Friday, January 18, 2013

John Mackey Defines Fascism (Incorrectly)

Recently, John Mackey took time out from bragging about how great his company's ultra-high deductible is at keeping employees from "abusing" their health insurance to express how much he hates Obama's attempts to make health care more affordable.

Since all it takes is running a moderately successful business to be considered an expert on economic theory and political science, the Whole Foods CEO had the platform to describe Obamacare as an obvious slide into absolute Fascism, saying: "In fascism, the government doesn't own the means of production, but they do control it -- and that's what's happening with our health care programs and these reforms."

Now, John Mackey is a Libertarian, so we can forgive him for not having a clue as to what he's talking about, (Let's be honest; Libertarians are great when it comes to civil rights, but the minute it comes to forming fiscal or foreign policy, they're as useless as the Green Party.), and we've heard enough people calling Obama a Fascist (not to mention Marxist, Communist, Socialist, Muslim, Kenyan, etc...) that it is more boring than controversial. However, it is his walking back of the statement that is rather annoying, as it shows the depth of ignorance that these attacks are drawn from.

In this post-Fascist statement Huffington Post interview, Mackey explains that "I regret using that word now because it's got so much baggage attached to it," then went on to say "Of course, I was just using the standard dictionary definition."

By "baggage," of course, Mackey really means "history." Isn't it annoying when real-life examples of a word get in the way of what you want to use it for? In this case, Mackey used a word that carried the "baggage" of actually meaning something, when what he really wanted was to use it as a loosely-defined buzz word to paint Obama as some kind of thuggish totalitarian dictator. Because, you know, dictators are notorious for passing policies to ensure the well-being of the country's citizens through a regulated legislative process. Mussolini did it all the time.

But to defend his use of the word Fascism as a loosely defined attack, he doubles down by insisting the only reason that people are disagreeing with him is that he wasn't using the word Fascism in the sense that people understand it through it's "baggage" (history), but rather, he was referring to the "standard dictionary definition."

Since we're in the marvelously under-appreciated Information Age, this claim is easy enough to check with some quick visits to various online dictionaries. Merriam-Webster is a well-respected name in the definition business, how do they define Fascism?

1. often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition 2. a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.

It goes on to give some examples, but they're all bogged down by historical "baggage." No mention of government controlling production without owning it. Of course, any reference to controlling production wouldn't help Mackey's case, since healthcare would fall under "services." Let's try Cambridge and see if Mackey fares any better.

1. a political system based on a very powerful leader, state control of social and economic life, and extreme pride in country and race, with no expression of political disagreement allowed

Still nothing specifically about government controlling production without actually owning the means of production. I mean, I understand why Mackey likes that definition,, because it is an easy leap to claim that government regulation is a form of government control, which would then mean that any regulation of the market is a form of Fascism, and we all know how much large-scale business owners hate restrictive government regulations, like OSHA and the FDA. They always manage to get in the way of profits.

Maybe we're having so much trouble finding Mackey's "standard dictionary definition" of Fascism because he was describing an economic system, when Fascism is a political philosophy or ideology. Granted, political philosophies can have economic consequences, but side effects of government strategies aren't really covered in their "standard dictionary definition."

Of course, we could give Mackey the benefit of the doubt (much like he does for his employees, who he assumes will "abuse" their healthcare if it isn't expensive enough) and assume he meant a standard textbook definition, but then we would have to assume that he is actually spending his spare time pouring over economic and political textbooks. This would be a pretty big assumption, since we all know how much baggage/history can bog down a textbook.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...
speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Besides, we all know that wealthy business owners don't read textbooks. They read management strategy books written by other business owners, circling the wagons of their economic theory knowledge into a huge incestuous orgy of self-aggrandizing misinformation. Have you ever seen a business owner run as a presidential candidate that didn't come off as a complete joke? Did Herman Cain seem like an intelligent, well-read man with a yearning for political involvement, or some gibbering crackpot who thought running a chain of pizza shops qualified him to run a country? Did Mitt Romney strike you as a political mastermind when he tried to claim that the healthcare model he created was somehow great for him, but a bad idea for Obama? And if anybody you know actually took Donald Trump seriously as a political voice, let a lone a candidate, you should probably avoid all future contact with that person, as they are obviously a danger to themselves and others.

Let's do the nation a favor and stop asking business owners how the country should be run. Failed business owners like Bush Junior are bad enough. If we ever get a successful businessman into the White House, we'll all be getting copies of Who Moved My Cheese instead of unemployment checks to help us through the recession. The majority of successful business owners are successful because they know how to package a product or service at a lower cost than they sell it for, usually at the expense of quality or employee compensation, and only tend to get involved in politics when something the government does threatens to cut into their profit margin. You know, like trying to make healthcare less profit-driven and more affordable.

In short, stop asking this ass-whole (Get it? Whole Foods? HA!) what's good for the economy, because in the end all that Mackey and others like him are concerned about is their profit margin, and protecting that isn't doing anybody but Mackey any good.
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