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The Caesar Of The Amazon Jungle

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Man, this Amazon deal makes me angry. Matt in VA gets it just right in this comment from an earlier thread:

[Quoting someone else:] I saw [big name pastor redacted] on some panel recently. What struck me is how irrelevant just about everything he said was… I’m re-reading The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann’s work about pre-1914 Europe, and one of the points he makes is that life can go on for years, decades even, with little change, and then one day something happens, so that last week seems like 50 years in the past. At some point in the last few years, that happened here. Suddenly everything was different and the old ways no longer suffice. Trump is an obvious clue, but it is far deeper than that.

[Matt:] Yes, I feel this all the time. I feel it very strongly. There are all these people walking around and saying things, saying the “right” kinds of things, and it just seems to have absolutely nothing to do with what is actually going on in the world around us. There really does seem to be a point at which people just *cannot* change their operating system. It’s like how in Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions he says that these revolutions don’t actually happen because a creative minority convince the majority that they were wrong about what they believed to be true; the revolutions happen when the young no longer believe what the old believe, and the old eventually die off.

The Amazon deal strikes me as a perfect example of this. Literally billions of dollars in public funding for the richest man on the planet to build even more headquarters (seems like a company big enough to have three massive headquarters could use a heaping dose of antitrust legislation). The whole thing, the whole selection process, a giant performance of obeisance to the second largest company in the world, already with effective monopoly power on the written word/publishing industry, with various cities clobbered by postindustrialism and globalization prostituting themselves for this monster, and then of course Amazon goes with the two cities that already have the most power in the world. (The cities not chosen should be grateful, frankly.) The intertwining tentacles of Big Tech and Big Government growing ever more strangling. This is our elite — the establishment of both parties, note well. This is the kind of thing our elite does. Imagine believing in *this* kind of America. My understanding is that Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Tucker Carlson are on the same page about this whole absolutely revolting spectacle. I have no hope that the actual left and actual right can work together on these issues; I think it would be very silly to imagine that. But I at least hope pressure from *anybody* left or right can put this ruling class down one way or another. I just wonder — who can believe this, believe in this, anymore?

Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world.  Jeff Bezos is worth $166 billion. This year, his net worth has been increasing at roughly $260 million per day.  [3] And yet, New York City and northern Virginia fell all over themselves to win Amazon’s two new headquarters buildings. It was too much even for the Ur-capitalists at the Wall Street Journal editorial board, who said today [4]:

change_me

We rarely agree with socialist Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but she’s right to call billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for Amazon “extremely concerning.” These handouts to one of the richest companies in the history of the world, with an essentially zero cost of capital, is crony capitalism at its worst.

The editorial provides details of state and local giveaways, and concedes that Bezos would have been stupid to refuse all that free money from politicians, “but it still amounts to a company with a market capitalization of nearly $800 billon getting paid to create jobs it would have created somewhere anyway.”

Take a look at this short segment from Tucker Carlson’s show, in which he says that Ocasio-Cortez is right. “The last thing we need is more money in Washington. It’s rich enough,” Carlson says, and asks the economist he has on why Bezos would locate these new HQs in DC and NYC. Because, says the economist, that’s where the power is:

It’s true. DC is the political capital of the country, and NYC is the cultural capital. The richest man in the world wants influence. They’ve just given him $2 billion in subsidies to be close enough to lobby them.

Consider too that these jobs will be created in two of the most expensive areas in the US to live, in the two cities — New York and Washington — where cultural and political capital is most highly concentrated. What kind of workers will be able to labor in those Amazon sites? Not middle class people with families. Think of how much good could have been done had Amazon put one or both of those facilities elsewhere in the nation.

Strictly speaking, it’s not Amazon’s job to be a good corporate citizen, but make no mistake: Jeff Bezos is contributing to the hollowing out of America. And so are the politicians of both parties who allow corporations to exercise so much power. They’re undermining the strength and stability of our political order.

I’m reading a new book titled Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell Into Tyranny [5] by the historian Edward J. Watts. I’ve praised him in this space before for his illuminating book The Final Pagan Generation, about fifth-century Roman elites. In this new volume, Watts says the growing wealth and power of the Roman Republic, and the concentration of that wealth and power in fewer hands, led to elites losing the older republican virtues of public service and restraint. A chasm erupted between the new super-rich and the masses of people who had to live with the realization that they were going to be worse off than their parents’ generation. Watts writes that “some of the established families who were falling behind economically became increasingly concerned that they could not compete effectively in this new environment.” More:

The new economy produced great wealth for a few winners, but the frustration of the newly poor and the fear that some of the old elites were losing their grip on power created conditions in which a fierce populist reaction could occur.

The men who governed Rome for much of the half century following Hannibal’s defeat generally avoided cultivating this sort of populism. The Republic remained stable despite massive economic and social changes in large part because of their relative restraint. But the generation of politicians coming of age at the end of the 140s (B.C.) took notice of the growing inequality in Roman and Italian society and, unlike their elders, they did not refrain from exploiting the anxiety it produced as they competed for Rome’s highest offices. Their choices would set the Republic on a very different, very dangerous course.

Things got so bad that the citizens of Rome eventually embraced the idea of autocratic rule by Caesar over the instability brought about by the Republic, whose ruling elites they took to be corrupt, self-serving, and ineffective.

Matt in VA, observing how politicians rewarded the world’s richest man with taxpayer subsidies, and how that same man is planting his businesses where they can be even more entwined with power, asks of America’s ruling class: “Who can believe this, believe in this, anymore?”

Look at what happened this week with the US Catholic bishops. They gathered in Baltimore amid another round of scandal — this one sparked by this past summer’s revelation that Cardinal McCarrick was secretly a sex fiend, and rose in the Church’s ranks despite this being known in elite circles. With their credibility at an all-time low, the bishops had hoped to do something, anything, to send a signal to their people that they can be trusted to reform and govern themselves. The pope, who prefers to downplay the seriousness of the crisis, perhaps because the most corrupt are his allies, tied their hands on Day One. By the end of the meeting, the bishops voted down a proposal simply to ask Pope Francis to make public results of the Vatican’s investigation of McCarrick. From CNA’s report: [6]

Cardinal William Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said he did not support the resolution because it would only further the divide between the USCCB and the Vatican.

