I’ll Support Your Boycott If You Support Mine

Yet another great letter by Don Boudreaux:

Dear Olivia Jane:

You and many readers of Daily Kos are furious that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey expressed – in the pages of the Wall Street Journal – his opposition to greater government involvement in health care.

Exercising your rights and abilities as consumers, you are therefore boycotting Whole Foods.  You’re using your freedom to avoid paying for products offered by someone whose attitude toward government you disapprove of.
Isn’t freedom wonderful?!

But I must ask: do you endorse my freedom to boycott paying for products offered by those whose attitude toward government I disapprove of?  Like you, I have very strong opinions about the proper role of government, and also as in your case, a famous chief executive is now endorsing government policies that I find reprehensible.

Will you champion my freedom to stop supporting, with my money, President Barack Obama’s services?  Will you come to my defense if I stop paying taxes to support those policies of Mr. Obama with which I disagree – policies such as the economic ’stimulus,’ more vigorous antitrust regulation, and cap and trade?  Indeed, will you defend me if I boycott – if I choose not to pay taxes to support – Obamacare?

If you will support me in my boycott, then I applaud your principle and, although I disagree with you about Mr. Mackey’s political views, fully support your freedom to boycott Whole Foods.  But if you will not support me in my boycott, then can you tell me on what principle you would stand to defend your right to boycott supermarkets if someone (say, Mr. Mackey) managed to secure legislation that obliges you to shop at Whole Foods?

I await your reply.

Donald J. Boudreaux

I couldn’t put it better myself. One quibble, even if Olivia Jane was not willing to extend us the same courtesy and support our desire to boycott Obamacare, we should applaud her principle. Just because she has reprehensible political views does not mean we should ignore the opportunity to teach her the value of a right to exit/disassociate.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.
  • Norma Newell

    Go ahead Mr Boudreaux, Don’t pay your taxes. But as someone who made an error on my taxes, I can tell you first hand the IRS will have it’s way and probably won’t buy your reason. If you are delinquent enough the will confiscate your property as surly as they confiscated the dinosaur park in Florida. The IRS did not go for the “working for God” excuse either. They are patient too. They will take your payments on a monthly basis for years with interest and penalties. Of course you could hire an attorney at your expense. But as Al Capone found out, pay your taxes. You will be much happier in the end

  • Julie Q

    norma Newell – you missed the point. I think that the author was actually making a plan to not pay taxes and probably didn’t need IRS advice. He was making a point that the people boycotting Whole Foods do so because they live in America, with a working Capitalistic system, and they therefore have the freedom to boycott. They have the freedom to be angery. They have the freedom to protest. They have the freedom to shop elsewhere if that is there choice. But we do not have the freedom to not pay taxes. That is a boycott we do not have the freedom to do. So all we can do is try to influence and impact how that tax money is spent and how big the government gets and how much of our hard earned money it takes to give to others not earning or not spending in the same wise priorities as we are (I routinely see people in public housing withe new, nicer cars then I have, with satelite or cable, neither of which we have have, with cell phones, which I don’t have, going to the movies and out to eat, which I don’t do – But I do pay my own doctor bills and make sure I have health insurence. If I spent my money on all those things listed above then I couldn’t afford health insurance either! Even going out to fast food 3/4 times a week adds up to enough money to pay for your own housing or your own doctor visits at least!) Anyway, we don’t have the freedom to boycott taxes and if the health care bill passes we will have the freedom to choose health care coverage and doctors the way these boycotters are currently enjoying choosing grocery stores? Boycotting is a freedom. Keeping the money I earn is a freedom. Protesting is a freedom. Choosing my own health care coverage, doctors, etc. is a freedom. I will support your choice to choose, your choice to boycott a particular store based on one guys opinion and you support our choice to protest, to disagree with you, to choose our own health care. Or who will support your freedom choices in the future?

  • lobotomyzd

    Since the majority of good Americans that opposed basically every one of GWs policies continued to pay taxes you are perched on the brink of a slippery slope. I am not only boycotting WF, but also anyone that advertises on Fox “news”.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    lobotomyzd – out of curiosity, do you pay your taxes out of fear, or because you think that government is so important that we must give it money, even if it uses that money to murder brown people on other continents?

