Is Amazon.com a Charity?

If you’re an American who has never bought anything from Amazon.com, you’re either a rural freegan who lives off berries in the woods, or you’re a technological recluse who doesn’t own a modem or a credit card.

Because there’s no way any English-speaking person could resist their ridiculous prices. And that’s why I find Matthew Yglesia’s recent Slate article to be particularly interesting.

Yglesia reported that Amazon’s profits fell 45%. Yet the more intriguing aspect of his article was his suggestion that Amazon is essetially functioning as charitable organization.

A fascinating idea, I thought. What if Amazon really just exists to drive prices lower? What if it really is a big corporate conspiracy to keep the masses placated with affordable entertainment products while the rich run amok? Or perhaps Amazon is secretly funded by the government to stave off revolution by occupying our minds with bizarre products such as the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer and its equally bizarre reviews?

The possibilities are endless, and I imagine there are conspiracy-oriented individuals who have thought up many more than I have. I just can’t find them because when I type “amazon.com conspiracy” into Google, the first several hundred hits come from, you guessed it, Amazon’s own website.

I have nothing against Amazon. I don’t buy much from them unless someone gets me a gift card. I mostly use it to buy products that I can’t find or order through a local business, such as this zafu by Hugger Mugger. Books and such I tend to buy through the local indy bookshop.

Still, this idea of Amazon as a charity intrigues me because many, especially folks in the struggling publishing industry, imagine that someday Amazon is going to take over the world and not even an antitrust lawsuit could stop it.

Yet it seems that whether Amazon manages to take over the world, or at least the United States, will largely depend on how long their investors are willing to tolerate losing money. Guess we’ll just to see how much patience those folks have.

 

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