Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Whole Foods boycott: self-absorbed political fetishism

Reposted from Freedom Democrats

Radley Balko expresses his frustration with the healthcare reform proponents who want to boycott Whole Foods due to a WSJ Op-Ed written by John Mackey. This dispute brings up all types of issues (some reviewed at NYT), from the exaggerated influence of corporate CEOs to how the WSJ opinion pages are typically a partisan vomit pile, but one interesting factor is the revelation of fetishized thinking among the boycott organizers.

Balko's main argument against the boycott is that Whole Foods is a great corporate citizen (we've previously discussed Mackey's views on this topic). To anyone who actually cares about real people living real lives, this should immensely outweigh the fact that Mackey is writing in opposition to a particular health care reform proposal. In his followup, Balko also chastizes those who view unionization as being more important than worker inclusion in decision-making and benefits. He summarizes the union fetish thusly:

If Mackey’s opposition to unions is your reason for hating Whole Foods, sorry, but you don’t really care about workers. You care about unions.

Finally, there is a bit of a partisan fetish behind this boycott proposal. I think half of what set off the boycotters is that Mackey promoted traditionally Republican talking points in a mainstream newspaper full of Republican hacks. I'm sure that was really offensive, especially after the WSJ editors worked their Republican hack magic on Mackey's writing. Fortunately (as my pro-ObamaCare wife points out), most people are not partisan hacks and will not boycott Whole Foods over this.

Balko's final thesis seems to be that the boycott is really about power -- about squelching open open debate on proposals that one disagrees with.

These people don’t want a discussion. They don’t want to hear ideas. They want you to shut up and do what they say, or they’re going to punish you.

In many respects, the quest for power is the epitome of political fetishism--valuing an abstraction over the real value of human welfare. The basic process is that a person convinces himself that once he achieves the abstraction, everything else will take care of itself. The fallacy here is two fold -- first, these abstract goals arise from speculative social theories and we should not have any confidence in the cause-effect relations that are proposed; second, people adhering to different fetishized social theories will struggle over the abstraction (i.e. power) to the point that the original goal is forgotten about. As sung by Axel Rose:

But still the wars go on as the years go by
With no love of God or human rights
'Cause all these dreams are swept aside
By bloody hands of the hypnotized
Who carry the cross of homicide
And history bears the scars of our civil wars

No comments: