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Mackey Regarding Word Choice on Health Care

In an interview with NPR on Wednesday, Whole Foods Market co-CEO John Mackey discussed his new book, Conscious Capitalism, along with other topics such as health care. Today, John revisited his remarks on the Huffington Post and we are sharing them here.

I made a poor word choice to describe our health care system, which I definitely regret. The term fascism today stirs up too much negative emotion with its horrific associations in the 20th century.  While I'm speaking as someone who works hard to offer health care benefits to more than 73,000 team members, who actually vote on their overall benefits packages, I am very concerned about the uninsured and those with preexisting conditions. 

I believe that, if the goal is universal health care, our country would be far better served by combining free enterprise capitalism with a strong governmental safety net for our poorest citizens and those with preexisting conditions, helping everyone to be able to buy insurance. This is what Switzerland does and I think we would be much better off copying that system than where we are currently headed in the United States.

I believe that health care should be competitive in the open market to promote innovation and creativity. Despite the criticism of me, I am encouraged that this dialogue will bring continued awareness and a better understanding of viable health care options for all Americans. There is an alternative to mandated health care in free enterprise capitalism based on voluntary exchange for mutual gain. This alternative allows individuals and businesses to innovate and develop customized solutions to health care where a “one size fits all approach” fails.  Creativity and progress are stifled when government regulations dictate the parameters of what health care plans can be offered. Creative businesses, and the people who work them, can make something that has value for all stakeholders.

I need a new word or phrase to describe the state of health care now because it is something that I, like all folks entrusted with the wellbeing of a team, grapple with daily in this era.  I think for now I will simply call it government-controlled health care to distinguish it from free enterprise capitalist health care.  Clearly, I would prefer free enterprise capitalism in health care because it would greatly increase innovation and progress —just like it does in every other aspect of our lives, wherever it is allowed to exist. I hope those who are my critics, would recognize that we are all after an improved state of society, and not be distracted by the poor use of an emotionally charged word. 

If you would like to hear more from John, you can listen to him here:

CBS This Morning: “Bad Choice of Words”

Huffington Post

NPR Interview Part 1

NPR Interview Part 2

You can read more about John, his philosophy and his new book, Conscious Capitalism at:

Forbes: “Why Companies Should Embrace Conscious Capitalism”

Financial Post: “Making Money Need Not Be A Zero-Sum Game”

Investor Business Daily “John Mackey Built Healthy Food Empire”

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1163 comments

Comments

Ian says …

Let me simply state what I think of the remark Mr. John Mackey made. I was planning on shopping at the Whole Foods store in Vauxhall, New Jersey tomorrow, but I will no longer set foot in, or spend any of my money in your stores in the future.

Mdot says …

You have lost my business. Get with the program. All the money you have made and you will not invest in your people. Shame on you.

Mdot says …

You have lost my business. Get with the program. All the money you have made and you will not invest in your people. Shame on you.

Robin says …

I totally support Mr. Mackey. It's unfortunate that Americans can no longer speak the truth without the Obama-mania media going crazy. Does anyone else feel that we live in an upside down world now, where "good is bad" and "right is wrong" and anyone who doesn't adhere to the politically correct mantra is an outcast? Mr. Mackey's absolutely correct in what he says. People do not want to hear the ugly truth; it's easier to stick heads in the sand and pretend it's not happening, but the U.S. is quickly going down the tubes. Forcing Americans to purchase health insurance is not freedom, people! Look around and see how inch by inch we're losing the freedoms that made us a great nation. Getting people to be dependent on government welfare/handouts is a first step. Look how many new welfare recipients have joined the rolls in the past 4 years. Do you want the government telling you what to eat, where to live, what to drive, when you can have an operation, and on and on? It's slavery repackaged. Wake up, please!

Amber W. Grain says …

I will not be shopping at the new Whole Foods when you open in Tallahassee. The language you used to describe the Affordable Care Act and the President was completely inappropriate and I encourage you to do your homework on Fascism. I'm happy to shop at our home-grown coop New Leaf Market and Florida's Publix. We don't need you. I don't think you realize the damage you have done to your reputation and the reputation of Whole Foods.

susan says …

Sometimes a bell cannot be unrung.. I personally believe He spoke his true feelings.. and only regrets that people do not like it. and that it hurts the pocket book.. I will shop at trader joes and sprouts from now on... good bye whole foods..

Brad White says …

What is free market health care? Free market health care wasn't in existence prior to the Affordable Care Act, unless one considers reimbursement levels set by insurance companies that have monopolies in each state in the country a free market.

Brian Wooton says …

Odd how Facebook comments are much more negative as a whole compared to these. A little editing, perhaps?

