Winning the Battle for Freedom and Prosperity

With a few minor edits, this is the speech I gave as the keynote speaker at FreedomFest in May of 2004. In it, I critique the freedom movement and highlight mistakes that have greatly lessened its impact and influence in the world, and I spell out specific actions the movement should take to evolve its purpose and values.


What I hope to accomplish tonight is to challenge your thinking about the modern freedom movement. I believe the freedom movement has been its own worst enemy by foolishly limiting its appeal and impact with an overly narrow interpretation about the meaning and purpose of freedom. From a business perspective, the freedom movement faces major marketing challenges, the result of its poor job of branding itself to the world.


My Background

Let me tell you a few brief things about myself as background. Before I started Whole Foods Market I attended two different universities, where I accumulated 130 hours of electives, primarily in philosophy and religion, and ended up with no degree. I never took a single business class. I actually think that has worked to my advantage in business. I spent my late teens and early twenties trying to discover the meaning and purpose of my own life.


My search for meaning and purpose led me into the counter-culture movement of the late 1960's and 1970's. I studied eastern philosophy and religion at the time, and still practice both yoga and meditation. I studied ecology. I became a vegetarian (I am currently a vegan), I lived in a commune, and I grew my hair and beard long. I'm one of those crunchy-granola types. Politically, I drifted to the Left and embraced the ideology that business and corporations were essentially evil because they selfishly sought profits. I believed that government was "good" (if the "right" people had control of it) because it altruistically worked for the public interest.


With that background, I felt "well prepared" to launch my business in 1978. My initial business, a natural foods market called Safer Way, was a small 3,000 square foot store that I opened with my girlfriend, with an initial $45,000 in capital. We were very idealistic, and we started the business because we thought it would be fun. We were right-we had a blast then, and we've continued to have a great time during the last 28 years. The time has passed quickly.


Along with the for-profit business, I also created a business of "heart" and I think I have been equally successful with that venture. After running Safer Way for a couple of years, we decided to relocate to a much larger building and we opened Whole Foods Market in 1980. No pun intended, but we grew the business organically from there.


At the time I started my business, the Left had taught me that business and capitalism were based on exploitation: exploitation of consumers, workers, society and the environment. I believed that "profit" was a necessary evil at best, and certainly not a desirable goal for society as a whole. However, becoming an entrepreneur completely changed my life. Everything I believed about business was proven to be wrong. The most important thing I learned about business in my first year was that business wasn't based on exploitation or coercion at all. Instead I realized that business is based on voluntary cooperation. No one is forced to trade with a business; customers have competitive alternatives in the market place; employees have competitive alternatives for their labor; investors have different alternatives and places to invest their capital. Investors, labor, management, suppliers—they all need to cooperate to create value for their customers. If they do, then any realized profit can be divided amongst the creators of the value through competitive market dynamics. In other words, business is not a zero sum game with a winner and loser. It is a win, win, win, win game—and I really like that.


However, I discovered despite my idealism that our customers thought our prices were too high, our employees thought they were underpaid, the vendors would not give us large discounts, the community was forever clamoring for donations, and the government was slapping us with endless fees, licenses, fines and taxes.


Were we profitable? Not at first. Safer Way managed to lose half of its capital in the first year—$23,000. Despite the loss, we were still accused of exploiting our customers with high prices and our employees with lower wages. The investors weren't making a profit and we had no money to donate. Plus, with our losses, we paid no taxes. I had somehow joined the "dark side" — I was now one of the bad guys. According to the perspective of the Left, I had become a greedy and selfish businessman.


Abandoning Leftist Philosophy

At this point, I rationally chose to abandon the Leftist philosophy of my youth, because it no longer adequately explained how the world really worked. With my Leftist interpretation of the world now shattered, I looked around for alternative explanations for making sense of the world.


I stumbled into reading Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand—I read all of them. I said to myself, "Wow, this all makes sense. This is how the world really works. This is incredible." Then I became Laissez Faire Books best customer for the next five years. I think I read every book in their catalog. If any of you in the audience have written books, I have probably read them.


I identify myself as a Libertarian. I am one of those people who actually votes Libertarian. I have voted strictly Libertarian since 1980. You sometimes hear that argument, "Why do you vote Libertarian? You're just throwing your vote away." I always say, "Gosh, if everybody had that attitude toward their vote, then the Libertarian candidate would get elected."


What I love most about the freedom movement are the ideas of voluntary cooperation and spontaneous order when channeled through free markets, leading to the continuous evolution and progress of humanity. I believe that individual freedom in free markets when combined with property rights through rule of law and ethical democratic government results in societies that maximize prosperity and establish conditions that promote human happiness and well being.


Unfortunately, despite of all my enthusiasm and formidable debating skills, I have had little success converting people to the freedom movement. Has that been your experience as well? The freedom movement remains a small, relatively unimportant movement in the United States today. The question is, "Why?" I want the freedom movement to sweep the world. So how can we make the freedom movement a more vital and dominant intellectual and cultural movement in the United States?


Selfishness and Greed Are Not Good

I hope to do two things tonight. First, I will critique the freedom movement and highlight mistakes that have greatly lessened its impact and influence in the world. Second, I will challenge the movement to re-think its purpose and values. We need to evolve our paradigm along with the brand that we offer the world. As a businessman who knows something about marketing and branding, I can tell you the freedom movement is branding itself very poorly.


Let's start with the critique. How many of you have read Ayn Rand? How many of you have been influenced by her? Atlas Shrugged remains one of the five greatest novels I have ever read. Who can ever forget characters like Dagny Taggert, Hank Rearden, Francisco d'Anconia, from Atlas Shrugged, as well as Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. These characters all demonstrated tremendous passions and drive, backed by high self-esteem. Each one inspired this young entrepreneur. I wanted to be just like those heroic characters in Atlas Shrugged.


However, despite her literary greatness and many positive contributions to the freedom movement, I believe that Rand has also harmed the movement. How? Ayn Rand was overly provocative. The "virtue of selfishness" is an oxymoron. Selfishness is not a virtue. Now, I understand all the arguments—I've read all the books. I know that self-interest channeled to the social good, as expressed through Adam Smith's Invisible Hand, is the single most brilliant insight about social organization ever made in history. That being said, selfishness (as opposed to self-interest) is still not a virtue. It is something to be discouraged, and not something to be supported.


Similarly, I find insupportable the idea Ivan Boesky and Gordon Gekko made infamous, that "Greed is Good." Well, greed is not good. Greed is not a virtue. Excepting a few people on Wall Street and some people in the freedom movement, almost no one else in our greater society will support selfishness and greed as "good" when they see it. So my question to you is, why doesn't the freedom movement condemn selfishness and greed? If we don't, we are inappropriately seen as supporters of selfishness and greed. In my opinion, this is a major branding mistake that continues to undermine our movement.


How many people in the audience believe that the only social responsibility that business has is to maximize profits? Before I make my next point, let me boast about Whole Foods Market for a moment. In 2005, we did $4.7 billion in sales and realized $136 million in net profits. With our current growth rates by 2010 we should do over $12 billion in sales. On a percentage basis Whole Foods Market is the most profitable public food retailing business in the United States, with the highest net profit percentage, sales growth, and sales per square foot. I make this boast to prove that (a) I believe in profit and (b) I am quite competent in producing it. I love profit. Profit is good and it is socially necessary. However, some people in the freedom movement have long argued that the only social responsibility that business has is to maximize profits. I believe that profits are an essential purpose of business, but I would argue that they are not the sole, or even most important, purpose of business. Profit is the most important purpose to the business owners. But owners do not exist in a vacuum. I believe the best way to think about business is as an interdependent system of constituencies connected together in a "harmony of interests."


Is maximizing business profits a goal that customers have when they patronize a business? Are customers coming in thinking, "I'm so glad I'm in Whole Foods today because I want to help you maximize your profits." What about the people who work for a business? "I took a job a Whole Foods because I was seeking to maximize the profits of the company." Or the community: "We're so glad you came to our community and we want you to maximize your profits." This is ludicrous, right?