The inability of bishops to speak the truth about sex abuse, in part out of fear of seeming divisive, is by now a terrible joke. Who can believe in this, in these bishops, anymore? Some will leave the Catholic faith in disgust. Others will persist in the faith, in spite of the Catholic Church’s ruling class. The point is, this is an entirely self-inflicted wound, one that is causing severe damage, from which the Roman church, at least in this country, will not soon recover.

On the political front, this could easily happen to the American republic. Matt in VA says:

The intertwining tentacles of Big Tech and Big Government growing ever more strangling. This is our elite — the establishment of both parties, note well. This is the kind of thing our elite does. Imagine believing in *this* kind of America.

Who can? All it will take is one or more talented politicians to focus the inchoate anger of people and regions left behind by crony capitalism. Donald Trump has shown what is possible, for better and for worse. His own personal corruption and incompetence has prevented constructive change, but we now know that the norms of the old Republic are not nearly as durable as we thought them to be.

Assuming economic stability, the politician who figures out how to be truly populist on economics while being more federalist on culture war issues (i.e., credibly advocating for letting Blue America be blue, and Red America be red), will crack the code. I’m not sure how that figure could emerge. As it stands now, the Republicans can’t imagine ever doing anything that offends against pro-corporate fundamentalism, and as long as a corporation is sufficiently woke, the Democrats don’t have a problem with it.

But if we have another economic crash like 2008, anything could happen.

There may be a regional aspect to this future populism too. Ross Douthat gets at it in this comment:

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Here’s a link to Douthat’s piece from 2017. [9] Excerpt:

Yes, for many of their inhabitants, particularly the young and the wealthy, our liberal cities are pleasant places in which to work and play. But if they are diverse in certain ways they are segregated in others [10], from “whiteopias [11]” like Portland to balkanized cities like D.C. or Chicago. If they are dynamic, they are also so rich — and so rigidly zoned — that the middle class can’t afford to live there and fewer and fewer kids [12] are born inside their gates. If they are fast-growing it’s often a growth intertwined with subsidies and “too big to fail” protection; if they are innovation capitals it’s a form of innovation that generates fewer jobs than past technological advance. If they produce some intellectual ferment they have also cloistered our liberal intelligentsia and actually weakened liberalism politically by concentrating its votes.

So has the heyday of these meritocratic agglomerations actually made America greater? I think not. In the age of the liberal city — dating, one might argue, to the urban recovery of the 1990s — economic growth has been slack, political dysfunction worse, and technological progress slow outside the online sector. Liberalism has become more smug and out-of-touch; conservatism more anti-intellectual and buffoonish. The hive-mind genius supposedly generated by concentrating all the best and the brightest has given us great apps and some fun TV shows to binge-watch, but the 2000s and 2010s haven’t exactly been the Florentine Renaissance.

Thus this week’s installment in my series [13] of implausible, perhaps even ridiculous proposals [14]: We should treat liberal cities the way liberals treat corporate monopolies — not as growth-enhancing assets, but as trusts that concentrate wealth and power and conspire against the public good. And instead of trying to make them a little more egalitarian with looser zoning rules and more affordable housing, we should make like Teddy Roosevelt and try to break them up.

More:

Meanwhile new business tax credits would encourage regional diversification, while the state and local tax deduction would be capped, making it more expensive for the upper class to live in and around high-cost, high-tax metropolitan areas. And the F.T.C.’s mandate would be creatively rewritten to include an industry’s geographic concentration as a monopolistic indicator, letting it approve mergers and acquisitions and trustbust with an eye toward more dispersed employment.

Read the whole thing. [9]

Finally, if you haven’t yet read Daniel Kishi’s essay about Amazon’s great swindle from TAC this week [15], please do. Excerpt:

Indeed, under the guise of a multi-billion dollar development contest, Amazon successfully convinced the mayors and governors of 238 North American cities and regions to voluntarily surrender a treasure trove of information ranging from future infrastructure projects to land use patterns and everything else in between—all without being charged a dime.

Armed with this detailed data, Amazon will not only have a competitive advantage over its rivals in retail and cloud computing, it will also have a serious upper hand at the negotiating table with state and local governments, as it will know precisely how much taxpayer money it will be able to extract from public funds.

Amazon has emerged in recent years as the leading beneficiary of corporate welfare, pocketing [16] more than $1.6 billion in state and local tax breaks and subsidies (including more than $230 million this year alone) for construction of its data centers and warehouses since 2000. As it seeks to grow its cloud computing market share, expand its physical retail footprint, and optimize its supply chain, Amazon will use the information it’s gathered to extract as many financial resources as it can. With many government officials operating as if economic development is a zero sum game, Amazon will continue to foment localized bidding wars that pit city against city, county against county, town against town.

“This is not about 1 city or 2 cities,” Mitchell says. “It’s about a corporation that’s extending its tentacles in every direction—to extract wealth, insert itself, dominate.”

Who is the trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt of our time? Come quickly, while there is still a Republic left to save.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

I work for Amazon… in “HQ1” here in Seattle. It is interesting to see the reaction on the inside. In one word: excitement.

The thing that makes Amazon so successful and powerful is the same thing that makes it scary and blind to the damage it does: a self-righteous sense of “customer obsession”.

Customer obsession is our primary mantra at Amazon. It has an obvious upside for the business as Bezos continually preaches: the company can’t settle because the customer is never happy. But this obsession has a dark side which doesn’t seem to be acknowledged internally: If we think that we are serving the customer, then we can do no wrong. You see Amazon got all those tax incentives “for the customer”. Amazon conducted a year long public search “for the customer”. Amazon is locating itself in powerful political hubs “for the customer”!

Amazon employees don’t just think this. We are converted to it and that conversion powers the massive, world-consuming engine that is Amazon.com.

