Reason Podcast

Can 'Conscious Capitalism' Make Business a Heroic Enterprise? John Mackey Is Betting Yes: Podcast

The Whole Foods magnate and his nonprofit colleague Alexander McCobin want to "elevate humanity through business" and make us all smarter, kinder...and richer.


In 2013, Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey co-authored a business history-cum-manifesto titled Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Drawing on his experiences with Whole Foods, Mackey outlined an unapologetically free market approach to commerce that also stressed far more than simply maximizing returns to shareholders.

"We believe that business is good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity. Free enterprise capitalism is the most powerful system for social cooperation and human progress ever conceived. It is one of the most compelling ideas we humans have ever had. But we can aspire to even more," reads the credo of Conscious Capitalism, a nonprofit Mackey created to help popularize his ideas and engage entrepreneurs and policymakers.

I sat down with Mackey and Alexander McCobin, the CEO of Conscious Capitalism, to talk about the group's goals, activities, and reception on both the right and the left. The podcast was taped at FreedomFest, the annual gathering of libertarians held each July in Las Vegas, and we talked about everything from the Industrial Revolution to the human potential movement to McCobin's role in creating Students for Liberty, one of the largest libertarian organizations in the world.

For more on Mackey, including his legendary 2005 Reason debate with Milton Friedman and T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor about the social responsibility of business, go here.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Photo credit: Kris Tripplaar/Sipa USA/Newscom

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