Free-market economists, in their legitimate defense of the value of business profits, have often harmed the value of the larger brand of business in our society. These economists have not created a paradigm of business that will ever be fully accepted by society as "good." Business instead continues to play the role of the bad guy in our society. Selfishness, greed, worker exploitation, consumer rip-offs, and environmental destruction, all in the name of maximizing profits—this is the reality of the brand that business is burdened with in the world today.


I believe that business has a much greater purpose. Business, working through free markets, is possibly the greatest force for good on the planet today. When executed well, business increases prosperity, ends poverty, improves the quality of life, and promotes the health and longevity of the world population at an unprecedented rate. This audience understands these truths, but how many people in our greater society comprehend it?


The freedom movement has also poorly defended the social legitimacy of both business and free market. A new paradigm for business and the free market is necessary—one that accepts the importance of profits of course, but also one that recognizes that business has legitimate social responsibilities that go far beyond merely maximizing profits. That's all I'm going to say on this issue tonight because it's a "teaser." My talk tomorrow focuses entirely on how to create a new business paradigm.


Positioning and Branding the Movement

How many people in the audience believe drugs should be legalized? What about pornography? How many of you believe that prostitution should be legal? I believe all three should be legalized—within certain parameters which protect children. Who among you believes that private ownership of guns should be made illegal? I certainly don't. Gun ownership is protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. It is an important right.


I believe, however, that all four of these issues are far less critical for improving our society than creating educational choice, privatizing social security, de-regulating health care, and enacting meaningful tort reform. The legalization of drugs, pornography, prostitution and guns, as issues, are all too closely associated with the freedom movement. Aligning ourselves with these issues has hurt our brand tremendously, by associating the freedom movement with cultural decadence. Parents don't want their children's lives ruined by drug experimentation; or their innocence prematurely lost to pornography and prostitution; or their lives ended with a bullet.


These four freedom issues need to be de-emphasized by the freedom movement if we hope to successfully create a mass movement, and continue to evolve our society in positive directions. How many of you believe that lessening the power of government over our lives is the most important goal of the freedom movement? I believe that the freedom movement's biggest mistake today is focusing primarily on freedom "from" government coercion as its primary goal. Obviously this is a very important goal for the freedom movement, but I strongly believe it must also be accompanied by an equally important goal: the freedom "to" take responsibility for our own lives; the freedom "to" take responsibility for our own communities and our planet.


Freedom from government coercion is clearly a very, very important goal. But unless you live in a country like China, North Korea, Cuba or Iran that lacks many personal liberties that we Westerners take largely for granted, freedom is not usually a very important goal. American citizens mostly take their liberties for granted. Unlike the people in this audience, most Americans forget that vigilance is the eternal price we have to pay for protecting liberties.


Once we are free, or relatively free, to live our lives in the manner we choose to live them, we must next answer the question, "How then shall we actually live our lives?" Will we live our lives as hedonists, indulging ourselves with various amusements, diversions, and pleasures? Or will we choose the more difficult path of personal development and acceptance of social responsibility?


The freedom movement needs to reposition itself and re-brand itself. Personal freedom may be the first goal we work towards—but we can't stop there; it isn't enough. There is so much more to life. Using our freedom to take on greater social responsibility, as well as striving to reach our fullest potential as humans need to be goals that we support just as much as freedom from government coercion. When I was a naive (some people in the audience by this time probably think I'm still naive) and idealistic young man, I migrated to the Left for my value system. Why did I do that? Because the Left provided an idealistic vision of the way the world could be. However, the reality of the Left's vision proved to be terribly flawed. Its socialist economic system not only didn't work very well, but in its communist manifestation it justified monstrous governments directly responsible for the murders of over one hundred million people in the twentieth century. Despite the unbelievable horrible track record of Leftist ideology, millions of young Americans continue to migrate to an intellectual bankrupt Left because the Left still seems to be idealistic, and that idealism is magnetic to the young. Idealism will always be magnetic to the intelligent and sensitive young people of the world.


Inspiring Idealism

How sad that the freedom movement often refuses to be idealistic. We usually don't even attempt to compete. We simply forfeit the field to the Left because we pride ourselves on our "realism" and "toughmindedness." We talk about freedom and prosperity - and that is about it. We have no real theory of either the good life or the good society except the fundamental belief that if people have sufficient personal and economical liberties (such as in Friedrich Hayek's spontaneous order) we will create a prosperous society.


Freedom and prosperity are important goals, but they must be only the beginning goals for us. If we are to win the allegiance of the young people of America then we must dare to be more idealistic. We must create a vision of the good life and the good society that is irresistible to the young. How many of you here are familiar with Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs?" For those of you who aren't, Maslow was a psychologist who did most of his work in 1950's and 60's. His theory of human nature is that we can understand human motivations with a simple model. There are various "need" levels and they arrange themselves basically in a hierarchy. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the physical needs: such as food, water, and sex. Once those needs are relatively well met, you move up to the next level in hierarchy: safety needs, such as security and physiological safety take precedence. Next you move into belongingness and love needs: affiliation, acceptance, affection, community and family. Once those needs are met then you tend to move to self-esteem needs: feeling competent, gaining approval and recognition from others, and garnering a sense that you are a worthwhile human being. The next level would be the attainment of aesthetic and cognitive needs, which can be summarized as the pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful.


Finally at the top of this hierarchy is self-actualization which (and the Army's advertising firm must have read Maslow) is "be all you can be." This means reaching your fullest potential as a human being. I believe that one of life's purposes is fundamentally about learning and growing. If we move up Maslow's hierarchy and don't stagnate at lower levels, life becomes an adventure of learning, growing, loving and joyfulness. If we are not growing as human beings then we are diminishing.


The freedom movement, in my opinion, needs to embrace the ideal of not just economic growth, but personal growth as well. If we use Maslow's hierarchy of needs as our criteria for evaluating the freedom movement, we see that it is primarily focused on the lower need levels: meeting the physical needs and safety needs through increased prosperity. To be perfectly blunt about it: the freedom movement is largely materialistic in its approach to life, stuck in the lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy. The higher need levels, love, self-esteem, the good, the true and the beautiful, and self-actualization, are either taken for granted or simply ignored.


Study after study shows that material prosperity, by itself, does not create happiness. We have higher needs as expressed on Maslow's hierarchy and the freedom movement needs to stop ignoring them. The freedom movement needs to consciously create a vision that addresses meeting the higher needs of Americans, beyond basic physical and safety needs.


That is the secret of the success of the Left, despite its bankrupt economic philosophy. The Left entices the young with promises of community, love, purpose, peace, health, compassion, caring, and environmental sustainability. The Left's vision on how to meet these higher needs in people is fundamentally flawed. But the idealism and the call to the higher need levels is magnetic and seductive, nonetheless. The irony of the situation, as I see it, is that the Left has idealistic visions of higher human potential and social responsibility, but has no effective strategies to realize their vision. The freedom movement has strategies that could meet higher human potential and social responsibility but lacks the idealism and vision to implement the strategies. I assert that the freedom movement can become a successful mass movement today if it will consciously adopt a more idealistic approach to its marketing, branding, and overall vision and embrace a vision of meeting higher human potentials and greater social responsibility.


Changing the Face of Health Care

Now let us discuss some of the ideals and goals that I think we should embrace as a movement. Who among you believes that socialized medicine is the answer to the health care crisis in America? The Left believes this is the answer: equal access to the health care system for all Americans—no one denied for financial reasons, in a single-payer system. Socialized health care seems very idealistic, and as such, appeals to many people. However, as Milton Friedman taught us, there is no such thing as a free lunch—in health care or anywhere else. We know the single-payer system means health care rationing through queuing up in long lines for expensive treatments and denial of some services to many of the elderly as too expensive. We know that uncaring government bureaucrats will run a single-payer system and without the discipline of competitive markets won't provide quality customer/patient service. We know that health care innovation and progress will slow down tremendously, because much less money will be dedicated to medical research since such research is long-term by nature and easily sacrificed to current budget limitations.


