John Mackey, Whole

by Don Boudreaux on August 15, 2009

in Current Affairs, Health

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey posts on his blog the original, unedited version of his excellent Wall Street Journal essay on reforming health-care.

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Anonymous August 15, 2009 at 8:22 pm

If you go to leftist blogs, they are calling Mr. Mackey all kinds of horrible names. Just because he dares to disagree with single-payer system. The horror, oh the horror.

Anonymous August 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Daily Koz and hundreds of other lefty bloggers have joined the call for a boycott. Sad.

Anonymous August 15, 2009 at 10:56 pm

So a few thousand ultra-lefties will boycott Whole Foods. I bet as many if not more conservatives/libertarians start patronizing WF to replace those numbers. I just came from WF! Very pricey.

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 12:22 am

I read Mr. Mackey’s article and while basically I think he is on the right track I could also see some basic mistaken assumptions or errors.

For instance this:

“With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both,…….. we are rapidly running out of other people’s money. These deficits are simply not sustainable and they are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation or they will bankrupt us.”

Notice the last part that I pulled out. If we are rapidly running out of money and the deficits are simply not sustainable, how then would it be possible to raise more money through unprecedented new taxes? When the turnip is squeezed dry, it is dry.

Of course inflation is not raising money, and of course it will bankrupt us, but would we already be bankrupt if we can’t sustain the spending?

Then there is this:
“Our team members therefore spend their own health care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully.”

Perhaps, and it could also provide the same incentive in some to spend that amount of deductible in order to get to a point where their “ailments” could be covered.

“6. Make health care costs transparent so that consumers will understand what health care treatments cost. How many people know what their last doctor’s visit cost? What other goods or services do we as consumers buy without knowing how much they will cost us? We need a system where people can compare and contrast costs and services.”

I would submit that healthcare costs have always been transparent to those who asked for the exact accounting. No, doctors and hospitals do not chase you down and make you examine your bill in detail, it is your responsibility to do that in your own self interest. People are lazy in most cases, and since “insurance is paying” why should they take the time to make sure their provider is exact and honest? There is no other answer to the age old surprise of the $10 aspirin.

Other than those quibbles I think he made a good presentation.

Lies I can live without:

1. The science of global warming is clearly settled, and humans are causing it.

2. Everyone thinks we need to reform healthcare.

Yeah I have to question if getting government out of healthcare can be legitimately called a “reform”. How about calling it a “cleansing”?

Anonymous August 17, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Perhaps, and [CDHPs] could also provide the same incentive in some to spend that amount of deductible in order to get to a point where their “ailments” could be covered.

To what end? They still will have spent the $2500, and the coverage after that has a co-pay (mine is 10%). No matter how you try to work the system, each increment of treatment costs the patient something out of pocket, which is a good thing.

I would submit that healthcare costs have always been transparent to those who asked for the exact accounting. No, doctors and hospitals do not chase you down and make you examine your bill in detail, it is your responsibility to do that in your own self interest.

Sure, I can get that information after the fact; it’s right there on the bill. However, I won’t consider the system transparent until I can get those prices before I commit to the treatment. Moreover, I need to be able to get those prices even if I am not currently a patient; otherwise, I cannot compare prices between providers. Health care is, to the best of my knowledge, unique in that it is the only thing we buy for which the seller will disclose prices only to existing (i.e., not prospective) customers and then only after the customer has already agreed to purchase the product.

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 2:25 am

Has anyone but myself ever noted that the liberal/socialist/progressive can express tolerance for anything in the world but opposition.

Queers, lesbos, abortion, deadbeats, drug addicts, murderers, the U.S. Post Office, unions, illegal immigrants, ruinous taxes, Islamic terrorists, bad coffee, cheap wine, but for God’s sake don’t act or speak in opposition because their tolerance suddenly descends into screaming anger and if at all possible they will shut you down. They will vandalize your property if they see evidence that you oppose them. They will harass you with frivolous lawsuits, baseless ethics complaints,
if you’re a public figure they will twist your words, ignore substance and concentrate on the silly in order to denigrate you, ignore history, rationale, reason, in order to lie about your ideas. Whatever it takes to shut you up they will try.

Strange tolerance that, eh?

Here are a couple of uplifting tunes to cheer your evening. One comes from a friend here in Houston and the other from my friend Brotio.

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 8:50 am


Nick August 16, 2009 at 2:42 am

I don’t think John Mackey’s argument is entirely honest and sincere.

