199 Comments

Comments

Michael Barcellos says ...
BRAVO !! I just finished reading your paradox of profits. I must say I whole Heartedly agree with your analogy. The title of this section I think would be better titled "Profits, the underlying result". As a supervisor in one of your stores departments, profit is realized by the many things we as team members due as a result of a well developed business plan. We strive to give better service to our customers as well as a stellar product. Since we are happy team members we generate profits for OUR store through a great connection with our customers. The end result thereby meets our core values of Whole Foods Markets on a whole. I do have one question for you though. What is the overall purpose of these writings and who is your target audience? Reason for my question is that if you are targeting a broad mass of people then I would much rather see a more simpler form of wording and writing on your part in order to better get your point across. Just a thought since at WFMs simplicity, I think, is the best way to better inform people about the goodness of WFMs product.
03/09/2007 12:18:56 PM CST
Mark says ...
Mr. Mackey, I confess - I've regularly looked through your job listings hoping that the stars would align and I'd find a gig working with you at corporate hq in Austin. After today, however, I have to say that I'll not be doing any more of that. In fact, I'll be selling all my WFMI shares in the next week or so due to this blog (this is the first time I've looked through the site since becoming a shareholder). I am taken aback at how a CEO who works for shareholders, the owners of his company, feels that it is appropriate for him to use the company's website to express his belief systems (first of all), and even more egregious - to use inflammatory language in doing so. You've read plenty of books, which is great. And you like to try all sorts of religious practices. But statements like, "a firm foundation to move past mythologically based religions into authentic 21st century spirituality", are foolish. The CEO for whom I work would not say something like that because he knows that his job is to run a company and not to opine on his company's website. Doesn't mean that he has no opinions and that he can't express them when the setting is right, it just means that he maintains a basic sense of propriety when speaking in public under our company's banner. While I don't belong to any religious group, I read this and was somewhat shocked that people were not a bit more uneasy to hear you refer to "mythologically based" religion while replying to a person who was expressing belief in the bible. Again, my decision to divest from the company has nothing to do with the specific content in your blog - though I find your tone self-righteous and your words somewhere between spurious and offensive - I just can't trust a person with my money who acts more like Mark Cuban than an individual with any business running a corporation capped at $6455M.
03/12/2007 2:08:46 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
I've been very busy lately and have been neglecting to answer questions and comments on my blog. I hope to catch up over the next few days. To Joseph Serrano, I see you have great passion about creating an environmentally sustainable dry cleaning business. I encourage you to keep seeking ways to fulfill your vision. I'm sorry that I'm not personally interested in it. Best of luck to you. To TC, While I respect Berkshire Hathaway's approach to corporate philanthrophy I don't think it is the "right" answer for all other corporations. Don't forget that Warren Buffett owns a huge percentage of Berkshire so letting the shareholders designate their favorite charities still lets him designate a huge amount of money to his personal favorites, while doing it in a way that seems to insulate him from outside criticism. I see corporate philanthropy differently than Buffett does, however. I see it as another part of the business to be managed consciously and responsibly--just like every other part of the business. Should the shareholders designate what the retail prices of our products should be? Should they vote or designate employee compensation? Should they designate which suppliers the company does business with? Why should the community stakeholder be treated differently than all of the other stakeholders by the company? I believe that a company has responsibilities toward all of its stakeholders and should seek to optimize relationships with all of them--including the community stakeholder since the company is a "citizen" within various communities. I don't think this responsibility should be delegated out to the stockholders any more than any of the other stakeholder relationships should be delegated out. Your second point about share based compensation over the long-term in large companies is right on target. In fact, over time, share based compensation, including stock options, is necessarily diluted down by the law of large numbers. This is also true at Whole Foods. However, stock options are only one part of the company's commitment to "shared fate." Our gainsharing program, transparent salary information, and salary cap are also important programs to support "shared fate" at Whole Foods. Also, while stock options necessarily decline in importance over time with a larger company such as Whole Foods has become they are far from insignificant. While Whole Foods won't be able to grow as rapidly in the future as we have in the past, we are still very much a growth company and likely will be so for at least another decade or so. Your third point fails to understand that Team Member Happiness is far more than merely a rising stock price. Material prosperity is in fact only a relatively small part of human happiness as many psychological studies have shown. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, for example, shows that human fulfillment has many levels beyond the satisfaction of basic physiological needs. Whole Foods team based system of empowerment combined with the deeper purposes for which our company exists (besides maximizing profits) are actually far more important for nurturing human happiness than a rising stock price. At no time have I ever said that Wal-Mart is a "bad" company. In many ways Wal-Mart is a great company and I agree that it has done many good things. I admire many things about Wal-Mart, but not everything. However, I don't see Wal-Mart as a "Conscious Capitalist" company at this time. They seem to me to be focused primarily on 2 of their stakeholder groups--customers and stockholders. They will need to begin creating more value for their employees and their communities before I would view them as a "Conscious Business." Time will tell whether they have a sincere commitment to the environment or whether it is a PR effort to shore up their reputation.
03/12/2007 6:17:03 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Nancy DeFauw, I'll modify my statement to say "Many non-profits" instead of most. Hyperbole on my part--sorry about that. Thanks for the feedback. In terms of examples: well you wouldn't have heard of many of them, since many have now failed or are small local ones. I've served on the Board of Directors of many non-profits and have watched them struggle for effectiveness for years. Not one of them has been nearly as effective in the world as any of the for-profit corporations that I've worked with. They all have wonderful intentions, but that isn't enough to make them effective. My criticisms of non-profits shouldn't be taken personally. I meant no offense. I want non-profits to be more effective in the world and am devoting a great deal of time to helping several to be more effective. Sorry you don't like my "wall metaphor." I like it myself and will keep it. If you have suggestions to improve grammar or tighten sentence structure of Conscious Capitalism please send those suggestions to Anna.Madrona@wholefoods.com. To Nick Theodosis, I submit that more progress in improving human well being has been made in the past 250 years through capitalism than in the previous 10,000 years combined. All the objective indicators support this statement--increased lifespan in the U.S. from 49 to 78 in the past 100 years alone, decreased poverty from 85% of the world population in 1820 (less than $1 a day in 2003 constant dollars) to below 20% today, the elimination of slavery for the first time in history in all advanced, capitalistic nations, the empowerment of women and the waning of patriarchy in advanced capitalistic nations, and the expansion of freedom and democracy in all advanced capitalistic nations. Perhaps there is a "better" economic system than capitalism but so far I haven't seen any evidence of it. I for one am not willing to discontinue capitalism--rather I want to expand human consciousness and create a more "Conscious Capitalism," which my article advocates. As I stated in my previous post I don't think the Gates Foundation should be condemned for investing in oil companies--even if those oil companies have done some things we don't like in Nigeria. Your ethical balance sheet on oil companies only seems to see the bad things that they sometimes do and doesn't give them any credit for the good things that they also do. Is that fair? Shouldn't your ethical accounting include both the good and the bad? Your attempt to separate the Gates Foundation from Mother Teresa by calling the Gates Foundation an "artificial entity" and Mother Teresa a "flesh and blood" person isn't logically compelling. If the Gates Foundation is merely an "artificial entity" then why should they be held responsible for anything at all? How can you hold an "artificial entity" responsible? However, you clearly do hold them responsible for their investments and their actions so please drop the "artificial entity" rhetoric. Let me be clear on where I stand on The Gates Foundation, Mother Teresa, and Nick Theodosis: I don't blame The Gates Foundation for anything bad that oil companies do and I don't give them credit for any good that those oil companies also do. I believe the oil companies should be held responsible for their own actions (despite being "artificial entities"), but not their investors, employees not directly related to any "bad" actions, nor consumers of their products. I do not hold Mother Teresa responsible for the bad things that the Catholic Church may have done while she was alive nor do I give her credit for the good things the Church may also have done. I hold her responsible only for her own direct good and bad actions in the world. I hold the Catholic Church responsible for its own direct bad actions. I also do not hold Nick Theodonis responsible for all of the bad actions that the United States government does nor do I give him credit for whatever good it also does. I hold the U.S. government responsible for its own direct good and bad actions in the world. I do not blame its citizens. I do not believe in infinite responsibility through association, which implies unlimited guilt since we are all connected to everything else. Instead, I believe we are only responsible for the direct harm (or good) that we do to others but that we are not guilty or responsible for the harm (or good) that others we are associated with may do.
