Comment of the Week

Reflecting on the Bezos Economy

Marker readers weigh in on the career of Amazon’s relentless founder

After Jeff Bezos announced his plans earlier this week to step down as Amazon’s CEO and hand the reins over to longtime Amazon Web Services leader Andy Jassy, Medium Editor at Large Steve LeVine wrote about how Bezos is the ultimate daredevil capitalist, driven by a seemingly insatiable desire to dominate one market after the next. “Why spring across one industry boundary after another, watch as blood flows on Main Street, the middle class is hollowed out, and workers teem into cavernous warehouses to work like ants and be managed by algorithms?” LeVine asks. And now Bezos, he argues, is shrewdly stepping down while the e-commerce behemoth is at the peak of its power: Last quarter, the company reached $125 billion in revenue, the first time it passed triple digits. As Levine asks, “Do we really want a single store to be in a very real sense the whole economy, the Bezos Economy?”

Marker readers had a lot to say about whether Bezos’ actions should be lauded or reviled. Robert Schnitzer argued that this is what disruption looks like: “What is the suggested path for a company that is able to disrupt other industries with a much cheaper, safer, faster and simply superior venue for consumers? ” asks Schnitzer. “Did they not play by the rules or laws we allowed to them? What should they have done differently in your opinion? Not try so hard?”

Reader Bonnibelle Chukwuneta countered that Bezos did have another path available: “One general answer would be leading responsibly and practicing servant leadership within the business. Serving your base employees and making sure their needs are met and not the other way around. … Being a cutthroat CEO was not the only option Bezos had.”

Meanwhile, Mike Yeung argued against antitrust regulators invoking ethics when confronting daredevil companies: “Amazon, nor any other company, does not have an ethical mandate to stop growing once it reaches a certain size,” he writes. “What we should be focusing our attention on instead is the sad state of our existing labor laws: Make it an unfireable right to join a union. Increase the minimum wage. End non-competes and forced arbitration nationwide. Extend family leave.”

Finally, reader Joe Luca points out that Bezos’ success is hardly unique in the history of corporate America: “If you want to know what makes Jeff Bezos tick, go back to the 1870s in American industry and read as much as you can over the next 30–40 years,” he writes. “You’ll no doubt meet Jeff in a previous life.” Luca aptly summarizes what many are feeling: “To some, Bezos is a saint, to others, the devil. To really answer that question — wait a few years. The answer is there waiting for us to catch up to it.”