In “Conscious Capitalism,” [John] Mackey’s first book, the 59-year-old founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Markets offers nothing less than a full-throated psalm for the power of free markets to create value and lift humanity.
Yet at its core, and true to Mackey’s ability to avoid those hard-and-fast labels, the book also delivers a pointed critique on how capitalism can lead business astray if its practice isn’t grounded in a sound ethical foundation.
“If everybody is always calculating what’s to their advantage, and no one comes with generosity, or kindness, or compassion, or forgiveness — higher virtues — your society starts to break down,” Mackey said in an interview at his company’s Austin headquarters. “I actually think that’s what’s happening in America right now.”
For much of American industrial history, Mackey said, free-market capitalism was underpinned by a sense of Judeo-Christian values.Capitalism is simply choice. Adam Smith's famous insight that no one enters into an agreement unless they think that by doing so they will improve their situation. Mackey's company sells one of the necessities of life (food), and no one is forced to buy it from him--and at the prices he charges, it's amazing that many do--they have options.
If one wants to decry non-'Judeo-Christian values', there are plenty of candidates at which to aim, but they wouldn't be honest businessmen merely offering products and jobs to people who are free to reject the offers.