Forget about conscious capitalists. How about clueless ones instead? That's the assessment of Henry Miller, a Robert Wesson fellow in scientific philosophy and public policy at the Hoover Institution, of John Mackey and his Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb.
In an editorial on the politically conservative Daily Caller website, Dr. Miller doesn't question the financial success of Whole Foods. Instead, he argues the company's "airy-fairy New Age" business philosophy and stance on subjects such as genetically modified organisms (GMO) run the gamut from frivolous to downright foolish, making the company unworthy of his business and anyone else who doesn't want, as the editorial headline suggests, to "buy food from morons."
Dr. Miller questions Mr. Mackey's assertions that people go into professional fields or start businesses with a motive beyond profit. He took issue with an appearance Mr. Mackey made at Stanford years back where he told students that most doctors go into the field to heal people and not make money. The Hoover fellow said anyone believing in Mr. Mackey's conscious capitalism creed could also be "convinced that Bill Gates made his billions by working in a free clinic in Harlem." Presumably, Dr. Miller also has swampland and a bridge in Brooklyn that he's ready to sell to anyone who buys what Mr. Mackey is selling.
While Dr. Miller paints Mr. Mackey as a modern day P.T. Barnum, he is less charitable when it comes to statements that Mr. Robb has made about genetically engineered foods. He points to extensive research that shows the economic benefits and safety of GMOs.
"Mackey and Robb may 'talk the talk' about adhering to high ethical standards," writes Dr. Miller, "but they perform a profound disservice by opposing technology that can reduce the need to spray chemical pesticides, reduce soil erosion and the release of CO2 into the atmosphere, conserve water and farmland, alleviate famine and vitamin-deficiency diseases for millions, and even lead to the development of edible vaccines incorporated into fruits and vegetables."
Would Whole Foods be more or less successful if it took Henry Miller's advice related to its corporate philosophy and approach to issues such as GMOs?