Amazon: The terrifying power of Jeff Bezos
The scope of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ empire is “without precedent in the long history of American capitalism,” said Franklin Foer in The Atlantic. Today, “if Marxist revolutionaries ever seized power in the United States, they could nationalize Amazon and call it a day.” The company controls nearly 40 percent of all e-commerce in the U.S.; it conducts more product searches than Google; it controls almost half of the cloud-computing industry, serving everything from Netflix to the Central Intelligence Agency; it’s responsible for 42 percent of all books sold and a third of the market for streaming video. “It has collected the world’s most comprehensive catalog of consumer desire” and assembled a vast global logistics business. “Last year, Amazon didn’t pay a cent of federal tax” on $11.2 billion in profits, and yet “the government rewards this failure with massive contracts that will make the company even bigger.” This is reason to both marvel and cower: “Jeff Bezos has won capitalism.”
For some entrepreneurs, Amazon has been “a godsend,” said Charles Duhigg in The New Yorker. More than 1.9 million small businesses in the U.S. use Amazon’s services; last year, “nearly 200,000 sellers earned at least $100,000 each on the site.” But others fear the company founded by Jeff Bezos on 14 axiomatic Leadership Principles—which employees were expected to study “like Talmudic texts”—has made a pronounced shift toward “simply selling everything as fast and as cheaply as possible.” Critics say that Amazon uses the data it collects from customers “to divine which products are poised to become blockbusters and then copies them,” which Amazon denies. Its rush to make delivery ever faster has taken a heavy toll on employees and contractors; there have been at least 60 serious or fatal accidents involving Amazon since 2015. And all this is being led by a surprisingly insular group: On Amazon’s powerful 18-member “S-Team” of top executives, there’s only one woman.
Bezos is undoubtedly listening to his critics, said Taylor Locke in CNBC.com. He thinks that “having the ability to see multiple viewpoints” is the key to Amazon’s fourth and most surprising leadership principle: “Be right, a lot.” Most people, says Bezos,“just seek out information to bolster their current beliefs and tune out opposing opinions,” while good leaders do the opposite. But don’t count on Amazon changing its approach just because it’s in the political crosshairs, said Monica Nickelsburg in GeekWire.com. It has lobbying muscle and a public policy team that’s drawn from Washington’s top ranks. There’s a “magnifying glass on the company,” and Amazon will keep taking heat. But Bezos is “playing the long game.” ■