Wholly Hypocritical

by Don Boudreaux on August 18, 2009

in Health

Here’s a letter that I just sent to the Wall Street Journal:

Kudos to you for defending Whole Foods CEO John Mackey against the many “Progressives” who are intolerant of his support for free markets (“Whole Foolishness,” August 18).

How hypocritical of these “Progressives.”  Seeking to further reduce the role of markets in the provision of health care, they proudly vote in markets with their dollars to avoid patronizing a store run by a chief executive whose opinion they dislike.  Yet the very opinion that they so ardently oppose is one that, were it heeded, would enhance the ability of health-care consumers to vote with their dollars.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Michael Strong, in The Huffington Post, eloquently weighs in on this controversy.

And I continue to endorse a ‘girlcott’ of Whole Foods.

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Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Good for you, Don. Keep pounding it home.

Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I gave my supporting cheer before noticing the link to the Michael Strong piece in the Huffington Post. My supporting cheer remains.

However, Mr. Strong wrote one line in that piece that will poison its message to readers on the left, and confuse readers who are on the right.

“It is worth pointing out at this point that John and I co-founded a non-profit five years ago, Freedom Lights Our World (FLOW) Inc., which promotes entrepreneurial solutions to world problems. We recently published a book, along with several co-authors, titled Be the Solution: How Entrepreneurs and Conscious Capitalists Can Solve All the World’s Problems.——— “John and I have worked closely to re-interpret libertarian ideas so that they are based on love and generosity rather than hate and selfishness.”


The left will read that line and their teeeeny little minds will snap shut like a clam and the confirmation of what they believe about Libertarians will be all they see, and the right will ask themselves, “what the hell is he talking about?”

Throughout the piece I kept asking myself, “where is the libertarianism in this guy’s ideas?” It seemed to me to be more like typical socialism mush, just hardened a tad in order to make it sound more palatable to conservatives.

Maybe we could call it Mod-lib, or libocialism, perhaps socibertariansm.

Either way, much more attractive then Obama care, neither are anything I want a part of. If the solution advanced includes government participation in any minute manner that is too much for me. Kick the frigging camel out of the tent, including his nose.

A doctor provides a service, just like the grocer. In the right circumstances, a doctor withholding his services, or an inability to pay for his services, may result in death. A grocer can be just as important and in exactly the same way. Try going without food and being unable to get any. You’ll find it is like having appendicitis and being unable to obtain a surgeon. Both will kill you just as certain.

When doctors have to face customers again, like they did before government intrusion into the field and mandated insurances, and quote a price and then justify that price with each single individual they face, all while knowing that competition down the street may well quote a lower or competitive bid, then prices will come down to realistic levels……like they were in the early 1950s.

Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Regarding “socilibertarianism”, you might be interested in this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugq86q9KyPE

I don’t entirely buy what Chomsky was saying, but at least he raises some interesting points. I do like his point that American-style libertarianism offers a narrow version of what classical liberalism is/was. What I have more trouble swallowing is that what he calls “socialist libertarianism” is at all consistent or libertarian.

JohnK August 18, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Socialism requires surrender of individual liberty for the good of the collective, while libertarianism involves individual liberty and voluntary participation in the collective.
Therefor “socialist libertarianism” is an oxymoron.

Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 2:58 pm


I watched it and Chomsky rambled like Obama with a disconnected teleprompter. I got no clear thought from his disingenuous presentation.

Chomsky is a linguist, that is his specialty, and he evidently was talking to a lot of people who aren’t at his level, and certainly not on the level of questioning the words he used. Chomsky is also a dedicated ldscp and always has been. He is even known to have rejected his mentor when his mentor admitted a growing understanding that capitalism was not necessarily a bad thing.

I defy anyone to find in Jefferson’s writing a statement supporting a state enforced equality of results or outcomes, Jefferson’s vision of equality is of opportunity, not results.

Chomsky’s idea of equality is equality of outcomes, as is clear from his rambling talk as well as past writings and speeches I have heard from him on Pacifica radio.

Then, typical Chomsky, he proceeds to give the Chomsky interpretation of Smith’s vision that , “perfect markets will produce perfect equality” without bothering to discuss what the meaning of the word equality was as used and intended by Smith himself.

Last but not least was his deliberate misstatement of the position of American Libertarianism as being one with the goal of a tyranny, of corporate power over everyone….and that is pure bullshit. Every Libertarian I have ever read or heard specifically states that the only legitimate use of legitimate Constitutional government power is to prevent tyranny by any one at any time, and rejects the idea of the wealthy being able to buy and control government. They speak vehemently against that idea.

Yet there sat Chomsky making the claim, knowing it is a lie, and being applauded.