The United States continues to steadily move toward socialized health care partly because the freedom movement has not articulated an idealistic vision of what would be possible if we deregulated health care in America. We have fought a strictly defensive battle on this issue, and that strategy needs to change.


First of all, health is not merely the absence of disease. It is vitality and a sense of well-being. Health is partly about eating a healthy diet. (Therefore please shop at Whole Foods Market!) Also, regular daily exercise and minimizing the poisons we take into our bodies such as sugar, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine are also very important. Health is about getting adequate sleep, and also about having a sense of personal life purpose, and maintaining an optimistic and positive attitude. Most importantly, our health and well-being are our own responsibilities. Our doctors cannot accept these responsibilities. Nor can the bureaucratic "experts" controlling a health care system. The freedom movement must first advocate the ideal of self-responsibility for health. We own our own bodies, don't we? This is no minor thing because the Left, by supporting socialized medicine, demonstrates a belief that common citizens are too stupid to take responsibility for our own health and therefore need the "experts" to step in and control things for our own good.


Next we must advocate the ideal of free markets and competition in health care. The monopoly that medical doctors largely have in medical treatment must be broken. They should have to fully compete with other practitioners such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopaths, and yes my skeptical friend, John Stossel, even homeopathists. Competition is beneficial in every market and it will be so in the health and wellness market as well. Doctors don't compete on quality or price right now. They don't post their prices and it is almost impossible to get any real idea of the quality of their services except through trial and error. We don't currently have an efficient, competitive market in health care.


The final thing we must do in health care is to change the tax structure. Eliminating tax incentives for health care would change everything. Most companies (like Whole Foods) would stop offering free or subsidized health insurance if the benefit wasn't tax-deductible. Individuals would no longer receive "free" health care and would start spending their own money. The power of the markets would increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of our health care system enormously. Try to imagine for just a minute how much we could improve the health of Americans if we embrace the ideals that I outlined here: self-responsibility, competition, deregulation, and tax incentives. Let markets truly work in health care and I have little doubt that the health of Americans would improve immensely. I predict that we would see an increase in longevity to nearly 100 years within just a few decades- true freedom and innovation. Are good health and increased longevity worthy ideals for our movement to embrace? I think they are!


Global Peace

Peace. Why should the Left own the peace ideal? Why should the idealistic young turn to the Left to find peace? Global peace is within our reach for the first time in history. Let me quote from Johan Norberg's wonderful new book, In Defense of Global Capitalism.


"The number of wars has diminished by half during the last decade. Today, less than 1% of the world's population is directly affected by military conflicts. One reason is that democracies simply do not make war on each other. Another is that international exchange makes conflict less interesting. Cross ownership, multi-national corporations, and investment in privately owned resources make it hard to tell where one country really ends and another one begins."


Despite the war in Iraq, which looms large in our minds, the truth is that wars in the world are actually in decline. The majority of the world's nations are now committed to democratic governments and market economies. As this global network strengthens, peace increasingly becomes the world norm. The freedom movement should own the peace ideal; we do not own it now. Let us retrieve the peace ideal, because we know the truth: Democracy + free markets = peace between nations who share these social/economic/governmental structures.


Education Reform

Who in this room believes the United States has an excellent Kindergarten through 12th grade educational system? Who here believes that the way to improve education in the United States is to increase bureaucratic control by the government? Socialism doesn't work. This was proven beyond a doubt in the 20th century. Nation after nation tried to replace capitalism with socialism and without exception their efforts to improve the quality of their citizens' lives failed. Most Americans know that socialism doesn't work as an economic system. We allow competitive markets to produce our food, our housing, our clothing, our transportation and most of the goods and services that we consume. Why then do so many people embrace socialism in health care and education? Because we have not created an idealistic vision of the way things could be if they were grounded in freedom instead of governmental control. What is the alternative to socialism in education? The free-market alternative is competition, innovation and choice. The monopoly of the government over education needs to end. The domination of our children's education by the teacher's unions needs to stop.


What other reforms are needed? The following reforms are old news to people in the freedom movement: school choice, through vouchers and tax credits, along with privatizing public schools and selling off their assets to the private sector. What would happen with true competition in school choice, with students and parents becoming truly empowered consumers instead of virtual prisoners and slaves as they are now in the socialized system that exists today? We would have an explosion in educational innovation, and unprecedented improvements as competition and choice systematically eliminated poor teachers and poor schools. In the marketplace, a series of successful educational organizations would grow and spread throughout the nation. We would see incredible diversity in types of schools and styles of education meeting the diverse needs and desires of students and parents, instead of the dictates of the educational bureaucracy and teachers' unions.


Educational empowerment is a noble ideal and one that I believe mainstream Americans will embrace, once parents understand how their own children will be the true beneficiaries of these reforms. Where the freedom movement has failed is in creating and articulating a vision to promote this ideal. We're too afraid to be seen as utopian or near-utopian in our thinking. There is so much cynicism in response. You have all heard "it's not realistic," and "it's a fantasy, you've got to be realistic." But for people to give up ideals like socialized education and medicine—equal access for everyone to schools and health care regardless of income—they need to believe the replacements are going to be substantial improvements. The way to lead them to support change is to create an idealistic vision of what is possible. Next, you need to evangelize this vision to create a sense of excitement. Then they will agree to travel down that road with you to create the necessary changes. If there is no exciting, idealistic vision of what is possible, most people won't bother to join the struggle. Life is simply too short and most people have better things to do.


Environmental Sustainability

Who among you has read Bjørn Lomborg's book, The Skeptical Environmentalist? I cannot recommend this great book to you more highly. It convincingly demonstrates that the doom-and-gloom, apocalyptic crowd has greatly exaggerated the decline of the global environment in many important areas such as air and water quality and the decline in natural resources. With that qualifier said, I still believe the freedom movement has erred strategically by letting the Left own the ideal of environmental sustainability.


The ideal of environmental sustainability is certainly going to grow in importance over the next several years. It isn't going to fade away. I personally think it is the "Achilles heel" of the freedom movement and until it is proactively embraced as an important ideal by members of the freedom movement, the movement will become less and less relevant to the idealistic young in American society.


My company currently employs over 39,000 people. I estimate that nearly 100% of them care greatly about environmental sustainability. I know that I personally do. At Whole Foods, Team Members drift to the Left primarily because of the environmental issues.


Maintaining environmental sustainability is in the collective best interest of everyone. No one will argue that premise. The real question is, "What are the best ways to do it?" What are the trade-offs we need to make? When the freedom movement ignores the issue of environmental sustainability, the Left will dominate the discussion of the issues. Remember that the Left's goal remains to either destroy or cripple capitalism. The freedom movement must embrace the ideal of environmental sustainability, but must bring to the debate its commitment to property rights, markets and proper incentives to effectively resist the inevitable Leftist arguments for more bureaucratic controls and regulations.


Love, Caring and Compassion

Why should the Left own the ideals (and they do own them right now) of love, caring and compassion - especially with their track record? How can a movement that in its extreme form is responsible for the murders of more than one hundred million people, slaughtered in the name of their ideals own these three words? What the Left has done is create a world of victims and a cult of victimology. Then the Left accuses everyone who disagrees with them as lacking in love, caring and compassion. What a bunch of baloney! The freedom movement must embrace the ideals of love, caring and compassion and return these words to their true meanings. Love, caring and compassion do not equate with guilt, and they do not mean pandering to the demands of the various victims of the world. Spreading freedom through the world is the most loving and compassionate thing we can do for people. True freedom allows people to create prosperity and gives them the opportunity to move up Maslow's hierarchy of needs towards self-actualization. True freedom gives us the opportunity to take social responsibility and to work towards making the world a better place.


