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Whole Foods, in latest experiment with “conscious capitalism,” announces plan to bring back slavery

John Mackey, the Whole Foods founder and devout Libertarian, celebrates his passion for free markets and entrepreneurship by selling products made by prison labor at taxpayer-subsidized penitentiaries. Specifically, goat cheese and tilapia produced by inmates at Colorado Correctional Industries.(1)

It’s all part of “conscious capitalism,” a term coined by Mackey and his intellectual sidekick Michael Strong, an ex-socialist who fell in love with a group of economists known as the Chicago Boys, whose theories had a huge influence on the policies of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and the neo-Nazi dictator Augusto Pinochet.(2)

In Strong’s opinion, the most conscious of all capitalists is Walmart, of which he has written: “…it is unlikely that there is any single organization on the planet that alleviates poverty so effectively for so many people.”(3)

Ironically, Walmart is also rapidly becoming Whole Foods’ biggest competitive threat. Mackey explains: “As a conscious capitalist, I am conscious of the fact that ever since Walmart began selling organic foods, our share of the organic market has been declining. So I made the conscious decision to cut my payroll expense by using prison labor. Overcharging our customers with rigged scales only goes so far, but employing prisoners who freely choose to work for pennies an hour really helps our bottom line.”

It’s free market economics, Whole Foods-style: the government pays for the imprisoned employees, and the corporation makes the profit. But the “libertarian” benefits of prison labor don’t stop there. “We like using prisoners because they have the freedom to not join a union,” says Mackey. “As with all workers everywhere, our employees would rather go to prison than join a union.”

Furthermore, as explained by humanitarians at the Prison Enterprise Institute, exploiting the labor of inmates actually does them a favor, by giving them valuable skills that will help them succeed in the job market if they ever get out of prison. Mackey concurs, noting that “Craigslist always has a ton of ads for cheese makers and fish farmers.”

Unfortunately, many Whole Foods customers just don’t seem to understand the altruistic benefits of prison labor. As Schizandra Johnson reported on, there was enough public protest over the issue that Whole Foods was compelled to stop selling its prison-made goods.(4) But for John Mackey, that was merely a minor setback. Using his characteristic free market entrepreneurial savvy, he came up with an even better idea: SLAVERY.

“Being a slave is far better than being an employee,” Mackey contends. “When you own something, you treat it better than if you just rent it. Right? Well, it’s the same with workers.”

Unlike unconscious capitalists, who greedily exploit their workers, Massa Mackey will treat his slaves good. “Just like the dead free range chickens we sell, our slaves will have plenty of room to run around,” he said. “And best of all, slavery will save us so much money that we will be able to lower our prices enough to attract some of Walmart’s unwashed masses.”

Under Mackey’s plan, all current Whole Foods employees will be free to choose between becoming a slave or putting themselves on the free labor market. As with the previous workforce, those who choose the slavery option will be referred to as “team members.” They will live in Whole Foods stores, but will be granted annual 2-week vacations at the new Whole Foods plantation near Waxahachie, Texas – the former cotton capital of the world.(5)



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