“If you’ve always dreamed of an unironic movie where one of the world’s richest human beings attempts to portray their greedy selves as a hero who “just wanted to sell books to the world,” look no further…

If you or I see this, we’re just putting more money in Bezos’ pockets. So, you do have to wrestle with that moral quandary.”

Oh my god. I don’t know where to begin.

First off, I haven’t investigated too much, but I doubt watching this gives any money to Bezos. I don’t think he has anything to do with this movie. Unless you watch it on Amazon, pretty sure this is no different from watching Wolf of Wall Street, Social Network, Vice, etc.

Second off, don’t you watch stuff on Amazon all the time? I feel like nearly every week you talk about something you watched on Prime. So this isn’t really a moral quandary, is it? Just virtue signaling?

Third off, what is wrong with Bezos? Can you name a single bad thing about him? Is it because he is rich? What is wrong with being super rich? Is that inherently bad?

Perhaps you think there should be more redistribution, so Bezos’ massive wealth makes you feel uncomfortable in a world with so much inequality where so many people are struggling. That is fair, but does that make him bad, or make giving him more money bad? At what dollar point does it no longer become ethical to give someone your business? Jay-Z is a billionaire, does that mean you should not support him? Sure, his measly one and a half billion or whatever is nothing compared to Bezos’ vast fortune, but I’m not sure why that should matter if your concern is inequality. We could confiscate a good billion dollars from our boy Young Hov and he’d still live a life of luxury far beyond what even us upper middle class Jews can imagine. I doubt his lifestyle is any different from Bezos’, he just has less money to invest in space companies and whatnot. I don’t hold their wealth against them, though, and I’m not sure why you should either.

Let’s not forget that Bezos, like Mr. Carter, made his fortune by providing people with goods and services that people value enough to pay for. This is the wonder of capitalism, and it is where anti-capitalist rhetoric is most lacking. Bezos created a better way to shop, plain and simple. If he didn’t, people wouldn’t have used it. Thus, the money he makes is a result of people finding value in using his products. You could very much look at Bezos’ net worth and say that is how much value he has created in the world. I use Amazon because I think it provides a quality service in terms of ease of use, low cost, fast shipping, etc. If you know of a better service to purchase things, I’d be happy to use it, and so would everybody else, and then that service would become bigger than Amazon, and Bezos’ spot on the Forbes list would fall dramatically. This is how competitive capitalist markets work. Bezos is rich because people value what he has created so highly.

And what makes Bezos greedy, or at least greedier than the average person? Is being rich a sign of greed? You and Jerry Seinfeld are both in the same field doing the same work, but Jerry makes vastly more money than you. Is this because Jerry is greedier than you? Of course not. Even if he is, I ultimately think the variance in greed between individuals is not as high as people typically think, and is probably uncorrelated with how much money one has. While I am happily writing this for free, because I believe in public goods, I get paid for most of my writing, and occasionally turn things down that don’t pay enough. Is this greed? Who decides which forms of profit are greed and which are well deserved, hard earned payments for goods and services?

Perhaps you think Bezos got rich through nefarious means. There may be some validity there, so let’s unpack it.

Amazon has definitely caused many small, local businesses to shut, and thus caused people to lose their jobs. Also, as someone who thinks it is an unfortunate social trend that so much of life is moving online, I would also add the decline of shared public spaces where people congregate to buy things as part of that loss due to Amazon. I feel for all of this, but I’m not sure if this is a reason to be mad at Bezos/Amazon. This is another case of consumers making the choice that one service is better than another. I may lament the loss of the old ways, but the old ways would still exist if people thought they were better. Blockbuster put smaller video stores out of business, Netflix put Blockbuster out of business, something new and innovative that I can’t imagine may one day put Netflix out of business. This is how the world works, and we can feel sad about it (I think we all have that conservative side in us, wishing things would stay the same, liberals call it “nostalgia”), and we can feel bad for the people who were the economic losers in this equation (and we can push for a safety net for those people), but it is also good to accept it as natural and driven by consumer preference and not as an evil deed done by some greedy billionaire.

There are some good arguments to be made about shitty business practices of Amazon, such as predatory pricing. I’m not doing research on this now, but I recall a story in the early days of Amazon about how they lost a ton of money selling diapers very cheaply so that they could put some other diaper sellers out of business by drastically undercutting them and then raising the price after they had the market to themselves. Sounds bad, and maybe stuff like this should be illegal, I don’t know (I’m hesitant to say stuff like this without spending more time learning about it). I think there are regulations about these things and that’s probably good. But let’s not act like this is entirely why Amazon is successful. They provide an excellent service at a low cost, and though it sounds sleazy to me to sell at unfeasibly low prices to put competitors out of business and then later raise prices, I believe most of the time Amazon sells items for lower costs than competitors it is because they have more efficient operations and lower overhead (and when they don’t have lower prices, I shop elsewhere, as I did last week when I became a first time Target.com customer to buy my niece a first birthday present, so much for monopoly power). Plus, taking a loss in early years to grow a customer base is a standard business model. You have no issue using Uber or Netflix even though they lose money while hurting ordinary taxi drivers and video stores (and arguably theaters and studios and other parts of the industry, I don’t know), but that’s no reason to boycott them because surely you recognize they provide a superior service to the earlier models. Same with Amazon, right?

Another point of criticism may be that Bezos/Amazon take advantage of employees who work under horrible conditions. I’m not sure how big of a deal this is. Most of those horror stories of people passing out at Amazon warehouses are probably overblown. First off, if conditions were so bad there, people wouldn’t be taking those jobs. Presumably they accept them because they offer better pay and working conditions than other jobs in the area? The counterargument is that there are no other jobs in the area because Amazon put everyone else out of business. That may well be true! But nonetheless, in terms of warehouse jobs, I don’t think Amazon is worse than anywhere else. Warehouse jobs suck. Working class jobs suck. I’m not sure it’s right to pick on Amazon for that. Ever read about farm workers? Food processing workers? Those are horrendous jobs but it doesn’t stop you from consuming those products. I like reading food books so those are my only examples, but probably most jobs suck. What I’ve read about Amazon warehouse jobs makes them sound better in terms of pay, benefits, and working conditions than being a set PA, which I admit isn’t a fair comparison because nobody becomes a PA to make a living, it is a stepping stone job to get somewhere in an industry that people like us want to succeed in to feed our egos. In any case, I think my point holds that Amazon jobs are probably at worst average for working class jobs.

Substack: "Please type a shorter comment" To be continued!

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