The freedom movement needs to support economic globalization. Globalization is the most caring and compassionate strategy we can implement to help the developing world lift itself out of poverty. This is the simple truth. But how many people understand this truth? The Left has convinced the idealistic young that globalization is harming the developing world - a plot by greedy corporations to rule the world. The freedom movement has a responsibility to explain the wisdom of globalization, and to hold it up as a noble ideal to the world.


I began my talk tonight by telling you that I spent my late teens and early twenties searching for meaning and purpose of my life. My strategy was really a very simple one: I decided to follow my heart wherever it took me. My heart has led me to distant places and to great worldly success. What I have learned on this journey is that in the core of my inner being there is endless creativity and there is limitless love. I believe if each of you look deep within your own inner being, you will likely also discover these two passions within yourself.


It is my belief that we should act in this world with open loving hearts, and that we need to channel our deepest creative impulses in a loving way toward other living beings. Do we really want to win the battle for freedom and prosperity in the world today? If we do, then let us bind these words together, as tightly as we can, with the words love, care and compassion.


Freedom belongs together with love. Prosperity belongs together with compassion. This is the vision I hold for the future; this is the world I strive to create. I urge you to join me. Together we can create a world where people have lives full of purpose, love, adventure, a world of freedom, prosperity and compassion.



Now, I have a brief commercial. Along with a few friends, I am starting a new initiative within the freedom movement. We call this initiative "FLOW", for Freedom Lights Our World. What we envision will bring the idealistic young that are being lost systematically to the Left into the freedom movement. Many of the ideas I've talked about tonight are core concepts of FLOW. If you're interested in learning a little more about FLOW, we have a web site:


I am going to end my speech tonight with a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This sentiment should be memorized by every aspiring entrepreneur in the audience:

"What ever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic."


Thank you very much.

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Robert Einspruch says …

First of all, as a product of Wharton I agree with you that profits are a wonderful thing. Second, I also agree with you that a profitable business is one of the most effective agents of social change (for better or worse). But I disagree with your thoughts on health care. The idea of introducing market forces to health care is just as idealistic and perhaps naive as the Left's fascination with Canada's single payer system. Markets work efficiently when information is shared quickly and equally. Markets become distorted when the opposite takes place. And this defines medicine. Two examples: a doctor has dedicated a substantial portion of his/her life to learning about disease. Now that doctor recommends a test or a treatment. How do I, a Wharton-educated CFO, make a decision as to whether or not I should get the treatment? Certainly not based on the price of the treatment! Should people think that way they will shun any sort of "capital investment" in their health. And if the procedure is new, radical or experimental, how could I possibly have enough information to make an informed decision as to whether or not this treatment is a scam or a lifesaver? So no matter what, my doctor, much like my mechanic, will always be at an information advantage. And like my mechanic, I will just have to trust her. Now you may say that price shopping will make doctors more competitive and reduce health care costs. But that is only true if price is an indicator of quality. In the case of medical care, like many industries including your own, perception is reality and high prices serve as a signal of high quality (even if it is not true). So price becomes meaningless - it's no different than choosing a builder or a contractor. You seldomly choose the lowest bid because you suspect that it will end up costing more in the long-run. I agree with most of what you say, but sometimes I think we business people put too much faith in market forces. Markets can and do fail, and can be subject to manipulation and distortion. This may be fine and dandy with stock prices, but health is just too precious. And it seems like the Right has seized many of these ideas to justify their intellectual laziness when it comes to solving social problems. BTW, I love Whole Foods and would love to work for you one day.

David H. Deans says …

Mr. Mackey, I'm curious why you chose the beginning of 2006 to resurrect a keynote speech from 2004? Perhaps you can explain your intent, and motivation, within your next post. Like you, I've found myself progressively leaning towards Libertarian ideals. Your point about "positioning and branding," however, makes me wonder if the application of marketing techniques to social and economic policy issues has in fact contributed to the apparent corruption epidemic in American politics today. Talented communication "spin-doctors" shape and manipulate often complex policy issues into simplistic "sound-bites" for the masses. IMHO, the notion that public policy positions can be served up like fast food is perhaps very telling about the evolution of mainstream American culture. The assumption: the majority of Americans aren't interested in investing the time it will take to prepare, savor and consume truly healthy public policy. Instead, they quickly flock to the most palatable -- on the surface -- policy proposal from a friendly smiling facade. Why? Political analysts will tell you that this is how you sell public policy positions to the under-informed couch potato patriot. With or without the freedom movement, apparently this is the current world of "positioned and branded" public policy in the United States -- circa 2006.

Adrian Rush says …

Curses! I paid the Advocates for Self-Government $120 to get an audiotape of this very speech! Ah, well, it was worth it, and I'm very glad to see the message being disseminated to a wider audience. Mr. Mackey, I feel much the same way you do about the freedom movement. I first gave up my subscription to Reason, and then to Liberty, because (1) I grew weary of the defense of personal vices masquerading as a defense of liberty and (2) it all seems like so much preaching to the choir. If someone can put the cause of liberty in terms that the American public finds palatable, it stands a chance of winning. Mr. Mackey, I think you're doing a commendable job of it right here, and I encourage you to keep it up. I'd love to see you run for office, but that's another story entirely. Two things tangentially related to this blog post: (1) I'd love to see these ideas put into book form, to spread the message to an even wider audience. I've heard rumors that you're going to be publishing a book. Is that true? (2) My wife and I are huge fans of Whole Foods. We shop at our brand-new Alexandria, Va., store every weekend, and I own a small position in the company. I'm also an avid Starbucks fan -- I buy a cup of Caffe Mocha on my way into work every morning. You can probably see where I'm going with this. I think there's a huge overlap in Starbucks and WFMI consumers, and I think you might be missing out on a huge opportunity by not striking a deal with Starbucks to let them set up kiosks in your stores. I think the potential for success would be enormous. Jim Donald visited our company recently for a talk and said that he's friends with you, so I have to imagine this topic has been discussed before between the two of you. If so, I say go for it! Keep up the wonderful work.

Kai Lam says …

Hello Mr.Mackey, I am a senior in high school and I am very inspired that there is a possibility (as demonstrated by yourself) I will not forget the terrible flaws of the current educational system, and involve myself to make a difference, even when it may no longer benefit myself directly. I am 100% for a competitive education system. I believe the main problem with the current one lies in the nonexistant competition, thus failing to motivate teachers, students, and the rest of the bureaucracy. I am interested in learning more about your plans to achieve educational reform. The main concern, I imagine, would revolve around the costs of this new education. How could poor families such as my own afford a decent education? I think the situation would end up being similar to the current college system, which is fairly successful in my mind. But just like it, there will be brilliant minds that cannot afford the best suited education. I am awaiting college decisions from Princeton, Harvard, Yale, all of which I will not even be able to pay for even if accepted. It is a common tragedy in the US today. Yet there are very few high school tragedies. I wonder if the competitive system would result in such tragedies as well. Please let me know more about your views, perhaps they will be published in your upcoming book, though. Maybe I will let you know in the future when I start to really push (or hopefully lead) this educational reform movement. Thanks, Kai Lam