I say all of this not just to criticize the company, but kind of to defend it too. Bezos and Amazon are not nefarious plotters out to become our tech overlords. Bezos himself is best understood not as any sort of villain but as the richest geek in history. Amazon itself will suffer the same fate as Sears in 50-100 years.

But intentional or not, Amazon is a monster that feeds off obsessing over every possible whim of a hedonistic culture. That should be everyone’s true concern about Amazon.

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92 Comments To "The Caesar Of The Amazon Jungle"

#1 Comment By Noah172 On November 16, 2018 @ 8:33 am

catbird wrote:

I love the way you spin the fact that the Democrats got the House by a huge margin into some kind of disaster for them

Work on your reading comprehension. I didn’t say it was a “disaster” for them. I described how they got their gains (e.g., wooing affluent suburbanites by excoriating the Republican tax bill as bad for upper-income people in high-tax states), while noting they could have done even better had they not nominated some of their zestier leftist candidates (e.g., I think Gwen Graham could have won Florida rather than Andrew Gillum). It did not deny that the election overall went well for the Democrats.

#2 Comment By MikeCLT On November 16, 2018 @ 8:41 am

My neighbor moved to Charlotte, NC from Seattle. He was emphatic that Charlotte or any other city should not want HQ2. He said that when Microsoft built their huge campus, the government forced them to build the infrastructure necessary to support all those new workers. Not so with Amazon. They are getting paid to bring all the congestion and costs to your city.

#3 Comment By JonF On November 16, 2018 @ 8:48 am

Matt in VA, home delivery in not exactly new. A month or so ago we had a big nostalgia fest here over the looming demise of Sears, which pioneered the “ship it” business back in the late 19th century.

#4 Comment By Matt in VA On November 16, 2018 @ 8:55 am

Customer obsession is our primary mantra at Amazon.

Imagine taking a corporate “mantra” seriously. It is like taking the mantras of Hollywood New Agers seriously. In my experience, the idea that tech needs and is dependent on “the very brightest” is belied by the fact that they hire lots of people who never met a vapid buzzword they didn’t like and believe in. Silicon Valley is ground zero for this kind of “communication style.”

Tech does not really need or depend on finding the best and the brightest. It wants and needs 20 and 30 somethings who don’t have families and who will accept long working hours and a certain quality of life that those who are older/parents/have a little more maturity would not find appealing. Tech wants code monkeys willing to commute more than an hour to their jobs and to work more than 40 hours a week and tech wants to pay them as little as possible. This is why tech loves work visas. A company whose employee is on a work visa which ties them to that company and makes their ability to be lawfully present in the country dependent on them has a tremendous amount of power over that employment. Forget about any question of unionization or bargaining power or a redistribution of tech’s vast profits going to its highest ranking executives — no question of your workforce exercising any real power when you possess the ability to take away their right to even be present in the country.

And of course tech wants to be close to the centers of power — again, not because that’s necessary for “attracting the most skilled workers” but because it’s very convenient to have some of your executives live among the DC power elite. Certain understandings develop better that way.

I work at a tech university and a lot of our students go on to work at places like Amazon. And let me tell you, one becomes quite quickly disabused of the idea that these are bright, dynamic, and creative geniuses the lot of them. I mean, I’m sure tech *does* attract bright people from schools that are better than the school I work at.

But — and I’m sorry, I’m going to be unkind here — let’s look particularly at the work visa population, since Big Tech is absolutely passionate about MORE work visas perhaps more than any other political cause, and they are always arguing that lots more work visas are absolutely needed for this dynamic top-notch workforce. Well, more than 75% of work visa holders in the US come from just one region, the Indian subcontinent, India-Pakistan-Bangladesh. And — well — I’ve no doubt that this population is drawn from a very, very small slice (caste) of South Asian society, the “engineer” slice, and isn’t really representative at all of these societies and these peoples in their tremendously complex totality. But. Quite frankly, there is no group more bourgeois, craven, *completely* devoid of intellectual curiosity; no group more motivated solely by bourgeois status and making money; no group with such a smallness of soul when it comes to what they value in life. Even Northern Virginia DC suburbs yuppies are not quite as nakedly bourgeois. It is the importation on an industrial scale of people who really do think like this: “Apple/Amazon/Facebook are the biggest and most successful companies and I will go work for one of them because that is Success.” And that’s it. There’s nothing else there. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the work visa population is so hugely dominated by this type of person; certainly, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are huge, but there are lots of other places in the world that have good amounts of people, but their people are not, in my experience, like this. Iranians are not like this. The Chinese and Koreans are not like this. Turks are not like this, Brazilians are not like this, Nigerians are not like this. It really worries me that globalization and the global approach to labor market issues, the massive power that huge corporations exercise by using increasingly non-citizen workforces, results in this: Big Tech discovering that its ideal workforce is a caste of the most intellectually incurious people I have ever interacted with in my life. These people are like anti-matter to the liberal arts — they are incapable of even the slightest bit of passion about works of art or ideas — and the liberal arts are the arts of a society of people who rule. Read the passage from “I Am Charlotte Simmons” about what the words “liberal arts” mean and where they come from. Big Tech wants anything but that.

Bezos and Amazon are not nefarious plotters out to become our tech overlords. Bezos himself is best understood not as any sort of villain but as the richest geek in history.

Bezos is obviously on testosterone, as pictures of him make *very* clear, in which he is deliberately dressing to show off that fact. I think this idea of him as just a “geek” is propaganda and lies to soften us up to him, to get people to keep letting him rape us and wring every cent out of the public purse that he can.

#5 Comment By asdf On November 16, 2018 @ 9:07 am

It was always going to be DC because Bezos lives there personally. I’m not surprised its NOVA, NOVA has a better future than Maryland or DC.

The second site could have been a lot of places besides NYC, but I’m not super surprised.

#6 Comment By PubliusII On November 16, 2018 @ 9:28 am

For a new commenting system, I recommend Disqus. It has editing, thumbs up & down arrows, and the moderator can reply to comments as well as nixing unwelcome one.

#7 Comment By Noah172 On November 16, 2018 @ 9:30 am

JonF wrote:

The cult of neoliberalism, to which the Left signed on in the 90s, is decidedly over in those precincts

But it is alive in the #NeverTrump (former) Republican precincts the Democrats just won.

