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IPFS News Link • Economic Theory

Is Wholefoods' 'Conscious Capitalism' Effective Altruism

• by Antony Sammeroff

After all, Wholefoods are the good guys! Couldn't these would-be revolutionaries take their complaints to McDonalds or Walmart?

After some reflection Mackey, the libertarian author of Conscious Capitalism (2013), decided that it might not be a bad idea to sit down with the activists and hear what they had to say. Asking them, "Why did you attack us?" he received the rather touching response: "Because we thought you would listen. Nobody else will."

As a consequence, Wholefoods made the decision to undertake a long and wide-ranging ethical review of how they sourced their meat. In meetings spanning months, they consulted experts in farming, sustainability, animal welfare, economics and lord knows who else. They brought ranchers together with animal rights activists and scientists and worked collectively on establishing objective standards to measure animal welfare. Ultimately, they were able to significantly improve the living standards of the animals they sell. Mackay himself was motivated by what he learned to go vegan.

Mackey is extremely keen to rehabilitate the image of capitalism, especially among young people who tend to perceive the market economy as cutthroat, exploitative and alienating. He believes the perception that businesses as driven entirely by the "selfish" profit motive is partly responsible for capitalism's poor standing. He is eager to help people understand that business enriches lives, and fears that unless we rehabilitate the image of capitalism, we may soon slay the goose that lays the golden eggs. After all, free markets have created unprecedented leaps in living standards since the industrial revolution.

I agree with Mackie that business is about creating value for others rather than cutthroat competition. I think most people go into business because they have an idea for a product or service which they think is cool and that people would benefit from, and fantasize about making large sums of money helping people—rather than exploiting them.


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