Tom Cobb says …

Robert Einspruch makes a good observation about information advantages, but doesn't take them to their final conclusion. The primary cause of market failures is information advantages, and the primary cause of those is the massive concentrations of power that arise out of the process of incorporation. Proponents of the current system use the terms capitalism and "free market system" interchangeably, as if they have the same meaning. In reality a system can allow for private property (a capitalist system) while still sustaining many unfree laws and privileges. In our society, the main example of this is the body of corporate laws that channel immense power to those who run our corporations and financial markets. These laws create conditions that are only slightly less free than what would result from a socialistic system. I find it ironic that Mackey can so ably see what the conservative movement misses, but cannot comprehend its cause. What he sees is contradiction and hypocrisy. It arises out of the need to defend a system that so readily undermines freedom by way of the privileges it attributes to so few through the lever of incorporation. This is made most evident by the reflexive need to invoke the metaphor of the Invisible Hand - a metaphor used to describe a pre-industrial village economy - as a valid description of a post-industrial, corporate economy. The only purpose of the corporation should be to allow us to pool capital in support of a modern economy. In this respect, it is a massive compromise of principle made for the sake of expedience, at least as measured by the individual freedoms that are forsaken in the process. For this reason, those who truly believe in free markets should want that every effort be made to limit the concentrations of power that arise out of this process. The best way to do this would be to commoditize the cost of capital, and extend voting control of our corporations to those who create the majority of the value, namely workers. Wall Street likes to preach that the equity markets deliver average returns of 7-8% over time, but John Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard funds shows that upwards of half of this never makes it into the pockets of absentee investors. The difference is the "agency tax" levied by executives, insiders, and money managers. This means small investors - who hold more than half the value of the overall stock market - only net yields of 4-5%. If the overall stock market were securitized in the same manner as mortgages are, and the massive cut taken by Wall Street were eliminated, we could deliver the same net returns to investors, and let workers bear the last dollar of business risk. In exchange for this, they could choose leaders whose explicit job was to preserve their livelihoods rather than outsource them. The boon to trust and productivity that would arise out of this exchange could foster the changes Mackey advocates for.

Dino Plassaras says …

With such an enlightened philosophy you have, I have but one question: How soon can I get a Whole Foods store in my community?

Mrs. Edwards says …

John, no matter what your political philosophies are you've done a great job with the corporation. I own a lot of stock in Whole Foods, and I am pleased. I not only own stock in it, I shop there. Oh I am also a former leftist/anarchist and now Republican. I live in the SF Bay area, and I've met a lot of other "Whole Foods Republicans". That's what I've called them. I think we're pro-environment, green, capitalistic with a conscious heart (ie, not into hiring illegal aliens, treating employees with dignity, and great health benefits). I applaud your Libertarianism and philosophy!

Wayne Bert says …

Mr. Mackey, I have read your speech, The point that you make and the movement are great in a truly democratic world. I have found that in business, and in life almost all people are asking themselves how does it benefit me? Change come about slowly, because you need to pursuade thinking. My grandmother used to say to plant the seed, (the seed of thought) and people will come to the conclusion on their own. The freedom movement needs to be nurtured in each individual to become a reality. These are just my thoughts, congratulations on your accomplishments and Whole Foods growth it seems you have found that balance.

Jared Levy says …

My comments are in response to Adrian Rush's, he wrote: (2) My wife and I are huge fans of Whole Foods. We shop at our brand-new Alexandria, Va., store every weekend, and I own a small position in the company. I'm also an avid Starbucks fan -- I buy a cup of Caffe Mocha on my way into work every morning. You can probably see where I'm going with this. I think there's a huge overlap in Starbucks and WFMI consumers, and I think you might be missing out on a huge opportunity by not striking a deal with Starbucks to let them set up kiosks in your stores. I think the potential for success would be enormous. Jim Donald visited our company recently for a talk and said that he's friends with you, so I have to imagine this topic has been discussed before between the two of you. If so, I say go for it! I, too, agree that this would be a potentially huge moneymaker for both stores. However, as an avid Starbucks drinker AND a Whole Foods Market team member, I do have the answer to this question. Whole Foods Market owns its own private coffee company called Allegro Coffee. Although I do drink Starbucks, I will admit the quality and freshness of Allegro is unmatched by any coffee I have ever drank. Starbucks may have a large client base, but where they skimp is in the quality of their product, which is a huge core value that Whole Foods Market stands behind. Many of the new WFM's come equipped with their own in-store Allegro coffee bars, which are required to brew a new pot of coffee every half hour, and roast the coffee beans IN THE STORE. You will often be thankful in Starbucks if your coffee simply doesn't taste like stale grinds. Adrian, I urge you to seek out a WFM with an Allegro coffee bar in it, from one Starbucks drinker to another.

Mary MacKay says …

Dear John, I am an WFMI stockholder and career educator (33 years) in North Carolina. My original intention was simply to send you a great photo of your Cary, NC, store with the full moon overhead. However, after reading this entry in its entirety (in an effort to find some sort of way to contact you directly to send the photo), I am feeling compelled to tell you that I adamantly disagree with your views about what you think will "fix" education, and would encourage you to read some of Gerald Bracey's research on issues around education in the U.S. Additionally, I would be most willing to engage in conversation with you on that and related topics. Back to my original intent, though... :-) I wish to award high praise to the employees and management of your Cary store. I was a huge fan of WFMI when I lived in Boulder, CO, and was delighted to find one here, in proximity to where I now live. Enjoy the full moon shot, John! It was a lovely, balmy NC evening, and I simply could not resist the temptation to chronicle post it in my blog. Cheers, and continued success~ Mary MacKay PS But do read up on education reform in the truest sense...

Kathleen Noble says …

Mr. Mackey, you're obviously a very bright and successful man, and a self-actualized individual at the peak of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Your theories seem very logical for all the other fully-functioning achievers out there, but what about those who aren't and never will be? Are you really an Ebeneezer Scrooge who will say "Let them die and decrease the surplus population"? What happens to the millions of well-meaning, hard-working folks living from hand-to-mouth who, for whatever reason, haven't figured out how to make more than $25 or $40K/yr.? I won't even ask about the physically or mentally disabled or the aged and infirm. How is competition in medicine and education going to help the low-income earners and their children, and prevent, ultimately, a classic "haves and have-nots" rebellion? You once lived on a commune, but have you ever worked with a group trying to address the needs of the poor? to understand what a struggle every day poses to them? I missed any reference in your speech to the issues this segment of the population presents, and would be interested in hearing how you believe your plans would affect them. Thank you for allowing the high-achieving, Ayn-Rand-reading daughter of a former John Birch Society member the freedom to share her opinions and concerns. Kathleen Noble

A WFM Employee. says …

Mr. Mackey: Has your hair ever been on fire? Mine either, but I imagine the sensation I felt on my scalp after I opened up your blog to be a reasonable facsimile. Before reading your comments, I was a highly motivated and (so far) successful member of your company. After reading and rereading your ideas, I must revise this description. I am now an incredibly proud and more highly motivated and (hopefully) more successful member of Whole Foods Market. May I say that I have never experienced a truer realization of the responsibility model than I have since working at WFM. My one reservation about WFM- one which I buried somewhere inside my pyramid- is that I might be working for a company that would collapse beneath the weight of bad ideas. Now I know that I can commit myself to the company you founded, without reservation. P.S. I too was inspired by Ms. Rand to explore libertarian philosophy. One point that you fail to mention explicitly: Rand's arguments are flawed insofar as she fails to acknowledge the singular importance of the rule of law in sustaining capitalism. Judges are (to my recollection) not mentioned in Rand's books (except perhaps where Roark is put on trial). Rand is too much the Romantic to accept that "general rules of just conduct (Hayek)"-sin qua non of free markets- may evolve spontaneously. Despite my skepticism over the German Romantic tradition, I greatly appreciate your recitation of Goethe. I will endeavor to test its veracity.