Kevin Casey says …

Mr. Mackey's explanation does nothing to change my mind about never shopping at Whole Foods again. I would do anything to avoid putting a penny in that man's pocket. I am able to afford the extravagant costs, but there are alternatives, such as Metropolitan Market in the Seattle area, and other places that don't let GMO trash in the door. I am sure I won't be missed, but I wonder what a real boycot would look like - one can only hope.

Sharon Ka says …

I will not be shopping at Whole Foods in Madison, Wi anymore. i think you can guess the reasons why. John Mackey needs to resign.

Jake Trussell says …

I'm glad you regret using the word fascism to describe Obamacare, but you go on to say the reason you regret it is because it's got so much baggage attached to it "from the middle of the 20th century when you had Germany & Italy & Spain that were fascist, and people still associate that with it." Wasn't the term coined by the Mussolini dictatorship? When was fascism ever not have baggage attached to it? You go on to say "Of course I was just using the standard dictionary definition" (really? http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fascism). "Now fascism is a damaged word, it's got so much baggage attached to it that you can't use it in a casual conversation without people being very upset about it." You don't think that had been the case before "now?" You also say you'd like to see our healthcare system go toward free enterprise capitalism. Haven't we been headed down that road, and here we are at the back of the pack of developed countries when it comes to quality and accessibility of healthcare? http://www.businessinsider.com/best-healthcare-systems-in-the-world-2012-6?op=1

Amber W. Grain says …

The grocery business can be driven by the market economy -- but we've made a mess of healthcare with market driven forces. Do your research, please.

Bark says …

My late Mother said that money does not necessarily buy brains. After many years of shopping at Wholefoods, I shall give it a miss. The fact that he tries to substitute fascism with some other concoction is what upsets me most. Either stick to your guns or change. But DO not take me for a fool. Our whole office feels the same way.

Brian Wooton says …

Retract as I read further. Nope. Folks hate you as badly here as on Facebook. What was he thinking? Did he think that a majority of his customers were persuadable on this? What an utterly idiotic thing to say!

Brian Wooton says …

Retract as I read further. Nope. Folks hate you as badly here as on Facebook. What was he thinking? Did he think that a majority of his customers were persuadable on this? What an utterly idiotic thing to say!

Laurie Dunn says …

I have been a loyal Whole Foods customer for 20+ years, but I will NEVER, EVER shop at your stores again. John Mackey should be ashamed. Many Americans, including his customers, desperately need guaranteed access to health insurance. The private sector has failed miserably at this. Fascism? I call it "compassion".......a quality which your CEO is sorely lacking.

Terry Burke says …

Absolutely outrageous!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been a Whole Foods shopper since their store opened in River Forest, IL and then here in Mpls. NO MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Our health care system for profit is a mess. Insurance executives make tens of millions from peoples insurance payments. Our bloated idiotic private insurance bureaucracy is making us the most expensive country in the world for healthcare while we rank no where near the top in actual health care. Good bye Whole Foods!

Peter Giles says …

Good to know Whole foods sells no subsidized food from the good ole American Taxpayer, that it does does not except food stamps paid for by taxpayers and sells no GMO. Even better to know that you've kicked Monsanto off your board. Hypocrite. If Govt is in health Ins, is Govt in food? Shame on you.

JelliDonut says …

"...with a strong governmental safety net for our poorest citizens and those with preexisting conditions..." Apparently one of Mackey's goals is to add to the number of poorest citizen foisted onto our government. Way to go, John.

Jane says …

As a shareholder, I object vehemently to John Macket shooting his mouth off in a way guaranteed to alienate and antagonize Whole Foods primary customer base. He's wrong, of course, but entitled to his personal opinion. What he's not entitled to do as a CEO is screw both his shareholders and his employees by doing things like this. It's obviously not the first time he's done this, and I'm starting to wonder about the state of his mental health that he would give himself permission to do something so stupid and so destructive. When is the board going to hold this man to account?

Ed Vaughn says …

I used to think that Whole Foods was a great place to go and buy foods (and other products) that were good for you. In light of the thinking by one of the founders I can say that from now on I will be doing all of my shopping at the local farmer's market and co-op. Whole Foods has become too full of itself and now is just another corporation looking out for the CEO and its shareholders. As for socialism, yes, I believe that the government has a role in helping out everyone, not just the privileged few. So, Whole Foods, I bid you adieu!

Sue Thaxton says …

Done with Whole Foods today. You want to bring crazy politics constantly into your store concept go ahead. I'll shop Trader Joes and Lakewinds in MN. There are choices and I quit choosing you. Now if I can get 1,000 other people who spent the $300 last month I did at your store, and they get two friends, and they get two friends, maybe you would notice the impact a bit more.

Ann says …

Right on...I'll be spending more dollars at Whole Foods.

