Perspectives From Within a Crisis

One: Amazon

Amazon was amazingly named after the biggest flowing river on earth. It took most of us a long time to catch up with Bezos’ magnificent foresight. He not only saw the future with incredible prevision, he was right in many ways he could not have anticipated. But, as he saw those other ways, he also had the operating skills to finance and execute most of those new opportunities.

Bezos had his skeptics along the way (including me) because what he was achieving was so extraordinary it seemed to defy the basic laws of business gravity.

So, now we arrive at a point where some people are beginning to say, “He must be cheating. It isn’t fair. The federal government must reign him in to save the little guys whom he appears to be annihilating.”

To date I have not seen anything that Amazon has done to be harmful to America and Americans. The malls and big box stores ensured the demise of “romanticized” retail well before Amazon came along. I do feel for the many people who, despite their efforts, have fallen to his superior business skills. But, I also know from long experience that this kind of change is inevitable in our American system. Competition is what makes us grow.

A true story I know directly from the person involved explains: A small hardware store in a very small town in Maine was slowly and quietly in the process of shutting down because of the competition from a big box store an hour away, which was able to outcompete them on both price and inventory. A man came into that small store one day and asked for a dozen medium size nails the cost of which was about $1. It turned out they had none. The customer asked why they did not stock them. The shopkeeper then asked where the customer bought his electric skill saw. The answer was in the big new box store an hour away because of the better price. Then the shop keeper asked her question. “How do you expect me to stay in business, if you take that business an hour away? You have not taken into consideration the cost of the gas back and forth and the value of your time back and forth. If people like you keep making that mistake, there will be very few local stores anywhere.”

That is the Amazon story and thank God for it! Today as we are all shut in, we can readily imagine how much worse things would be if Amazon did not exist.

The cries to rein in Amazon are old-fashioned, backward-looking answers to problems that anyone like Bezos would have found and exploited. 

This is simply the nature of our capitalist system – every success consumes a thousand victims.

And those of us not named Bezos are left with the solace that we might have done it, too, if we had simply put our minds to it.


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