Notes from Liberty Magazine: John Mackey and the Freedom Movement

From Liberty Magazine, John Mackay has an article entitled Winning the Battle for Freedom and Prosperity [Update: Use this LINK] that I came across while killing time on Monday. It is both a first person journey into capitalism and libertarianism of Mackay, and his thoughts on the direction the Freedom Movement (read Libertarianism) should take.

There where many interesting portions:

The most important thing I learned about business in my first year was that business wasn’t based on exploitation or coercion at all. Instead I realized that business is based on voluntary cooperation. No one is forced to trade with a business; customers have competitive alternatives in the market place; employees have competitive alternatives for their labor; investors have different alternatives and places to invest their capital. Investors, labor, management, suppliers — they all need to cooperate to create value for their customers. If they do, then any realized profit can be divided amongst the creators of the value through competitive market dynamics.

In other words, business is not a zero-sum game with a winner and loser. It is a win, win, win, win game — and I really like that.

The above definition, the systems of voluntary cooperation, is the best explanation of Democratic Capitalism I have ever read.

What I love most about the freedom movement are the ideas of voluntary cooperation and spontaneous order when channeled through free markets, leading to the continuous evolution and progress of humanity. I believe that individual freedom in free markets, when combined with property rights through rule of law and ethical democratic government, results in societies that maximize prosperity and establish conditions that promote human happiness and well-being.

The above is the big picture vision for the Freedom Movement.

However, some people in the freedom movement have long argued that the only social responsibility that business has is to maximize profits. I believe that profits are an essential purpose of business, but I would argue that they are not the sole, or even most important, purpose of business. Profit is the most important purpose to the business owners. But owners do not exist in a vacuum. I believe the best way to think about business is as an interdependent system of constituencies connected together in a “harmony of interests.”


Free-market economists, in their legitimate defense of the value of business profits, have often harmed the value of the larger brand of business in our society. These economists have not created a paradigm of business that will ever be fully accepted by society as “good.” Business instead continues to play the role of the bad guy in our society. Selfishness, greed, worker exploitation, consumer ripoffs, and environmental destruction, all in the name of maximizing profits — this is the reality of the brand that business is burdened with in the world today.

I have never heard a pro-capitalism business person make this type of statement before. This may be more of a shortcoming of my own though.

I believe, however, that all four of these issues are far less critical for improving our society than creating educational choice, privatizing Social Security, deregulating health care, and enacting meaningful tort reform. The legalization of drugs, pornography, prostitution, and guns, as issues, are all too closely associated with the freedom movement. Aligning ourselves with these issues has hurt our brand tremendously, by associating the freedom movement with cultural decadence. Parents don’t want their children’s lives ruined by drug experimentation, or their innocence prematurely lost to pornography and prostitution, or their lives ended with a bullet. These four freedom issues need to be de-emphasized by the freedom movement if we hope to create a mass movement and continue to evolve our society in positive directions.

He is right. Libertarianism has not gotten broad support in the USA because it is often associated personal immoral habits – the type of things you don’t want to proudly state you support. My own experience with a local Libertarian Party chapter was they seemed to all (except for me) be aging hippies fixated on legalization of Marijuana as the most important issue. I never went again.

The freedom movement, in my opinion, needs to embrace the ideal, not just of economic growth, but also of personal growth. If we use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as our criterion for evaluating the freedom movement, we see that it is primarily focused on the lower need levels: meeting the physical needs and safety needs through increased prosperity. To be perfectly blunt about it: the freedom movement is largely materialistic in its approach to life, stuck in the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. The higher need levels — love, self-esteem, the good, the true and the beautiful, and self-actualization — are either taken for granted or simply ignored.

Looking at the Freedom Movement’s goals and shortcomings in context of Maslow is very clever.

That is the secret of the success of the Left, despite its bankrupt economic philosophy. The Left entices the young with promises of community, love, purpose, peace, health, compassion, caring, and environmental sustainability.


I assert that the freedom movement can become a successful mass movement today if it will consciously adopt a more idealistic approach to its marketing, branding, and overall vision, and embrace a vision of meeting higher human potentials and greater social responsibility.

Adopting the successful tactics of ones opponents is a good idea.

The author goes on to outline what the main Freedom Movement Policy Goals or Themes should be:

  • Health care reform though self-responsibility and free markets
  • Peace moral high ground: Democracy + Free Markets = Democratic Peace
  • Free market education advantages and gains via competition, innovation, choice
  • Environmentalism from a libertarian point of view (This idea was not really developed in the article).
  • Vocal and active support of Globalization

Here is his website:

One Response

  1. Great summary of the article,


    Michael Strong
    FLOW, Inc.

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