See also: Bernie Sanders

Who has had to fake being a culture war SJW, such as pandering on #BlackLivesMatter, or blaming racism for the losses of Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum, or screaming about Trump as a racist and sexist, not just a plutocrat or capitalist pig or whatever.

As I said repeatedly during the election season, economic justice issues (on healthcare, the minimum wage etc.) were the focus of many, many campaigns

Health care was indeed the overwhelming focus of Democratic campaigns. (That’s not an impression of mine or yours; it’s evident in analyses of their ads and speeches.) They were wise to focus on that issue. (Although note that a number of successful Democratic candidates disavowed Medicare For All.) Other “economic justice” issues were less prevalent because the Democrats were mostly targeting upper-income swing and #NeverTrump Republican voters. Such people don’t care about the minimum wage or unions (and, to repeat, are skeptical of Medicare For All).

Life style liberalism with maybe the single exception of abortion, very much took a back seat

Do you count gun control with lifestyle liberalism? The Democrats were surprisingly successful with that issue. Michael Bloomberg targeted big bucks on key districts in the home stretch and had pretty good results (e.g., Lucy McBath in the Atlanta suburbs, an upset victory, and the SoCal Republican districts that fell).

#8 Comment By Collin On November 16, 2018 @ 9:30 am

At the risk sounding like Robert Bork, how can anybody claim Amazon is a Monopoly Force? Wal-Mart and Target are still larger retail sellers than Amazon and I am not sure what economic barriers Amazon has over the other internet sellers. I remember a lot internet sellers in 2000 and a lot them fell by the waste side. Jeff Bezos is only the richest man today because Wall Street overvalues Amazon and Wal-Mart empire was split between Sam Walton kids. I am old enough to remember when Amazon was David to the retail Goliaths in early 2000s. (As an Econ major from 1992 I find it fascinating how quickly internet/tech settles on large Monopoly/Oligopoly markets.)

Anyway, it was bad policy of the bidding on second headquarters although this is the normal bidding these sourcing departments handle all purchasing and . (Again Wal-Mart main market strength was their ability to source products cheaper than anybody else. I need read on my Robert Bork!)

However, I wish more media was shone on the FoxConn boondoggle in Wisconsin that probably cost Scott Walker his last election which was an incredibly bad deal and unlikely to lead manufacturing job boom.

#9 Comment By MichaelGC On November 16, 2018 @ 9:47 am

AnnaH says on November 16, 2018 at 1:21 am:

As a side not, do read Tomass Mann’s the Magic Mountain. I also loved the parallel themes with Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Great insights for our age.

I’ve read Mann’s The Magic Mountain twice so far. Rich and deep and full of wisdom, it cast a spell on me like no other. Towards the end of the book, there is a period of numbing boredom followed by mounting tension and irascibility between the patients of the sanatorium. There was almost a duel, but it became a suicide when the Jesuit suddenly turned the pistol on himself. Shortly afterwards, the sublime peace is shattered by the advent of WWI.

The novel ends most movingly, with the sensitive hero Hans Castorp on the field of battle, his fellows falling to the left and right of him as he advances and disappears into the distance, probably to become a casualty as well. We don’t know.

Yes, insights for our age, one of them being that we are not nearly as enlightened as we suppose ourselves to be. For all the super-computers we walk around with there is pervasive shallowness of the anomie. In a society without a spiritual center, united only by our diversions and entertainments, we are no more immune to madness and self-destruction than the generations that came before, as I think many who follow this blog are aware.

#10 Comment By Brian in Brooklyn On November 16, 2018 @ 9:49 am

Amazonian writes: “But intentional or not, Amazon is a monster that feeds off obsessing over every possible whim of a hedonistic culture. That should be everyone’s true concern about Amazon.”

But it is not since everyone keeps asserting the existence of the autonomous self. A hedonistic culture is the consequence of an individual self-based culture. Hedonistic practices grow in proportion to need re-affirm the self.

#11 Comment By Ted On November 16, 2018 @ 9:51 am

Always impressed by the smarts in these comboxes.

Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State, 1911:

“A clear boundary exists between the servile and
the non-servile condition of labour, and the condtions upon either side of that boundary utterly differ one from another. Where there is compulsion applicable by positive law to men of a certain status,and such compulsion enforced in the last resort by the powers at the disposal of the State, there is the institution of Slavery; and if that institution be sufficiently expanded the whole State may be said to repose upon a servile basis, and is a Servile State.
i Where such formal,legal status is absent the conditions are not servile; and the difference bet ween servitude and freedom, appreciable in a thousand details of actual life, is most glaring in this : that the free man can refuse his labour and use that refusal as an instrument wherewith to bargain ; while the slave has no such instrument or power to bargain at all, but is dependent for his well-being upon the custom of society, backed by the regulation of such of its laws as may protect and guarantee the slave.”

So we’re not there yet. But we’re getting there.

#12 Comment By Surly On November 16, 2018 @ 9:56 am

@Bayesian-AWS has the contract to provide cloud services to the CIA and DoD and as far as I know, the entities and agencies in the government that are migrating their infrastructure to the cloud (not all of them will or should do so) are going with AWS. I’m sorry if I was unclear–I’m going to blame the lack of an edit function. Thanks for pointing out my error.

#13 Comment By Marshal On November 16, 2018 @ 10:10 am

“It was too much even for the Ur-capitalists at the Wall Street Journal editorial board”

Crony capitalism isn’t capitalism. This would be clearer if you dropped the descriptor “capitalism” entirely since it was developed specifically as a disparaging term and is no one’s actual goal. If you substitute the term “Free Market” miraculously the WSJ’s opposition to a cronyist deal becomes entirely consistent. It is your framing which is wrong.

Crony capitalism is socialism lite: an alliance between business and government.

#14 Comment By Anna On November 16, 2018 @ 10:10 am

One thing I’ve recently noticed that Amazon has done to make life worse in America; has anybody else noticed this?