Ann says …

Right on....I'll be spending more dollars at Whole Foods.

Karen McMillan says …

I have just listened to Mackey's interview and I will not shop at Whole Foods again. To call the President a fascist shows an ignorance of what a fascist government really is, and further, is designed to incite a negative emotional response in people. Where is the thoughtful and reasoned argument, based on facts and knowledge? When someone lacks knowledge they usually resort to these types of outrageous comments and comparisons. Stick to selling food (but no longer to me) Mackey, and don't presume that just because you have a successful company that you have any special insight into issues that are much more complex than being an employer to 73,000 employees.

Brenda Barkushky says …

It is tough to register the extent of my voltage of resentment I feel. My relatives were gassed under fascism. My parents were exploited by companies which refused to pay their healthcare yet off their sweaty labor had great insurance policies for their families. The Whole Foods prices ensure a huge profit. They can afford it. And why is it that Republicans always castigate and disrespect a Democratic President, while others show decency at least when their idiotic choices are in office? WE now have choices here and we shall shop elsewhere. Mackey's treating me like an idiot when he thinks the use of another word will blunt or fool me into thinking that gives a damn about his workers. I hope his family enjoy great health and no doubt great insurance coverage ...just in case.

Stephanie says …

I sold individual and group health insurance for 21 years. The so called free market system meant that some of my clients couldn't get health insurance and some saw their premiums go up when an employee had a large claim. That was just how it "worked." By having everyone pay for health insurance as the new law requires, the risk is spread out over a larger pool. I have shopped at WF for several years, but I will not be going there anymore. There are plenty of other places to shop.

Celia Abbott says …

While i read your statement, I still believe you meant what you said the first time. You see your employees as serfs to secure your personal fortune. So why pay a decent wage or provide health care. If one dies there is always someone else to hire. I will not be shopping at your stores anymore.

Richard Host says …

Bad choice indeed....bad choice of CEO. I will never understand why a CEO, or other executives in the corporate world feel the need to spread their religious and political views through their business. You're not politicians, you're not preachers.....just sell your goods and services. Anything more is just bad for business. We really don't care. I personally keep a list of businesses that try to push their views on me in my wallet. It's a reminder of where to shop, and where not to. I have many choices...

Basil Hamdan says …

After listening to Mr. mackey's interview today, I will never shop at Whole Foods, and will do my best to urge my friends and family not to shop at that store in order to prevent the sheer greed, arrogance, lack of compassion and selfishness of this owner from benefiting from me or from anyone else. He cares little about his "team members" and has a flawed and distorted view of reality.

B Knep says …

Your comment is wrong "There is an alternative to mandated health care in free enterprise capitalism based on voluntary exchange for mutual gain. This alternative allows individuals and businesses to innovate and develop customized solutions to health care where a “one size fits all approach” fails" You may want it to work that way but over the last 40 years all the alternative free market solutions have done is deny healthcare to cancer patients for pre-existing conditions, caused millions to not be able to have any healthcare because their employers like you refuse to pay a living wage or have any benefits.Doctors do double testing because there is no tort reform and run the costs way up. Medication companies overcharge for medicines because they can so people can't afford them without insurance. Now insurance is outrageously denying people or claims. Unfortunately, healthcare is going the way of poverty handled by free enterprise which allows people to walk the streets with suitcases, beg on street corners and sleep in tent cities. What are you hoping for tent clinics for the poor? Will your company sponsor them? No You don't even want your employees to have healthcare. But I bet you have healthcare. Millions of people in this country don't. Millions and that is what free market has accomplished in 40 years. . .

heath nash says …

God, why do I shop at your stores? You desperately need a new CEO with good judgment. What is your board of directors thinking? This guy's ego and mouth are turning away customers like me. Bad business.

Antonio Fernandez says …

We're in the health care mess that we are in because of private enterprise's aim: to make money for stockholders. Highest costs, poorer outcomes.

Kay Faupel says …

Read your Co-CEO's clarification, I was incensed by his statements. CEO's from other companies have found stepping into the political arena bad for business.

Nancy B says …

After listening to Mr. Mackey describe government health care as fascist, I will not be shopping at Whole Foods any longer. I went at least once a week for the past 10 years. I will now go out of my way to find an alternative. Mr. Mackey seems very out of touch with the needs of Americans who can't afford private health care. Saying health care for all citizens is fascist was a deliberate word choice. I was listening to the interview. The leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is extraordinary medical bills.

Thomas R. Forno says …

Mr. Mackey, I have not yet read your book, but I look forward to hearing what you have to say. I would say though that most capitalists do not care whether employees have adequate health insurance. I would also say that I do not want health insurance decisions made by those whose renumeration is based on how much money they make for their employer, in other words, by capitalists. I would rather those decisions be left to impartial government BUREAUCRATS. Our health care system is in free-fall. The citizens of almost all major industrial countries in the world, probably including Switzerland, receive better health care, for less money, than that available to Americans.