03/12/2007 7:15:18 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Paul Frantellizzi Here is the definition of selfish from the on-line dictionary, dictionary.com. I believe this definition is also congruent with how most people think about selfishness--"caring only for oneself, regardless of others." self·ish –adjective 1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others. 2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives. You try to redefine the meaning of the word selfishness when you say "Rationally Selfish" individual (one that has a balanced view of himself/ herself in the world, holds a strong sense of self confidence, and who's ideas and thoughts are congruent with reality), does care about relationships, giving back, mentoring, renewable resources, community, environment and....yes, profits." Selfishness, by definition, doesn't care about relationships, giving back, mentoring, community, etc. A person who cares about other people and factors their well being into his or her decisions is not behaving selfishly. You are making the exact same mistake that Ayn Rand made when she argued for egoism and wrote a book called "The Virtue of Selfishness." You are confusing "self-interest," which can in fact concern itself with the well being of others, and "selfishness," which by definition cannot. Self-interest and selfishness mean very different things. I think we should use words the way they are defined and not try to change their meanings just to suit ourselves. To Dean Tucker, I enjoyed reading your post and see that we are pretty well aligned on many things. My goal indeed is to help American businesses evolve to the second tier level of consciousness. However, they will need to evolve past the Orange Meme through the Green Meme first to get there. My friends at FLOW (see www.flowproject.org)and at the Integral Institute (www.integralinstitute.org) and at Spiral Dynamics (www.spiraldynamics.net) are working with me to help move things along. You should contact FLOW about working with us. Maybe we will meet someday in person, but I just can't meet with all the people who want to meet with me right now. Sorry. To Craig Sullivan, I believe you are confusing the coercive power of government with the voluntary nature of business. These aren't the same things. Whole Foods has grown large and successful through voluntary exchange. We coerce no one to trade with us. Customers trade with us because they feel that they are getting a good deal through the exchange or the trade wouldn't happen. All of our customers have many other competitive alternatives where they can purchase their food. We don't have any "power" over them. They can walk out of our stores anytime they want to. Guess what, 98% of Americans don't shop at Whole Foods. Same with our Team Members--none of them are coerced to work for us, but willingly do so because of the particular combination of pay, benefits, working conditions, and unique business purpose that we provide. Each of them have many competitive alternatives in the marketplace where they can trade their labor. Team Members voluntarily leave our company for other jobs they prefer more every single day. It is exactly the same with our investors--they own their stock voluntarily--and they are free to sell their stock 5 days each week. Any different with our suppliers? Nope. They don't have to trade with us. They do so because we are able to negotiate mutually beneficial terms of trade or no exchanges would occur. They've got plenty of competitive alternatives to trade with if they don't like Whole Foods Market. Does Whole Foods have the same kind of power that governments have? No way! Everyone trades with us voluntarily for their own self-interest. Not so with the government. Don't pay your taxes and the government will come and forcibly take your money, property, and imprison you. You can always emigrate from the United States if you want to, but our government insists on taking a large chunk of your money and property in taxes when you do if they deem that you are emigrating in order to avoid paying taxes. The government has coercive power--they have policemen, armies, and guns. Whole Foods does not. Our success and growth have come directly from satisfying our customers who have voted with their pocketbooks. Should we ever cease to adequately satisfy our customers needs and desires these same customers will voluntarily stop trading with us and our company will begin to shrink and would eventually go bankrupt. This very thing happens every single day for businesses all over the United States. That is the way capitalism works--through "creative destruction." If you don't like large corporations don't trade with them. No one is forcing you to. In my own opinion, large corporations have just as much potential to do good in the world as small businesses do, and probably much more. Why wouldn't they? A corporation simply expresses the consciousness of its leadership and its culture. An enlightened business leadership, a "Conscious Capitalism," would help evolve the world we know for the good. Since corporations aren't going to disappear anytime soon (no matter how much you might wish them to) the best strategy to transform the world is to transform the consciousness of corporate leadership. That is what I'm working to do.
03/13/2007 3:07:47 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Michael Garjian Your E2M project sounds interesting and I wish you the very best with it. I think what you are trying to do, however, is substantially different than what FLOW is trying to do or what my vision of Conscious Capitalism is. I am curious to know how many public corporations are participating in E2M? Any Fortune 500 companies? It seems unlikely to me that very many would be willing to give that high a percentage of their profits or equity to another entity (5% to 20%) besides the government (which takes up to 40% of net profits and much more than this when all types of taxation such as employer, property, and fees are factored in). To Sebastien Gault, I believe that we are more likely to see entrepreneurs of younger companies embrace the principles of Conscious Capitalism before executives at large corporations do so. The entrepreneurs have less to lose and are usually more open to new ideas. Conscious Capitalism will spread through conscious entrepreneurs to the rest of the business culture over time. It will spread the same way most successful ideas spread in business--it works better. The Conscious Business will prove to be more successful over the long-term because it is simply a better, more robust business model. It will win through competition in the marketplace. To Sam Clarkson, I really don't want to talk about our stock price or dividend policies on my blog. All I'll say is that Whole Foods has a well publicized financial policy that is seeking to maximize long-term EVA for our shareholders. We aren't seeking to maximize paper earnings, minimize share dilution, maximize dividends, or manipulate our stock price. Paying the special dividend increased EVA more than any other use we had for the cash--including buying back shares (since the stock was trading at over 50 times earnings). Maximizing long-term EVA is our one and only goal concerning our investor stakeholder. We believe if we are successful in doing this then our stock price will continue to trade up over the long-term. If you aren't comfortable with our commitment to maximizing long-term EVA then we might not be the best company to invest in. To Dylan, I'm sorry but we can't make it easy for people to dumpster dive for food. Unfortunately in such a litigious society we are bound to get sued by someone getting sick from eating our garbage, so we must make access as difficult as possible. Many of our stores are now beginning to compost their fresh food wastes and then selling that compost in our stores. I believe over the long-term that up to 95% of our fresh food waste will be composted and sold. Your store must not be doing it yet, but eventually it will.
03/13/2007 3:59:35 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Patrica, None of the examples you gave contradict my point that corporations don't have any rights that individuals don't have. 1. Credit card companies are following the letter of the contract that people sign with them when they voluntarily sign up for use of the card. Are some of these terms onerous? Yes. I don't argue that corporations are always good or behave with the best of intentions. Many do not. Regarding credit cards. Pay them off each month and you'll avoid getting entangled in the small print in their contracts that no one ever reads (I certainly don't). Or if you don't like the ethics of the credit card companies then don't do business with them. No one forces you to. Just use a debit card for all your plastic transactions and you'll never spend money that you don't have or need to pay penalties or high interest rates to credit card companies. 2. Regarding tort reform. I certainly don't want corporations to engage in frivolous lawsuits anymore than I want individuals to. Adopting the system of "loser pays" the legal expenses of both parties (which almost the entire rest of the world has already adopted) would end almost all frivolous lawsuits, both by individuals and by corporations. That we don't adopt this simple tort reform that almost every other country uses reflects the power that Trial Lawyers exert on our political process. Did you know that Trial Lawyers are the single biggest contributor to the Democratic Party--even bigger than Labor Unions who rank #2? It's true--but not well publicized. 3. Both corporations and individuals use lax bankruptcy laws to avoid paying the financial commitments they have made and discharging their debts. To ieva swanson, Thank you for your suggestions. I'm not sure I'm capable of writing as well as Michael Pollan does. After all Michael is a professional journalist who teaches at Berkeley. I've read all of Paul Hawken's books and found value in all of them (even though Paul keeps publicly criticizing Whole Foods--I would love to debate him sometime). You will probably like the first half of my book much more than the second half. The first half is going to be a narrative with nothing but entertaining stories, anecdotes, and lots of homespun entrepreneurial advice. The rough draft of this part is now completed. The second half of the book is going to be far more abstract, however, and will likely appeal to a different kind of reader. I will do the best I can to make my ideas clear and understandable, but this part of the book won't consist of stories or anecdotes, but rather of my business philosophy. This will necessarily appeal to a far smaller audience. However, I think the ideas I'll convey in the second half of the book are important ideas and will appeal to a different kind of reader--readers like myself. I actually don't really enjoy reading books with too many stories or anecdotes--they are boring to me. I want books with more abstract ideas and principles in them--ideas that I can wrestle with, dream about, and which expand my own consciousness and which help me to grow. I just can't get that from very many books these days. I want my book (at least the second half) to be that kind of book, even if it doesn't appeal to the same readers that the narrative portion appeals to. Who am I writing my book for? I'm writing it for myself primarily. To articulate to myself what it is that we have collectively created with Whole Foods in such a way that I better understand my own heart and dreams and ideals and purpose--to feel more deeply the love that fills me and wants to extend out into the world in various creative ways. If my book helps or inspires anyone else, that will just be an extra bonus.
03/13/2007 4:46:23 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Joshua Wallis, Follow your heart. Life is too short to waste time on any other life strategy. Go for it! To Elad Levinson, Great stuff Elad! I look forward to collaborating with you (full disclosure--Elad is facilitating a Conscious Capitalism gathering for FLOW in October). To Laureen Prophett, Sorry for your bad experience in West Palm Beach. I've passed your entry on to the appropriate people in Florida who need to know. Thanks for sharing. To Stan Bies, Excellent and thoughtful post Stan: I totally agree with your insights into mistrust for both people and corporations. Both are growing in our society. I believe that Conscious Capitalism is one partial solution to this greater problem, but much more will be needed. It is a growing cultural problem. Short-term profit pressures are great. I've learned to ignore them and just keep making decisions that will create long-term value. This results in a great deal of criticism when the stock price drops, but I've learned to think long-term. The people who are booing right now will be cheering in another year or so. Markets are very fickle. It takes a bit of a thick skin to deal with them, but my skin has gotten thicker over the past 15 years as a public company. I think the apparel industry has great potential for the principles of Conscious Capitalism. I would buy 100% of my clothes from manufacturers and retailers who are practicing ethical trade principles--good pay, good working conditions, right to organize, no child labor, and environmental sustainability. Unfortunately very little has yet been done in ethical trade in apparel--certainly on the marketing side. Tremendous potential here and some entrepreneurs are bound to pick up on it eventually. Could a Grameen model work in the apparel business? Don't see why not. Almost all our stores need more parking. Unfortunately landlords don't get paid any rent for their parking lots so they have no incentive to put any more parking in than the minimum that is legally required. Whole Foods fights for additional parking in each deal that we sign and in many cases have put in extra parking at our own expense--especially when we own and control the real estate.