US Postal Service delivery trucks and people now seem to be delivering on Sunday just as much as any other day. I gather that was due to an ultimatum from Amazon, at first as a holiday season thing, but now it appears to have become a workday like any other, due to their pressure.

Obviously next-day and two-day delivery are far more important than that there should be such a thing as a day of rest for anybody.

#15 Comment By collin On November 16, 2018 @ 10:15 am

Matt in VA

Questions on Amazon:

1) One aspect of Amazon is they continue to run low profits so it is really hard to prove they are an evil company. Even, airlines run higher profits these days.
2) Yes, tech is obsessed at hiring the right talent as they believe that is their competitive advantage. Also most tech companies are very large global customer base as well so they use to win foreign buyers. (Apple advertises itself as much China based as US based for Chinese buyers.)
3) Amazon in the 1990s was the David to Black Box stores Goliath. It was Barnes & Noble ran out local independent stores in most neighborhoods.
4) I am sure what your point is on China and India not obsessed with success. (Or other less successful nations like Iran and Niger.) Looking at China they are completely focused on economic success and productivity while making independent farms and business increasingly hard to manage. China looked at Japan Inc. 1980s and decided follow that society completely.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 16, 2018 @ 10:31 am

Bezos himself is best understood not as any sort of villain but as the richest geek in history.

Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were not villains. But their business practices were villainy. “The market made me do it.”

Other “economic justice” issues were less prevalent because the Democrats were mostly targeting upper-income swing and #NeverTrump Republican voters. Such people don’t care about the minimum wage or unions (and, to repeat, are skeptical of Medicare For All).

Noah is quite right about that. The Democratic “progressives” celebrating their blue wavelet don’t have a clue what this batch of new Dems is and isn’t good for. Until they think about what it takes to grab a solid majority of the working class vote back, they’re going to be disappointed. And they would have to downplay their favorite “identity politics” toys to do that.

Which reminds me, Trump has been grousing that the GOP candidates who lost were those who didn’t seek his embrace. Of course… those who were most vulnerable represented districts where his embrace would be least helpful. Its like the 2010 election, after which everyone asked what happened to the Blue Dog Democrats. The Blue Dogs represented districts most vulnerable to swing to the GOP. That’s why they were Blue Dogs.

I’ll tell you, this corporate “monstrosity” got to be what it is by offering a unique service that is very much valued. I’m happy to use their services a lot. No drive to a store that may or may not have what I want. Order from my computer. Delivery to my mailbox! I should complain?

The bigger it is, the more people rely on it, the fewer alternatives there are, the more it takes on the attributes of a public utility, and should be regulated as such. Or broken up. Maybe we could have independent regional companies running Distribution Centers which serve five different national sales centers. Or we could have anti-trust laws that forbid purveyors of one line of goods from selling goods in other lines.

Ya think the antifa goons who have harassed Tucker’s family would ever have the inclination, let alone the guts, to behave similarly with the kin of Bezos?

Parity demands that they should, not to mention their credentials as in any way anti-capitalist. Perhaps they think “He may be a SOB but he’s OUR SOB.”

A note on rejected comments. Periodically, for no reason I can discern, the comments software fails to retain my name, email, website, etc. from one comment to the next. I cannot see my own post with the italic “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” I wonder if it even was received. But eventually, when it has been approved, I see it. After a while, this problem goes away. No idea why.

#17 Comment By Rick67 On November 16, 2018 @ 11:03 am

Exhibit 1,650,000 for why capitalism should not be confused with free market economics. Capitalism, properly understood, has to do with business working with the state to give them an advantage and to disadvantage the competition. When left wingers decry “capitalism” sometimes they have a point.

Louisiana is quite capitalist.

#18 Comment By Amazonian On November 16, 2018 @ 11:10 am

Matt in VA,

Amazon is the first company I’ve worked for that takes its mantras or “leadership principles” as we call them here seriously. Everywhere else I have worked only paid lip service to its values. Amazon, for better or worse is obsessed with these principles which can be found with a simple google search. They are discussed in nearly every meeting for every kind of project.

#19 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 16, 2018 @ 11:32 am

“People move where the jobs are. A large enough influx of people changes the cultural and political character of a region over time.”

Yes, if you build it and offer H1B’s, or gate crasher refugee status to all, Bangalore and even the caravans will come.

Look who likes this and benefits. Not the existing citizenry, many of who will eventually live in the style of third world slums where the countries are run by democratically unaccountable oligarchs.

#20 Comment By Matt in VA On November 16, 2018 @ 11:44 am

collin says:
November 16, 2018 at 10:15 am
Matt in VA

Questions on Amazon:

1) One aspect of Amazon is they continue to run low profits so it is really hard to prove they are an evil company. Even, airlines run higher profits these days.
2) Yes, tech is obsessed at hiring the right talent as they believe that is their competitive advantage. Also most tech companies are very large global customer base as well so they use to win foreign buyers. (Apple advertises itself as much China based as US based for Chinese buyers.)
3) Amazon in the 1990s was the David to Black Box stores Goliath. It was Barnes & Noble ran out local independent stores in most neighborhoods.
4) I am sure what your point is on China and India not obsessed with success. (Or other less successful nations like Iran and Niger.) Looking at China they are completely focused on economic success and productivity while making independent farms and business increasingly hard to manage. China looked at Japan Inc. 1980s and decided follow that society completely.

1. Ever hear of “Hollywood accounting”?

It’s true that Bezos is the richest man on the planet and Amazon is the second biggest company in net worth, isn’t it? Why, exactly, isn’t that enough for my point to stand? “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

2. I don’t really see anything to respond to here; it’s unclear what your point even is. You uncritically repeat talking points that Big Tech types give people in the media and government to regurgitate to the people who are being raped to the tune of billions by billionaires.

3. Yes, Amazon is continuing a trend that started before it. The destruction of local businesses, local communities, etc., didn’t start with Tech, even though Tech is an accelerant. Wal-Mart has certainly played its role. One of the reasons (among many, many others) that I think conservatives in the US are going to get crushed like bugs is that at least *some* liberals understand the importance of supporting local businesses, avoiding chains, shopping downtown, keeping older and historical buildings from becoming unused and neglected while everybody drives out constantly to the strip mall near the highway (so convenient!), etc. Conservatives have EMBRACED gutting and destroying their own communities in favor of huge multinational corporations that don’t give a d*** about them — you see it all across the USA.