Doug Spak says …

I am blown away by this speech. I thought i was one of the only people who thinks this way. I am an Ayn Randian who probably doesn't view her quite as harshly as Mr. Mackey, but we are on the right track. I too am a Libertarian who believes in absolute freedom. I grew up in a union family that was ultimately devastated by strikes that destroyed the company. Any socialistic thought is doomed to fail. There is, however, one glaring ommission from Mr. Mackey's speech and that is the growing and frightening role that fundamentalist religion is playing in shaping both the world and U.S. Ayn Rand was correct in railing against the "mystics" who impose their moral judgements on all of us. I do not ascribe to a religious belief system. But i will say this: the left, as defined by Mr. Mackey, must become engaged in the religious discussion and "take God back from the right." The Left has ceded the moral highground by its fear of discussing religion. Again, I would prefer that mysticism not be a part of the debate, but I am resigned to the fact that it is inescapable in our culture. The Left must take God away from the Right, lest this country slip into a frightening fundamentalist abyss rivalling that of any Muslim country. Mr. Mackey, bravo! If you are looking for a warrior to fight the good fight, count me in. I suspect there might be more of us here in the heart of Red Country (Cincinnati) than I realize. I'm ready to smoke 'em out in the name of true freedom. DS

Daniel Roeder says …

As a Whole Foods team member for the last 5 years, its always made me smile when I hear others talk about how liberal you must be and how convinced they are you are a Democrat. I only tonight discovered your blog but had previously heard you lean Libertarian. I seem to be on the W3 site much more than this one! Anyway I must say it was a joy to read your keynote speech and realize how much I totally agree with what you have to say. I guess I would say I'm more of a little 'l' libertarian as I believe in the libertarian ideals but just feel the Libertarian party isn't quite there yet. Anyway I just wanted to thank you for posting your wonderful speech and I hope you visit the Jenkintown store sometime soon. It would be an honor to shake your hand.

joshua letcher says …

I agree with you. I was raised to believe that money was a necessary evil and one should have as little of it as possible if they wanted to be close to God. Now i believe that money is a by-product of quality. Pursue money and you will lose both money and quality. Bush is a perfect example of bad business, he has never earned an honest dollar and money flees from him and the money that can't get away from shrinks in worth. He depreciates everything he touches. Making money is a spiritual art. Why do people project onto err? Why do they say, this is what I am when they are within grasp of a superior technique or philosophy? Why instead do they not say all superior techniques and philosophies are my birthright? I believe it was during the 3rd century that the Roman Catholic Church legalized prostitution to prevent certain unhealthy trends that had cropped up at the time. There were even officially sanctioned vatican prostitutes. The sexual energy is the force of human evolution and it cannot be contained. Ignore it and it will run rampant, repress it and it will pervert. It cannot be controlled and those who think it can be are mistaken, what can be done is it can be allowed to express itself in the most beneficial way. Those who have achieved great things in history have learned how to ride the dragon. Mr. Mackey if u are ever at the Tustin store I would like to show you a style of Tai Chi that I innovated. I call it ascending dragon style tai chi, wing chun, chi gung. It is a moving meditation using two people. think of it as wing chun without a dummy. It gives us feed back on what we are emoting and how we are pursuing our desire.

ronald rothwell says …

i am responding to article that was on 60 min. on 6\46. i was so intriged by the way mr. mackey runs his buisness that i had to try and get hold of someone to learn more. thank you. yours truly ronald rothwell

mr. A . Lim says …

Dear, John, Freedom Movement cultures, religions and social trends are restraining us from freedom ( freedom movement). it is not the goverments or individuals ( presidents or head of states). it is the get your freedom movement going is to get everyone to think and act free from cultures, religions and social trends restraint. then get everyone to focus on one thing ,which is to follow the law of nature (rules our creator lay down when it created us) if we can get all the politicians to believe the law of nature, just imagine whate kind of governments they will create. purpose of life - purpose of life is to produce accordance to the law of nature. (goods, services, profits not greedy profits, love, caring & compassions, breath in oxygen and dont forget to breath out carbon dioxide for the plants) we are created by nature to produce for nature, life itself is a contract we have with nature for creating us.


Dear Mr.Mackey, I appreciate all the comments that I have read. There are tons of questions need to be adressed to you. I hope I get a chance to ask you directly one day. I admire you, your ideas and your success. But There seems to me a conflict in one place? How do you put the same place with Ayn Rand's ideas and Grameen Bank's founder Mr. Yunus point of view? Altough English is not my native language, during the college years , I have read all Mrs. Rand's books 19 years ago. It helped me to learn English deeply. I now reside in USA. And who is John Galt for you? I have a great view of expanding Whole Foods internatially. There are great local vendors that have been doing this business long time. I think you should go overseas (some markets) asap which has unique customers that you can not even see in US. Regards

mr. A . Lim says …

Dear, john -about global peace --- The reason why our country is so rich and properous is because we have a good constitution.The constitution is written base on the natural law ( law of nature ).It is not an american idea, it is there since our creation. We just follow it. The market economies, capitalism are all base on law of nature. The question is why there are still so many countries that dont want to follow our system(democracy, market economy), we have proved to the world that it works. While, because to them this is an american idea not the law of nature. If we can proof it to them that we are only follow the law of nature it will be very easy for them to change their mind and follow us.,and there by follow the law of nature and so we can all move forward with the same idea. I believe planet earth belongs to every body ,it shouldnt be divided into countries , just one planet.

Marsha Lindsey says …

I enjoyed your speech (printed in the Orange County Register)so much I ended up reading it twice. I want to know more about the freedom movement. I have called myself a libertarian for some time to distance myself from the Republican and Democratic parties and because from what little I understood, it is closest to the original ideas in the Constitution. I love the idea of embracing higher and idealist needs as part of the freedom movement. That is where the left tempts me, too. I feel like I just discovered a philosophy that fits me perfectly!

TB says …

Do you remember me? TB from Ajijic? Pam, Doc and I used to front you fish from Mejico way back in the early days. You didn't always pay us on time but that's cool considering how much we made on the stock much later on. Things have changed bro; stock is weird but we're cool. What are your plans? stuck half way bewteen hip and rich. We have fled to the Domonican Republic and are building sustainable housing for boomers: $50K for a nice home in a community of spirits - Good Old Grateful Dead. Have never sold a single share of stock. You still owe me some money on a swordfish shipment from Mazatlan but that's cool. Am currently traveling behind the concert doing DVD's. Worked at SAR WFM when they opened. Lovely store.Strange management. But, dude, let's keep this stuff among ourseleves. Am very concerned about stock value - Grateful Dead Marketing has been good to me but with the Rhino thing am a bit distressed as well as the WFM doldrums. Now, all my investments are weird. Am hoping you will pull through - we're really depending on you. TB - Las Terrenas Dominican Republic. Any idea how many of us own the stock? We are everywhere! And we support you. We fear a takeover of corporate supermarket.

michelle says …

Mr. Mackey, how wonderful you write about such inspiring ways the world could change. i voted for ross perot. i have been thrilled by the whole foods ideals for years and shop exclusively there. here in houston, we have 4 stores and ed wulfe is building a 22 acre development with a whole foods as the jewel in the galleria area. recently, i became interested in non-hybrid grapes, apples, beets, potatoes, and corn. i, too sense endless love and creativity in myself and each human being, and i wanted to inspire you to make 1 non-hybrid apple, concord grape, beet, potato, and corn available to your customers. it would save everyone alot, and my research tells me the correct mineral composition and not an imbalance of sugar is contained in the genetically correct foods. i know foundations would donate to make this happen, or a non profit could even be created with the goal of making 1 non-hybrid choice per vegetable/fruit on the whole food shelves available. if we plan to change the world, we must fuel our bodies with non pesticide, minerally balanced, not sugaroverloaded and calcium draining genetically modified foods. the grape seed extract alone would be worth it! ( the seeds pop & crunch like God's rock candy) yes, a pilot program-- the austin and houston area growers could really enjoy this fulfilling new challenge. i heard they have original apple seed in india--CHANGE THE FACE OF HEALTHCARE by every nonGMO molecule ya eat! sincerely, your BEST Houston customer, Michelle

Angela says …

Maslow's hierarchy, the skeptical environmentalist,, "whatever you can...Begin it": If I'm not careful I might make good on my dream to work for Fresh Fields(WFM)long ago after abandoning any thought of ever completing my postgrad clinicals in nutrition after experiencing how ineffective I'd be as a hospital clinician. Mr. Mackey you've awakened that old resolve I once held, that I could do whatever I could dream.And, here in Decatur, Alabama @ another food retailer I wondered why I felt it time to move on .. perhaps, that I'm no longer a member of the sandwich generation, or that my favorite sibling & companion animals have taken off their veils of flesh recently.. or, just maybe, because a Birmingham, Al store is in development, per Andrea R., WFM Prepared Foods Dept. She came through my Deli line and encouraged me to look out for WFM just as I'd begun to entertain thoughts of doing something about the epidemic of processed foods masquerading as good old southern cuisine. The southeast needs an intervention! It cannot thrive on Mountain Dew, restaurant chain cuisine & nicotine.Less known aspire to any level of Maslow's hierarchy. I'm encouraged Mr. Mackey.