I have agreed with Chomsky on one thing and one thing only, and that is his statement (title of one of his books) that there is “Manufactured Consent” represented in the MSM; where we disagree is in his conclusion that the manufactured consent is rightwing where the evidence is clearly the opposite.

But, disingenuous people do use disingenuous language, don’t they DK?

Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm

I’m not sure Chomsky is as easily classifiable as his “idea of equality is equality of outcomes”. Can you put any more meat on that claim?

As for Jefferson, I was telling samgrove about something I got a chance to read this weekend – Jefferson’s “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge”. You might try that.

One last point – Chomsky is talking about “tyranny” much more broadly than you are. I don’t agree with him on this point either, but by the same token I don’t think your critique is entirely fair.

It was just meant to be a thought provoker. Chomsky has massive blindspots but he’s always good to listen to.

Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I might look it up, but give me a clue. Does it talk about handicapping and interfering with the strong, intelligent, ambitious, hard working, and independent in order to bring them down to the level of the weak, dull, lazy, slacking, and dependent in order to achieve equality?

Because we have historical proof that it is impossible to bring the unwilling up to any measurable and consistent degree.

It must or you wouldn’t have mentioned it, eh?

I_am_a_lead_pencil August 18, 2009 at 2:49 pm

“John and I have worked closely to re-interpret libertarian ideas so that they are based on love and generosity rather than hate and selfishness.”


“X and I have worked closely with progressive ideas so that they are based on love of each individual and generosity with your own money rather than forcibly submitting your fellow man to the will of others”

E. Barandiaran August 18, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Don and Vidyohs,
I quit reading M. Strong after the sentence “John and I have worked closely to re-interpret libertarian ideas so that they are based on love and generosity rather than hate and selfishness.” As Vidyohs, I asked myself what this guy was talking about–just after denouncing progressives for their hate to anyone that does not think like them, he wants to be nice to progressives by saying that libertarian ideas are based on hate. This is the nonsense that some people say to be accepted by a tribal group (to use Strong’s words at the beginning of his post).

I_am_a_lead_pencil August 18, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Don is clearly on the mark with respect to hypocrisy.

Anyone can immediately refuse to give their $ to Whole Foods and walk into Stop & Shop instead – for any reason. This kind of choice is a wonderful thing.

However, I simply cannot understand how this same person can see no philosophical contradiction with utilizing this great market mechanism, consumer choice, as a hammer to express their outrage at a CEO for supporting the same market choices which they have so willingly adopted.

Gil August 18, 2009 at 4:21 pm

The big problem between the comparison between medical treatment versus food or large screen TVs is that basic foodstuffs are cheap and people don’t need large screen TVs at all. Anyone regardless of ability can get hit with a life-threatening situation out of the blue where they require expensive treatment to continue living (and that may be iffy) versus certain death. By trying to say “medical treatment wasn’t expensive in the good old days” is cheap because there’s a helluva lot more medical equipment and treatment available to doctors today. Medical treatment was relatively cheap a century ago because doctors didn’t have much at their disposal. If you got cancer a century ago a doctor would try to cut the cancer out but would be about all he could do. Vidyohs is about the only one who has had the guts to that “if someone can’t afford medical treatment or can’t get someone to sponsor them and they face certain death from an otherwise treatable condition/illness then tough cheese”.

Nathan August 18, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Vidyohs is about the only one who has had the guts to that “if someone can’t afford medical treatment or can’t get someone to sponsor them and they face certain death from an otherwise treatable condition/illness then tough cheese”.

Actually, when it comes to people who had the misfortune to be born outside of certain arbitrarily defined geographical boundaries, that seems to be the opinion of virtually everyone, even the most bleeding heart liberals.

CRC August 18, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Libertarianism is based on hate and selfishness? Am I reading that wrong?

Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 4:01 pm

It’s about the public provision of primary education.

Jefferson was such a shill to the weak and dependent, wasn’t he?

Gil August 18, 2009 at 4:11 pm

What do you what Thomas Jefferson thoght, vidyohs? He’s long dead and gone. What’s going on in modern America should be worked out by modern Americans not dead ones.

Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm

I see, then I am to assume that guaranteeing public provision of primary education is going to guarantee outcomes and results, is that it, DK?

You live in a fantasy world if you think that.

Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Haha – no.

Public education guarantees an outcome as much as the universal provision of any other good or service is a guarantee of equality of outcome. Education is as much a service as health care.

Granted, it is also an opportunity.

I’ve talked about the tangled nature of equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes here: http://factsandotherstubbornthings.blogspot.com/2009/03/entangled-nature-of-equality.html

Any attempt to pretend that you can treat them separately is an exercise in futility.

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