Whole Foods’ John Mackey: Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism

John Mackey cc

Not all “intellectuals” but a good number of them. Many who populate sociology, and political science departments that’s for sure. And English, and, OK, pretty much every department except business, and even then.

We explored this idea of anti-capitalist bias a few years ago with this piece, which we also recently featured as a WEEKEND REWIND.

Here’s part of the post.

I was recently talking to a relative about a friend of mine who has been very successful in business.

“And I’m sure he deserves every penny.” The relative said in a snide way.

“Well, in this case I think absolutely.” I said

“The relative looked at me and said, “I’m just as smart as him. Where are my millions? In fact I’m probably smarter, why should this guy be so rich?”

“Why should one’s level of intelligence determine one’s level of wealth?” (which it often does) I asked.

“Because that’s what’s fair. The smartest people should run things and should be paid more.”

“But what if what one has to offer, even if one is very bright, is not valuable to society at large? Should one be paid more than a stupid guy who has a skill which is in demand?”

“It depends.” My relative replied. “Why should a plumber make more than a teacher? That’s criminal.”

“Why is that criminal? Very few teachers can fix a leak in my basement, and none of them will come out to my house on the weekend. I’m willing to pay quite a lot to get the leak in my basement to stop.”

“But teachers teach our children. Plumbers spend their time elbow deep in shit.”

“Exactly,” I said. “This is why I am willing to pay him and why my plumber is probably not as stupid as you think.”

And then it struck me why so many (and it is a distinct subset) of obviously smart people rail against capitalism. They are jealous. They feel wronged by life. They want the trappings of wealth and don’t understand why despite their genius these trappings have eluded them. After all many of them went to the right schools, checked all the right boxes in life, yet the material success which is their birthright is in the hands of so many who clearly don’t deserve it. How can this be?

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and one of my favorite business people, seems to generally agree.

(From Reason)

It’s sort of where people stand in the social hierarchy, and if you live in a more business-oriented society, like the United States has been, then you have these businesspeople, who they don’t judge to be very intelligent or well-educated, having lots of money, and they begin to buy political power with it, and they rise in the social hierarchy, whereas the really intelligent people, the intellectuals, are less important. And I don’t think they like that. And I think that’s one of the main reasons why the intellectuals have usually disdained commerce: they haven’t seen it, the dynamic, creative force, because they measure themselves against these people, and they think they’re superior, and yet in the social hierarchy they’re not seen as more important. And I think that drives them crazy.

Oh, it does. That business success drives certain people nuts is one of the great benefits of a free society.

Click here for the article.