Leaving Amazon

“Even though it is indeed not true that success also justifies the evil deed and the reprehensible means, it is similarly out of the question to regard success as something that is ethically wholly neutral. It so happens that historical success creates the ground on which alone life can go on. The question remains as to whether it is ethically more responsible to go to war like Don Quixote against a new age or, conceding one’s defeat and freely consenting to it, finally to serve the new age. Success, after all, makes history, and the One who guides history always creates good from the bad over the head of the men who make history. It is a short circuit when the stickler for principle, thinking ahistorically and hence irresponsibly, simply ignores the ethical significance of success. It is good that for once we are forced to engage seriously the ethical problem of success. As long as the good is successful, we can afford the luxury of thinking of success as ethically irrelevant. But the problem arises once evil means bring about success.” 
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, On Success

The other day, I had a negative experience with Amazon customer service. I had no prior problems with the company and so I hadn’t earlier given it much thought. But this recent experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I wasn’t dealt with honestly. It took me by surprise, as I didn’t expect such treatment. I’m used to customer service, in any business, treating me the customer as if I mattered. This has led me to question my use of Amazon and to think more carefully about what kind of company it is.

It’s not that I’ve been clueless and unaware of certain aspects of Amazon that are less than optimal, such as their refusal to pay local taxes and their practice of underselling brick-and-mortar bookstores for years at a profit loss. I’ve never liked these the anti-competitive tactics. It’s been sad what large businesses in general have done to small businesses, local economies, and once thriving downtowns. But Amazon has gone beyond the standard problems of big biz.

As I looked around, it became clear that many people have had difficulties with Amazon. With or without warning and explanation, Amazon takes actions that can be frustrating or even harmful. They regularly suspend accounts of third party sellers and, in many cases, this forces those sellers out of business because of how much Amazon’s platform dominates the online market. Customers can even get lifetime bans on making purchases or making comments. For some people, they’ve eliminated all Kindle ebooks from their accounts. There is little an individual can do. Getting a repeal or even just a fair response from a private bureaucracy can be challenging, assuming you can get a response at all. You can hire an arbitration company or something, although in many cases that isn’t successful either.

I’ve come to realize that Amazon isn’t a company I can depend upon and trust. Worse still, Jeff Bezos sounds like a psychopath. This wouldn’t be surprising, as studies have shown that psychopaths are common among corporate executives (one study showing that more than one in five, about the same percentage as found in the prison population); and others have noted that, if we take seriously corporate personhood, corporations fit the description of a psychopath. The way Amazon is run is more than a bit sociopathic with heavy leaning toward authoritarian-style Social Darwinism. Employees are treated like crap with one of the highest employee turnover rates.

Bezos is well known for publicly screaming at and demeaning people. He even has a highly disturbing evil laugh. He once bizarrely demanded that employees act with empathy or else they’d be fired, it not occurring him that such a demand was the complete opposite of empathy (his emotions mattering while the employees emotions not so much) Employees are encouraged to report on each other and that means they have to be constantly on the defense to protect themselves from anonymous complaints, sometimes without being told exactly what is the complaint. It’s a fairly common practice to receive an email from management or from Bezos himself with just a single word in it or just a question mark, apparently with the expectation that employees can read minds.

Working there would leave a normal person in a constant state of anxiety and paranoia, which is to say that to succeed in such an environment would require you to be extremely abnormal in the psychological sense. But that is the point. Bezos doesn’t want normal people working for him and because of how he dominates the online market he can demand almost anything he wants, burning through employees as if they are of little value. It’s a situation of severe inequality of power where employees have no leverage and have no union to turn to.

There is a large community of ex-employees that share horror stories. One guy a while back attempted suicide by jumping off one of Amazon’s buildings, after sending Bezos a scathing email. In the warehouses, employees are constantly monitored by a camera about every ten feet and are expected to work at high speed for long hours and for little pay and benefits. During a heat wave, employees were forced to continue working without air conditioning until they dropped from heat exhaustion and were carted away by a waiting ambulance. One employee talked about his hearing being damaged from the loud machinery, even with wearing ear protection, but the company doctor denied that it was work-related so that their insurance wouldn’t have to pay for it.

