Professor Economist Richard Wolff & Jacobin’s Bhaskar Sunkara faced off with WholeFoods Founder John Mackey and Reason’s Katherine Mangu-Ward at an Intelligence Squared debate titled “Capitalism Is a Blessing.” Mackey attempted to silence Wolff for justifiably challenging his faux magnanimity of taking a $1 in salary and directing his stock options to philanthropy. Wolff reminded Mackey his behavior mimicked any typical capitalist as he sold his company to a monopoly.
You sold your company to a monopoly.
During the question and answer period from the audience, the debate got a bit testy at times. Whole Foods Founder John Mackey presented himself with an air of superiority, at one time falsely stating that while he has created a company that Dr. Wolff had not. Wolff corrected the fallacy.
An audience member somewhat sympathetic to Mackey asked him if he believed the disparity between the CEOs and employees was justified. Mackey seemed eager to answer the question for a reason.
The Whole Foods founder wanted to make it clear at his company the disparity is the other way around. After all, he only makes one dollar a year. Moreover, his stock options go to his charitable foundations.
That did not impress Dr. Richard Wolff. The decision Mackey made to pay himself one dollar and channel his stock options to his charitable foundation was unilateral and spoke to the undemocratic nature of the corporation.
Wolff rightfully points out that reducing the prices of Whole Foods products would have been redistributive in a broader manner and thus better for the economy. Mackey thought he had Wolff where he wanted him as he pointed out that competition between similar companies are self-regulating price setters.
Wolff was not going to let Mackey get away with the statement. “You sold your company to a monopoly,” Wolff shamed Mackey. You know that! Mackey had no comeback. The hypocrisy was out for all to see. It turns out Mackey sold Whole Foods to one of the country’s largest monopolies, Amazon.
You can watch the debate in its entirety here. I covered selective clips of the debate on my program Politics Done Right here.
Visit the authors that have been guests on Politics Done Right here.