2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Sturm and Drang at Whole Foods

Click here for the original post.

Sometime during the past couple of weeks you may have caught a downwind draft from the tempest stirred up by a Wall Street Journal editorial written by the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey. To set the stage and let you know immediately where he stood, Mackey opened with this quote from Margaret Thatcher: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Reading his piece, you quickly learn that Mr. Mackey is very (very) much against any form of government-funded health care. Other quotes position him as a person who opposes government intervention of any kind, into anything.

What Mackey essentially offers Whole Foods employees is a very high deductible ($2,500) insurance plan. He believes people will really never have to use it anyway if they eat right, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, etc. He also crows that Whole Foods employees voted on this plan themselves and are very satisfied with it.

My take is this: whenever I’ve been in a Whole Foods, everyone working there looks about 25 years old, not exactly material for chronic illness. Personally, I haven’t run across many 20-somethings who understand the ramifications of health insurance well enough to vote on “the best plan.” They’ll discover just how awful it is when they get appendicitis (which can’t be prevented by exercise) and find their deductible exceeds a month’s take home pay.

Anyway, parts of the internet are abuzz with anger from longstanding Whole Foods customers that its CEO could be so blatantly right-wing. I’ve probably heard “I’ll never set foot in Whole Foods again” from a dozen patients this week. “We’ll boycott…”

Boycott, shmoycott. I predict protestors will forget all this in a few weeks. Were Mr. Mackey to come forth as vehemently anti-union and anti-employees’ rights, the boycotters would still be back in those hallowed aisles. Oh, sorry–Mackey’s already done that. He’s alleged to have said a “union is like having herpes.”

The food industry is largely union: Jewel and Dominick’s workers are well protected and have excellent health plans. You actually encounter employees in these stores who have been there for years. At Whole Foods, kids come and go.

My own view is that a lot of people keep shopping at Whole Foods because of a psychological quirk psychiatrists call “magical thinking.” This means “if I behave in such and such a way, even though it may be illogical, I will ultimately be rewarded.” The imagined reward for shopping at Whole Foods is always big, ranging somewhere between better health and living forever. It’s true you can find some awesomely healthful foods there, including oatmeal, lentils, and mung beans in their dry food bins. You can also find super-pricey potato chips that are just as bad for you as the ones sold at your local gas station.

As for Mr. Mackey’s stance and politics, that’s his business. Whole Foods certainly is his company to do with what he wants. And it’s certainly your decision where to shop. But you may be asking, “Has he always been like this? And why?”

It helps to understand the Whole Foods philosophy of growth: maximum return on stockholder investment by capitalizing on a niche market and wiping out competitors. They’re as cold blooded about this as Wal-Mart wiping out main street businesses in small towns across America. Virtually all the small natural food stores in Chicago have gone under. The larger ones, like Fresh Fields and Wild Oats, were bought out by Whole Foods. The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) fought these acquisitions bitterly, correctly predicting that one grocery chain would control prices in a single area, in essence creating a monopoly. Mackey posted an anonymous series of diatribes against the SEC about government intervention. Whole Foods ultimately did win, thanks to a Bush-appointed judge who ruled against the SEC objections.

I got an amazing new perspective on the Whole Foods philosophy recently when I read an article about the lasting influence of novelist Ayn Rand. For those of you who don’t remember, Rand wrote a pair of immensely long novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, which served as the springboard of her creepy philosophy, summarized in her non-fiction The Virtue of Selfishness. This is not a book for the warm-of-heart. You’ll learn that greed is good, and you should never help anyone less fortunate than yourself as they’re only trying to steal your success. The novels were, and continue to be, a big hit with young conservative clubs and libertarians.

This Ayn Rand article talked about two well-known people whose life paths had been strongly guided by her books. The first, Alan Greenspan, was no surprise. He’d been a member of the Ayn Rand organization, called “objectivists,” for years. Now that we’re in an economic depression–with Greenspan actually apologizing–we can see where a totally unregulated economy (“no government interference”) has brought us.

The second was John Mackey.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

Leave a Comment


  1. Orenzia Jaskiewicz says:

    Dear Dr. Edelberg,
    Wish I had a nickel for each time I said, “We (Americans, human beings) have to begin to share; this philosophy which dichotomizes, then justifies taking advantage of the “other” must be overthrown. It’s so wonderful to hear a doctor of your caliber speak against “objectivism”. It’ll take a minute to make the change because stockholders are the new “gods” (those who determine the morality). I believe in the inherent ability of the good to prevail. If there’s anything I can do to assist help, sign me up. Thank you. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this.
    Be well and happy,
    Yours Truly,
    Orenzia

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops

**Adrenal Boost!
Wednesday, December 4, 6-8pm
With Caley Scott, ND, and Renee Zambo, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Course Fee: $75.00

Feeling Tired? Need help improving fatigue? Learn to boost energy with WholeHealth Chicago’s Naturopath Caley Scott and Yoga Therapist Renee Zambo. More →

**Facial Guasha Class
Thursday, December 5, 6-7:30pm
Hosted by Mari Stecker, LAc

Course Fee: $75.00
(includes take-home facial guasha tool and custom anti-aging facial oil!)

Join us and learn a traditional Chinese facial rejuvenation technique that you can do yourself! Guasha treatment is a 2,000 year old Chinese massage technique that uses a flat tool to apply pressure to the skin to increase circulation as it moves along acupuncture channels. More →

**Winter Solstice Celebration: An evening of Acupuncture and Shamanic Healing
Tuesday, December 17, 5:45–7:30pm
Hosted by Katie Oberlin, HTCP and Mari Stecker, LAc

Course Fee: $75.00

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to enter the stillpoint of the Winter Solstice, reflect on the lessons of 2019, and set intentions for the new year. This will be an evening of individual and group healing, ceremony, and celebration. More →

Recent Health Tips

  • Toxic Metals, Heart Disease, and Chelation Therapy

    In last week’s Health Tip I reviewed the well-researched health dangers of environmental toxic metals (also called heavy metals). They’ve always been a serious health risk, but with the Trump Administration’s recent rollbacks of clean air and water regulations we can expect even more trouble ahead. Statisticians predict an astonishing 160,000 unnecessary deaths over the next decade from the reversals of clean air and water Read More

  • Heavy Metal Toxicity and Your Health

    For those who were otherwise preoccupied that day long ago in high school chemistry, the heavy metals refer to a group of especially dense metals or metal-like substances (called metalloids) found in the environment. These metals–specifically lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and aluminum–can all be absorbed by your body and stored there. Our environment is already quite toxic (Trump’s EPA deregulations aren’t helping) and it’s getting Read More

  • The Chemical Swill In Your Body (And What To Do About It)

    Two Harvard social scientists writing in JAMA estimate that 80,000 people will die unnecessarily every decade because of the Trump administration’s repeal of clean air regulations, with another 80,000 deaths caused by the more recent repeal to clean water rules. If you ask a Trump supporter about this, you’ll likely get an answer like “More jobs.” Well, yes, perhaps, but waiting for someone to die Read More

This month, save 20% off all Metagenics Medical Foods

UltraMeal
UltraInflamX
UltraClear