On top of all that, Jeff Bezos has become the poster boy of Friendly Fascism by hiding his company’s dark side. He is a wealthy and powerful man with proven ability to influence political outcomes. Using the pseudo-libertarian rhetoric of corporatism, Bezos likes to push the standard plutocratic worldview of school privatization, anti-labor organizing, tax cuts for the rich, tax avoidance/exemptions for big biz, etc. He has expanded his business through entering numerous new markets, by buying the Washington Post and Whole Foods, and by getting a highly lucrative contract with the CIA. Unsurprisingly, his acquired newspaper has used anonymous CIA sources and he kicked Wikileaks off Amazon’s servers.

Amazon was troubling enough in the past. But it feels like the company has moved into a new stage of dominance. That is why many people are once again talking about anti-trust laws, specifically in relation to Amazon. Trump has been threatening Bezos which makes for an interesting dynamic, two plutocrats challenging each other’s power. I guess we can count our blessings that at least the rich and powerful are somewhat divided at the moment. That often happens before major societal changes, if not reform then possibly revolution. Nick Hanauer, an early investor in Amazon, has since come to warn of the pitchforks coming for the plutocrats. One might note that the corruption and oppressiveness of big biz corporatism was a major reason for the American Revolution which, after the country’s founding, caused the founders to narrowly define corporations as being required by law to serve the public good.

I’ve done a lot of business with Amazon over the years. Maybe I shouldn’t have. I regret having recently bought a new Kindle. I didn’t realize how bad it was getting, but now my conscience is bothering me. I feel compelled to begin the process of separating from Amazon. I’ll look around for new companies to do business with. It won’t be easy. The first step is that I won’t buy any further content from Amazon. I presently cancelled my Amazon Prime membership and Audible membership. Maybe this means I’ll have to go back to reading physical books and become reacquainted with the local bookstores.

In the long term, this will be a good thing. I don’t want to personally participate in the further decline of America, as we head into a dystopian future. I’ve been told that I should vote with my dollars, which always seemed like an idiotic thing to say when plutocrats control so much of the world. It’s about impossible to avoid big biz these days. Still, I don’t like the feeling of being complicit in these problems. I suppose my small actions might mean little, but we each have to start somewhere. Thomas Paine, for example, took his first step toward revolution simply by writing a petition that by itself meant nothing for it had no hope of influencing the British Empire. Yet after losing his job over that incident, it eventually led Paine to meet Benjamin Franklin who invited him to the colonies.

So, let me take my first step toward wherever it will lead. I can hope that others will head in the same direction.

* * *

Update (11/26/17) – I decided to send a final email to Amazon. I haven’t shopped there since my banning them. And I don’t plan to ever shop there again.

The only way this decision would change is with some kind of drastic change at Amazon — if not trust busting, then maybe something along the lines of new ownership and management that ended the sociopathic company policy of worker exploitation, price gouging, and tax evasion. Another thing that could help change my mind would be an international movement of labor organizing and government regulation that forced Amazon to act according to moral standards and social norms that are beneficial, rather than harmful, to the public good of democracy and to fair competition of free markets.

Here is the final email:

To Communities Team,

As it is the holiday shopping season, I’m here to inform you that I’m no longer doing business with Amazon. The lies and mistreatment I received have caused me to place a lifetime ban on Amazon.

On average, I spent thousands of dollars a year in the past. So over my lifetime, Amazon will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of profits because of failed customer service. I will instead spend the rest of my life discouraging anyone else from shopping at Amazon. Because of social media, I could have an influence on hundreds of people over my lifetime. Multiply that by all the other lost business from similar failed customer service to other customers. That costs Amazon millions of dollars of lost revenue every year, possibly far more. As employees of Amazon, how forgiving do you think Jeff Bezos would be toward this harm to his business?

I realize some employees let their power go their heads. They think they are untouchable because they have a larger, wealthy, and influential corporation behind them. But I wouldn’t be so confident. If Wikileaks ever leaks Amazon info, including maybe names and addresses of employees, will Amazon protect those employees? Of course not. And imagine what kind of juicy info would be released from internal emails. Just think about the scandals that would follow and who would get scapegoated in the aftermath.

The harm that you cause to others sometimes has a way of coming back to you. Or else coming back to those you represent, which in this case is Amazon. I know Jeff Bezos fears anti-trust actions. Your customers are also citizens, sometimes also people with varying degrees of wealth, power, and influence. Anger the wrong person with the right connections and there would be consequences — it’s bound to happen eventually. If you continue to let power go to your head, it won’t end well.

