Shunning Mackey

I hadn’t planned on writing anything about John Mackey’s health care op/ed in the Wall Street Journal, but Radley’s response to the resulting boycott of Whole Foods is worth quoting:

[…] I also think the general premise is ridiculous. I shop at Costco. A lot. If the CEO of Costco wrote an op-ed calling for a single payer health care system, I’d shrug, maybe write a blog post about why I think he’s wrong, and then I’d probably go to Costco this weekend to buy some dog food, some meat, and to try to eat my membership dues in free samples. Now, if the CEO of Costco wrote an op-ed calling for genocide against redheads, then yeah, I’d stop shopping there. But calling for a boycott of a conscientious company over its CEO endorsing proven ideas like HSAs and mainstream policies like tort reform is an attempt to push good ideas you disagree with to the fringe. It’s a way of zoning your opponents best arguments out of the realm of civilized debate. In other words, it’s a way to marginalize your opponents without actually having to debate them.

This is exactly right. Many of my friends on the left have lamented the state of debate on health care reform. We’d all like to see it move beyond death panels and keeping government’s hands off our Medicare. So it’s disappointing that when a CEO expresses cogent opinions about the matter and presents serious alternative policy proposals he is treated to such a harsh backlash. The response I’ve seen from many on the left is to dismiss him as a corporate shill or refuse to patronize his stores without giving serious consideration to his arguments.

The first response is irrelevant to the correctness of his ideas, even if the accusation is true (though I don’t doubt that Mackey truly believes what he writes). The second is counterproductive to the goal of achieving a better discourse. Is opposition to the public option really so evil as to deserve a boycott?

Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of the public option. Even if you support it, the only way to be sure of one’s position is to test it against the best challengers. The response to Mackey’s op/ed has demonstrated an unwillingness to do this and with it a tendency for the left to become as closed-minded on this issue as the right is currently perceived on others.


3 thoughts on “Shunning Mackey”

  1. Honestly, I’m not convinced the boycott actually exists, at least not in Raleigh. The Whole Foods on Wade is as impenetrable as ever…

    Load up your cart as you always would, then slip a note to Mr. Mackey in between the frozen food telling him that this is what you WOULD HAVE BOUGHT except that you changed your mind because of his idiotic ideas. Park your cart somewhere, and walk out of the store. Especially if you stack your purchases very randomly in your basket, returning all this to the shelves, ITEM BY ITEM, will take much longer than it took you to shop it, and it will send a REAL MESSAGE to Mr. Mackey about the consequences of his opposition to fairness in healthcare. I imagine the cost of paying employees to put all this back will hurt if it is widely practiced. I know it is kind of aggressive-passive but I sure had fun! (Remember this TACTIC when you have a Union strike and picket line AT A SUPERMARKET in your community. Nothing drives SCABS crazy faster than trying to return hundreds of items to the shelves, one by one.) We are ALL MYSTERY BOYCOTT SHOPPERS!!!

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