  • southernjames

    So – Obama-loving, big government leftist elitists who shop at WF (most of whom most probably have terrific private health insurance plans for THEMSELVES) who look down their noses at the peasants who drive their trucks over to Albertsons or Aldis, now have their little effete noses in a snit. Because, as it turns out – oh, my – WF is actually a capitalist, for profit enterprise and not the socialist commune organic food cooperative they like to pretend it is. And their CEO DARES to have the AUDACITY to politely toss out a few alternate suggestions to health care reform to Obama-Care, and explains what his company does for its employees.

    How dare he! Gosh what an inflammatory article!! Who does he think he IS, anyway?

    “Open debate” to leftists, means “shut and up and accept my point of view, or I’ll call you a racist, a hater, or some other similar name.”

    I think I’ll start shopping at our local Whole Foods to offset the guy in the Pruis or Volvo who now has to go slum it over at Winn Dixie with the gun-clingin religious wingnuts as a matter of principal. Do they sell Cheetos, and also artificial bacon bits at WF? Lord I hope so. :)

  • southernjames

    Tarran, Sorry, but I think boycotting private enterprise and boycotting paying your taxes is a dumb analogy. Apples and oranges.

    Refusing to buy Dixie Chicks records because they were left wing twits who mindlessly flapped their little left wing twit talking points overseas – is the equivalent of driving across town to the peasants’ grocery store chain to locate your range free organic eggs and pesticide free arugula, because the CEO of the franchise dared to audaciously make a few alternate suggestions to healthcare reform that won’t cost another trillion dollars we don’t have.

    Both perfectly acceptable and not related to being a tax avoider. Which is a whole different ball of wax. IMHO.

    Well, I should say – perfectly acceptable if you’re the leftist doing the boycotting. If you’re the conservative doing it, its “censorship.” And it “chills” free speech.

  • southernjames

    And I pay the amount of taxes the IRS booklet I get in the mail each year shows that I owe, once I do all their calculations, because — as far as I can tell — the alternative is to sit in a jail cell.

    And I don’t think I’d like the food too much, not to mention becoming the favorite playmate of a guy named “Tiny.”

  • Eric Hanks

    The fallacy with your argument is that you equate paying taxes with making a consumer purchase. Whether or not you agree with Mr. Mackey or President Obama what sort of society would we have if it were up to each one of us to pay or not to pay taxes? How would we support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, without taxes? Freedom IS great but it’s not free.

  • John222


    Freedom IS free. It costs no one anything to let me do as I please. It is “protection” that is expensive.

  • Phil O

    I’m driving my gas guzzling Mercedes V8 to Whole Foods from now on! To think that I had shunned the place for so long because I thought it was a bastion of the Prius driving, global warming fighting, socialist banter spewing, uber liberal crowd!

  • Jerry

    Hu rah! to all of you. voice your opinion! boycott WF, Boycott Obamanomics- lets be gratefull we can still do this- so I will always support your right to think and express, just support my right also. Don’t make it hate crime to disagree.

  • http://www.washingtonvacationrentalsinfo.com/ Lisa Stone

    I agree it is not a crime to disagree.

  • redrockraven

    My wife and I have been shopping regularly at Whole Foods in Las Vegas for over 10 years. We sincerely thank the business CEO for providing his view of the health care issues facing the US. Since Mr. Mackey’s views appear to be a direct contradiction to the healthy living ideals that we have until now believed that their stores promote, my wife and I will be taking our business to another store.

    We do not intend to continue to support a hypocritical business that believes more in lining their own pockets and shortchanging their employees health plans than in promoting the health and welfare of their customers and employees.

  • Norma Newell

    I am well aware of the larger issue. I just wanted to make Mr Boudreaux aware that not paying his taxes should be nothing more than a fleeting thought as I am sure it was. There is no whole foods around here but if I see one ever I will keep on driving. I am also boycotting CNN programming and Fox programming for the lies in the adds that are aired about medicare. I am Health Insurance Reform Zealot!!!

  • gblotter

    Why do liberals think we need yet another out-of-control bloated inefficient government entitlement program in order to achieve health care reform? How does that equal reform?

    I previously thought Whole Foods was all about Lexus liberals with more money than sense.

    Now that I have learned the Whole Foods CEO actually has some intelligent alternatives for real health care reform, I think I’ll become a new customer. That is the kind of company I want to support.

  • Worried

    I started boycotting Whole Foods years ago because it’s a bunch of smelly hippies. If these hippies start going to Jewel, then I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do.

  • robert

    This controversy illustrates the main difference between Liberals and conservatives. Liberals pour their efforts into silencing and destroying those with opposing views; conservatives welcome debate.