I wanted to put this on the official record. I don’t expect nor want a response back. Knowing the anti-democratic and anti-competitive activities of Amazon, I now consider the company and its employees to be an enemy of the state and a threat to my freedom. I will spend the rest of my life ensuring that, at the very least, anti-trust actions will be taken against such oligopolies. I will be a single issue voter from now on and this is my single issue, to end plutocratic corporatism.

Do not respond back. You are blocked.

Benjamin D. Steele

* * *

Free Yourself From An Exploitative Culture
by Margaret Flowers & Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance

Amazon and the run-away wealth divide

While we’re talking about truth, let’s look at ways our exploitation-based culture is hurting all of us. One example is the concentration of wealth in the United States, which is accelerating at an alarming pace. In 2010, 400 people owned wealth equivalent to the bottom 50%, over 150 million people. We thought that was outrageous, but by 2015, the number was down to 20 individuals.

A new report by Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie of the Institute for Policy Studies finds that now just three people in the United States, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, own wealth equal to the bottom 50%. That percentage may have changed yesterday because online sales raised Amazon’s stock values so much that Bezos is now a hundred billionaire ($100,000,000,000).

Amazon has become a giant predator in the US economy with a strong grip on Washington politics. Bezos bought the Washington Post, and then signed a $600 million contract with the CIA to build a ‘private cloud’ for the spy agency, raising concerns about conflicts of interest over the Post’s reporting on the CIA and federal government. This month, because of Bezos’ heavy lobbying efforts, Congress took steps that could lead to a $53 billion contract for Amazon to provide goods to the Pentagon.

Amazon is so powerful that cities across the US and Canada are tripping over themselves to lure Amazon with huge tax breaks and land give-aways. James Wilt explains how this is a “textbook ‘race to the bottom’ situation, in which governments are expected to commit massive public funds to subsidize a for-profit corporation so it doesn’t lose the ‘opportunity’ to another jurisdiction.”

Simon Head describes Amazon’s business model as one that puts increasing pressure on workers for greater output and fires them if they fail to perform. Workers have gone on strike to protest “unpaid wages and overtime, dangerous conditions, a lack of breaks and water during hot summer months, and retaliation by management against their organizing efforts.” Amazon also exploits workers who deliver its products. Instead of using the US Post Office for the ‘last mile’ of delivery, Amazon now employs “a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws.”

In this disposable worker economy, it is no surprise that poverty is growing. Collins and Hoxie’s wealth inequality report described the ‘underwater nation’: one in five households either have zero or negative wealth (they are in debt). Hoxie also published the report, “The Road to Zero Wealth” this September, which delves deeper into the significant racial wealth divide. If nothing is done to change the current trends, black households are on track to reach zero wealth by 2043. (Listen to our interview with Collins and Hoxie on Clearing the FOG Radio)

This trend is happening world wide. Another report found that globally, billionaires increased their wealth by almost 20% last year. This level of wealth disparity has not existed since the Gilded Age. John Atcheson writes that this is a natural result of capitalism with its drive for ever greater profits.

28 thoughts on “Leaving Amazon

  1. I always find it fascinating about my posts as they relate to my blog gaining and losing followers. Almost immediately after this was posted, I had a total loss of two followers.

    I guess they must have been big fans of Amazon. Or else I made them feel guilty about their own consumer habits… not my intention. Otherwise, I’m not sure why this particular post would cause someone to stop following my blog, considering this fits into the kinds of topics I typically write about.

    It makes me curious about what motivates people. I actually wasn’t expecting this particular blog to cause a loss of followers, as it was mostly a personal statement of a decision I had made.

  2. On a related note, here is a quote giving voice to a world that once existed, back when Americans still remembered the original intent of the founders as it related to corporations:


    August 31, 1910 – Theodore Roosevelt “New Nationalism” Speech Delivered at the Dedication of the John Brown Memorial Park in Osawatomie, Kansas

    “The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being.

    “There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.”


    • This quote by TR gets at my mood lately. It’s not just Amazon. That is only the most recent thing that helped sharpen my thinking about all of this. Amazon makes absolutely clear the problems with present capitalism, showing the dystopian direction we are heading in.