Amazon didn’t start this. But Amazon might finish it. Conservatives who wonder what happened to their towns, their communities, their way of life — well, you played a role in this. Because you chose “convenience.”

4. If China is following Japan, that’s a GOOD thing. Japan actually values local identity and Japan has held on to its aesthetic sensibility (which is priceless) in the face of globalism more than ANY other Westernized/industrial/postindustrial country out there other than maybe Italy. Japan has problems, but if what you are saying is true (I’m not so sure, at all) that would be a good thing.

Many of the Iranians who come here to work are determined and motivated and do not want to remain in Iran for what to an American might be obvious reasons. But in my experience Iranians are not — indeed, are *never* — crudely bourgeois, blandly grade-grubbing and status-opposed coder-types whose brain literally run at the level of “Facebook is a Big Successful Company, and working at Facebook means Success.” One gets the feeling when speaking with Iranians that here is somebody from a great and storied culture — you can tell that there’s *more* to them even if you’re just talking office-talk. I’m sorry, but there is such a thing as a sensitivity to national character, even though our Multiculturalism regime believes all such sensitivity is bigotry. If Big Tech wasn’t so interested in massive increases in inflows of a certain kind of worker whose mentality, in my experience, is servile, slavish, and unthinking, I would be less worried than I am. There is simply a tremendous difference in character between the different peoples of the world — and I’m sure that within countries, especially huge countries, there are very different types! — but I know what I think about the type Big Tech wants to flood us with.

#21 Comment By Matt in VA On November 16, 2018 @ 12:44 pm

Steve Sailer’s take on Amazon’s new headquarters is, I think, right on. As always.

Why Northern VA and NYC, two of the most crowded and expensive options they could have picked when deciding to expnand? Companies like Amazon WANT unaffordable family formation. They want to be in places where they can wring more out of their workers — where their workforce can be mostly 20, 30, 40-somethings who don’t have kids, where the sexual and romantic marketplace “encourages everything but commitment.” Where Tinder will display a large number of options on your phone but forget about being able to afford an apartment that will let you start a family.

If conservative Christians do not get in the game when it comes to our economic regime, they deserve what’s going to happen to them.

#22 Comment By Collin On November 16, 2018 @ 12:56 pm

1. Ever hear of “Hollywood accounting”?

No, look up Amazon profits and it is bizarrely low and 5 years ago losing money was almost normal for them. In fact they one of the few companies really serious about investing in the future. But Wall Street completely overvalues them for lots of reasons.

2) A lot of tech companies sell overseas in other markets and have lots of foreign employees. What is wrong with that? I mid-level in large company and have worked with people in India, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand and numerous European nations. And shouldn’t we be allowing our companies to successful with foreign markets?

3) Didn’t Wal-Mart and Amazon grow naturally in the free market? There is a lot of willing shoppers that visit them on free will. Maybe independent retailers of the past really won’t that good in terms of price and selection. (And growing in the 1970s, I remember the issues of inflation and one market solution was the Big Box store.)

4) Have you seen Japan Government Debt to GDP ratio any time lately? It is like 240%. And it is literally becoming a society of Grandpa Simpsons with huge aging population. TBH, I still bet they are the second developed nation that has a huge Government Debt Financial Crisis in 10 – 20 years. (A disfunctional European nation goes first…Italy?)

The reality is we are in the middle of a competitive global market and I still don’t see a good plan to go back to the local economy and reality in the 1950s or 1960s. And maybe that is what the 1970s inflation and other economic issues were about that the post war boom ended and we had to change our policies and society. The Reagan Revolution and Carter Deregulation did not come from nowhere.

#23 Comment By Mark B. On November 16, 2018 @ 1:14 pm

One could say with some exagerration that Obama began the era of corporate feudalism by saving the banks in 2008 with the taxpayers money and that was that (no consequences for the bad boys and girls).

Bezos is just following up on that, as have many before, although not that spectacular is tne Amazon-humiliation show. Corporate welfare with a royal display of entitlement is normal now in these new feudal times. The race to the bottom is in full swing in Europe as well to lure corporations to come over (espescially from Brexit-Britain).

Those are the times we live in. There is just one more thing left what one can do: retreat. Do not buy at Amazon, skip having an Apple. Skip Facebook, skip all the mega behemoths. Retreat. Try own, local solutions. Buy more expensive and less. Buy nescessary items and services as much as possible not from behemoths.

I expect mr. Dreher and Matt in VA to stop being a customer of Amazon (if they were in the first place that is). Otherwise words ring hollow. Same goes for all.

#24 Comment By Sam M On November 16, 2018 @ 1:58 pm

Media reports out of Pittsburgh indicate that the combined city/county/state incentives to land HQ2 ended up totalling more than $6 billion.

They offered to GIVE Amazon the five most developable pieces of property in the region, free of charge.

#25 Comment By Rich On November 16, 2018 @ 2:42 pm

It might be good to also look at the reason that Amazon gave for going with DC and NY. They said that they can attract high-quality workers there. These areas are full of highly educated yuppies, and have the amenities to attract more highly educated yuppies. Locating in the middle of nowhere might seem romantic, but you don’t have those workers there.

That said, I highly agree with not paying a company to move to your area. Then again, a lot of the rational behind various public investments, whether in schools, roads, cultural facilities, is that it will attract companies, and basically Arlington County, VA, was competing against Montgomery, MD, and Washington, DC, to get Amazon and what VA hopes will be increased tax revenue.

#26 Comment By James On November 16, 2018 @ 3:59 pm

Just a reminder – Amazon is the 2nd most trusted institution in America behind the military.

I may not like them either (as a Sawant voter in Seattle), but people will take Amazon controlling everything it means low prices and free shipping, unfortunately.

