Because of Whole Foods’ trendy customer base and because Mackey is himself a vegan and champions collaboration between management and workers, it’s easy to mistake Mackey for a progressive left-winger. Indeed, an early version of Jonah Goldberg’s best-selling 2008 book Liberal Fascism even bore the subtitle “The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton and The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods.”
Yet nothing could be further from the truth—and more distorting of the radical vision of capitalism at the heart of Mackey’s thought. A high-profile critic of the minimum wage, Obamacare, and the regulatory state, Mackey believes that free markets are the best way not only to raise living standards but also to explore new ways of building community and creating meaning for individuals and society. At the same time, he challenges all sorts of libertarian dogma, including the notion that publicly traded companies should always seek to exclusively maximize shareholder value (go here to read a 2005 Reason debate about the social responsibility of business featuring Mackey, Milton Friedman, and Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers). Conscious Capitalism, the book he co-authored with Rajendra Sisodia, lays out a detailed case for Mackey’s vision of a post-industrial capitalism that addresses spiritual desire as much as physial need.