He mentions the fact that many people are waiting for hospital admissions in Canada. But he doesn’t say that despite these waiting periods, Canadians on average are healthier than Americans are.

Life expectancy in Canada is 80.4 years. Whereas in USA it’s 77.8 years. Infant mortality in Canada is 5.4 per 1000 births. Whereas in USA the infant mortality is 6.9.

And John Mackey fails to mention the fact that Canada spends only 10.1% of its GDP on healthcare. Whereas USA spends 18.5% of its GDP.

When the country has 47 million Americans without any health insurance. Then many of these Americans end up waiting a lot longer for their healthcare than any Canadians ever have to wait. Perhaps many of these Americans never get the healthcare they need. Which is a lot worse than what happens in Canada.

All of this information John Mackey could’ve easily found on the internet if he really cared about the truth.

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 3:05 am


Give me an honest answer here.

If I have health care that I buy with my own hard earned fruits of labor, and I have absolutely no relationship to you at all, why should I care whether you have health care or not?

The fact that we are of the same species and share the planet is not enough to establish that relationship, nor is sharing the same continent, the same nation, the same state, the same city, the same neighborhood.

Your sickness and/or demise is unlikely to effect me in any way, it is your problem.

So supposedly 40 million people in America don’t have insurance, that doesn’t mean that they can’t get treatment, because they can and do.

We know that among that supposed 40 million are a huge number of illegal aliens, we know that there are many millions of young that don’t see health insurance as a necessary thing at their time and place, we know that among the supposed 40 million are people who will never ever under any circumstance take responsibility for themselves. So why should I care?

Honest intellectual, rational, and reasonable answer now, no emotions no vague accusations about caring or feeling or other bullcrap.

If you want to pay their way, go for it. Just keep your damn hand out of my pocket.

Nick August 16, 2009 at 3:24 am

That 47 million uninsured Americans figure comes from the Census Bureau. Which is a credible source.

This census was done in 2007. And now there probably are a lot more uninsured Americans. Because millions of Americans have lost their jobs since then. And with their jobs they’ve lost their health insurance too.

As for not caring about you fellow countrymen, that’s hardly a patriotic thing to say. If everybody adopts this kind of attitude. Then why would anyone want to defend their country or even pay taxes for that matter?

You can’t have a viable country when the people in it could care less about each other.

It’s one thing to say that people should take care of themselves when they are able to do so. But it’s quite another to look the other way when your neighbor is dying of a curable illness because he can’t afford to pay for the medical treatment.

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 3:33 am


I personalized my last post with the question because I thought you might grasp it better. In actual fact what I’d really like to know is, in regards to the ever growing number of uninsured that is being found by the left on a daily basis, why is it the problem of the rest of us?

As I thought though you have no intellectual, rational, or reasonable answer for me.

Change is inevitable, people have gained and lost jobs through all of history, so why is it the responsibility of others to take care of them?

As for the emotional tug of my neighbor dying of a curable illness, okay. What relationship do I have to him, hell it might the asshole down the street that has the Toyota with the subwoofers in it that rattles my house several times a day. I just might be glad to see him go, eh?

Like I said, you have nothing but emotion.

Nick August 16, 2009 at 4:01 am

I suppose you are right that there is no logical reason why people should care about each other. And there is no logical reason why people should even care about whether they themselves live or die. Because eventually everyone dies without exception.

There is no logical reason to care about anything. Caring comes from the essence of what people are. People are social beings who normally live in families and societies. And the social glue that binds them together is that caring they have for each other.

My point is that the rejection of such caring is the same as rejection of society. Because a society where people don’t care about each other can only be held together by force. It’s incompatible with freedom and democracy.

And any society that has to be held together by force will fall apart sooner or later. There are plenty of examples around the world like that.

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm


Our little discussion has shown once more that all the socialist side has going for it is emotion, no logic, rationale, or reason.

Your answer to me was an immediate attempt at manipulative appeal, a manipulation I saw through back when I was in Jr. High.

You make the careless or deliberate manipulative mistake common to the socialist, in that you immediate try to equate my question of, “Why should I care?” into the statement, “I don’t care.”

They aren’t the same thing at all, and the question gives you no clue as to my true opinions about care, as a socialist you see an opportunity to try and impugn me in the eyes of witnesses, so you take it.

I’ll help you out, Nick, as you’ve shown yourself incapable of presenting the one rationale, reason, or logic to my caring about others. That reason is that “it is in my best interest to do so” and as an intelligent person I know that.