03/13/2007 5:20:47 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To P., It will be necessary to deconstruct your argument paragraph by paragraph: "I appreciate the sentiment of your argument, but it is flawed. There are too many assumptions and unstated premises. Let me point out a few. First, you state that a Doctor's purpose is to heal sick people, and not maximize profits. This is a little tidy. Yes, the definition of a doctor is to practice medicine, but the unstated purpose for the practice of medicine, or law as you state as well in regards to a lawyer is to make money (profit) by practicing medicine or law. Would the doctor or lawyer practice their disciplines if it was run at a loss? Compensation is the engine of all business." The mistake you are making in your logic P. is believing that because something is necessary for survival it is therefore also the purpose behind the existence. For example, I can't live without eating. Is therefore eating the purpose for why I exist? No it isn't. Similarly I can't live without breathing oxygen or drinking water. Is the purpose of my life therefore to breathe and drink? No it isn't. The fact that doctors and lawyers need to make a profit in order to continue to practice medicine or law doesn't mean that profit is the purpose why they practice these professions--profit is necessary for their continued existence in these professions. It is no different in business--profits are necessary for any business to survive, but that survival necessity does not equate to the deeper purpose behind the business. "The success of any businiss is defined by it's ability to profit. I am sure that the entrepreneurs that you have met and speak of all share one commonality; they desired to make money doing what they wanted to do." Sure all entrepreneurs want to make money, but that isn't usually what is driving them to build their business. It didn't drive me or most of the other entrepreneurs I've known well. I'm sure Michael Pollan wants to make as much money as he can selling Omnivore's Dilemma, but I doubt that was his main purpose in writing the book. Surely his passion for the subject matter was his main purpose. Perhaps making a profit merely expresses your own motivations in life? Is it really fair to project your own life motivations onto other people? "Also, being that you work in the grocery industry, I am sure that you are aware that food and water are necessary for life, therefore the theory of voluntary exchange does not factor in. People need to eat, which means that have to buy food." Sure everyone needs to eat in order to live, but they don't have to buy food from Whole Foods in order to survive. Every American has dozens and often hundreds upon hundreds of competitive alternatives from whom they can buy food. Whole Foods has no monopoly on food and people are free to shop for food anywhere they want to. "Now, the growing problem in the grocery industry is the loss of the alternative marketplace. Companies are consolidating to increase buying power to either offer lower prices to the consumer, or to maximize thier profits. The local grocery stores are being bought up by holding companies." You couldn't be more mistaken! Competition continues to grow and grow and grow in the food retailing business. Whole Foods has never faced more competition than it is facing right now. Trader Joe's, Safeway, Kroger, Fresh Market, Earthfare, Food Co-ops, Wal-Mart, HEB, Wegmans, Farmers Markets, Community Supported Agriculture, Fresh Direct, Peapod, and Tesco is entering the United States market from the UK. Our same store sales right now are the lowest they have been in over 10 years! Why? Competition, Competition, Competition! It is everywhere. Wake up and look around! "Your company recently purchased it's primary competitor. Why did you do this? How does this fit in to your ethical vision? According to the press, this purchase was made to increase your share in a competitive marketplace. And, what are the players in this marketplace competing for? To be the most ethical company? If your customer is not satisfied, where can he or she turn to? With no alternative, there can be no voluntary exchange." We issued a press release about the Wild Oats merger which details some of the reasons why we wish to acquire them. I refer you to the press release which can be found on this website under the Investor Relations section. I'll say only 2 things about it here. Number 1--Wild Oats isn't our primary competitor as you claim. Trader Joe's is our primary competitor. It is far larger than Wild Oats is and is growing several times faster. It is a private company owned 100% by the 15th richest family in the entire world--the Albrecht family, who are worth tens of billions of dollars. Number 2--Wild Oats has lost $80 million in the past 6 years. Their company is struggling in the marketplace to be successful. Whole Foods can help them be far more successful than they have previously been and can greatly improve their stores. We believe that teaming up with Wild Oats will make us better able to successfully compete with Trader Joe's, Wal-Mart, Wegmans, HEB, Safeway, Kroger, and the hundreds of other powerful competitors that we struggle with every day in the marketplace. "Again, I appreciate the sentiment of your paper. You should be applauded for your success and how you handle your company. However, perhaps you should leave economic theory to the philosophers, or at least recognize that your actions may betray your theories." Thanks for your feedback. However, most philosophers don't actually know that much about economics or business so I can't leave it to them. I plan to keep on expressing my views and I believe my actions are congruent with my theories.
03/13/2007 5:58:37 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Brent Eubanks, I agree with your perspective on entrepreneurs. I'm surprised to hear you say that I don't talk about entrepreneurs in Conscious Capitalism because I actually talk about them quite a bit. Entrepreneurs who create the business create the purpose. As an entrepreneur myself I'm a big believer in the dynamism of entrepreneurism. The motto of FLOW is "liberating the entrepreneur spirit for good" (see www.flowproject.org). That is exactly my sentiments. I believe in multiple types of entrepreneurs, not just business, but also social, educational, spiritual, and political entrepreneurs. I believe in the limitless creativity of human beings to solve our collective problems, expressed through entrepreneurism with an open heart extending love into the world. Entrepreneurial organizations eventually put the older, static businesses out of business. Just look around at Google (didn't even exist 10 years ago), Jet Blue, Starbucks, Dell, Microsoft, etc. Entrepreneurs rule! To Bruce Cahan, Good luck with your bank. Can't meet in person. Sorry. To li an, Sorry, but I found your post too difficult to read and my time is precious to me. If you resubmit it and break it down into paragraphs with your thoughts organized tightly, I'll try to take another stab at it. Best wishes to you.
03/13/2007 6:15:46 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Ann Kramer, Your post is long, but I've copied it in order to deconstruct it paragraph by paragraph. My comments will be below yours. "As I’ve followed this thread about Conscious Capitalism/Conscious consumption, I am prompted to write. While I give support to you that if we’re going to have a consumer economy—a conscious capitalistic system certainly is preferable to the current capitalistic model—or that of any of the other ‘consumer economies’ that get bandied about—communism, socialism, fascism, etc. All of these economies are consumption economies—really the only difference between any of them is the distribution methods—capitalism distributes on a supposed ‘free-market’, communism is a centralized government etc." I'm quite surprised and disturbed, Ann, to read that you believe that capitalism is very similar to communism, socialism, fascism, etc. because they are all consumption economies. These other economic systems are radically different from capitalism. Capitalism is the only economic system which puts the needs and desires of the customer at the heart and soul of it. The customer is King & Queen in capitalism and producers compete to best satisfy their desires. Socialism, communism, and fascism all locate the decision making power in the hands of governmental bureaucrats. The bureaucrats decide what will be produced, how much will be produced, and how much it will cost. If they don't think something is needed or is very important then it won't be produced. Want a computer? Too bad. Want an iPod--not necessary. Need a heart transplant--get in line and we'll see if we think you are important enough to get one. The 20th century is a long nightmare on the failed attempts of these alternative economic systems to work. They failed miserably and reduced individual freedom and individual rights everywhere they existed. The communistic utopias of the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia resulted in the murder of over 100 million of their own citizens. Think about that before you lump capitalism--the economic system which has created so much human progress-- in with these other economic systems which have created so much human misery. "But what if a consumer economy—conscious or otherwise, isn’t the only option? In fact, what if we discovered it isn’t even our best option?" "Yes, we are all well steeped in the consumer economy—so much so that it seems as if it is the only way to be. In the early 1900’s, the idea of ‘insatiable desire’ was implanted in our culture through the intense rise of advertising—because insatiable desire was considered a cure all for an ever rising/falling economic system that depended on consumers continuing to consume. When they were erratic in consuming, depressions/recession ensued—at least in the money flow. I can’t blame our forefathers because from their perspective this looked like the best choice. Consuming led to money flow which led to more consuming and if we could keep this going on a fairly constant flow, depressions, recessions and economic chaos would be a thing of the past. And consume we did and as we consumed the money flowed. Over the last 100 years we have perfected a consumer economy, efficiently setting up a supply/demand (insatiable desire + money = demand—please note, “demand” does not necessarily mean “need”)." Sorry but I don't agree with your cynical view of the stupidity of people who you believe are so easily manipulated by advertising to buy things that they don't really want. Who is going to define what people really need, Ann? Will it be you? Will you decide what everyone needs? Will some group of government bureaucrats decide in your economic system like they do in socialism and communism? Or will individuals make these choices themselves? Will people be free to make their own choices or will you or some other dictator decide what is best? "While this option looked like the best from a 1900’s view of the world—world population 2 billion and seemingly unlimited resource availability—who could ever imagine an end in sight. But now with almost 7 billion people and resources being maxed, things will have to change. As we all can see now, this direction has come at a huge cost. We’ve created a world that is good for the production of products, services and the flow of capital—but it is not a world that is good for all humans, the earth, water, air, animals." The world has never been good for all humans or all animals at any historical time. It is better for human beings right now than it ever has been based on objective indicators such as longevity, disease, freedom, democracy, prevalence of slavery, and prosperity. "In that efficiency of whatever makes money is good, we’ve also allowed businesses to externalizes the ‘costs’ on humans/earth/animals instead of insisting that they operate on a full cost accounting method—which had that been incorporated in the consumer economy would have surely shifted many of the business practices of the day." I agree with your ideas here--we do need to internalize the externalities of such things as pollution, carbon production, etc. This can be done within a capitalistic economy, however. "To that, I then ask the question—what if instead of a consumer economy, we instead created a whole life economy? It would serve a primary need of ‘life’—relationships, species diversity, health, etc. instead of the current primary need of money. Yes, there would still be businesses and products—but only so much as is necessary for real life. What I’m suggesting is that we move into a new paradigm. The following is the best encapsulation of the old to the new paradigm that I am suggesting. It comes from Barbara Brandts’ book, Whole Life Economics." Ann--who is in charge of the "Whole Life Economy?" Who decides what gets produced and what doesn't get produced? Will individuals have the freedom to decide for themselves what they want and will entrepreneurs be free to innovate and create to meet their needs? If not entrepreneurs and individual consumers--who? "...the central assumption of the modern economic paradigm is the belief that money represents value. According to this belief, the more money one has, the more things of value one can buy, leading to greater well-being. That's why the modern economic paradigm defines economics in terms of such issues as the success of businesses in producing and selling goods and services in order to make money and the ways in which individuals make money. In the modern economic paradigm, the economy is defined by the movement and behavior of money and any activity that increase the amount of money by an individual, business or nation is considered economically successful." ".....the central assumption of the post-modern economic paradigm is not on money, business, interest rates, productivity or other conventional economic concepts. Instead, [whole life economics] the post-modern economic paradigm