Mark says …

Mr. Mackey thank you for sharing your speech. As an Objectivist I respectively disagree with your assessment of Ms. Rand. However, I'm gladdened that you were able to accept a change in your views once you were confronted with reality. That is quite admirable. Also, I would like to add, simply as clarification to 'WFM Employee's' critique of Rand that "she fails to acknowledge the singular importance of the rule of law in sustaining capitalism." As I'm sure it was an oversight on WFME's part, she forgot about the important role of Judge Narragansett in protecting objective law. Further, when the strikers are ready to return, the Judge is given a most important task: "The rectangle of light in the acres of a farm was the window of the library of Judge Narragansett. He sat at a table, and the light of his lamp fell on the copy of an ancient document. He had marked and crossed out the contradictions in its statements that had once been the cause of its destruction. He was now adding a new clause to its pages: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade..." p. 1167-8

john beck says …

The freedom movement has also poorly defended the social legitimacy of both business and free market.

Ray Paradise says …

John, Thanks for all your hard work! I was wondering if you've read Thomas Szasz at all? If not, I recommend you check out his Libertarian work, especially "The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement:" Thanks, Ray

shredder says …

Becoming an entrepreneur or simply a business man completely changed my life. Everything I believed about business was proven to be wrong.Being like this we all can do this battle.

Sean McGuire says …

I agree with many of your points, however I do not agree that environmental destruction has been exaggerated. I've seen noticeable environment change just in the last 33 years, to the point that UV exposure is worse than ever (thanks ozone hole!), air quality is noticably worse, especially thanks to pollution from Mexico and largely unregulated industry everywhere, and rampant, not sensible, environmentally sustainable, development is destroying quality of life in Austin and elsewhere. I know that you are not advocating complete disregard for the environment, but too many times greed is the primary consideration when it comes to real estate development. Economic pressures overshadow environmental concerns until it's too late. Can industry actually be good for the environment? The social environment yes, the actual environment, rarely. Only if the product and every part of the process of manufacturing it lessens rather than increases pollution. Organic food and farmed goods are one of the best products- now if we can just reduce packaging waste and run all of our trucks on biodiesel or pure vegetable oil. Check out for more environmentally friendly ideas. Thank you, and keep up the good fight. Sincerely, Sean McGuire

Angela T says …

I totally agree with the idea that the way to freedom is through economics. Therefore, it greatly disappoints me that Whole Foods removed Lake Victoria Perch from the seafood counter, based on what I understand to be misguided attempt to keep the region from moving to a cash economy. The reports I have read indicate that an overwhelming majority of the natives in that region believe the commercial fisheries and the economic development they bring to be positive. Plus, to be totally honest here - I really like the fish. :) Please reconsider the decision.

smartboard says …

Angela! you are right regarding the point "Economics" as a source of freedom but commercial fisheries are indeed adding much mess to the ecosystem of surroundings so I would ask you to reconsider your love for commericial fisheries.

Larry Morse says …

Hi John. My name is Larry Morse, and I work for WFM in Ft. Lauderdale. I read your "World View" and I agree with what you`re saying. I just don`t think everyone who works with us feels the same. I think most are caught up in the "Corporate Way" because of how big the company is. I run my day to day life similar to what you describe, and am wondering if our philosophy can actually work on the level I believe could change everything. Thank you sincerely,a very happy Team Member. PS: please open more stores in Charleston, S.C.

steven millard says …

I would like to comment that the privatization of the school system, lofty an ideal as it is, is a flawed ideal. The public school system was founded so that all children might receive an education regardless of economic background. Sadly, some parents are not in a position to make just or sound decisions when it comes to their economic well being and for the education of their children. A privatized school system would do nothing more than ensure that the children with the most affluent parents will get the best education. We would all like to drive the safest car on the road, but not all of us are in a position to afford that safety. Does that make us any less a parent than the parent that can afford the safest car on the road?

Tacker says …

As the slavery example illustrates, freedom – economic, political and civil – is an end in itself, not a means to an end. We would abhor slavery even if it were a more productive economic system. But economic freedom is also an indispensable means of achieving other freedoms. Milton Friedman cites the case of British citizens who could not spend a vacation in the United States after World War II because of exchange controls. Their freedom was no less restricted than that of US citizens unable to visit the Soviet Union because of their political views. While the first restriction was ostensibly an economic limitation on freedom and the other a political limitation, the practical results were essentially the same.

Jo says …

I have just one thing to say: No matter what philosophy you ascribe to this is one basic truth: THE MORE YOU HAVE, THE LESS YOU ARE. Wisdom never came from a rich man.

Ken Dryden says …

I want to know more about the freedom movement. I have called myself a libertarian for some time to distance myself from the Republican and Democratic parties and because from what little I understood, it is closest to the original ideas in the Constitution.

Scott Brison says …

I know that you are not advocating complete disregard for the environment, but too many times greed is the primary consideration when it comes to real estate development. Economic pressures overshadow environmental concerns until it's too late. Can industry actually be good for the environment? The social environment yes, the actual environment, rarely.

poorboy says …

I was very impressed with your monolouge (not speech), or more like a whimsical political diatribe. I do not shop at WFM because as you said it yourself..." exploiting our customers with high prices and our employees with lower wages. The investors weren't making a profit and we had no money to donate". Did you take a page from the Walmart playbook? The more things change the more they stay the same. Live left live free.