However what I know you have been enculturated to ignore, to miss, to never recognize are the words in that statement that give me power over that decision, “my best interest”. And, who gets to decide what my best interest is”

Well, I wrote a nice little declaration above that contains my conviction that that decision rests solely with myself and can not be preempted or superseded by anyone or any authority. In all my years I have not seen one shred of evidence, not one argument, that contains anything that contradicts that I am born, created, a natural free man with total power and control over myself, my body, and the fruits of my labor.

My declaration above also contains what is the only reasonable, rightful, moral, and legal manner in which I may form associations and demonstrate my concern, and that one way is by contract or agreement to which I have knowingly, willingly, voluntarily, and intentionally committed.

Anything else is coercion, force, and constitutes a binding of me into a slave.

In essence, Nick, then know that I care, but that care is my decision and applies to those I want, not those that you think I should care about. As I said above, sharing geographical space is insufficient to access my care or my pocket. Trying to manipulate me with terms like countrymen or neighbors only reveals the weakness of your position.

I am well aware, probably more so than you, that this world is just chock full of people who are less fortunate than I, it is also full of neglected puppies, kitties, piggies, wildebeast, fishies, and I also know that there is just not enough of me to go around, so I decide who, or what, I can afford to care about and who, or what, I can not afford to care about, and yes it comes down to dollars and cents, money, how much of it do I have and how much of it can I afford to give away.

You see, Nick, if it wasn’t about money, if it wasn’t the fruits of my labor you want to commit to your ideas, we would not be having this conversation. You could just take my concern for granted and we would have no need of contact or closeness.

Now, I have been totally self sufficient since I was 15. I put into the family as much as I got out, and at 17 I left home and have never accepted a dime from anyone since. I earned everything, sometimes a lot, sometimes not so much, but I took care of myself and my loved ones.

You can do the same, in my opinion, and so can everyone else. If you can not do and die, well we all die sooner or later anyway, and if I haven’t accepted responsibility for you through one of those contracts or agreements I spoke of above, then I may comment that it is a shame you died, but I doubt I’ll dwell on it more than mere seconds……unless I let you get away owing me money.

In summation, Nick, the socialist push to nationalize healthcare is not about care, it is about control. A control that extends beyond medicine and treatment. It is a sought after control that will make all of the weak people of America totally subservient to the masters in government, terrified to piss them off in any way or at any time, because their medical treatment could be delayed of denied. Terrified to allow anyone else at the levers of control because it might risk that sugar tit the socialist provide. This control of which I speak will be in the hands of local bureaucrats who will come to know you personally, and you will not piss them off. you will bow and scrape to them to keep your medical treatment. You may even, probably will, be able to slip them a healthy bribe to jump the line and to get that care that is denied to that neighbor.

There is no intrinsic right to healthcare that you can not pay for yourself. You have a right to what you earn, no more and no less. After that anything you get is a gift, a privilege.

We true conservatives know well the difference between a right and a privilege, tis a pity the great unwashed ignorant masses can’t catch up to us. If they could, you could not manipulate them with the twisting of the terms, right and privilege.

Babinich August 16, 2009 at 10:08 am

“When the country has 47 million Americans without any health insurance.”

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.


‘Beyond Those Health Care Numbers: US Looks Good’

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 12:27 pm

That’s interesting he didn’t mean it to be as antagonistic as WSJ made it with the title. That doesn’t surprise me that he didn’t mean it to be taken that way, because I was receptive to his op-ed and agreed with most of it. There was that Thatcher on socialism quote and the references to single payer at the end, of course… but I found them to be more irrelevant than disagreeable :)

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I found the Thatcher quote interesting myself. In fact, seven days ago, I e-mailed the following to some friends and familiy using “Margaret Thatcher quote from 1976″ in the subject line:

What’s more interesting than the quote is the whole answer she gave to the journalist who was interviewing her. This isn’t a long read.

I had just found the quote by accident after doing a search for something I cannot even remember. Is it a coincidence that this shows up in an op/ed a week later? Yeah, most likely so. But you can tell that this is on a whole lot of unrelated people’s minds.

Anonymous August 17, 2009 at 3:28 am

I bet as many non leftists start patronizing Whole Foods as lefties who will boycott it. The main problem with Whole Foods is they are just too damn expensive(for regular weekly shopping) unless you have a 6-figure income.

kmc August 20, 2009 at 2:55 am

Thank you, John Mackey, for publishing positive ways to improve health care. You have a new customer… I WILL be shopping at Whole Foods tomorrow!