starts from such values as our physical well-being, mental and emotional health, our social relationships, our ability to meet our needs and the needs of those we care about, our connection to the natural environment and our need for spiritual meaning." Those values already exist and are possible to embrace within a free society and a capitalistic economic system. They are exactly the values I'm freely choosing as an individual. Are you saying that these values will be forced upon other people whether they agree with them or not? How will you do this without creating some type of totalitarian state? "By contrast, the new paradigm recognizes that nature is not merely a collection of passive physical materials mutely waiting to be dug up or chopped down, but is a dynamic living system of plants, animals, soils, waters, weather and numerous other processes that constitute the ultimate source of all our economic activities and it assumes that an economic system that honors the Earth is also one that enhances human quality of life. The post-modern economic paradigm perceives human beings and the Earth, not as competitors but as participants in a mutually sustaining relationship." Sounds wonderful Ann. I'm all for it. The key question is how will it be achieved in a free society? We can evolve our society and economy this way in a free society if we want to collectively go there. However, what if most people don't want this vision? What if they want an Islamic Theocracy obeying the will of Allah? What if they want a Christian Theocracy with everyone forced to obey the Bible? What if people prefer the society that we have right now? Do they get to keep it or are you going to take it away from them for their own good? "We already have an example of the new economic paradigm—the Grameen bank and its microlending system. Notice that these borrowers are pulling themselves out of poverty, improving their families, communities, relationships—but they are not obsessed about making more and more money. Money serves their values and the important values are those noted above: physical, mental, emotional well-being, relationships, meeting needs (vs. insatiable desires) and connection to the natural environment/need for spiritual meaning." I love Grameen and our Whole Planet Foundation is working with them in Costa Rica and Guatemala right now and will add projects in Honduras, Nicaruagua, and India in 2007 and eventually around the world. "While I do congratulate WFM—if we’re going to stay stuck in capitalism, at least being conscious is a better option than what we have now, but it’s never going to be enough. It is an old, burdened system." Well the burden of proof is on you to show how your economic system is going to be achieved in the real world without massive governmental coercion creating a totalitarian state. Utopian societies always end up as dictatorships because human beings have a way of wanting to do what they want to do and not what the utopians think they should want to do. "For instance, the discussion around your stock price—your comment that stockholders ‘own’ the company is just unsustainable. With the exception of the IPO, any stock purchased after that does nothing for WFM—it is not an investment in your company in the least. It is actually a completely disconnected group of people ‘legally gambling’ on a supposed ‘value’. But as is obvious, that value can be hyper-manipulated by people who couldn’t care less about WFM at all. Yet we give these people ‘ownership’ of the company and like a puppet on the string, WFM and actually all companies publicly traded dance to the tune of ‘share price’ by these ‘owners’. The present system enables this small group of investors (speculators really) to have more power over your company than the people who actually work in it to make it the great company it is! No matter how conscious you may be John, this system allows very unconscious people to determine policies for their short term gain. My business friends in publicly traded companies bespeak constantly of the frustration of ‘dancing to the tune’ of the quarterly stock report. It forces them in to short term planning vs. long term. It is a tough world to work in and sadly so many of those who do work for you could lose their jobs because stock/speculators would force you into decisions that serve stockholders first, customers and employees second. For example, when ATT merged with Cingular, 7000 working people who had built that company lost their jobs. This brought a rise in the stock price for stock owners—but harmed 7000 individuals and families who had put their time, energy and effort into those companies. We call this normal in a capitalistic system—the current modern economic paradigm. This would be considered insane in the post modern economic paradigm." I simply don't agree with your very cynical views on stock owners. No one forced Whole Foods to sell stock to the public. We did so because we wanted to. We wanted to raise money to grow and to give our long-term investors a way to cash out on their investments. I'm glad we went public and I would do it all over again. It is true that I don't like the short-term pressures that Wall Street puts out there, but it isn't really that big a deal. Besides it could be easily reformed by creating tax incentives to hold stock longer through lower capital gains taxes for long-term holding. I am certainly no "puppet on a string" as you seem to believe. I feel much more pressure from unhappy customers, dissatisfied Team Members, and various journalistic critics such as Michael Pollan than I feel from our investors. The investors don't like the stock to drop. What a surprise! Customers don't like the price of bananas to go up a nickel a pound. The job of leadership is to satisfy all the stakeholders as well as possible--including the investors. "Which ultimately leads to the elephant in the living room of a consumer economy—conscious or otherwise. The “unavoidable dilemma” when we consumers have had bought enough—but a business needs to keep selling stuff, making money and supporting the stock price. Then the business is forced to make more and more—even when its not necessary—and as is true with so many of the products and services that get created today. They’re not needed, but through advertising we have to create ‘insatiable desire’ (false need) and insist that we consume them. We are now consuming massive quantities of junk because businesses have to keep seeking more and more ways to get our dollars." You are back to your theme about the stupid consumer being manipulated by clever diabolical businesses to buy things they don't want or need. Do you really believe this? Is it true about yourself? What are you being manipulated into buying that you don't want? If it is Whole Foods Market, we offer a money back guarantee. Just bring it back to us and we'll give your money back to you with a receipt of purchase. Heck I gave Michael Pollan $25 for organic asparagus from Argentina that he didn't like, but I didn't manipulate him into buying them. O.k.--maybe we did, we made them look as pretty and delicious as we possibly could, but we do try to do that for everything we sell. We depend upon people knowing their own best interests and if they don't like asparagus we assume they just won't buy them. "In the food industry alone you can see the outcome of this junk production creation. While I love WFM, I worked in the natural foods industry in the early 80’s when we were all struggling to show people how to eat healthy foods like quinoa and whole wheat. Today however, I am amazed at how much useless food is in a health food store. Do we really need ‘natural cheese puffs’? Or are we producing them simply because people have been conditioned to want this and the business needs to find ways to increase sales?" Anne, if you don't want to eat natural cheese puffs then don't buy them. No one is forcing you to. Other people like them, however, and want to buy them. Are you going to decide who can and cannot buy cheese puffs? What gives you the right to pass these judgments on everyone else? "Conventional wisdom’s response is, “well, people don’t have to buy them—in a capitalistic system is it supply and demand”. And perhaps if we actually had a true system you might be right. But everyone in this world now knows that to ‘stop consuming’ is to stop the economy and that just can’t happen. So we just keep shopping—knowing full well we need to stop but can’t because the ‘economy’ must go on. (recall what President Bush said after 9/11—Don’t let the terrorists win—go out and shop!). Deep down inside, the current Fed Chairman, the past chairman Greenspan, Wall street traders, citizens know that we can’t buy ourselves out of the ‘unavoidable dilemma’." Trust me on this one: the United States economy won't come crashing down if people stop buying cheese puffs from Whole Foods Market! In fact, if people change their consumption preferences to consume less the economy also won't come crashing down--it will simply shift to satisfy the new preferences. If we consumed 1/2 as much then the economy would provide 1/2 as much. After all, we produced 1/2 as much as we do today only about 15 years ago and we did just fine. "Resources are running out—and if the world population ‘buys’ itself into the chaos that Americans have indebted themselves, we’re goners. We’ve created an economy that serves products/services/money now let’s get conscious and create an economy that serves humans, families, communities, animals, earth, water and air. It is doable John, we need only change our minds and decide that the post-modern economy paradigm makes more sense—and then start consciously creating a world that supports it." The current capitalistic economy does serve the preferences of human beings, Ann. The problem is that you fundamentally don't approve of the choices that most human beings in the United States are apparently making. I'm all for creating a more humane and sustainable world and economy. I'm just not prepared to create a totalitarian government to enforce those values or any other particular set of values--no matter how good and noble they sound. I believe in human liberty and I also believe that human beings are capable of evolving their consciousness. As consciousness evolves in more humane and ecological ways, then the capitalistic economy based on human liberty will evolve right along with it. Conscious Capitalism freely chosen by conscious and free human beings. "Daniel Quinn…who wrote Ishmael which won Ted Turner’s book award for ‘best solutions for the future’…recently wrote a new book called “When they give you lined paper, write sideways”. It challenges us to look at what we call ‘normal’ and really examine its ‘normalcy’ in context to the fact that much of our old patterns are on a path of eco-cide. It is time to invent something else." I'm trying. "Conscious capitalism is simply slanting the lined paper. It won’t get us where we need to be. Let’s have the guts to turn it completely sideways—and create the post-modern economic paradigm. When we do, shopping and working at WFM is going to be an experience so joyous because it will be part of an integrated whole—with the humans, family, community and the entire community of life—animals, air and water and earth being honored. It will be sustainable for us all and help us create a world that works for the community of life vs. money." Your vision sounds wonderful, Ann. Your path to get there isn't very clear, however. I'm not prepared to get rid of human freedom or an economic system based on individual human choice to coerce people to live the way you want them to. That "ism" is well known. It is called "Totalitarianism."
03/13/2007 7:55:34 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Veronica Ciambra, Don't feel too bad about food co-ops because the movement is very much alive and continuing to flourish all over the United States. Check this site out--http://www.ncga.coop/. I met with the leadership of this organization recently and was very impressed with them. We brainstormed together about ways we might be able to work together in the future such as on animal welfare issues and ethical trade. Regarding a "community board": Interesting suggestion. I hope some of our stores experiment with such an idea. How would the "community board" be selected? Who gets to vote? Who gets to decide? To Julia Roll Interesting suggestion. We are considering the idea of opening some smaller stores. However, we'll need to open the stores where they will be successful for the sake of our Team Members and investors. We aren't going to deliberately open a store that we don't think will be successful. I find it very puzzling when people accuse Whole Foods of being elitist. For most our history the only people who shopped our stores were mostly alternative culture people who were the cutting edge for healthy and organic foods. As time passed the desire for healthy natural and organic foods began to penetrate into the more mainstream middle class. Much to our surprise we found soccer moms driving SUVs shopping our stores and wanting to eat quality foods. About the time that BMWs, Lexuses, and Ford Explorers began showing up in our parking lots along side the VW Beetles, Toyota Corollas, and Honda Civics we began to hear this accusation of being "elitist." It is very puzzling to me. Whole Foods doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender, race, sexual preference, age, income, political party, car driven, or stock portfolio. Whole Foods are for everyone--even for Yuppies.
03/13/2007 8:31:53 PM CDT
Your Friend says ...
John, I hope you are finding time to spend with your family. Walking, laughing, working, fighting, hating, loving, questioning, supporting, eating and all the other beautiful things we can do together. Conscious capitalism is only part of your life; whole foods another; but those closest to us are the clearest example of how we spend our time... wishing you the best Your Friend
03/13/2007 10:10:15 PM CDT
Reed Burkhart says ...
Hi John, DISCOVERY CONTEXT Michael Strong's discovey ( http://flowidealism.blogspot.com/2005_05_01_flowidealism_archive.html ) of my first essay regarding evolving capitalism ( http://www.well.com/~rb ) -- "Reed Burkhart has created a sort of mirror-image of FLOW" -- accelerated my discovery of you. Thanks to you, Michael and Jeff Klein for encouraging open dialogue on the strategic topic of business evolution, that I consider to be of immeasurable importance for my children's future welfare. APPLAUDING YOUR INNOVATIVE RECORD AND NEW IDEAS ON EVOLUTIONARY ROLE OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP Your critique of (adolescent) capitalism's positive and negative traits and practices I consider to be insightful, objective and innovative. You are a well-established innovator in business coming to be an innovator in culture. Perhaps the greatest innovations (cultural innovations, business innovations, or "Aikido-meme" innovations that coactivate the former two) are those innovations oriented toward keeping wealth and vision together, a state of affairs persistently challenged by rogue capitalists. Innovation could be considered the key metaphor permitting the differentiation of wholly fruitful business (integral, durable, sustainable, trusteeship-embracing conscious business/capitalism) from merely profitable business (amoral, accretive without particular regard for good corporate citizenship, rogue business/capitalism). Durable life processes always have a regenerative (innovative) component -- so your focus on entrepreneurship and innovation can reference sound correlates from the life sciences (E.O. Wilson, et al.). Consequently, I applaud your proposition to reward innovation above mere capital management/investment via tiered (inverse to hold time) capital gains tax rates; and hint that among the more integral thinkers in the life sciences, there is substantial opportunity to make an even stronger case for why: "Corporations must rethink why they exist. If business owners/entrepreneurs begin to view their business as an complex and evolving interdependent system and manage their business more consciously for the well-being of all their major stakeholders while fulfilling their highest business purpose, then I believe that we would begin to see the hostility towards capitalism and business disappear around the world." The Aikido metaphor that I raise in my essays "Aikido Activism" and "Integrated (Aikido) Entrepreneurship" provide vision out of the paradox of profit, because if in rethinking why corporations exist we proceed to make efforts to mobilize that we must deal with the difficult issues raised regarding the inertia of contemporary capitalist practices, which are not uniform from one industy to another -- with food being far, far more transparent than many other industries that collectively set the tone of capitalist practice and culture with Whole Foods ... and now more and more Chinese, Indian, Russian, Peruvian -- etc etc -- companies and cultures of capitalism (the global war of capitalist memes). In particular, the Aikido metaphor, combined with the notion of evolutional business -- durability, or natural selection -- answers directly criticisms such as: "I can't see oilmen, auto manufacturers, bankers, defense industry contractors, senior government officials, media moguls, - i.e. the power mongers and the money grubbers who have always ruled the world (be they American, British, Chinese, Japanese, Saudi, Swiss etc.), adopting these principles any time soon. For them, as myself and several other contributors to this forum have pointed out, the usual Darwinian evolutionary principles apply." The reason for hope of evolution beyond the more roguish, adolescent practice of capitalism is exactly BECAUSE the inertia posed by the most rogue capitalists is subject to Darwinian/Schumpeterian business evolution including through the evolutionary vehicle of the perception of power, and the coming perception of how Aikido -- when practiced successfully in business entrepreneurship (also remembering that traditional Aikido is practiced through both instruction and application, so business Aikido should have both mobilizational and educational elements) -- transforms current powers or energies, even those energetic components with great inertia in untoward direction, to be in harmony with nature. By this line of reasoning, the transition of even the most regressive, adolescent capitalist elements actually happens far earlier than otherise might be predicted, because as the power-focused adolescent capitalist mind encounters, experiences and understands the inherent power of innovating/inflecting the power vector of business practice (via Aikido as described in my essays), they naturally evolve their own understandings, objectives and trajectories. The scale and growth issues are also nicely handled in the same proposed solution context of Aikido-meme based evolution of business by winning the game while truing it. I have immense appreciation, John, for your leadership in visioning, communicating, and mobilizing what indeed is a need for evolving the practice of capitalism. Regards, Reed Burkhart Walnut Creek, CA http://www.well.com/~rb
03/14/2007 6:59:33 AM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Michael Barcellos, My target readers are the ones willing to make the effort to understand what I'm trying to say. I try to communicate logically and clearly. I try to restrict my vocabulary to what most high school graduates should be able to understand. There is a limit, however, to my skill as a writer to communicate many of these ideas in terms so simple that anyone can understand them. In fact, most people will not be able or perhaps ready yet to understand much of what I'm saying. I don't write for those people. I write for those people who are able and ready to understand what I'm saying. If you both understand and agree with the ideas I am articulating on my blog entries then I encourage you to translate them to other people in simpler ways than I am apparently able to do. I am writing these ideas in as simple a language as I'm capable of writing without making the ideas simplistic and therefore worthless. I will leave it to other, more skilled writers than myself, to simplify some of these ideas even further. To Mark, Sorry you don't like my communication style. Fortunately many other people do. Different strokes for different folks I guess. Here is the beauty of communicating honestly and clearly: it helps select in the customers, Team Members, and investors who align well with Whole Foods values and select out those who do not. By reading my blog and disapproving of it, you have been saved from working for a company where you might not have fit in well. It also eliminates you as an investor who disapproves of the way I'm leading the company and hopefully allows your sold shares to be purchased by someone else more aligned with our investor philosophy. One leadership style doesn't fit all situations or all businesses. I am who I am. The beauty of capitalism is that each of us gets to choose where to shop, where to work (or at least where not to work), and where to invest. Each of us can express his or her beliefs and values freely in the marketplace. It was not my intention to offend you or anyone else with my writings--just to share what I'm thinking about and what is important to me. I'm very sorry that you don't approve. Best of luck to you on all your future endeavors. To Reed Burkhart, Thanks for sharing. I looked at your website. Lots of good essays there that I look forward to reading and digesting leisurely. On first glance there seem to be many similar ideas to my friend Michael Strong. Look forward to meeting you sometime in the future.
03/14/2007 8:51:17 AM CDT
jyl says ...
Thank you John, As a TM who sees the ins and outs of a living breathing WFM, sometimes i question the corporate atmosphere. in my 3 yrs i have seen many changes, though i can say for the most good. i have seen leadership change, which brought an increase in happiness for all TM's (as well as significant wage increase). I have been a part of several new store openings, and have seen the welcome communities have for our new stores. there have been new rules set in place, new HR policies, new healthcare changes, but in the end, i really believe that every TM at my store has benefited from those changes. are we more "corporate" today than 3 yrs ago- yes, but i don't believe that's necessarily bad, as you so clearly outlined. several TM's have posted what it means, and feels to live and breathe the core values... its hard to explain, maybe we really are part of a "foodie cult" where the organics have been brainwashed into us. i know it's much better than what this conventional world has to offer. which leads me to ask you this John, i believe that the younger generations feel such angst and distaste for corporations because of the greed and corruption we have seen. however, it goes deeper than that, and i only once saw even the slightest mention- government responsibility? when big business is in bed with the administration, it's hard to discern who is making the decisions. we hear that corporations are trying to get their emissions down to certain levels by 2012, but really, it won't make a difference then. we hear more and more of corporations merging, and then positions being cut, or even more-- corporations leaving the states to set up base in other countries. i think that this is what the younger generation sees when they see corporations... but they too have succumbed to it all (and they don't even really know it) how do you see us, those who support holistic living, organics, local agriculture and locally produced foods; rising up and shedding this paradigm? when mono-culture farming is getting subsidy from the govt, and gmo's are promoted by the govt, how do we break through to reach those that have never eaten an organic apple (after all, don't we all deserve to eat organic apples?) and how do we form healthy relationships with the govt to grow organic and holistic living? and this is why i am proud to work for a company that is socially responsible, and cares for the environment. i am on an active Green Team, and my store is active with recycling. we are proud to sell wind energy cards, and work hard to promote our 5% days. and so when i see a new posting, that something in the company is changing, and i begin to groan about working for a corporation-- i remind myself, that i could be someplace else, where they have no recollection of where their product came from, and don't really care who it's going to. thank you for caring for the community, the environment, the producers, the team members, the shareholders, the customers, and everyone else we care and touch. peace love and compassion.
03/14/2007 12:32:22 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To jyl, I urge you to read my blog entry "The Upward Flow of Human Development." It gives one possibly helpful framework for better understanding these different value systems in our society. Mainstream corporate America very much operates in the Orange Meme framework. Most of the people in the organic and natural foods movement, as well as environmentalists, operate from the perspective of the Green Meme. These two Memes interpret reality very differently and frequently struggle with each other over which framework will dominate. What I'm trying to do at Whole Foods is lead us past this Orange/Green conflict, which is causing so much angst in our society and ground our values, structures, and culture solidly in the Yellow & Turquoise Meme frameworks. These Yellow & Turquoise Meme frameworks recognize the value and contribution of each of the other Memes, while encouraging and empowering people to grow past them. My personal advice to you is to try to avoid getting caught up in the Meme power struggle between Orange and Green to dominate our cultural framework (not to mention Blue, which is also very powerful in American culture). This struggle will frustrate you and get you angry and upset. A better life strategy is to keep working to expand your own consciousness through concentrating on your personal growth, while simultaneously using your creativity and love in positive ways to make our world a better place. Don't waste your life energies in judging and attacking other Memes. Such attacks don't change anything and they cripple your own personal growth. Instead: "Criticize by Creating"--Michelangelo.
03/15/2007 5:18:38 PM CDT
Paul Frantellizzi says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I fully agree that definitions of concepts are crucial to a healthy debate and a healthy society. The main point of my blog entry was that I believed you were falling into the same trap that our culture has for years, regarding selfishness – assigning a fully negative connotation to suit altruistic trends or just lazy thinking. I was not trying to redefine the concept, but merely give it some context and once again develop a richer, fuller more textured vision of a selfish person. Your blog is called “Conscious Capitalism”, how is that different from “Rational Selfishness”? Below is the definition also from www.dictionary.com - cap•i•tal•ism –noun an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth. You have chosen to “re-define” capitalism because our culture has hijacked the concept and ascribed a very negative connotation to what once was a point of pride for our great country. Capitalism is merely an economic system. My point is that many people, and sometimes cultural movements hijack concepts to promote their own agenda – I believe this has happened with the concept of selfishness, (or self interest, ego, etc.) which is why I felt compelled to use the phrase “Rationally Selfish”. You say; “Selfishness, by definition, doesn't care about relationships, giving back, mentoring, community, etc.” Well, neither does capitalism by definition – yet you wrote a wonderful article describing how capitalism as a concept could be applied in today’s world. You say; “A person who cares about other people and factors their well being into his or her decisions is not behaving selfishly.” If those people are important to their life and sense of happiness, goals, or promote their own well being, it sure is selfish. Selfishness and caring, mentoring, community are not by definition mutually exclusive, unless your concept of people is that they are shallow, thin cutouts that do not live in a social environment. Is it selfish of me to want the organic farmer down the road to succeed? If I buy his produce, and I want to see my son grow up in a rural environment, or he buys my computer services, or my 3 friends work for him and need the money to pay for our private school and keep it open so my son can continue to attend, or I care about the well water my family drinks, or I just don't want to see another WalMart buy the farm, etc… as you can see, it gets complex – yet it is all based on selfishness. In general, we are complex social beings, not self centered automatons that spend our days looking in the mirror to build our ego. I love what you are doing, yet, I am concerned when terms like self interest, selfish and capitalism are spoken like dirty words.
