Mackey, who is worth an estimated $75 million, made the remarks last week to the American Enterprise Institute while discussing the culture of business leadership and how he believes it needs to change to help better elevate humanity through business.
"It needs to evolve,” Mackey said of the business culture. “Otherwise, the socialists are going to take over — that's how I see it, and that's the path of poverty. They talk about trickle-down wealth, but socialism is trickle-up poverty. It just impoverishes everything. That's my fear, that the Marxists and socialists, the academic community is generally hostile to business. It always has been. This is not new."
Mackey argued that the purpose of business is to create value for others and blamed colleges and progressives for spreading the negative view of capitalism.
"That's why we're seeing this move toward socialism -- because capitalism they see as inherently corrupt," Mackey said.
"That is wrong. Capitalism is the greatest thing humanity's ever done,” he continued. “We’ve told a bad narrative, and we've let the enemies of business and the enemies of capitalism put out a narrative about us that's wrong. It's inaccurate and doing tremendous damage to the minds of young people."
While Mackey argued against outright socialism, he said there are some progressive ideas that are important and should be utilized.
"Socialism has been tried 42 times in the last 100 years, and 42 failures, it doesn't work, it's the wrong way,” he said. “We have to keep capitalism, I would argue, we need conscious capitalism.”
"We have to recognize that some of the progressive insights are important and they shouldn't go away,” Mackey continued, “but we can't throw out capitalism and replace it with socialism. That will be a disaster.”
Mackey co-founded Whole Foods Market in 1980 and said it employs about 100,000 people. The grocery chain was acquired by Amazon in 2017.