Capitalists vs. Capitalism

Sometimes business owners are the worst enemies of the free market.


It's bad enough when leftists smear capitalism. I hate it more when capitalists do it, too.

I'd hoped for more from the world's current richest man, Jeff Bezos.

I love the service he created. Amazon lets me buy Christmas gifts right from my couch. Its prices are so low that the Fed chairman says Amazon probably lowered America's inflation rate.

Entrepreneur Jeff Bezos is a hero. He created lots of jobs and better service, and he and his investors pay billions in taxes.

So I got angry when I saw Sen. Bernie Sanders' opportunistic fundraising letters condemning Bezos because some of his workers are eligible for food stamps. "In ten seconds," whined Sanders, Bezos makes "more money than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year."

Well, at least Bezos will stand up for himself and the free market system that created his wealth, right?

At first, he did. Amazon called the criticisms "inaccurate" and "misleading." It's not the company's fault that some workers qualify for handouts. More people would collect them if Amazon did not hire. By creating jobs, Bezos gives workers better choices.

But the anti-capitalist media don't report that. They called Amazon a "sweatshop" and "cutthroat corporate jungle."

So Amazon, to my disappointment, caved.

The company announced it would pay all its workers at least $15 per hour. MSNBC anchors grinned with glee.

Of course, the higher wage will be good for workers who still have jobs.

But what progressives don't understand is that entry-level workers will be shut out. Poor people's lives are made worse when laws meant to protect them price them out of jobs.

Those unhired workers are just as real, even if they're harder to see.

My recent video on this features a restaurant manager who understands that she only got the opportunity to work because when she was a teenager, her boss could pay her much less. Had a higher minimum wage existed then, her labor would not have been worth it to the restaurant, and she would never have gotten a chance to work her way up the ladder.

"Minimum wage jobs are an entry-level job to get someone some experience," says California restaurant manager Merv Crist. "Raise that high enough, you cut people out of the market completely!"

That's not compassionate. Yet progressives talk as if a higher minimum wage lifts everyone.

At least Amazon is just one company, and Bezos just one CEO. If he wants to pay his workers more, fine. Amazon will attract better job applicants.

Beginners, kids, the disabled, etc. will still have other choices. They can get jobs elsewhere. Bezos was still a man to like.

But then Amazon announced that it would lobby government to force everyone to pay what Amazon pays!

This entrepreneur I admired turns out to be just another craven opportunist.

Bezos knows a higher minimum wage will hurt his competitors more than it hurts him. Amazon has a lead in automation. He's already replacing some workers with robots.

I suppose Bezos is just being clever: He'll use government to handcuff his rivals—and then pat himself on the back and pander to progressives who believe a higher minimum wage spreads money with no ill effects.

If American politicians are dumb enough to think they can raise wages by force, maybe a CEO has a fiduciary responsibility to his investors to pander to those politicians.

Bezos has done this before.

Amazon didn't just announce it would build a second headquarters. It started a competition to see which politicians would squeeze their taxpayers most. One city council even voted to grab land to create a new town called Amazon, Georgia, if the company moved there.

That city should be grateful it wasn't chosen. Now taxpayers in New York City and Arlington County, Virginia, will subsidize Amazon's jobs.

This is not good for taxpayers or capitalism.

Politicians shouldn't pander to companies, and companies shouldn't pander to politicians. We need separation of shopping and state.

Bezos should stick to innovating, not scheming with politicians.

Sometimes the worst enemies of capitalism are capitalists.

NEXT: Senate Passes White House-Backed Criminal Justice Bill by Wide Margin

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The world’s richest man must do, or at least say, the “correct” things for the same reasons that the sexiest man alive must.

    Not paying obeisance to the SJW powers that be?especially if you are in a prominent position?is just as suicidal these days as uttering blasphemy was back during the era of the Inquisition.

    1. Paying his own workers more is one thing, lobbying for government to force his competitors to do the same is corruption personified.

      1. It’s not corruption to to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. In fact, it’s a constitutional right. it only turns to corruption when the government officials act to benefit certain people over others in exchange for personal gain.

        1. So you consider it a legitimate redress of grievances to ask the government to force other companies to pay their employees more, for your own economic benefit? In other words, it sounds like you are for a restriction of others people’s freedom for your benefit. You think that’s what the Founding Fathers supported?

          1. @Chili Dog

            In other words, it sounds like you are for a restriction of others people’s freedom for your benefit. You think that’s what the Founding Fathers supported?

            Um, yes.

            Slavery, disenfranchisement of women and ethnic minorities, the fact that the revolution wasn’t supported by a majority of citizens… And of course there’s the inconvenient bit that the Constitutional Convention that scrapped the Articles of Confederation and gave us the Constitution subverted the will of the people to do so.

            I mean seriously, they had no compunctions against forcing their idea of “right” on others against their will. And in the case of Ben Franklin, cheating the French into paying for it!

            Where did you think this was going to go?

    2. Not paying obeisance to the SJW powers that be?especially if you are in a prominent position?is just as suicidal these days as uttering blasphemy was back during the era of the Inquisition.

      Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  2. There is no creation. There is only maintenance and consumption.

    The earth is a closed system, it resides surrounded by inhospitable space like a habitat on Mars.

    Would it be reasonable to apply a capitalist free market on a habitat on Mars. Using all the resources as fast as possible to maximize one inhabitants profit?

    Sure the earth is a bigger and more complex habitat than most people can perceive but the same rules apply.

    If someone were to squander a Mars habitat resources for personal immediate gain, they would lose their freedoms.

    1. By that view, the last man alive after an apocalypse would be the richest person in history. He would have the full resources of the entire Earth at his whim.
      Good luck with that. I’ve seen many sons fail to make it on the same farm the father prospered on. One was the 173 acres I’m sitting on right now. My neighbors are a mixed lot. Some produce almost twice what I do (per acre). Others can’t manage a household garden.

      1. It’s not my view, it is my recognition of our reality, truth. You may be too blinded by greed to see it.

        What do we create that isn’t only the use of the existing resources on earth? We make plastic crap for dollar stores while others on earth are starving.

        The land you’re squatting on isn’t yours. It will be there long after you’re dead. Maybe some other idiot will call it theirs, just like you are.

        1. Wow, the Russian troll bots are hard at it today.

          1. Is that your standard response when your ideology is ridiculed irrefutably?

            1. Intelligence and creativity are also resources. They aren’t fixed and finite.

            2. Irrefutably? You are so funny.

              Abundance is growing for just about about every resource on Earth. You utterly fail to understand how human ingenuity and technology combine to make things more than they were before.

              And almost all of that growing abundance is due to the free market and people pursuing profit.

              Why did you want to impoverish people?

              1. Probably not “people”, just “some people”. Which certainly doesn’t include himself, because he’s enlightened, don’t ya know?

        2. Greed. Sure. If all I cared about was money, I could sell off the land and make it a lot more reliably investing in a good mutual fund, then spend 100% of my retirement years on the Chesapeake Bay.
          The people of Earth are better fed than ever in history because of American intelligence, ingenuity, self-sufficiency, and farmers. That’s the Green Revolution; that’s productivity. That’s creating. If you disagree, feel free to eat a pine tree, and bon appetit mon ami.

    2. There is no creation.

      Said no creative person ever.

      1. Generalizing humanity, he describes himself.

    3. There are no natural resources. There are only humans turning buried resources into human resources.

      Iron ore is not a resource of any kind, let alone a natural resource, until humans dig it up and process it.

      Trees are not a resource until a bird build a nest on one, or animals eat its seeds or leaves or bark, or a human turns it into lumber.

      What’s that you said about no creation? It wasn’t nature that dug up and processed that ore, or turned that tree into a house.

      1. That’s simply maintenance and consumption.

        1. The more foxes. the fewer chickens.
          The more people, the more chickens.
          Both are predators, but only one is creating more chickens.

    4. The Earth is a closed system?

      Tell me, have you ever heard of the Sun?

      1. Yeah it’s that thing 93 million miles away that enables life on earth.

        What’s your point?

        If some capitalist could figure a way to use it up in his lifetime and live like a god, would you be ok with that?

        1. I always knew photosynthesis was a capitalist plot for world domination.

    5. You have no idea what the word ‘resource’ means.

    6. Zero Sum absolutim

      Sorry, don’t buy it. There is no zero sum gain. We are not bound to earth.

      There is your argument.

      1. Leave then.

    7. It’s not closed. Energy pours into the system every day from the sun. Crazy thermodynamics.

      The solar-energy folks constantly are harping about how much energy the sun provides…The sun continuously pelts the earth with 35,000 times the amount of energy humans use.

      Also we have about 40,000 tons of debris fall to earth every year, but lose about 50,000 tons of hydrogen and helium that escape the upper atmosphere and is blown away in the solar wind.

      Those things don’t happen in closed systems.

      1. A closed system allows the transfer of energy but not matter.

        Meteorites that happen to fall on the earth are generally not considered to make earth an open system.

        The matter on earth is a closed system.

        1. The voyager spacecraft are matter. They are gone from earth. Not a closed system.

    8. I see what you mean from the perspective that, until we have Star Trek level technology that can create matter out of energy, we can only create objects out of existing matter. But that point doesn’t have much practical relevance.

      If you find yourself in a forest and you cut down some trees and build a cabin, you have created shelter and obtained increased value from the wood of those trees by adding imagination and labor.

      If a talented writer creates a novel, or a composer writes music, their creativity adds value far beyond the value of paper and ink (or digital bytes).

      As for finite resources, it’s true but often irrelevant. Just like Thanos character from the Avengers movie was idiotic to think that the universe would run out of resources (does he not know how incredibly best the entire universe is?) even on our own planet, this total running out almost never happens. That’s because human ingenuity and creativity generally reframes the issue. For example, petroleum was discovered and put into the economy before whale oil was exhausted.
      It’s also likely petroleum will largely be replaced by other forms of energy (fission and fusion?not just solar and wind) long before the last drop of oil is gone.

      Even changing landscapes point to this. 130 or so years ago, more than 70% of Vermont was deforested and under agricultural cultivation. Today it is about 80% forested. That is despite there being more people to feed now then back then.

      1. *incredibly vast the universe is

      2. The shelter is constructed from existing resources and it will rot without maintenance.

        We do imagine what we hadn’t before, but that doesn’t constitute creation except in relation to our limited perceptions.

        Just like all our maths and sciences don’t create anything that didn’t already exist we just understand what was always possible.

        When properly controlled and regulated capitalism can be maintained to motivate us to build what we need. Capitalists abhor regulations.

        Deregulated, we can damage our ability to survive.

        Vermont was reforested through regulation.

        It would be better if we minimized the suffering until we recognize the need for control and regulation.

    9. In other words, Rob has no understanding of property rights and how they help maintain resources. It is when there are no property rights and everybody can exploit resources with no incentive to maintain them, that they are exploited and used up.

      Rob also has no understanding of how the free market system allows people to be creative and rewards people for creating and producing. He thinks that humans on Mars would knowingly use up all the resources and die shortly thereafter. That’s just stupid.

  3. Government is just another word for self-interested agents making the best decisions for everyone.

  4. Or….Amazon was forced to raise wages by a crazy tight labor market, as they would in an actual free market, and it was timed such that they thought, Hey, let’s get some political cred for this.

    1. Fine up until he lobbied for raising the minimum wage to force his competitors to do it his way. That’s corruption.

      1. Companies can lobby in an almost unlimited way now and have immense government influence. Convince your representatives to legislate against lobbying. Good luck.

  5. Oh, come on.

    All you have to do is read the Washington Post since Bezos bought it to see what he is. He panders to Progressives on Trump, immigration, gun control, the evil masses of white nationalists, etc. and stokes their fears while lining his pockets.

    1. That’s what I found so interesting about South Park’s portrayal of Bezos. They make him look like some sort of Pinochet-style arch capitalist. In reality this is the guy who uses WaPo as his mouthpiece.

  6. Sometimes the worst enemies of capitalism are capitalists.

    John Stossel isn’t familiar with Adam Smith? I’m shocked!

    “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”


    “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

    Adam Smith was no bleeding-heart, starry-eyed, mushy-headed True Believer as far as capitalism goes, he knew a little about human nature. To paraphrase Churchill, capitalism is the worst form of economic arrangement, except for all the others.

    1. Adam Smith was no bleeding-heart, starry-eyed, mushy-headed True Believer as far as capitalism goes, he knew a little about human nature.

      More than a little, in fact, a great deal >Theory of Moral Sentiments.

    2. “John Stossel isn’t familiar with Adam Smith? I’m shocked!”

      I’m shocked that you’d think that Stossel isn’t familiar with Adam Smith. Of course he is. That’s why he’s creates these kinds of things — for people who are not familiar with Adam Smith.

  7. Fuck it. If he’s going to be forced to fuck himself, why shouldn’t he try to fuck his competitors at the same time?

    Fuck the disabled, the marginally skilled, and the weak, I’ve got mine. I mean, I’m not competing for $15 / hr jobs, so, why should I actually care if those people manage to fuck themselves by clamoring for this bullshit. I mean, honestly, he’s just responding to market pressures.

  8. At least capitalism gave us opportunity to choose 101boots between different options. But monopoly that capitalism creates kill himself and no one really knows what to do.

    1. What monopolies?

      You cannot grasp what capiltalism has given you if all you can think of is 101boots.

  9. The company announced it would pay all its workers at least $15 per hour. MSNBC anchors grinned with glee.

    Of course, the higher wage will be good for workers who still have jobs.

    Yeah… How many jobs are they going to automate and get rid of because they don’t produce $15 and hour worth of value?

    Oh wait, I forgot, all labor is of equal value yada, yada, yada, more “labor theory of value” horseshit blah, blah, blah.

  10. Bezos has created many great things that Amazon is doing. He also okayed many of the bad things.

    3rd party sellers are getting pushed off Amazon to make room for corporate sellers. 3rd party sellers made Amazon what it is by reselling books.

    Amazon also implemented a great anti-fraud program since fraud was taking its toll on the bottom line. Some of the delivery drivers take pictures of the package at your door and Amazon delivery drivers are tracked via GPS in their handsets when they drop the packages off at your door.

  11. It’s hilarious that the left basically just bullied Amazon into accelerating their deployment of robots. There’s a certain level of economic ignorance and moral asininity that you need to be that crowd.

    1. Haven’t you heard? Robots will create more jobs. That’s what all the CEOs who are automating jobs away say. The problem is that robots create 1 white-collar education-requiring job for every 10 blue-collar job they destroy.

  12. “But what progressives don’t understand is that entry-level workers will be shut out. Poor people’s lives are made worse when laws meant to protect them price them out of jobs.”

    I think progressives, at least the politicians, know exactly what they’re doing. The government mandates an increased wage, maybe 80% of impacted people will get a higher wage and thank the government, while 20% will lose their jobs, blame the employer, and turn to the government for unemployment and other benefits.

    1. And something like 20-25% of those increased wages will be taken directly by government in taxes. 7.65% directly from the employee dollars as FICA taxes; another 7.65% from the employer.

      I used an online federal tax estimator, and used an 18-year-old earning $10 at a full time job, (40hrs/wk, 50wks == $20k). It estimated $800 in taxes owed. Raising his income to $15 ($30k) increased his taxes to $1970. So a full 11% of his new earnings are captured via federal income taxes. State income taxes tend to be pretty linear, so they were taking 5% of the first $20k, they’ll take 5% of the next $10k, too.

      Expect that most of those additional dollars are spent and subject to local sales taxes, so 5-8% or thereabouts.

      No wonder progressives want a minimum wage increase. It’s like a tax hike on employers and peons alike.

  13. As Chief Executive Officer, Director at AMAZON COM INC, Jeffrey P. Bezos made $1,681,840 in total compensation. Of this total $81,840 was received as a salary, $0 was received as a bonus, $0 was received in stock options, $0 was awarded as stock and $1,600,000 came from other types of compensation. This information is according to proxy statements filed for the 2017 fiscal year.

    Bloomberg: Inc. founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos received $1.68 million in total pay last year, unchanged from 2012, including $81,840 in salary and $1.6 million to cover security arrangements.

    Of course, he is fabulously wealthy due to his ownership of the trillion-dollar company: Bezos currently holds 78,893,033 shares or 16.3% of the shares outstanding.

    Based on salary and other compensation, Bezos earns about 5 cents per second, so the 10s shtick is just wrong. His on-paper wealth may indeed rise and fall rapidly, Bernie Sanders Sanders’ claim that Bezos’ wealth increases by $275 million every day may be true for certain days. But he can lose $275 million per day on bad days, too.

    P.S. His salary (not counting security costs for which he is reimbursed) is way less than what Sen. Sanders makes in his job as a US Senator, and Sanders doesn’t ever see the bill for his security costs.

  14. For the longest I have complained that the very first thing the modern limousine liberal does on climbing the ladder of success is kick over that ladder so that others can not clamber up it behind them. Once you are in an exclusive club, you want it to remain exclusive, maybe even become more exclusive.

    So, grandfather yourself in with every kind of crony regulatory socialist protection imaginable (all of them dressed up in fashionable virtue-flaunting slogans like saving starving undocumented polar bears from Trump appointees) and enjoy all the Democrat wine and cheese parties. (I used to have to attend those gatherings of the addle-brained because my first wife was an elected office holder.) What passes for conversation at them would make a person who loves this country suicidal.

  15. “Yet progressives talk as if a higher minimum wage lifts everyone.”

    The notion of training and experience impacting wages, indeed the very notion of economic mobility is lost on progressives. They really believe that people are economically static, and where you start is where you’ll end up.

    1. I recently read a FEE article pointing out that wages are determined by productivity, also influenced by supply and demand. The sensible advice to people who want to earn more money at their job is to make themselves more productive and make sure their boss sees it.

      Some of the comments were emotionally hostile to the proposal, and angry that someone would have the gall to give such advice. As if workers were responsible for their own oppression! True Believers in the labor theory of value. It’s sad.

  16. If you view having influence over politicians as a form of capital (like land, money, factories, etc.), it all makes sense. Bezos has accumulated his capital and is using it to increase the value of his businesses. Free markets require capitalism, but capitalism does not require a free market.

    The problem is that many people, especially many of the “free marketers” in political power, consider the two the same thing and therefore anything that benefits capitalists benefits free markets. If you view that capitalism does not require a free market, you can easily see that unfettered capitalism – here defined as capitalism not beholden to a free market – will lead to oligarchy, fascism, or even socialism (where the capitalists become the central planners and owners of the state).

    The check on capitalism does not need to be government regulations in traditional terms, but government enforcement of free markets.

  17. Bezos and Amazon should not be commended for creating new jobs. They destroyed jobs and that’s exactly why they are successful. The process is called creative destruction.

  18. Society is led by intellectuals not by capitalists. Capitalists get their shot of philosophical Joe from the same coffee shop we all do.

  19. I essentially started three weeks past and that i makes $385 benefit $135 to $a hundred and fifty consistently simply by working at the internet from domestic. I made ina long term! “a great deal obliged to you for giving American explicit this remarkable opportunity to earn more money from domestic. This in addition coins has adjusted my lifestyles in such quite a few manners by which, supply you!”. go to this website online domestic media tech tab for extra element thank you .

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.