li an says …

I reprint John Mackey's concluding paragraph in the section on environmental sustainability here: "Maintaining environmental sustainability is in the collective best interest of everyone. No one will argue that premise. The real question is, "What are the best ways to do it?" What are the trade-offs we need to make? When the freedom movement ignores the issue of environmental sustainability, the Left will dominate the discussion of the issues. Remember that the Left's goal remains to either destroy or cripple capitalism. The freedom movement must embrace the ideal of environmental sustainability, but must bring to the debate its commitment to property rights, markets and proper incentives to effectively resist the inevitable Leftist arguments for more bureaucratic controls and regulations." May I paraphrase? Here he is saying: The environment is in trouble, it is deteriorating, hence capitalist economic activity needs to change such that the environment stops deteriorating (further) and can still be maintained and sustained at a static homeostasis at least as regards it getting worse. Sustainability has this meaning. His opening paragraph on this topic posits that the ongoing deterioration of the environment is not as bad as some people say it is, and though this would have to be a value judgment, and he anticipates an audience that would be convinced by him because he tells them of someone wrote a book to that effect, though we (the audience members) know there are a lot of scientific studies which consistently provide the information Mackey- paid for by industries which pollute- call 'doom and gloom' as if to pooh-pooh it. But contrary to this not so bad idea of the prospects for the earth's environment, Mackey finds his (so-called?) "freedom movement" to be remiss if it does not jump on the bandwagon and make the cause of "environmental sustainability" its own with its own placards, which would read: NO to regulations that prohibit pollution and environmental degradation! NO to environmental protection regulations telling private enterprises what they can and cannot do to the environment! NO to these things because they aim to cripple or destroy capitalism! NO to the Left, they only want to destroy or cripple capitalism; they use environmental regulations and environmental issues for this ulterior motive! REJECT ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION THAT IS BASED ON DOOM AND GLOOM PROJECTIONS, IT IS THE ENEMIES OF CAPITALISM WHO ARE AT WORK! So, we see that the freedom movement, which wants free enterprise, free markets and free trade wants to be free from governmental regulations designed for the purpose of environmental protection. The freedom movement is so-called to be a movement, like a popular movement, but in essence it is a defensive movement by those members of the business world who are sensitive to that they lose money, essentially, due to environmental regulations. So, as they are capitalist, in that they generate capital which they can access to create more wealth, by investment in expanding their business, cornering more resources, etc., they see anything that hampers opportunities that is man-made, to be men against capitalism (men/women whatever). But this is because they are against being hampered, not that protection of the environment is against capitalism or business! Quite to the contrary, sustainable alternatives are seen by those who are the best educated and infromed on environmental issues to be hopeful in that clearly they represent a whole new area for business development just begging for support and capital investment. Why is that those who have that capital resist making these kinds of choices as they invest and reinvest profit for the purpose of creating future wealth producing economic pipelines? They recuse themselves, saying that market forces are their God, and the demand is too small. The profit margins remain good on the polluting pipelines, so they want them to continue, and say it is that force beyond their power and control which demands that these polluting ways must continue on some more and that date projected for doom is farther away than the doom and gloomers say, so therefore we can trade off and be UN-sustainable for a longer period of time, be far less proactive than those regulations would enforce us to be. For what, John Mackey, do you mean beyond the vague question taking it all back to the drawing board as if that is where we are at this juncture in time, just arriving NOW at the drawing board? What trade offs (in other words, where shall a profit taking opportunity be forsaken in the interest of envirnmental preservation, and where shall preservation of a habitat or an ecosystem, or the control of the human generated carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere be forsaken in the interest of allowing the generation of profits for certain companies and industries (at the expense, as well, of the profitability and growth of the clean-alternatives industries? The question is phrased because it says as its premise that regulations are rejected by the "freedom" movement, and the (said)"movement" of these profiteering top echelon big business capitalists (exclusive of younger capitalists who want to grow alternative products and services industries to compete with the older dirtier and hence outdated but well financed ones)creates a brand new premise based on its ad campaign to roll back the dialog and make it so that in the conversation of environmental protection the level we'll ultimately be willing to sustain will be much more deteriorated than now before WE think its called for, hence the new premise that NOW you can introduce the idea that forsaking, in a trade off, environmental protection is OK! And yet, I agree, there is no reason at all why the environment should be associated only with the Left. Conservative Christians seeing the horrific degradation of the environment already here before us on our earth, have made the environment their issue, as a duty as Christians and devout followers of the Bible. I doubt they think, however that trading off is the thing to do. As for What to do or How to do it, as John asks in the cited paragraph of his, WHAT to do is fully researched. The question is WHO will do it. Will business regulate itself? Will it do things that cost it money or convenience? Will it invest in things that need to sait a few fiscal quarterly reports before they pay off? The answer is NO they won't! You are really very unconvincing, John Mackey, as a source of helpful answers to our environmental OR food safety problems. Its rather scary that you use the issues to make enemies of those who are active on behalf of these issues, and weaken their voice, accuse it of being against capitalism even if big business and large above-the-law corporations continue to try to write themselves in AS the government controlling our future and obliterating the democratically elected and sanctioned government powers on behalf of the common good, not the good of the few. Your idea, for example that education should be privatized is absurd, for this means it is those with large capital who can get into a whole new industry (they and only they)as to be big is requisite to success (just as Whole Foods vs. the old struggling Safer Way grocery store showed and convinced you)but when you make it for profit, it cost more than just its cost, to the consumer, who needs to pay over and above so you'll have your profit, and as market forces will operate, you'll get what you pay for (actually a problem we have already as local districts pay for their own schools) so the rich will get the best and the poor will get a very bad education "product". Their children will not be equal to rich children who were able to get a top education. So why would you want to do such a thing? To make MONEY!! You guys are so transparent! But WHY are you so married to this idea of privatizing absolutley everything, and hamstringing government, and calling it freedom, when democracy is what freedom is because we have a VOTE, but we cannot vote for YOU businessmen, you do what you want! I am forced to buy from among your monopolies or go without (my only vote is my wallet's "ballots"). I really wish John Mackey would address every point and do so meticulously, with no tangents, follow MY thought on this one paragraph, and I do not want to be referred to any books others wrote, he's got to stand and be counted on all these points alone by himself, and leave nothing out of all the analysis I have made.

Interested Reader says …

Li An ~ If it were possible to follow your point in this long and rambling rant, perhaps Mr. Mackey would address it. However, you just come across as someone who likes to hear themself talk. I think you need to re-read his points and perhaps broaden your horizon.

Jan Rapoport says …

I agree with your philosophy and ideals. I am working towards the same end. I will go to flow and find out all the wonderful possibilities there. Thank you John Mackey for all you are and all you do. I am greatly inspired by your committment to everyone in the world...where everyone can be happy and free. Rave on!

Anne Chai says …

As a fellow Libertarian, I wholeheartedly agree. It's a shame that many colleges don't make Hayek, Milton, Strauss and Rand required reading at the undergrad level. I've discovered that an open-exchange of ideas (ALL ideas)and healthy debates are sadly lacking in our so-called institutions of higher learning. Thanks again for sharing.

Rick Gaber says …

Consider the possibility that you've been trapped in the same strait-jacket of the "definition of selfishness" package deal. To heal this sore I have proposed it be pointed out that THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF SELFISHNESS: THE GOOD KIND AND THE BAD KIND. The bad kind, of course, is taking advantage of unwilling others. THE GOOD KIND IS TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY FIRST, FOREMOST, AND TO THE DEGREE YOU YOURSELF DEEM PROPER -- AS WELL AS THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Once people consider that, I've found the term "selfish" has lost its pejorative connotations forever for them. "The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word 'selfishness' is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual 'package-deal,' which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind." -- Ayn Rand, here: The BEST way to meet this challenge is to FACE IT HEAD ON -- NOT to run away from it, Mr. Mackey.

WE Alley Jr says …

Was actually looking to praise the Whole Foods community for their being the best employer anywhere on letting their employees be themselves. Case in point: I am a Beard Advocate, a promoter and defender for the rights of men to keep and grow their beards in the workplace and elsewhere - staunchly and continually doing so for nearly 28 years. In my profession (media) beard discrimination has been overwhelming, but this decade's massive break-out of bearding amongst men worldwide, along with corporations like Whole Foods that are beard-friendly, has helped greatly to give all men confidence to stand for their innate character and DNA not to be violated anymore. Such presence was the case - a magnificent beard behind the meat counter at Providence RI's Waterman Avenue store. He's not the first I've found in my visits to various Whole Foods locations (as I love the stores), but this one I wish I'd photographed; it was the very first time I've ever seen a beard bonnet rest at the bottom of the whiskers. An epic moment! Reading your speech was amazingly heartwarming. I've been through the phases of leaning left, right, and then not leaning at all as a Libertarian. You've covered about 98% of my own outlook on life, and this further cements what I find so fulfilling at the stores. Every one is a community within a community; a melting pot of people and ideas, nestled around some of the world's best provisions. I am as involved with things like Food Democracy Now and the IRT (Institute for Responsible Technology) as others in your employ probably are, and can appreciate the direct, no-nonsense approach your marketing efforts make in keeping me informed, pleasantly surprised, and nourished in body, spirit and mind. (Yeah, soul too.) This store truly is a testament to making ideas work, making work pleasant and inclusive, and most of all, making success. Imagine if a nation ran as steady as a Whole Foods market? It can happen. Thanks for your candor and this post - and most of all - your people, philosophy and position as marketer with conscience, heart and vitality! -Bill Alley, Radio & Internet Creator/Host/Producer & Consultant