      Some people would ask how can Amazon be bad when it seemingly does so much good for customers, at least many customers. That is why I mentioned Friendly Fascism. In many ways, even Nazism was friendly fascism and that is what made an inspiring figure like Hitler so dangerous.

      The Nazis didn’t start off putting people into concentration camps. No, they first rebuilt the infrastructure, helped the economy to boom, put people back to work, modernized industry, etc. The average Nazi German still bought products from stores, still went on vacations, and much else, but slowly a creeping authoritarianism took hold. If full authoritarianism had forced itself on the population all at once, the German people would have fought back. Yet by the time most realized what was happening it was already too late.

      Of course, authoritarianism as it develops going into the future won’t look exactly like the authoritarianism of the past. That is almost always true. If it always looked the same, it would be easy to see coming and so easy to resist and prevent. The American founders weren’t certain about the future, but they were certain that corporations had to be carefully restrained by the public good in order to maintain a free society.

      We modern Americans have forgotten what the American Revolution was fought for. And more importantly, what was won.

    • Closer to home, take the Gilded Age. The Robber Barons had gained immense wealth and power, often with monopolies and always with politicians in their pockets. With this wealth and power, they were highly abusive to workers and anyone who got in their way. It wasn’t a free market, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t accomplish some good things for society. Many of those Robber Barons donated large sums of wealth to worthy causes.

      That doesn’t alter the fact of all the harm they caused in the process in getting that wealth. More importantly and fundamentally, the actions they took and the system they created contradicted the values and principles of the American Revolution, not something to be lightly dismissed. The complaint isn’t against their success but a demand for moral accounting of the externalized costs forced onto others.

      It’s not a debate about who gets to be more self-righteous. I don’t doubt that Bezos feels proud in his accomplishments and would respond with self-righteousness toward anyone who criticized his behaviors. And I wouldn’t judge him for his accomplishments, not taken alone. Many people feel proud and self-righteous for various accomplishments, just as many feel morally righteous for challenging injustice, but it’s not as if we are forced to choose between self-righteousness and moral righteousness.

      That misses the point. It’s just sad the harm humans can cause others. The greatest accomplishment is that which doesn’t come at the immense cost of others. Modern capitalism has many costs that often don’t get acknowledged. That in no way lessens the accomplishments. But if we want a sustainable society that is worthy of being sustained, we have a long way to go. We need to finish the fight that the revolutionary founders started.

    • It is sad. In the past, I had positive experiences with Amazon. But reading about some of what goes on with the company has soured my view.

      There is just too much crap in the world. I don’t want to be a part of it, to the extent that is possible. This is a small action in the big picture. It’s more for my own mental health.

      In recent years, I’ve been slowly disentangling myself from negative things. I’m a sensitive person and this kind of thing bothers me immensely. I need to find a way to disconnect from the toxicity in American society because it makes me feel and act in toxic ways.

      I don’t want to be part of the problem. And when all the crap overwhelms me, I feel like I’m part of the problem. It brings out the worse in me. I’m in the process of reassessing my life and the kind of person I want to be.

    • I would make one thing clear, though. I’m in no way telling anyone else what they should do. I did business with Amazon for many years. We all seek to balance the good and bad in our lives, as best as we know how and feel able. Finding balance isn’t an easy task in a world full of so much shittiness.

      • BTW I’ve changed my mind about this. I am telling others what they should do, assuming they support democracy and free markets. There is no way to shop at Amazon without doing harm to the public good and democracy, to small businesses and local economies. So, for those who do value any of those things, the choice is simple.

  3. There were a couple of comments I didn’t want to approve. They didn’t add much to the discussion. They would not have been a net positive to my blog. But I did want to partly respond to them. These comments represent part of the problem. Let me try to contain their negativity. Here is the first bit from the first comment:

    “Maybe because people find failure to survive deeply unattractive, and people with psychological purity dysfunctions driving them to make senselessly self-damaging decisions make healthy people want to edge away? Because you’re making a spectacle of choosing to fail at life?”

    This is a typical troll behavior. But I don’t know this person is actually a troll. It’s highly probable he believes this. Basically, his defense of Social Darwinism is to invoke Social Darwinism. Anyone who fails (or is claimed to have failed) according to Social Darwinism apparently has no right to criticize Social Darwinism. That is amusing. The childishness of this pseudo-logic is amusing. It’s good for a laugh, at the very least.

