independent thought” with anarcho-capitalist gospel. Every dumbfuck kid who felt like it was a sign of brilliance to not be associated with either liberalism or conservatism (and who wanted to be proud of being born into a white, monied family instead of guilty) started palling around with conservatism’s oily stepchild.

    Remember kids: we’ve been given the right to choose between a douche and a turd.

    1. Personally, I think most people who find their way to libertarianism do it by recognizing that’s where this country started, more or less.

      1. Really? I don’t think I agree, ProL.

        1. Okay, where do we get it from then? I certainly was a libertarian long before I read any Hayek. . or Rand, for that matter.

          1. Maybe lots of people learn about the self-ownership principle? Maybe they read a book by Thomas Sowell or John Stossel? Maybe they listened to Free Talk Live or Neal Boortz? Maybe they say Bullshit or Firefly?

            1. My point was that understanding at all what the Constitution and the founding of the U.S. was about–something we’re all exposed to–is a major gateway for libertarianism. I don’t see what’s controversial about that statement.

              1. That’s a great point, but it’s also different from suggesting that Americans have been given douches and turds to choose from since the nation’s founding. It’s kind of a downer, true as it may be.

    2. Hey you stupid libertarians, fall in line with the white guilt already.

  30. “…and who wanted to be proud of being born into a white, monied family instead of guilty…”
    Comedy gold!

  31. I have to say that American Apparel rather sucks. Most of their clothing seems to be made of cheap thin cotton knits. The kind of crap that they make T-shirts for wet t-shirt contests out of. This is shit I wouldn’t even buy if it was in a thrift store. Not to mention they seems to have some sort of wierd retro-80s thing going on — for no reason. I don’t see lots of fanshioable hipsters walking around in tights and leg warmers. Only in the American Apparel windows does this fad exist.

    1. All the small town hipsters are still wearing tights and leg warmers, but they are always about six months behind their New York brethren.

      1. Yes, well, apparantly the New Yorkers rapidly realized their mistake and erased everyone’s memory of it.

  32. The wonderful thing about the market economy is that it makes possible the cooperation of hundreds of millions of people without needing to know or care whether we “share each other’s values”.

    I buy food from In-n-out burger because they sell a good product at an acceptable price. They could be a pack of tree-hugging commies for all I care.

    -jcr

  33. this is not always true because ongoing companies create business plans, project plans, new product plans, and plans for acquiring and integrating other ventures. General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Plans are nothing. Planning is everything.”

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