Whole Foods CEO Makes Moral Case for Capitalism

Too many believe that capitalism is based upon unethical principles, such as greed, selfishness and exploitation, according to John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, a chain of grocery stores that sells organic food. He is trying to change that narrative in a forthcoming book, The Morality of Capitalism, which argues that capitalism is fundamentally ethical.

Whole Foods grocery store worker Adam Pacheco (L) stacks vegetables while customers shop in the produce section at the Whole Foods grocery story in Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 8, 2012. | (Photo: REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)

"Business is the greatest value creator in the world. Business creates value for its customers, its employees, its suppliers, for its investors, for the larger communities ... we are the value creators. We are the heroes, and yet, that's not the narrative that's told about business," Mackey told Reason Magazine's Matt Welch.

People believe that business and capitalism is "fundamentally selfish, greedy, and exploitative," and that corporations are "sociopaths" and "fundamentally evil," Mackey said, but he hopes to change that belief.

His new book will also challenge businesses to "be more conscience and take their value creation to a higher level ... understanding that all of these stake holders they are creating value for are connected together."

Mackey stirred up some controversy in 2009 when The Wall Street Journal published a Mackey op-ed on health care reform while a national debate was taking place over the Affordable Care Act, which was passed 2010. Mackey's ideas were mostly consistent with conservative and libertarian ideas on reforming health care.

The Whole Foods website was flooded with angry comments from Whole Foods shoppers who supported President Obama's reform proposals. Some bloggers wondered why Mackey would support a conservative position when organic shoppers typically lean toward the liberal end of the political spectrum.

In the interview, Welch noted that those who tend to favor organic and support the "slow food" movement tend to also support increased government regulation. When asked why he believes this is the case, Mackey answered, "There seems to be something in human nature that wants to restrict other people's choices. Some people seem to not be happy unless they are telling other people what to do -- that they know best."

The interview took place at Freedomfest, a conference last month in Las Vegas promoting libertarian ideas. Mackey was a keynote speaker. See below for a video of the full interview.

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