03/17/2007 5:04:14 PM CDT
Paul Frantellizzi says ...
Dear John, I also wanted to recommend reading (if you already haven't) Ludwig von Mises, Socialism and Human Action. Both books are brilliant and challenging reading – they speak to many of the questions/ discussions raised on your blog. http://www.mises.org/books/socialism/contents.aspx http://www.mises.org/humanaction.asp Regards, Paul
03/17/2007 9:40:39 PM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Paul Frantellizzi, I have never found it very useful to argue for very long about the meaning of words. I'll try briefly to do so, but will let it drop after this effort. If you want to give new meanings to a word such as "selfishness," that are the exact opposite of what the word means according to both the dictionary and according to common usage in our society, you are free to do so. However, don't expect most other people to agree with your re-definitions or for your attempts at re-definition to become widely accepted. My last post argued that you are confusing the word "selfishness" (which by definition does not concern itself with the well being of others) with "self-interest" (which by definition can concern itself with the well being of others). Putting the adjective "rational" in front of selfishness doesn't magically make the word mean the exact opposite thing. To achieve this goal of transforming the meaning of selfishness to the opposite thing requires us to put "un" in front--un-selfishness. Unselfishness means acting the opposite of selfishness--concerning itself with the well being of others. As to your claim that I am doing the exact same thing with "Conscious Capitalism"--I don't think that I am. The dictionary definition that you gave for "capitalism" I am entirely comfortable with: cap•i•tal•ism –noun an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, esp. as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth. By putting the adjective "conscious" in front of "capitalism" I do not invert the meaning of the word capitalism to its exact opposite. "Conscious Capitalism" still is an economic system where the "investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations." The word "conscious" doesn't turn capitalism into socialism where the means of production are owned and controlled by the state. A system of "Conscious Capitalism" still has the means of investment and production owned and controlled by private individuals and corporations. The meaning of the word capitalism is still the same. What has changed is that Conscious Capitalism becomes more aware (more conscious) of: 1. The deeper purposes of business besides maximizing profits. 2. The interdependent relationships between all of the various constituencies of the business--customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, and the environment. 3. Value for the owners of each business will be maximized over the long-term by optimizing the entire interdependent business system which the owners are part of. Paul, I also believe that "rational selfishness" is bad branding for the ideas that you are trying to promote because of the pejorative nature of the word selfishness. Rational self-interest, on the other hand, is consistent with those ideas and I urge you to use that phrase instead. You may also argue that capitalism is a word that is hopelessly pejorative. I don't think that is the case. Besides, I've never been able to think of a better word to use instead. Hayek and Mises used the word "catallaxy," as a substitute word but that word is awkward and never caught on. Have you any suggestions? By the way, I did read "Human Action," "Socialism," "Omnipotent Government,, and "The Anti-Capitalist Mentality" by Mises. Mises was a brilliant man. I like Hayek even better and his vision of "spontaneous order" and "entrepreneurship as a discovery process" are key ideas in my vision of "conscious capitalism." My major intellectual gripe isn't with Mises or Hayek, but with Ayn Rand. I love Rand the novelist, but disagree with her ethical philosophy. However, no time today to go into that disagreement. Perhaps sometime in the future. Take care.
03/20/2007 7:14:00 AM CDT
Ann G. Kramer says ...
Dear John….. My earlier post suggesting that it is time to move beyond capitalism into a ‘whole life economics’ model (and for those reading this if you go back to my post on March 7th and John’s response on March 14th)…What I’ve done is tried to simplify this posting—I put your comment first…and then the paragraph that starts with John is my response… First let me say….we agree with each other on 50% of the equation: Consciousness. We differ on Capitalism—. The comment that the King and Queen of capitalism is the consumer…. John if the King and Queen of capitalism is the consumer…then tell me, Who Killed the Electric car?....The consumers loved those cars and still GM removed, destroyed and refused to sell them. No John, …THE KING and QUEEN of capitalism is CAPITAL—MONEY. Anything that makes money is good. Money has achieved a status/myth of such high value that it drives so many of the systems we’ve created and decisions of what will or will not be produced. (read Divine Right of Capital by Marjorie Kelly). As an example, it is why oil remains the primary fuel choice. As powerful, traditional corporations have effectively ensured that green or biofuels have not gotten the foothold consumers have desired— because there’s no CAPITAL or profit in them (due in large measure to gov’t policies enacted as a result of powerful corporate interference/control). As much as entrepreneurial businesses have tried create businesses using solar, biofuels, and alternative options—the CAPITAL issue—profits (or lack thereof) have effectively strangled them for the last 30 years. Only now, as global warming has been the outcome—have alternatives gotten a toehold into the systems now that it appears it may be profitable/ My argument John—is that in a whole life economic system—where life of humans/animals/air/water/earth are the primary value—we certainly would have “chosen” these alternative fuels/industries because of the difference in the values we’re interested in. (Look at China right now—fastest growing, “successful” economy on the planet—but in Beijing, you can’t breath the air—this is however considered successful in a capitalistic system—something they seem to be adopting. In a whole life economic system it would not be considered successful) Which leads us to the issue of the unholy alliance between big business and big government (the military industrial complex that Eisenhower brilliantly warned us about 50 years ago is but one example). Subsidies for big oil, big farmers, protectionist legislation for the rich and well connected, trial lawyers, Halliburton, trillion dollar war on drugs and 2 million citizens in prisons etc. etc. none of this is freedom, capitalism or choice based. But it is CAPITAL driven. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Richard Ney, William "Refrigerator" Jefferson (these 3 are very small examples of the way the "system" we erroneously call capitalism actually works today - it's not capitalism - fascism is the system where the state controls the means of production, aren't we moving in that direction via the corporate - governmental alliance? Big corporations—51 of which are now bigger than any government and the governments these corporations are controlling/managing--have rigged the system. The amendment to the constitution that provided limited liability to corporations is a good historical starting point as to why this happened. It has allowed the ‘anything that makes money—even if it destroys human, animal, earth, water or air—to be viewed as acceptable in a capitalistic economy. You responded that I have a cynical view that consumers are stupid…. John…I don’t have a cynical view that people are stupid…what I have is a real life experience of working with people over the last 15 years through my counseling office. I work with a holistic, self-responsibility, choice/conscious model that I created called the Life Puzzle. I created it to address my clients’ constant lament that they weren’t taught how to create healthy, whole and dynamic lives. A tool I use is called the Choosing Continuum. Simply put—0-5 is the reactive, unconscious, victim, fix it after its broke pattern of choosing….6-10 is the proactive, conscious, self-responsibility to create a whole life pattern of choosing. On the 0-5 side, people spend their lives reactive to problems, crisis—and generally see this as the way things work/the best they can do. On the 6-10 side, people understand themselves as potentially whole and choose to create a lifestyle to enhance that potential. When I ask clients (and I’ve taught this from welfare clients all the way up to corporate executives) where are you on the Choosing Continuum…0-5 or 6-10…..consistently 90-95% of people respond….0-5 reactive/unconscious. Then we look at why this is…and it’s because as children we grow up in a culture that generally teaches us to do this. We see our systems—medical, business, schools, law acting reactively and as children we grow up thinking this is normal. Reactive people create reactive systems which further creates reactive people. So, when I say that people are impacted by advertising and generally follow what’s presented—it is because I’ve had this validated for years by these very people. When I show them 6-10—they get excited about taking responsibility—but then realize that they’ve never been taught to do this—and that’s the work I do. So John, I don’t think people are stupid—I think people are unaware. And if you look at our schools—you can see how this happens. (A constant question I get from clients/groups is “Why weren’t we taught this in school [how to create a whole life]. I shrug and say—you weren’t, your children aren’t and the only option is to teach your SELF. On the issue of ‘externalizing costs”…you agreed with me but said this issue could be fixed “this can be done within a capitalistic economy, however” . John, technically perhaps…but it won’t happen in the current system because with CAPITAL being the most important value—the second we were to ‘internalize the externalities of such things as pollution, carbon productions etc”, “PROFIT/CAPITAL” will be seriously depleted—and stockholders would see losses that now are hidden. CAPITAL as the number one goal of a capitalistic system is set up to ensure this doesn’t happen (see earlier comment of the history of Limited liability of corporations) HOWEVER John…if we did do this…it would actually be a first step in the movement towards a Whole Life Economic system—which not only would allow this (absorbing externalized costs into the whole)—but would support it as a primary value. "Ann--who is in charge of the 'Whole Life Economy?' Who decides what gets produced and what doesn't get produced? Will individuals have the freedom to decide for themselves what they want and will entrepreneurs be free to innovate and create to meet their needs? If not entrepreneurs and individual consumers--who?" John…YES….it would finally be the consumers and entrepreneurs—working off the post-modern economic paradigm-- such values as our physical well-being, mental and emotional health, our social relationships, our ability to meet our needs and the needs of those we care about, our connection to the natural environment and our need for spiritual meaning." That would drive our businesses…and in this case the ‘profits’ would be defined far beyond the limited value of money. "the values of the [‘whole life economic system ] already exist and are possible to embrace within a free society and a capitalistic economic system. They are exactly the values I'm freely choosing as an individual. Are you saying that these values will be forced upon other people whether they agree with them or not? How will you do this without creating some type of totalitarian state?” John…the key word in all of this is CONSCIOUS….And I go back to my earlier comment of working with my clients—few of us are truly conscious—we are mostly reactive/following. And right now, that means we’re “doing what everyone else is doing”….our schools ensure this, our systems reward it. Capitalism profits by it—for the few not the many. [whole life economics] "Sounds wonderful Ann. I'm all for it. The key question is how will it be achieved in a free society? We can evolve our society and economy this way in a free society if we want to collectively go there. However, what if most people don't want this vision? What if they want an Islamic Theocracy obeying the will of Allah? What if they want a Christian Theocracy with everyone forced to obey the Bible? What if people prefer the society that we have right now? Do they get to keep it or are you going to take it away from them for their own good?" John…with 6.6 billion people on this planet—it sure is tricky to do anything. And yet, CAPITALISM seems to believe it is the one right way……What if most people don’t want this vision…..Right now, it doesn’t really matter does it….because NAFTA, WMF, World Bank, Federal Reserve (which is a private organization—though if you asked the average American if the Federal Reserve is a government department—they would say, Yes…of course. They would be SHOCKED to