#27 Comment By JonF On November 16, 2018 @ 4:20 pm

Hi Noah. Even upper middle class people are insecure when it comes to healthcare. Anyone with employer provided healthcare know how increasingly crappy and expensive even the good plans are nowadays. So healthcare resonates
With almost everyone, even the fairly well off. And as an FYI, I am skeptical that we could do single payer having come too far down another road. Given my druthers I’d do something along the lines of the German system.
Unmentioned, by either of us, but the cost of college is starting to bite the upper middle class too. This has also been a winning issue for the Democrats, since there’s fairly solid support for a non-debt based financing means.
As for gun control it’s a law and order issue, full stop, and not remotely a culture war issue. I realize rural people steeped in honest gun culture (I know and am sympathetic to some folks like that) see it as an attack by urban folk on their lifestyle, but it’s mainly about fear of crime.

#28 Comment By Collin On November 16, 2018 @ 5:02 pm

One could say with some exagerration that Obama began the era of corporate feudalism by saving the banks in 2008 with the taxpayers money and that was that (no consequences for the bad boys and girls).

The era of corporate feudalism been with the US since the end of the Civil War. Any reading of Carengie treatment of workers is almost astounding today.

It was the Bush administration that passed TARP although I think Obama could have been harder on the banks and could have shut down Citibank and Ally Bank. (With the government backing during the crisis of Sept 2008 – March 2009 the other banks were OK and Most paid TARP back in the summer 2009.)

#29 Comment By Anne (the other one) On November 16, 2018 @ 6:16 pm

Amazon owns Whole Foods. In NYC, instead of stopping off at the corner bodega (supermarket) for groceries, Whole Foods takes online orders and delivers in an hour.

These bodegas are family-owned businesses, usually by immigrant families. The whole family works including kids after school. They are cornerstone of city blocks. People stop and chat to their neighbors there. Students stop after school for candy or ice cream.

I am sure Amazon/Whole Foods can undercut their prices. I hate them.

#30 Comment By Jonah R. On November 16, 2018 @ 6:33 pm

Mark B wrote: “Those are the times we live in. There is just one more thing left what one can do: retreat. Do not buy at Amazon, skip having an Apple. Skip Facebook, skip all the mega behemoths. Retreat. Try own, local solutions. Buy more expensive and less. Buy nescessary items and services as much as possible not from behemoths. I expect mr. Dreher and Matt in VA to stop being a customer of Amazon (if they were in the first place that is). Otherwise words ring hollow. Same goes for all.”

I’m working on doing just that, Mark B. I’ve stopped using ABE Books, the used-book service owned by Amazon. If I see something for sale by a third-party on Amazon, I thank Amazon for letting me do the research and I go use the third party’s own website, even if it costs me another two or three dollars and takes a day longer to arrive.

I’m setting up my Amazon Prime membership not to renew when my year is up. My credit card “rewards” me with Amazon points, but in 2019 I plan to switch my usage to a different card and give myself less incentive to shop on Amazon.

I don’t know if I can completely extract myself from Amazon, just as I can’t completely extract myself from Google. But I am doing my best to give those companies much, much less of my money. I’m under no delusion that my reduction will make a huge difference in the world, and I’m not going to be evangelical about exhorting others to join me, but I plan to do it anyway.

#31 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 16, 2018 @ 8:13 pm

I’ve stopped using ABE Books, the used-book service owned by Amazon.

Really? I’ve been alternating ABE Books and Alibris as alternatives to Amazon. But now I’ll focus almost exclusively on Alibris. Anyone old enough to remember when Amazon started as a purveyor of used books?

#32 Comment By Harve On November 17, 2018 @ 12:49 am

“Meanwhile new business tax credits would encourage regional diversification, while the state and local tax deduction would be capped, making it more expensive for the upper class to live in and around high-cost, high-tax metropolitan areas. And the F.T.C.’s mandate would be creatively rewritten to include an industry’s geographic concentration as a monopolistic indicator, letting it approve mergers and acquisitions and trustbust with an eye toward more dispersed employment.”

Great idea! Let’s dole out tax credits and use anti-trust law to micromanage the economy because we all know how well central planning works. Foxconn and American Meadowlands were great ideas.

Ditch Bork and get back to plain old fashioned anti-trust enforcement. How about we get rid of tax credits and other incentives to corruption and mis-allocation altogether so local and state governments can’t play beggar thy neighbor ?

Oh, and while we’re at it let’s go back to pre-Reagan levels of taxation.

The way to deal with areas that have been bypassed may be the way we used to. If one wanders around the American west one encounters lots of nothing. Areas of Nevada had more people in the 1860s then at present. Areas that were clearly cemeteries but not even the markers remain. Lots of ghost towns.

One of the biggest mistakes we made was trying to homestead the High Plains with small farms. Those farms are gone now.

Americans have always gone to where the work is. That we could facilitate without some bureaucrat playing commissar.
As I have pointed out before the future is some form of social democracy or some variety of fascism. Douthat, good conservative that he is, seems to have chosen the fascist path.

“Assuming economic stability, the politician who figures out how to be truly populist on economics while being more federalist on culture war issues (i.e., credibly advocating for letting Blue America be blue, and Red America be red), will crack the code.”

Assuming I discover gold the next time I set some fence posts… really, Rod? Anyway, there is no such thing as populist economics and given the experiences we now have with voter suppression in some red states, slack on the culture war issues will deteriorate to Jim Crow 2 in no time. Roberts theorized on the states being past all that when he wrote the racist Shelby County decision. Tell it to Stacy Abrams.

What you wind up with “populist” economics is some far left hell hole like Venezuela or the fascism we see growing in Eastern Europe. Oh, and how’s that Brexit working out for “Little England”? “Populism is a con that always winds up screwing the many and enriching the few.

#33 Comment By RR On November 17, 2018 @ 9:34 am

Soar,

I live in the state of Georgia. We have a ban on gay marriage in our state Constitution, although obviously that is moot now after Obergefell. There are plenty of social conservatives in Georgia. Despite that, the metro Atlanta area has added about 1 million people each decade since the 1990s. That trend is projected to continue in the coming decades as well. And Atlanta is come to major corporations such as Delta, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Mercedes-Benz, UPS, etc., as well as the CDC and Georgia Tech. They don’t seem to have any problem attracting top talent.

