Monday, October 05, 2009
Mackey Profiled in Wall Street Journal
By an odd coincidence, I posted on the Whole Foods boycotts/buycotts Friday only to learn that the Wall Street Journal ran an article on its CEO, John Mackey, the next day.
Its title? "Conscience of a Capitalist."
With a title like that, Objectivists and many other admirers of Ayn Rand, knowing how stifling with altruism the cultural atmosphere is, will already be waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it does before the article even starts. The subtitle reveals that Mackey thinks CEOs are overpaid.
The gist of the article is that Mackey wants to save capitalism for altruistic reasons, but the article also goes on to paint a fuller picture of Mackey's background and motivations. Mackey's academic background includes study in philosophy, although he did not complete his degree. He is a man on an intellectual journey, whose business experience appears to be bringing him to his senses after he "breathed ... in with the culture" the idea that "business is evil and government is good."
Harry Binswanger comments on the article at HBL, and I share his frustration that Mackey, who admires Ayn Rand, still explicitly regards selfishness as wrong. ("Businesses, they're selfish because they're trying to make money." "It ['conscious capitalism' --ed] means that business has the potential to have a deeper purpose.")
This is a shame, because Mackey seems more able than many businessmen to appreciate and, potentially, to apply the significance of Ayn Rand's contributions to moral philosophy, as Tara Smith elaborates them in Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist, which I previewed a while back, and from which I'll draw a shorter excerpt now:
Is eudaimonia a selfish end? What does selfishness actually mean? What sorts of actions does it demand? What are the implications of pursuing eudaimonia for a person's relationships with others? Yet another nascent movement in ethics, perhaps spawned by virtue ethics, also points to a need to confront egoism more squarely: the advocacy of naturalism as the foundation of morality. In the past few years, Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Berys Gaut have all defended the idea that the bedrock source of proper moral norms rests in needs dictated by human nature. [bold added]So long as one's moral system does not start off by accounting for man's nature, it will fail to support one's life. If one exists as an individual, and must survive by acting on his own behalf, but his moral system tells him he must give away whatever he produces, his moral system will not further his life.
Mackey, for example, accepts only one dollar a year pay as CEO and flies Southwest rather than a corporate jet. (He apparently lives off dividends as an owner of the company.) I submit that there are some who would regard even this comparatively frugal lifestyle as outrageously decadent. By what standard does Mackey argue that he is entitled even to this? What can he say to the argument that he could help even more people if he never flew, and lived in a tent? Or that it is Mother Nature, and not human beings at all, that should benefit from his actions?
There is nothing wrong with wanting to better the lives of one's fellow man, but so long as one accepts altruism as a legitimate moral code, one will be devoid of the necessary intellectual ammunition to defend his right to act on his own behalf, or even to help those he wants to help.
Capitalism does need saving, but altruism cannot do the job. In fact, capitalism -- and, with it, the benevolent philanthropy I see in John Mackey -- both need saving precisely from altruism.
Environmentalism vs. Freedom of Speech
As I have said in the past, freedom is of a piece. Note the encroachment on freedom of speech caused by the premise of public property.
A Southern California city's ban on placing leaflets on car windshields parked in the street can't be justified as an anti-littering measure and probably violates free speech, a federal appeals court said Friday in a ruling that halts the law's enforcement.I note with apprehension that while the court was correct that it would not be a problem for a private property owner to ban such leaflets, it still expressed the opinion that, "keeping the streets clean might be a rationale [for a government] to restrict free expression in some cases."
The GOP Needs an Ed Muskie or a Hubert Humphrey!
(At least in one sense, anyway!)
I would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the GOP who has learned less than John McCain from his 2008 electoral defeat.
It's all part of an approach that is at odds with most other recent failed presidential nominees, whose immediate response to defeat was to retreat from the electoral arena. But those familiar with McCain's thinking say he has expressed serious concern about the direction of the party and is actively seeking out and supporting candidates who can broaden the party’s reach.Not that the competition is exactly very light!
In McCain's case, that means backing conservative pragmatists and moderates.
"I think he’s endorsed people with center-right politics because he has an understanding that the party is in trouble with certain demographics and wants to have a tone that would allow us to grow," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is McCain's closest friend and ally in the Senate.
"At a time when our party is struggling and has a lot of shrill voices and aggressive voices, he's one that can expand our party," said John Weaver, a longtime McCain friend and strategist.
"John remains the titular head of the Republican Party and he will be until there's a new nominee," he said. "Most of the people that ran and lost you never heard from again," he said. "He's not going to be like Ed Muskie or Hubert Humphrey."
Memo to the GOP: Having principles is not, in and of itself, the problem. Having no principles is, and having principles incompatible with individual rights is. If you value American liberty, you need not to reject principles, but to discover and openly advocate the correct principles. A certain prophetic, soon-to-be-fifty-year-old novel that keeps popping up at tea party protests would be a great place to start!
[Update: Cogito reminds me that while Atlas Shrugged is indeed nearing the anniversary of its publication, it will be turning fifty-two this year. First the mind goes...]
If you missed it over the weekend, it's over at Reality Talk. Interestingly, the video for my entry seems to have been pulled.
Moore on Catholicism
Then, I advised:
When Michael Moore's next "documentary" -- allegedly about capitalism -- comes out, don't forget that he's Catholic, too.Now, Joseph Kellard quotes a New York Magazine:
Many of the talking heads in the film are Catholic clergy, including the bishop of Detroit, who proclaim capitalism to be a "sin" and "radically evil." "Eventually," one prophesies, "God will come down and eradicate it."It would seem that his last effort is as close as he has ever gotten to making an actual documentary. Too bad his larger point about capitalism is still wrong.
Today: (1) Corrected several typos. (2) Added a correction.