I feel like socialists are taking over: Whole Foods CEO risks it all to speak out

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey had a major message about the state that America is in right now. “My concern is that I feel like socialists are taking over. They’re marching through the institutions. They’re…taking over education. It looks like they’ve taken over a lot of the corporations. It looks like they’ve taken over the military. And it’s just continuing. You know, I’m a capitalist at heart, and I believe in liberty and capitalism. Those are my twin values. And I feel like, you know, with the way freedom of speech is today, the movement on gun control, a lot of the liberties that I’ve taken for granted most of my life, I think, are under threat.”

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Mackey, born in 1953, is retiring from Whole Foods at the end of August. John has developed and evangelized throughout his career for what he calls “conscious capitalism,” or businesses that seek to “create financial, intellectual, social, cultural, emotional, spiritual, physical, and ecological wealth for all of their stakeholders.”

Mackey had an his epic 2005 debate with Nobel laureate Milton Freidman and former Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers about rethinking the social responsibility of business. “I believe that the enlightened corporation should try to create value for all of its constituencies. From an investor’s perspective, the purpose of the business is to maximize profits. But that’s not the purpose for other stakeholders—for customers, employees, suppliers, and the community. Each of those groups will define the purpose of the business in terms of its own needs and desires, and each perspective is valid and legitimate,” John wrote. Partly because he’s speaking to a post-industrial world that is rich enough that more and more of us are starting to bump our snouts further up Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, John’s vision is now widely accepted, in many profound ways.

His company did an exceptional job of staying open and serving people while speaking his mind about the government’s response to the pandemic. Mackey is now planning to open a series of wellness centers and cafes. Mackey also said that he felt muzzled in his position as CEO of Whole Foods. He says he couldn’t speak his mind on various issues, for many reasons, especially what he sees as a dangerous drift toward more and more control of everyday life, commerce, and speech. But starting from September, that all changes, and we should expect him to be even more outspoken in his celebration of capitalism, he said, which he considers the greatest anti-poverty program ever created, and many other issues.

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