    When I see comments like this, I have to wonder if there is some projection going on. Does this person think of themselves as a failure? Or like so many Americans, are they living in frustration and fear? So many people turn against others when they are under stress (Amazon even encourages it). And that is the problem with Social Darwinism. It’s not humane and compassionate. It’s not democratic or even American. If the American Revolutionaries were here now, they’d start another revolution.

    This commenter knows nothing about me. It’s just odd that he assumes that people must be losers if they take a moral stance in defense of fairness and justice, empathy and compassion, free markets and democracy. In that case, the list of Social Darwinian failures includes a long list of famous people: Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Henry David Thoreau, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Mahatma Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King jr, etc; and I could include many more that are less familiar to Americans.

    As for me, I’m just a fairly average working class American. I have a job, pay my bills, and live my life. I’m not a member of the liberal class, not among the intellectual elite, not a social justice warrior, or anything similar. So why am I being dismissed? Is everyone who isn’t a plutocrat a failure of Social Darwinian? I guess you are one of the elite winners or else you’re a loser, with no middle ground. Does that mean we should only allow the Trumps and Bezos of the world to impregnate women in the hope of creating a Social Darwinian super race? I’m not quite following the logic here.

    That comment ends with a question:

    “Why don’t next you refuse to shop at supermarkets because of human rights abuses in the supply chain?”

    As I said, voting with one’s dollar is rather meaningless in an oligopoly. It’s looking to choose among a shelf full of superficially diverse products, almost all of which are made by maybe two or three transnational mega-corporations. And it’s consuming media from numerous sources that are owned by a handful of companies (even many local newspapers and small websites are owned and operated by major monied interests).

    That said, the point is that this is a personal decision about how to live my personal life. I’m not expecting to take down Amazon by taking my business elsewhere. As for my other buying habits, I rarely shop at non-local stores. One of the main grocery stores I shop at is a family-owned corner store. It’s the same family I rent from, their own home being a few blocks from mine. That family has been residents and business owners in the local community since the 19th century, consisting of at least several generations. The other grocery store I shop at is larger but also a local business. I once worked for them and they aren’t abusive, for damn sure not Social Darwinian.

    I do what I can. I’m not the leader of a revolution. I’m just someone who wants to be a good person and who tries my best to have positive contribution to the world around me, not to say I always succeed in this, but I would like to try to do better. It’s not a heroic act. These are small decisions in a big bad world. I understand.

    On to the second comment:

    “You realize 90%+ of the world’s societies would be even harder for you to cope with than America?”

    And 90%+ of the world’s societies are dealing with the continuing legacies of Western colonialism, CIA anti-democratic covert operations, proxy wars of the Cold War and War on Terror, military imperialism, Western-funded and trained terrorist groups, Western-supported oppressive regimes, neocon Manifest Destiny, neoliberal economic exploitation, inverted totalitarian corporatism, global plutocracy and oligarchy, etc. I know all about it. Apparently, I know more about it than do these commenters. If they weren’t so misinformed and disinformed, they’d understand my criticisms.

    “Most of them would have no tolerance for fragile eccentrics, and the few liberal countries which might show you more acceptance would exhibit precisely the liberal class values for which you have such a bitter envious anger complex.”

    Fragile eccentrics? What is that supposed to mean? When I look at public polling, my views are mostly in line with that of the majority of Americans. For example, most Americans don’t trust large corproations any more than they trust big government. Most Americans support stronger regulations and taxation on the wealthiest. Most Americans want a society that is fair and just. Anyone who thinks otherwise is mentally and morally aberrant.

    “I think you’re imagining the grass in greener anywhere else in spacetime because it’s easier than admitting you’d be too sensitive to handle real life anywhere.”

    I’m perfectly aware that there is shittiness all over the world. But we have to fight injustice and oppression where we find it based on where we live and where we can have our greatest impact. It’s by not supporting evil within my sphere of influence that I can lessen evil in the greater world. Amazon isn’t just an American business for it has global reach. It’s model of economic cannibalism might harm hundreds of millions of people around the world.

    “Buying books from Amazon is a joke compared to the moral compromises almost everyone else has to make to survive.”

