You might remember the brouhaha when Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey came out against government-backed health care reform this summer. You may also recall the incident about two years ago when it was discovered that Mackey was posting under a pseudonym on an Internet message board about Whole Foods stock, demeaning competitor Wild Oats, and throwing in flattering comments about his own appearance for good measure. (“I think he looks cute.”) That debacle led to an investigation by the SEC, which, in retrospect, may have had more pressing matters to attend to.
In any event, Mackey and Whole Foods are given the in-depth New Yorker profile treatment in the latest issue of the magazine.
The story is a fascinating account of an eccentric, wildly successful businessman who manages to be a vegan, a union-hater, and a global-warming-denier:
…he [Mackey] added, with a candor you could call bold or reckless, that it would be a pity to allow “hysteria about global warming” to cause us “to raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty.” One would imagine that, on this score, many of his customers, to say nothing of most climate scientists, might disagree. He also said, “Historically, prosperity tends to correlate to warmer temperatures.”
This is particularly amazing considering that the Department of Defense and the CIA–those bastions of liberalism–have now officially recognized climate change as a threat.
Throughout the profile, Mackey chafes at the idea that because Whole Foods has become a huge corporation, it is necessarily corrupt:
“America has kind of a love affair with small business,” Mackey said. “A local farmer is a businessman. He’s selling stuff. But he has apparently not been corrupted. He’s still small, he’s still pure. But at some point, if he was to grow, he would cross over. People used to think Whole Foods was cute and cuddly, and now we’re this industrial, pastoral, organic monster that cares only about money and is selfish and horrible.”