  • Joe

    I agree with the Whole Foods CEO and I would happily support them if they were here its just they only put their stores in demographic areas that are much richer than my area. I have been to one and was in a farmer’s market outside of one as they promoted local farmers after getting a bad rap for buying organic stuff in the winter from Chile (which is not local). That last point shows part of the problem; people have too much time on their hands and not enough important stuff to do as life has become too easy for them, and they have resorted to useless mindless activism and protest since they obviously are bored with hunting and gathering (they can hunt and gather at WF). I hope they never have to really find out who John Galt is, but it would be nice to see the look on their faces! LOL

  • Doug

    If he’ll support me in my choice not to give Whole Foods my money by not entering into their stores, I’ll support his choice not to pay taxes in America and to get out!

  • Zak

    Denouncing a boycott of a private company is a bit silly. Consumption is a choice and nobody should be able to tell me I HAVE TO buy some overpriced merchandise at a store I don’t like.

  • Zak

    Something else worth thinking about:

    I also wonder how much of Mackey’s views are because he is a Libertarian and how much is because he wants people to have health savings accounts that let people buy supplement and herbal remedies from Whole Foods. Some of what they sell may be beneficial but much of it is pure snake oil where the production costs have no real relationship with the… Read More price it is sold at. This is especially true for anything listed as homeopathic; aside from all scientific evidence showing that when you dilute all of a herb out of a sugar pill it tends to just be a placebo, there is a question of how one sugar pill can cost more than another when dilution should also apply to the cost with the cost of the herb being negligible and all cost remaining in the sugar pill itself.

  • John222

    The point Don Boudreaux is trying to make seems to be escaping some. We are free to boycott many businesses for whatever reason, whether it be lousy service, shoddy merchandise, or the opinions of the CEO.

    When we are given lousy service or products by the government, we do not have option of boycotting their services. We are forced to accept whatever level or quality of service they offer. They have a monopoly that is maintained through the use of force.

    I wonder how some of those who have decided to boycott Whole Foods would feel if they were rounded up at the point of a gun and forced to shop there. If they resisted they could be shot or imprisoned. If Whole Foods were to conduct business this way they would also not have to maintain their current levels of service or quality of product, which I assume has been at least satisfactory (I don’t have one nearby).

  • Dan

    Trust and mistrust begin in childhood. There are things that I trust from government and things I don’t trust. The same is true of corporate business. There is also the element of class in society. Should I trust anyone that only functions for their own self interest? An unregulated economy is not an economic ideal, it is a sham.The best government that money can buy is a sham. To be owned by the rich is slavery, debt is a form of slavery. I trust as much as I believe people to be compassionate. Letting people go bankrupt for medical reasons isn’t compassion. Ignoring the mentally ill by putting them in jail or leaving them homeless isn’t compassion. But making money by supplying tools of war does not help, either. I would rather boycott ignorance, stupidity, hatred, fear, and a false sense of freedom. If that means I grow my own lettuce, so be it.

  • southernjames

    Geez, all this vitriol over the CEO of a corporation, writing an article explaing how his company structures its health insurance options for its employees, and then making the following suggestions for health care reform in this country:

    “•?Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.”

    “•?Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.”

    “•?Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.”

    “•?Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.”

    “•?Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor’s visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?”

    “•?Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.”

    “•?Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.”

    What is so damn radical about the above ideas? I’m not saying I agree with all of them or that I think all of them are even workable. I’m just trying to figure out what on earth has the delicate WF customer panties in a knot over this article? Is it becuase he DARES to disagree with Exalted Dear Leader? Is that it?

  • http://pith-n-vinegar.blogspot.com/ Quincy

    southernjames –

    These ideas aren’t at all radical, until you realize that most people believe that two plus two is five when it comes to health care. They listen to political and media elites who claim that our current health care problems are squarely the fault of the free market.

    Take our friend Annemarie from a previous thread. She cannot be convinced of the role of government in causing our health care problems. She is typical of many in the “enlightened” classes that gravitate to Whole Foods. When confronted with the reality that two plus two doesn’t equal five, these people go apoplectic.

    It is not just their faith in Obama that you’re challenging, it is the entire mental world they live in. Markets are bad and savage, they believe. Competition is evil, they believe. Necessary services must be provided in an organized, harmonized fashion, they believe. Challenge this fantasy world, as Mackey did, and you are assaulting everything they hold dear.