Will John Galt Bag Backlash Squeeze Lululemon?


High-end yoga retailer lululemon athletica (LULU) has been offering tote bags emblazoned with the phrase "Who is John Galt?" This Galt guy has left some yoga practitioners poised for a boycott of lululemon's wares.

The blogosphere is abuzz with outrage about the yoga apparel purveyor's reference to the individualistic emblem John Galt from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. ("Emblem" as opposed to a "character," because characterization wasn't really Rand's strong point.)

This isn't the first time lululemon founder Chip Wilson has said something strange or surprising.

Wilson's blog posts in 2007 featured quite a bit of rambling philosophizing about SuperGirl, surf culture, the sexual revolution, the Pill, yoga, and the theories put forth in The Secret, which are arguably way further "out there" than some of Objectivism's points about individualism versus collectivism, and how people do better in the world by creating instead of taking.

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Granted, I have my own issues with Rand. First and foremost, her defense of selfishness is too easily rationalized as an excuse to descend into utter, ruthless self-oriented destruction. However, for the critics who seem to be characterizing Wilson (and lululemon) as a coven of yoga-pants-clad Tea Party wackos for carrying a product that dares mention John Galt, hey folks: The destructive knife of self-interest cuts both ways, and is just as evident in economic systems that fall well short of anything close to capitalism.

Even if lululemon shoppers aren't fans of Objectivism, perhaps they should go for a little Perspectivism.

Look at Greece. The factors that have been bankrupting that country smack of collective ruthless self-interest, utterly ignoring what's good or even feasible for actual economic health. In a nation where radio announcers can retire at 53 with 90% of their salary because their jobs are characterized as "hazardous," I'd venture to guess said radio announcers lobbied pretty hard according to their own self-interest. (It's probably only a hazardous profession to someone like John Galt, who delivered a radio speech that contributed nearly 100 pages to the book.)

Take a Few Deep Breaths and Reverse Warrior Poses, and Call Me in the Morning.

You've got to wonder how many potential boycotters have even read the book. (Personally, I preferred The Fountainhead.) Such knee-jerk reactions don't say much good about our culture's ability to use critical thinking skills.

Hopefully, potential lululemon boycotters will take a deep breath and think about how silly it is to view any mention of Atlas Shrugged as some reason for fury. If you need a reason to avoid lululemon, just look at the price tags on that yoga gear.

One can practice yoga in sweats and a T-shirt, and maybe some of the money saved on cheaper duds could be donated to organizations that help the growing numbers of needy Americans right now. Is there an "irony" asana in yoga?

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of lululemon. The Motley Fool owns shares of lululemon athletica. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of lululemon athletica.

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