    I’m not against survival. But your comment admits to the problem. A moral compromise represents a moral failure. If everyone throughout history always morally compromised, we’d still be living in a primitive society. It has been the continuous fight for freedom and justice that has helped the world progress. If you were at the beginning of the American Revolution, would you have stood before the outraged colonists preaching to them that their decision to not buy tea from the British East India Company was a joke and that they should just morally compromise in hope of merely surviving?

    “You’re like an invalid ex-friend I had once, who couldn’t tolerate sugar, alcohol, coffee, soda, tea, incense, phone calls, or television noise. Her moral standards were so picky she couldn’t find a Unitarian church nice enough for her. She had some reason she couldn’t do anything. Eventually she lost her housing.”

    In what way am I like an invalid? Was that your attempt at a clever insult? If your ex-friend really was an invalid, your attitude demonstrates that you are a heartless sociopath with a crippled soul. A moral invalid such as yourself would probably excel at Amazon, as you successfully attacked and eliminated your competition.

    My moral standards aren’t all that picky. I don’t like evil. But beyond that, I keep my options open. I’m not looking for perfection. I’m just not a fan of lesser evil voting or lesser evil buying that inevitably leads to greater evil. But if you like evil, then you should stand by your principles of evil. Each to their own.

    • Price gouging is small in the big picture. But indicates larger patterns. It’s similar to why working class revolutionaries like Paine didn’t just fight the British Empire but also fought American profiteers. This is a class war that has been continuous for centuries.

      I can’t see how this can end well, if we continue on this same path. The number of smaller businesses decrease as the large corporations grow larger. It’s like how the big banks had to be bailed out because they were too big to fail. But the smaller community banks were small enough to fail and so weren’t bailed out. As failed banks were swallowed up, this caused the big banks to grow even bigger. If the problem was the banks were too big, then their growing larger means the problem got worse.

      Eventually, there will be only a few mega-corporations and mega-banks remaining in a global oligopoly. That would be more power held by those plutocrats than has ever been amassed by any authoritarian regime in history. These powerful ruling elite (yes, they are ruling elites who fund and dominate the political system) don’t care about democracy, free markets, etc. It’s all about wealth and power.

      They think they are untouchable. Bezos has his sights on controlling as much of the economy around the world as possible. If we let him, he’d gladly become the main market platform through which nearly every business had to operate.

      Many corporations are already more wealthy and powerful than many small countries. What is to stop some plutocrat or alliance of plutocrats from becoming more powerful than the US government? What happens when even the entire military-industrial complex has been privatized and we suddenly find that a corporation has the military power to take over countries?

      I’m talking about the logical extension of how our economic and political system has been developing over the past century. Who would want to live in that world? And if we don’t want to live in that world, why are we helping to create it by our complicity, cynicism, and apathy?

    • I can be easily swayed by a pessimistic outlook. There is no doubt that the global order and biosphere has been pushed about as far as it can go.

      I’m constantly amazed that our ruling elites can be so immensely stupid as to be psychotically disconnected from reality and so self-destructive as to be suicidal. It’s like their attitude is that, if they can’t have it all, then no one can have it. It’s like parents who kill their entire families because they can’t or don’t want to imagine their families living without them.

      This part from the article stood out to me:

      “Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.” The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how “historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).””


    A September 2016 report from economic analysis firm Civic Economics says that Amazon online sales — in 2015 alone — accounted for a loss of more than $1.2 billion of revenue to state and local governments. The report also estimates that in just one year Amazon sales displaced the equivalent of 39,000 retail storefronts and 220,000 retail jobs.

    That lost revenue would have funded public works, public safety, and public education.

    Amazon and Empty Storefronts: The Fiscal and Land Use Impact of Online Retail” was commissioned by the American Booksellers Association. The report concludes that despite the convenience Amazon provides, Americans may not yet “comprehend the nature of the trade-offs to come.”

    How Amazon’s Tightening Grip on the Economy is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs and Threatening Communities
    View earlier 2016 Civic Economics Report

    • He does own Washington Post. And as I recall, that was the publication that ran almost hourly hit pieces against Sanders before a debate he had with Clinton. Bezos also had a deal with CIA to do some tech work that coincided with him buying the Washington Post. Unsurprisingly, the ‘journalists’ working for him have used anonymous CIA informants in articles. It implies that Bezos CIA deal involved more than just tech work, as the CIA’s payment more than paid for his purchase of the Washington Post. How convenient!