From what I hear, Texas, which is possibly even more socially conservative than Georgia, is growing pretty quickly as well. I don’t doubt that Bezo’s decision was all about getting Amazon closer to the center of political and financial power (D.C. and NYC). But your argument about “red states” and business, that people “flee these areas fast if they have the chance,” is demonstrably false.

#34 Comment By David J. White On November 17, 2018 @ 5:33 pm

Anyone else think that rendering of Bezos looks more like Mr. Clean? Just needs the earring.

#35 Comment By WesleyD On November 17, 2018 @ 6:52 pm

Adamant wrote:

Wanted: A socialist/social conservative fusionist movement to expropriate the ill-gotten wealth of the vampires like Bezos who accumulate wealth and power disproportionate to any view of the common good.

It’s called the American Solidarity Party. It includes former Democrats who were driven out because they are pro-life, and former Republicans who realized that the GOP is wedded to big business and only gives lip-service to social conservative causes.

#36 Comment By Anne (one of the many) On November 18, 2018 @ 3:11 pm

Both Alibris and AbeBooks are owned by Amazon; there are few independent online used sites remaining in the US and UK: eBay, Biblio, and B&N. Amazon’s fees for independent vendors are steep.

#37 Comment By Harve On November 18, 2018 @ 3:13 pm

WesleyD says:

“Adamant wrote:

“Wanted: A socialist/social conservative fusionist movement to expropriate the ill-gotten wealth of the vampires like Bezos who accumulate wealth and power disproportionate to any view of the common good.”

“It’s called the American Solidarity Party. It includes former Democrats who were driven out because they are pro-life, and former Republicans who realized that the GOP is wedded to big business and only gives lip-service to social conservative causes.”

Interesting use of language. “Pro-life” Democrats were “driven out” while socially conservative Republicans “realized.” Your priors are showing.

Anyway, third parties can’t get anywhere in a presidential system with first past the post voting and district elections. Maine’s system of ranked choice voting would give third parties a role in influencing the debate with an outside chance of winning here and there. Proportional voting would work if we had slates instead of districts.

As it stands third parties merely serve as spoilers and vehicles for narcissists. There are thousands of Americans dead and hundreds of thousands world wide because Ralph Nader needed to feed his ego and thousands of people are idealistic, low information voters.

#38 Comment By Anne (one of many) On November 18, 2018 @ 7:24 pm

well, Harve, that was Nader AND Buchanan – and the masses of Democrats that voted for Bush, and the voting issues (registration, counting), and the narcissism of the two main parties that assume they don’t need to win votes with policies, they are so lovely we just always vote party line anyway. Or as Bill Clinton, that paragon of all virtues and put it re: the African American community, “where else are they gonna go” ? Your story re: Nader is the common narrative, and clearly of the ‘low information’ variety – you’ve ignored a number of factors. Of course the Dems have plenty of blood on their hands – they’re just loathe to admit it. (Former Democrat)

#39 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 18, 2018 @ 11:11 pm

There are thousands of Americans dead and hundreds of thousands world wide because Ralph Nader needed to feed his ego and thousands of people are idealistic, low information voters.

What makes you think that a Gore administration would have reacted to the 9/11/2001 incidents much differently than the Bushies did? Democrats are notoriously anxious to prove their “patriotism” by outgunning the GOP. Besides, Gore used to be the conservative pro-life Democrat from Tennessee, the man who made Willie Horton a political theme.

I do regret that I sat out that election, the last presidential race I consciously declined to vote it. (I called it Anti-Christ v. The Blob, featuring Bush as Anti-Christ and Gore as the Blob. GWB always reminded me of Dameion in Omen III). My regret, however, is that Gore would at least have continued Clinton’s policy of applying the federal budget surplus to paying down the national debt, and might have actually acted on his vague allusions to returning social security to a separate set of books from the general budget.

The facile rhetoric about third parties being wasted votes is exactly what the Dems and the GOP intended when they revised election laws to enshrine their own existence and erect huge barriers to third parties. The rhetoric about “idealistic, low information voters” betrays a smug liberal elitism which is closely analogous to communist speculation about “electing a new people.” In an elective republic, we all have to work with the electorate we have, not replace them with ‘better people.’

I do have a problem with American Solidarity Party: I advocate firmly for the First Amendment rights of my pro-life fellow citizens, but I will not support a party that continues to make a point of overturning Roe v. Wade. I also find their anti-capitalist veneer rather thin.

#40 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On November 19, 2018 @ 3:57 pm

@ Siralys Jenkins

“The facile rhetoric about third parties being wasted votes is exactly what the Dems and the GOP intended when they revised election laws to enshrine their own existence and erect huge barriers to third parties.”

Bingo! Well put. Frankly, I have been in favor of a multi-party system for years, having long ago soured on the two-party system which, in my estimation, represents two sides of the same coin. Nowhere is it written that we should be limited to a two-party system, certainly not in the United States Constitution (which is conspicuously silent on the subject of political parties). If the United States is de facto a “diverse” society then why shouldn’t this be reflected in the form of a multi-party system?

#41 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On November 19, 2018 @ 4:07 pm

If it’s any consolation, Bezos’ empire, like everything else in life, won’t last. I understand that in a recent address to Amazon none other than Bezos himself–citing the death of Sears as an example–made that very point.

As to his gains having been “ill-gotten”, mehh, maybe–I just don’t know enough about the dude to draw any such conclusions unless one buys into the old chestnut about how behind every fortune you’ll find a crime.

#42 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 19, 2018 @ 9:38 pm

Well, Harve is an enemy of our constitution anyway, so to him it doesn’t matter what was or wasn’t in it. Technically, Harve cannot lawfully serve in any position of public trust, because if he took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America, he would be lying. Harve conceives of “the real constitution” as something like the British constitution — an inchoate mass of parliamentary and other acts adding up in some undefined way to something as malleable as it is authoritative. We fought a war over that almost 250 years ago.