August 24, 2009
Considering my deep and enduring antipathy toward “Crunchy Cons,” I am more than willing to believe that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is a menace to society. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to demonize somebody, and Mackey’s enemies are making a botch of it.
What else can we conclude from the ill-argued propaganda tracts that Reason magazine’s Matt Welch reports are being handed out by United Food and Commercial Workers activists boycotting Whole Foods?
John Mackey is a right wing libertarian. . . .
He has just launched a campaign to defeat a single payer national health insurance system. . . .
And the problem with Mackey’s campaign is that it results in the deaths of 60 Americans every day due to lack of health insurance. [Emphasis added]
Describing Mackey as a “right wing libertarian” seems rather tepid considering UFCW subsequently accuses him of mass murder! If opposition to ObamaCare is tantamount to willing complicity in the annual deaths of 21,900 Americans (60 x 365, as if union propagandists could do basic math), why not lead off with that?
This Mackey-the-killer rhetoric from UFCW invites us to imagine the Whole Foods CEO in the role of the psychotic gunman in Steve Martin’s absurdist 1979 comedy The Jerk, picking Navin Johnson out of a phonebook and aiming his rifle:
“Die, you random uninsured bastards!”
Despite their incompetence as propagandists, the UFCW pamphleteers nevertheless succeed in confusing and obscuring the health-care debate.
To borrow an observation about “affordable housing” from right-wing libertarian P.J. O”Rourke, the problem with socialized medicine is that whenever the government offers to give you something for nothing, the inevitable result will be a shortage of something and a surplus of nothing.
Whereas the market economy routinely brings into existence goods and services previously unavailable—like the surprisingly affordable laptop computer on which I”m writing this right-wing libertarian screed—government can only reallocate goods and services that already exist. The coercive and uneconomic methods employed in this reallocation always leads to shortages of things that might otherwise be produced in plenitude under a free-market system.
The great progressive myth to which the Whole Foods boycotters have fallen prey is the erroneous belief that nothing exists until government guarantees its provision to everyone, at taxpayer expense if necessary.
Call this the National Endowment Theory of Government. In the 1980s and “90s, social conservatives howled about the National Endowment for Arts funding decadent art such as Robert Mapplethorpe‘s infamous photo of a man with a bullwhip protruding from his rectum. The question of what kind of art the NEA should or should not fund, however, entirely missed the fundamental point: Why were federal taxpayers being billed for art in the first place?
To hear NEA’s defenders tell it, there was no such thing as art in the United States until the creation of the National Endowment in 1965. To oppose taxpayer funding for the “arts community” (as NEA defenders styled themselves) was to stand accused of being anti-art.
Social conservatives would have been on much firmer political ground, and might have done more good for their cause, if instead of indicting Mapplethorpe for decadence, they had indicted the NEA as a fraud against the American taxpayer.
Regardless of my opinion of Mapplethorpe’s photography, and the uses to which he put his model’s rectum, I sincerely object to the “arts community” sticking it to the taxpayer in that manner. Let consenting adults do what they will in the privacy of their own photography studios; just don”t demand that the taxpayers foot the bill—and don”t demonize the objecting taxpayer as a philistine who “hates art.”
Now we see the advocates of Obama’s health-care plan repeating the same basic argument made by the “arts community”: If you oppose the president’s plan, you are anti-healthcare. To criticize the specifics of the legislation currently being considered in Congress, as Mackey has done, is to oppose medical treatment per se. Mackey’s “campaign” against Obama is thereby rhetorically transposed into responsibility for the deaths of 60 people every day.
These rhetorical escalations of the Left inspire similar escalations by the Right—the Marxist/Nazi tropes which Tea Party protesters routinely invoke in their hand-lettered posters. These populist Obama-the-Dictator themes elicit tut-tutting from respectable Republican types who decry such “irresponsible” rhetoric, but who can deny that there is a whiff of totalitarianism in the all-or-nothing language employed by ObamaCare advocates?
If Mackey’s opposition to the president’s plan makes him personally responsible for the deaths of more than 20,000 Americans each year, as the UFCW handout insists, isn”t Mackey being cast as Emmanuel Goldstein in this particular remake of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four?
Mackey would certainly be a convenient scapegoat. What red-blooded American can resist the temptation to hate a man who made his fortune marketing stuff like organic vegetables, free-range chicken and all manner of whole-grain products appealing to the colonic-health obsessions of aging Baby Boomers?
Ever since Katie Couric televised her own colonoscopy on the “Today” show, hypochondriac survivors of the Woodstock generation have flocked to Whole Foods like pilgrims in search of the Fountain of Intestinal Youth, paying premium prices for products presumed to be carcinogen-free. Indeed, Rod Dreher would have his “crunchy” acolytes believe that Mackey is selling them the means to spiritual perfection.
While I stand ready to hate Mackey as a peddler of holistic hokum, I side with him in his stand against the boycotters manning the UFCW picket lines.
Eat red meat and die, union bastards!
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