    • I’ve been writing and reading reviews on Amazon for at least a decade. I’ve seen many reviews where it was obvious that the reviewer didn’t read the book. I’ve seen some review sections filled with such fake reviews. But until this incident, I’ve never seen them remove so many reviews. They don’t defend other authors against negative reviews in the way they’ve done with Hillary Clinton. Amazon’s official explanation rings hollow.

  5. http://mailchi.mp/orbooks/uber-is-having-a-very-bad-year?e=a25995a3ba

    Uber is having a very bad year. Accused of fostering a culture of sexual harassment and gender bias and slammed for its ties to Donald Trump, now the tech platform has had its license to do business in London revoked, and has threatened to quit Quebec because it refuses to comply with the public safety regulations of the government of the Canadian province.

    Uber’s travails raise one of the critical questions of the 21st century: why do we allow crucial parts of the infrastructure of the global economy to be in the hands of unaccountable, undemocratic, and reckless corporations?

    In Ours to Hack and to Own, some of the smartest Internet thinkers and activists argue for a new kind of online economy: platform cooperativism, which combines the rich heritage of cooperatives with the promise of 21st-century technologies, free from monopoly, exploitation, and surveillance. With a handful of tech giants monoplizing the online economy, it’s an idea whose time has come.

  6. Amazon has avoided both sales taxes and income taxes.

    When states like Texas try to force them to pay sales taxes, Amazon has simply removed wharehouses from the state. And Amazon evades income taxes by plowing profits back into the company, which is essentially a way of creating a tax shelter.

    With it being a transnational business, it can shift its profits around so much that no one can be certain where the profits are going. This is how they are able to drive down prices, control market places, and shut down competition. They have forced out of business thousands of brick-and-mortar stores.

    Even most of the larger companies that have tried to compete, such as with e-books, were forced to leave the market because they weren’t able to avoid taxes in the same way. But also the companies that don’t avoid taxes end up subsidizing Amazon’s profits. Amazon is using tax-paid infrastructure without having to pay for it.

    It’s humorous that Trump has been attacking Amazon. Not only that but making the radical left-wing argument about how media concentration creates a system of disinformation.

    If Trump owned Amazon, he would do the exact same thing. But Trump thinks only he should be allowed to use shady business practices. It’s fun to watch the plutocrats at war with each other. That is how progressive reform and revolutions happen.

    The ruling elite try to keep the public divided. And they are usually successful at this, because of trillions of dollars they spend on advertising, PR, propagandistic media, think tanks, front groups, astroturf, psyops, putting professors and other intellectuals on their payroll, etc. But now we are seeing the divisiveness impacting even the wealthy and powerful.

    That is why high inequality societies are worst for everyone. They are unstable and eventually self-destruct. Even if only for selfish reasons, the filthy rich should worry about worsening inequality. It means a shit storm is coming and no one will be safe.

  7. If anyone is interested, there is a bit more discussion of this topic in the comments section of another post:


    That fits with what I’ve recently been thinking about Amazon. It goes to show that it isn’t just Amazon and isn’t just the United States.

    This economic system has become the norm in many countries around the world, no matter the claims of culture and politics that seem to make each country distinct. Neoliberalism has no loyalty to any country, any government, and any citizenry.

    This company from the article, like Amazon, sells products to many countries. It’s largely arbitrary where the factory is located, other than where cheap labor and infrastructure is available.

    I was reading a lot of articles like that. It’s what finally pushed me to break my customer ties with Amazon and take my business elsewhere. It’s gotten too bad to continue tolerating it. I probably should have cut my ties long ago. But I can’t deny that Amazon is extremely convenient and I like their Kindle devices.

    It’s far from my hating them for their success. It’s just the human and societal cost is too high. No amount of success can justify blatant wrongdoing to the level of organizational sociopathy. I can’t see why Amazon couldn’t be just as successful or maybe more successful without being evil.

    If they ever change their ways, I’d love to support their new policy of supporting free markets, promoting humane treatment of workers, and aligning themselves with democracy. But I’m not going to hold my breath waiting. More likely, anti-trust laws will eventually force their oligopoly to be broken up. Then we will see what kinds of separate corporations will form out of it.

    I also like the idea of international labor organizing. That could create the leverage to force these companies to reform themselves. But such massive organizing might require or lead to global revolution in challenging global neoliberalism, corporatism, and plutocracy. All peaceful and non-revolutionary attempts to organize workers on this level have met with organized propaganda, systematic oppression, state power, and often brutal violence.