Anonymous August 20, 2009 at 3:25 am

Mr. Mackey,

I saw on the news your chain is being boycotted due to your views on health reform. I served this country for 30 years in military service. I agree with most of your ideas but more importantly I support your right to free speech. Feel free to speak your mind and don’t worry about the liberals on the left. Conservative will search for a Whole Foods near them.

Hanford, CA

Anonymous August 21, 2009 at 2:23 am

Yes, his article was good, well thought out, and clearly a better solution than anything being proposed by President Obama. Those who attack him without reading it and thoughtfully analyzing it are the biggest losers.

I plan to shop there tomorrow in support of him, his ideas, and his long-time interest in doing the best for people.

Jane August 24, 2009 at 5:08 am

vidyohs, I was interested in your point of view until I realized you are really just interested in reading your own written words. Keep the mockery and condescending tone out of your writings. You would sound more professional, and others may want to read your words.

RedM3 August 31, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I’ve never been to this site before but I’m surprised how many informed responses have been posted. Working in healthcare for the last 18 years I can’t tell you how horrified I am of Obamacare. No one has had to coerce me in to talking about the nightmare of socialized medicine. Believe it or not Canadians see thier own systems future in jeopardy. Don’t take that from me though. Looks like Canada is running out of other peoples money. I suppose they’re going to ask for ours.

Mackey is a hero in my book and I wish I had a Whole Foods in Iowa. I’d do all my shopping there. I know they’re more expensive but “whole foods” are always more expensive no matter where you shop. They’re also much healthier.


Anonymous September 2, 2009 at 2:41 am

I love you John Mackey!!!! Thank you for speaking out…You’re the BEST!!!!

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 9:01 am

And any society that has to be held together by force will fall apart sooner or later. There are plenty of examples around the world like that.

So do you support Obamacare or not?

Yasafi and others are more than willing to hold society together by force. Either cough up your dough, or go to prison, or be executed. After all, they voted to take your money, so it’s only fair that you pay – or die.

Nick August 16, 2009 at 12:08 pm

I don’t think Obama’s proposal for universal healthcare goes far enough. Healthcare should be paid for through the usual taxes, the way public schools, food stamps, welfare and all other social programs are paid for.

When something is a basic necessity and not an optional luxury. Then those who need it but can’t afford it should get help from the rest of society. That’s how families work because family members care about each other. And that’s how a normal society should work too because a voluntary society is bound by similar bonds that a family is bound by.

But I agree that there is no logical reason for a family to exist or even for society to exist. Both exist only because groups of people care about each other. And if for one reason or another people stop caring about each other like that. Then divorce is what usually happens in the family. Or anarchy in society, like that in Somalia.

Perhaps the US Civil War was an example of that too. The country had to be held together by force. Because many Americans didn’t care about each other anymore.

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm


Did you see Mackey’s eighth point in his op/ed? Just asking.

Anonymous August 16, 2009 at 8:41 pm

When something is a basic necessity and not an optional luxury. Then those who need it but can’t afford it should get help from the rest of society. That’s how families work because family members care about each other. And that’s how a normal society should work too because a voluntary society is bound by similar bonds that a family is bound by.

And why are you convinced that the State is the only (or best) mechanism for taking care of those less fortunate?

Why do you insist that you know best how to direct my charitable contributions?

Why are you so convinced of the superiority of your judgment that you are willing to use threats of physical violence to force us to contribute to your chosen charities?

Do you not see the hypocrisy of claiming nobility because of your generous use of my wealth?

Methinks August 17, 2009 at 2:37 am

When something is a basic necessity and not an optional luxury. Then those who need it but can’t afford it should get help from the rest of society.

You’re in lucky, Nick. As of 1986, nobody in the United States can be denied treatment because they are unable to pay. While some people have neither insurance nor assets, in practice, nobody is denied treatment in the United States.

BTW, when in human history has medicine become a basic necessity? In the context of human history, modern medicine is an incredible luxury and arrived on the scene only in the past few decades.

Obviously, if modern medical intervention were a necessity the way that food, water and shelter are necessities of life, the human species would have died out 10,000 years ago.

What you’re really arguing for is forcing productive people to pay for modern luxuries that less productive people believe they have a right to but don’t want to work for. That has never been accomplished anywhere it has been tried, but has resulted in rivers of blood and misery. So good luck trying it here because Americans believe themselves to be made of different stuff than the rest of humanity.

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