Mario says …

I've shopped at our local Whole Foods to the tune of $100 a week for years. Never again. Mr. Mackey can waffle and talk about his precious "team" all he wants. Anything for a buck I guess.

Kelly Haner says …

I fully appreciate a business person who tries to support his employees in the best possible way. Many businesses find themselves in this position now, moving to a larger part-time employee base. Basic economics drives this with the new regulations in place. It's a perfectly fine wish to want to provide for everyone, but at the end of the day, if businesses can't make money they go out of business...which leaves far more people without jobs, much less healthcare options.

dansherman says …

Whole Foods is now sullied with comments from a CEO that likes to use negative labels. I feel like stuff costs enough there that the employees would be offered health care. Whole Foods is off my list for shopping until there is a leader for a CEO rather than the present ill spoken Mackey. The health care system is more about profit than human well being. Free enterprise must have a conscience...not more drivel about conscious capitalism. Whole Foods FAIL. I really won't feel right about shopping there.

Ed from Jersey says …

I shop at Whole Foods not because I care about their political views but because of the quality of the food. That said, I think I pay enough for their food that a portion of it should benefit the employees by providing them with health care. Why is it that CEO's think they deserve their million dollar salaries, fat bonuses, and fat stock options, but the lowest people on their totem pole don't deserve the most basic human element? CEO's need to factor in the human element into their business model.

Mike says …

You don't get it, John. It's NOT the word. It's what you meant by it. Every time you open your mouth you belittle and belie the very mission and values statement on this website. I don't need you and your company. Today, I have too many good alternatives.

emdoyle says …

Do you provide healthcare for your employees? Or are they forced to find something for themselves like so many other big companies? You say you support universal health care - we all do, including the President. But when CEOs don't try to lead the way on an issue such as this, and, instead, sit back passively and then criticize the outcome, that's just ridiculous. You think of yourself as a job creator, but if you don't offer health insurance, you're only doing half of what is needed and relying on the government to pick up the slack. Good work.

Peter Dwyer says …

I am your target demographic. Upper middle class with disposable income middle aged and not just shopping for a deal. I follow the whole food movement and eat organic. I will not shop at any of your locations again while Mackey is there. If I feel this way, others do also. Nuff said.

C J Rapp says …

I won't set foot or buy another product from Whole Foods until Mackey is replaced. Good Bye

Pam says …

Bravo! Your 1st statement was correct. Do not apologize. No citizen should ever expect their government to owe them anything. Hence the problem. I promise you have won over so many more guests into your stores than those who are boycotting......be brave and apologize no more. BTW I'm in the CPG business and remain very impressed by you and "Conscious Capitalism"!!!! In my 31st year in this business, and every day is new!!!!!

Dan H. says …

John is dead on. All you folks crying about someone's freedom to speak as he chooses ought to educate yourselves and read something besides whatever your communist sympathizing professors told you to read. The guy even said crony capitalism is wrong, what you Libs don't understand is that more government and socialist inspired policies only promote bigger incompetent government and crony capitalism. I already was a loyal customer for numerous reasons, i'm just glad there may be a few less angry burn-out commies at the store

Bob Schout says …

I am so angry about your CEO's comparison and find it even more insulting that he apologizes only for his "choice of words"; typical of conservatives who want the money of all Americans (including liberals) but don't want all Americans to have the same benefits as everyone else. Your company makes ENORMOUS PROFITS and now penalizes employees (as implied in your CEO's comments) for what they rightly deserve (HEALTH CARE). I have shopped at Whole Foods for years in Santa Fe and in many other cities to which I travel, but NOT ANYMORE. My partner and I, and 4 other friends have all agreed not to shop there anymore. Trader Joes and other markets will get our business.

Margaret Peacock says …

Ummm... Fascism? You obviously don't know your consumer. You are so far removed from the the everyday people who buy from your store. Not to worry. From now on it's Publix "Greenwise" for me. I'm done with Whole Foods.

Kay says …

So now John Mackey is taking his rant to Fox News? Ludicrous and craven. So long.

Denis Robitaille says …

Mr. Mackey, you do not know what the meaning of fascism is. What Republican-controlled legislatures do to gerrymander electoral districts, suppress voting, and disadvantage unions is far closer to fascism than anything Obama and Democrats have done. I have been a patron of your stores, the profits of which do not seem to have declined due to health care reforms. As long as you keep speaking nonsense that actually brings fascism of the kind I describe closer, my wife and I will no longer shop in your stores.

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