discover it is a small group of people that controls the flow of CAPITAL)—are essentially espousing that CAPITAL is the most important thing of all. I wish we had a free society—but we don’t. "I love Grameen and our Whole Planet Foundation is working with them in Costa Rica and Guatemala right now and will add projects in Honduras, Nicaruagua, and India in 2007 and eventually around the world." John…please do not think that in any of my writings I don’t have the utmost respect for Whole Foods Markets and all the wonderful things you all are doing in this world. This dialogue with you is about ‘conscious capitalism’….we are together on the ‘conscious’…it’s the Capitalism’ that I think needs further shift…. JOHN…as for your decision to go IPO…never questioned it for a moment—not many other options in the current system if you are going to get sufficient CAPITAL. I was highlighting the fact that the current system that bestows Ownership to the 2nd, 17th , 55th level of stock purchaser is akin to saying that owners get paid even if they don’t do anything! Putting our businesses in this system does little or nothing for the business because few of the stockholders care about what the business does. At this level of stock purchaser, the only thing most are interested in is whether or not the stock price keeps going up and up and up…..Not a healthy system at all…Trying to ‘satisfy’ this group of stakeholders does control every corporation….like or not. "About the ‘unavoidable dilemma’ that the requirement in a CAPITALISITIC system—that growth must constantly increase--this growth results in creation of unnecessary products in order to keep stock prices going up…" . John…you’re missing the point here—its back to Consciousness—as I mentioned before—that lack of awareness of how to keep our body healthy, how to create balanced lives is not something we’re taught. It has enabled a situation where people buy, buy, buy…..but aren’t necessarily consciously buying. Like the movie Affluenza showed—buying for Americans has become a national pastime. This fact married to the intense need by businesses to grow, grow, grow—put these together and we end up on the merry-go-round to the unavoidable dilemma—more and more growth requires more and more buying. When does it stop John? First stop—consciousness—second stop—revaluing to a post-modern economic paradigm where CAPITAL is a tool that serves the economy instead of its current status of the primary value of the economy. "Well the burden of proof is on you to show how your economic system is going to be achieved in the real world without massive governmental coercion creating a totalitarian state. Utopian societies always end up as dictatorships because human beings have a way of wanting to do what they want to do and not what the utopians think they should want to do." John…when did I say anything about a totalitarian government? That rings like the Bush comment of ‘you’re either with the War in Iraq or you’re for terrorism”…You seem to be saying “You’re either with capitalism or you’re with totalitarianism. That’s not the only option…. JOHN….As to how its going to happen…well, actually it is already happening—but it isn’t in a ‘one full swoop’ type action….Even our discussion here is part of the new changes happening—more and more folks are becoming conscious and are examining ‘capital’ as the primary value of an economic system—and questioning it as they start small businesses (like Grameen) that are not so much about money as they are about creating their lives, families and communities that work. Much like the Industrial revolution—in the middle of it, no one would’ve said, “wow, we’re in an Industrial revolution”….but only when looking back could we see the shift that had occurred. I think that is happening towards a ‘whole life economic system’. Pockets happening around the country, around the world—not because of massive governmental coercion—in fact because of the current governmental/corporation entanglement—people are creating these new models quietly and outside the current system. Things like CSA’s, local currency, cooperatives etc. Hazel Henderson, the economist and the true cost accounting parameters that her organization has worked hard on is another example of new systems beginning to emerge. As Buckminster Fuller said “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” I see lots of small communities, businesses doing this. And that’s where I’ll end this discussion…..Semantics—the words we choose are powerful. Conscious Capitalism is one term….and to me it says, “let’s be more conscious in businesses about making money”….I would prefer we use a different term….Conscious Whole Lifeism”…let’s be more conscious in businesses about making life—individual, family, community, global and earth—animals, land, water and air! Ann
03/20/2007 2:32:50 PM CDT
satya says ...
I am very much impressed with your article"small business"In most cases the original purpose of a business is decided prior to any capital being received from investors. While the capital from investors is obviously very important to any business,with this point i can know some details about your article small business blog
03/21/2007 12:34:30 AM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Ann Kramer, I'm not sure we can have a constructive dialog about capitalism due to our very different perspectives on economics and the way the world works. I will point out a few things I disagree with about your perspective, but I think we will probably just need to agree to disagree. I'll work on realizing my vision of "Conscious Capitalism" and you can work on realizing your vision of "The Whole Life Economy." Here are a few things for you to consider: Ann you say: "The comment that the King and Queen of capitalism is the consumer…. John if the King and Queen of capitalism is the consumer…then tell me, Who Killed the Electric car?....The consumers loved those cars and still GM removed, destroyed and refused to sell them." Answer: My guess is that General Motors discontinued selling the electrical car because they didn't believe there was sufficient demand by consumers to justify the ongoing investment in this technology. If General Motors was wrong in reaching that conclusion they will bear the cost of making such a bad decision. General Motors is hardly omniscient or omnipotent. They have made plenty of bad decisions in the past. There is also nothing stopping other existing automobile companies from producing electrical cars and meeting this unmet consumer demand--if there is indeed sufficient consumer demand at the quality and prices that electrical cars can be produced at compared to the competitive transportation alternatives that currently exist. If the existing automobile companies also don't believe there is sufficient consumer demand to justify the investment then there is nothing stopping entrepreneurs from starting electrical car businesses. Indeed, Teslar Motors has done that. See their website: http://www.teslamotors.com However, at a base price of $92,500 they are a little bit pricey at this time!!! One other thing to realize--electrical cars competed against the internal combustion engine back in the late 19th century and lost the competition. Their price, speed, reliability, and convenience were inferior to the internal combustion engine. There wasn't a capitalistic conspiracy against the electrical car--just consumer preferences for the competitive alternative. Ann you say (or perhaps Marjorie Kelly says it): "THE KING and QUEEN of capitalism is CAPITAL—MONEY. Anything that makes money is good. Money has achieved a status/myth of such high value that it drives so many of the systems we’ve created and decisions of what will or will not be produced. (Read Divine Right of Capital by Marjorie Kelly.)" Ann despite this rhetoric the fact remains that businesses can't make money in a capitalistic economy unless people voluntarily trade with the business. No one is forced to trade with the business against their will. Whole Foods can only make a profit if customers voluntarily trade with us and Whole Foods has thousands of competitors around the country that customers can choose (and do choose) to shop with instead. In all businesses that sell directly to the public (such as Whole Foods) consumers rule because they get to cast their dollar votes toward the businesses which best meet their needs and desires. I strongly urge you to go spend some time in a socialistic or communistic country to get a first hand experience of what happens when customers no longer get to vote with their dollars. Ann you say: "As an example, it is why oil remains the primary fuel choice. As powerful, traditional corporations have effectively ensured that green or biofuels have not gotten the foothold consumers have desired— because there’s no CAPITAL or profit in them (due in large measure to gov’t policies enacted as a result of powerful corporate interference/control). As much as entrepreneurial businesses have tried create businesses using solar, biofuels, and alternative options—the CAPITAL issue—profits (or lack thereof) have effectively strangled them for the last 30 years. Only now, as global warming has been the outcome—have alternatives gotten a toehold into the systems now that it appears it may be profitable/." Ann, this is utter nonsense! Alternative fuels haven't caught on because they are more expensive than oil. It is as simple as that. There is no big, capitalistic conspiracy out there to prevent conversion to alternative fuels. As oil becomes more expensive over time and technological breakthroughs occur in alternative technologies such as solar and wind, this price gap continues to narrow. Our economy will transition to other alternative energy sources when they are cheaper than oil. Most trend lines indicate that this transition will occur during the 21st century, mostly depending upon how quickly technological breaththroughs occur in alternative energy sources. Ann you say: "My argument John—is that in a whole life economic system—where life of humans/animals/air/water/earth are the primary value—we certainly would have “chosen” these alternative fuels/industries because of the difference in the values we’re interested in. (Look at China right now—fastest growing, “successful” economy on the planet—but in Beijing, you can’t breath the air—this is however considered successful in a capitalistic system—something they seem to be adopting. In a whole life economic system it would not be considered successful)." The mistake you make in your thinking Ann is that you assume that everyone wants what you want. Because you and your friends want something you assume everyone else wants it too (or should be compelled to want it) and only some kind of "capitalistic conspiracy" is preventing it from happening. However, your values and desires are not shared by everyone or even most people!! Your values are very much minority values, and are relatively rare--perhaps representing the values of about 10% of the adult world population (see my blog entry, The Upward Flow of Human Development, especially the section on the Green Meme). People in China are poor. So are most people in India, Nepal, Burma, etc. 42% of the population on this planet live on less than $2 a day. Have you spent much time with really poor people? Poor people want a better life for themselves. They want cheap energy and cheap food and cheap housing--because that is all they can afford. They are willing to suffer higher levels of pollution, such as in Beijing, to have more money for food, housing, medical care, education, etc. Environmental purity is simply less important to them. Studies have shown that environmental concerns don't usually manifest in a society until the per capita income reaches about $8,000 per year. China isn't there yet. They aren't yet willing to make the economic/environmental tradeoffs that you and I are probably willing to make. Ann you say: "Which leads us to the issue of the unholy alliance between big business and big government (the military industrial complex that Eisenhower brilliantly warned us about 50 years ago is but one example). Subsidies for big oil, big farmers, protectionist legislation for the rich and well connected, trial lawyers, Halliburton, trillion dollar war on drugs and 2 million citizens in prisons etc. etc. none of this is freedom, capitalism or choice based. But it is CAPITAL driven. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Richard Ney, William "Refrigerator" Jefferson (these 3 are very small examples of the way the "system" we erroneously call capitalism actually works today - it's not capitalism - fascism is the system where the state controls the means of production, aren't we moving in that direction via the corporate - governmental alliance?" Your complaints here have nothing to do with capitalism (the economic system where the means of production are privately owned by individuals, partnerships, co-ops, and corporations instead of publicly owned by the government which is socialism). Your complaints are directed to government corruptions and the inherent flaws of the American form of government. I share your concerns about our government being way too powerful and potentially corrupted by money. I think the solution, however, is not to abandon free market capitalism, but to lessen the power of our government, which meddles in our lives in countless ways and has created a military establishment which continually meddles in the affairs of other countries around the world. Ann you say: "Big corporations—51 of which are now bigger than any government and the governments these corporations are controlling/managing--have rigged the system. The amendment to the constitution that provided limited liability to corporations is a good historical starting point as to why this happened. It has allowed the ‘anything that makes money—even if it destroys human, animal, earth, water or air—to be viewed as acceptable in a capitalistic economy". Ann, your above statements are simply not true. The critics of corporations are forever trotting out false statements about the size of corporations relative to countries. However, these statistics are always rigged because they compare corporate sales against country GDPs. This is not a fair comparison because sales are not equivalent to GDP. GDP isn't based on sales but on the total economic products and services produced minus the costs of producing them. GDP equals the total value added and that most certainly doesn't equal corporate sales! The more accurate comparison isn't corporate sales to GDP but corporate profits to GDP. Viewed from this perspective the size of corporations relative to countries is far, far different. For example: Whole Foods in 2006 had $5.6 billion in sales and $5.4 billion of that went to pay for the cost of the goods we sold and various other expenses, leaving $.2 billion ($200 million) in profits. The biggest corporation in the world is Wal-Mart in terms of sales and Wal-Marts' total profits are only a small fraction of the GDP of even a small country such as Sweden (with only 5 million people) and isn't anywhere close to the size of country such as France. In addition, you made another untrue statement when you claim that a constitutional amendment occurred to allow limited liability to corporations. No such constitutional amendment exists. Please read the constitution! Ann, I like your "Choosing Continuum." I want to point out to you that our public school system, which you rightly blame for not teaching people to take more responsibility for their lives, is controlled by the government (and by teachers' unions). Our educational system is socialism in action. It is not capitalistic. A capitalistic educational system would create a huge diversity of education alternatives--including schools which taught individual responsibility. Ann you say: "CAPITALISM seems to believe it is the one right way……What if most people don’t want this vision…..Right now, it doesn’t really matter does it….because NAFTA, WMF, World Bank, Federal Reserve (which is a private organization—though if you asked the average American if the Federal Reserve is a government department—they would say, Yes…of course. They would be SHOCKED to discover it is a small group of people that controls the flow of CAPITAL)—are essentially espousing that CAPITAL is the most important thing of all. I wish we had a free society—but we don’t." Ann, capitalism doesn't believe anything. Capitalism isn't a person capable of belief. Capitalism is simply an economic system that lets people trade freely with each other and where the means of production are privately owned. You seem to have many objections to various governmental and international organizations and wrongly identify those organizations with capitalism. You are making capitalism the "scapegoat" for everything that you don't like about the modern world. I think you are assigning blame in the wrong place. Our economic system reflects the values, beliefs, and desires of most Americans. I believe your real gripe is that you simply don't approve of the choices and the values that many of your fellow Americans have chosen to make. Ann you say: ""About the ‘unavoidable dilemma’ that the requirement in a CAPITALISITIC system—that growth must constantly increase--this growth results in creation of unnecessary products in order to keep stock prices going up…" . John…you’re missing the point here—its back to Consciousness—as I mentioned before—that lack of awareness of how to keep our body healthy, how to create balanced lives is not something we’re taught. It has enabled a situation where people buy, buy, buy…..but aren’t necessarily consciously buying. Like the movie Affluenza showed—buying for Americans has become a national pastime. This fact married to the intense need by businesses to grow, grow, grow—put these together and we end up on the merry-go-round to the unavoidable dilemma—more and more growth requires more and more buying. When does it stop John? First stop—consciousness—second stop—revaluing to a post-modern economic paradigm where CAPITAL is a tool that serves the economy instead of its current status of the primary value of the economy." Ann, financial capital should in fact be merely a tool that serves the business. That is exactly the way it is with Whole Foods Market. You see investors as the MASTERS of business. I do not. Each stakeholder group has different desires and each wants more. Yes, of course, the investors want the business to make more profits. What is wrong with that? Nothing from my perspective. In a free market capitalistic economy the only way to make more profits is to create more value for the customers who freely trade with the business. Profits indicate that the business is on track toward better meeting the needs and desires of its customers. Profits are good--not evil. As my Conscious Capitalism article points out in the "Paradox of Profits" section, the best way to maximize long-term profits is to optimize the entire interdependent business system. All the stakeholders--customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, and the environment are interdependent upon one another. Is financial capital the primary value of our economy as you seem to believe? For some people it no doubt is. However, it isn't for me and it isn't for you and it isn't for most of my friends. The economy itself isn't a "person" at all. It doesn't have any preferences or values--only people do. Ann you say: "John…when did I say anything about a totalitarian government? That rings like the Bush comment of ‘you’re either with the War in Iraq or you’re for terrorism”…You seem to be saying “You’re either with capitalism or you’re with totalitarianism. That’s not the only option…." Actually Ann, those are the only options--some combination of freedom and totalitarianism. We either let people freely trade with each other or we don't. Capitalism is the economic system that maximizes individual freedom and totalitarianism (socialism, communism, facism, etc.) minimizes it. In so far as your "Whole Life" system is created through individual free choice in the marketplace then it is a capitalistic system. However, if you compel others to adopt your system against their will and prevent people from freely trading with each other then it is a totalitarian system. Your "Whole Life" economy seems quite wonderful to me and if people freely choose it then it is consistent with capitalism (it is in fact a form of Conscious Capitalism). However, if people don't freely choose it, but are coerced to adopt it (for their own good no doubt) then it is no longer consistent with capitalism, but has become just another variant of totalitarianism. Ann, we both seem to agree on the importance of being more "conscious." Perhaps we should focus on this important area of agreement between us. You obviously don't like the word capitalism. For you it is a very damaged word, reflecting an economic system that you obviously don't like. Here is where we part company. I have been a student of history all of my life. The capitalistic economic system that has been operating for only about 300 years has done more to promote the well being of humanity than the previous 10,000 years combined. Is it perfect? Of course not. Humanity still has many challenges. Do I want capitalism to evolve in healthy ways? Of course I do. That is why I'm promoting a vision of "Conscious Capitalism." However, make no mistake about this: I am a capitalist. I believe in human freedom. I believe human freedom is necessary for human flourishing. I believe people should be able to freely trade for whatever they desire and with whomever they desire to trade with, and that is exactly what capitalism stands for. The major problems that exist in the world today have very little to do with capitalism as an economic system (which I believe you are unfairly scapegoating) and everything to do with the flaws and limitations of human nature. Humans have always had to struggle with fear, greed, selfishness, envy, resentment, hatred, arrogance, gluttony, and a host of other vices. The things you don't like about the modern world can be traced back to those passions in human nature. These passions certainly exist within capitalism, but also within every other economic system that has ever existed--because they exist within human nature. They won't be repealed within your "Whole Life" economic system either. Each of us must choose for ourselves the life path that will best enable us to minimize our own personal fear, greed, envy, etc. and maximize our own love, joy, compassion, peace, and happiness. Here is something for you to consider Ann: You say, "A tool I use is called the Choosing Continuum. Simply put—0-5 is the reactive, unconscious, victim, fix it after its broke pattern of choosing….6-10 is the proactive, conscious, self-responsibility to create a whole life pattern of choosing." That sounds like a wonderful tool! Think about what you are doing when you blame capitalism for everything you don't like about the modern world. Are you not acting like a "reactive victim" of this evil capitalism you so despise? Isn't the self-responsible conscious alternative to understand exactly where we are today without scapegoating the economic system as the cause of all the problems that you don't like (blaming some outside cause)? Aren't you just being a "reactive victim" against capitalism? You seem to have read a few books critical of capitalism but have you read any that support it? Here are a few reading suggestions: In Defense of Global Capitalism by Johan Norberg Free to Choose by Milton Friedman How the West Grew Rich by Nathan Rosenberg The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes The Mystery of Capital by Hernado De Soto Best wishes on realizing your vision of "The Whole Life Economy." Take care.
03/22/2007 6:56:35 AM CDT
don johnson says ...
John, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Conscious Capitalism and applaud your work as what Jim Collins might say is "Level 5" type leadership. I can see from your essay and blog that you admire Ken Wilber and deeply appreciate his integral theory. So do I. My view is that Conscious Capitalism is a manifestation of conscious leaders and employees. So, it is the tangible result of attitudes and thinking that are present, but less visible. In business, then the challenge for leaders is: How to develop these type of attitudes, thinking and skills to lead and manage in the organization that wishes to embody Conscious Principles and exists in a very unconscious world? I would think this is a huge challenge for an organization as large as Whole Foods. I'm curious as to how you approach this. There is a book that I would like to recommend to you, written by a colleague of Ken, Fred Kofman. It's called, perhaps no surprise: "Conscious Business". Ken and Peter Senge wrote the forewords. Thanks and keep up the good work of bringing the spirit of consciousness into our everyday world. Don Johnson
03/23/2007 10:13:05 AM CDT
John Mackey says ...
To Don Johnson, I've been greatly influenced by Ken Wilber. I also have Fred Kofman's book but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Your question: "How to develop these type of attitudes, thinking and skills to lead and manage in the organization that wishes to embody Conscious Principles and exists in a very unconscious world? I would think this is a huge challenge for an organization as large as Whole Foods." Answer: 1. The leader must aspire to personally learn and grow. 2. The leader must "walk the talk" and must embody the attitudes and leadership skills that he or she wants to nurture in the organization. There is no substitution for this. 3. The leader must create an organizational culture based on experimentation, innovation, and continuous improvement. This requires the removal of fear and intimidation as motivators. 4. A philosophy of empowerment is essential. People must be empowered to learn and grow and to be self-responsible. It is natural for people to want to learn, grow, and personally evolve--provided that fear doesn't short circuit the growth impulse. Remove fear from the organization as much as possible, model personal growth oneself as a leader, and encourage and empower others to grow in the organization. A chapter in the book I'm writing is on self-actualization. It will appear in a rough draft form on this blog within the next few months for feedback.
03/23/2007 5:10:57 PM CDT

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