2013/02/18 Does Capitalism have a “Branding Problem?”

John Mackey: Cheerleader of Conscious Consumptionism

In an article by Joel Griffith which is smattered across the conservative-libertarian Internet ghettos, the founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey recently delivered the keynote address at the “International Students for Liberty Conference” in Washington D.C. this past weekend. If I may quote from Griffith’s article:

Mackey stressed that capitalism has the power to eradicate poverty in the next century, expressed concern over capitalism’s “branding problem,” and maintained that “self-interest” alone is an insufficient moral foundation for the system. The themes presented by Mackey closely followed the premises of his new book, Conscious Capitalism.

To which I say, “Really?”

To my way of thinking, which may be faulty, it seems to me that what could have happened was most likely to happen. Which is to say that if Capitalism has the power to “eradicate poverty,” what gives us any reason to believe it will eradicate it in the future? The problem with Mackey’s equation is that he should already know that the essence of Capitalism is amoral, so claiming that any “moral foundation” – let alone being “insufficient” is also quite intellectually dishonest. Capitalism is based on the Law of Competition and Domination. It’s claimed that “voluntary exchange” exists at the core, but in practice, Capitalism is a stateless, amoral force that dominates and totalizes the lives of everyone on the planet – whether they choose to “voluntarily participate” with other capitalists or not (which ultimately means you are then cast outside the system). Numbers can be wrangled to mislead and distort the reality of any situation. While it is true that there is more “wealth” in the world, it is also true that the gap between abject poverty and immense wealth has never been wider.

If I may quote from Grtiffith’s article once more:

Mackey’s analysis re-framed the issue of income inequality. Proponents of government control often point to wealth disparity as a social evil resulting from capitalism. However, Mackey noted that since capitalism’s development just over 200 years ago, overall global per capita prosperity has increased 10x. In nations which have embraced capitalism, the jump in prosperity is even more fantastic—35x in Japan, 100x in the United States, and 200x in South Korea. As Mackey stated, “Capitalism is ending poverty on planet earth. The problem is not that there is an unequal distribution of wealth in the world. The problem is that there is an unequal distribution of capitalism.”

This kind of breezy oversimplification of the horrors inflicted by Capitalist system is typical for those who have managed to make the system work for them. It is true that there has been an overall rise in the standard of living spread about the nations of the world over the past 200 years. There has also been many wars which were fed, aided and abetted by Capitalist profiteering interests during that time as well, along with great removals and confiscations of the natural resources by the First World from weaker nations who didn’t have armies to defend themselves. The Enlightenment, and its children Reason and Capitalism, has both failed humanity, for they are both responsible for billions of people on this planet suffering through hunger, poverty, sickness and war. Freedom, choice and “liberty” has been reduced to commodities that only a few can purchase. Oppression has hardened and become more intractable than ever. Control over the masses via the military and media is nearly complete. And yet, we can find people like John Mackey who can breathlessly gush about how Capitalism was good to him, therefore it must be good for everyone. Quoting from Griffith’s piece again:

According to Mackey, “capitalism has a serious branding problem … the recent recession was … blamed on greedy financial corporations, deregulation, and capitalism — market failures — rather than on bad government regulations and monetary policies — government failures.” And Mackey doesn’t believe we can count on the media and educators to address this misperception. As he states, “Business has been hated by the intellectuals and elites for all time.”

Okay. So let’s blame the government instead. It’s sad to see, but instructive to note the petulance and blame-gaming Mackey engages here, like any fanatical Ayn Randbot regurgitating the libertarian strawman of the success-hating hoard of the dirty mob.  Why is it so hard for these neoliberal corporatists to admit and own that they are responsible for the problems and mistakes they cause? Really?  “Business has been hated by the intellectuals and elites for all time?”  This Does Mackey believe that spouting oversimplified inanities makes such statements true? I’m no big fan of intellectualism, but it the fact is that there is a historical record that plainly shows Capitalism being touted, promoted and even loved by the greatest intellectuals and elites in Western civilization. [1]

So, in regards to John Mackey’s assertion that Capitalism has a “branding problem,” well, hell yes, it does. It’s a brand that stands for crushing oppression, deprivation and the closing of the democratic process… for starters. Capitalism represents a living force that is anti-life and the unyielding muscle behind amoral self-interest. Mackey, for all his light-hearted, simplistic dissembling, cannot overcome reality.


[1] Mackey is probably concerned that the principles of Capitalism do not stand up well to intellectual analysis. For every assertion such as Milton Friedmen’s, “History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom,” there’s a counter argument that suggests otherwise, such as the quote from Bertrand Russell: “Advocates of capitalism are very apt to appeal to the sacred principles of liberty, which are embodied in one maxim: The fortunate must not be restrained in the exercise of tyranny over the unfortunate.”


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