    That is something to keep in mind while reading the conclusion to the first linked article:

    “An older immigrant worker who had been working at the Amazon facility for a long time was particularly dissatisfied with his plight and expressed a hope that a union could be established to help win better conditions.

    “While such sentiments are understandable given the brutal conditions of exploitation under which Amazon workers labour on a daily basis, the trade unions offer no way forward to fight back. Over the past three decades, they have transformed themselves into appendages of corporate management and the state, and forced through attacks on pay and working conditions on the workers they purport to represent. In places like Brampton and the surrounding areas, they have played a decisive role in the assault on what were once relatively well-paid and stable jobs in the manufacturing sector, including in auto.

    “The unions’ avowed nationalism, under conditions of the globalization of production, has led to workers being played off against each other in a race to the bottom, as each union bureaucracy competes to attract investment by acting as a labour contractor for the global corporations.

    “Workers confront an international struggle, which at the globally active Amazon conglomerate is posed with extreme sharpness. This requires the adoption of a new perspective for political struggle, based on a decisive break with the trade unions and their political backers, the formation of independent action committees to take up the fight for better wages and working conditions, and the waging of a political struggle on the basis of a socialist and internationalist program.”

    “Amazon sometimes appears to be a company with two faces. On one side, there is the customer-obsessed, e-commerce-revolutionizing, ever-expanding hub for everything anyone could ever need at the click of a button. On the other, there is a company that is reportedly difficult to work for—the one brutally portrayed in a New York Times story that ran in August. The hours are punishing, the demands and competition unmanageable, the conditions rough, and the stress and striving endless.”

    I’ve read about other people who have stopped doing business or refused ever to do business with Amazon. That might be a larger number than many would expect and it might be a ever growing number. The two sides of the company can’t be separated. In the long term, what happens in one will effect the other.

    “The side of Amazon that is customer-facing and completely convenient seems untouched by public reports of its cutthroat, internal culture. It may be that Amazon is too ubiquitous for reports about its warehouse conditions to hurt its bottom line. The company reported its most profitable quarter ever in the last three months of 2015—its third-consecutive profitable quarter—despite last year’s blockbuster Times report, which was splashed across every media outlet for days on end. Amazon’s vitality may have reached a point where it doesn’t matter whether or not it is virtuous.”

    Bezos thinks he is untouchable. But no one is untouchable. Every political movement and revolution began with elites who thought they were untouchable. And they often find out too late that they can be touched. In this era of populist outrage, right-wing militancy, revolutionary fervor, and global terrorism, plutocrats like Bezos are playing with fire.

    • These transnational corporations are the worst and largest welfare queens in American history because they externalize costs by using the government to subsidize their employees. Considering that the US is the wealthiest country and largest superpower in the world and that these corporations are transnational, I’m sure it is safe to say their status as welfare queens extends far beyond a single country. And the externalization of costs, along with internalizing of public benefits, goes way beyond such things as food aid. This oligopoly is cannibal capitalism that destroys social capital and a functioning free market.

  8. A big problem I see right now is that Amazon is a monopoly in many areas. Here in Canada, Amazon has become literally the only place to buy certain items.

    On the note of welfare – rich people are the biggest welfare queens anywhere. They don’t pay their share of taxes either, adding insult to injury.

    • It operates as a monopoly but differently than was the case in the past. They monpolize various niches, such as particular products in particular places. More worrisome, the Amazon platform monopolizes large swaths of the market, either forcing many companies out of business or forcing them to do business through Amazon. Since they don’t operate as a normal business, few other businesses can compete with them in avoiding taxes and not making a profit continuously for years on end. Anyone who on principle is in favor of free or fair markets would boycott Amazon and similar corporations. But the difficulty is that the economy keeps most people so poor and gives them so few other choices. For many Americans, a store like Walmart is one of the few stores around or that is affordable. And in being one of the biggest benefactors of the welfare state, it is precisely government subsidization that keeps Walmart cheap.

    • The dystopian implications of this kind of thing are mind-boggling. A society turns authoritarian step-by-step. Of course, the US has had authoritarian tendencies from the moment it was founded. The difference is that technology like this didn’t exist in the past. The tools for control are becoming more highly advanced and effective.

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