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The cost of capitalism

Written By: - Date published: 7:15 am, November 27th, 2019 - 155 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, Unions, workers' rights - Tags: , ,

Dixon’s scan rate—more than300 items an hour, thousands of individual products a day—was being tracked constantly, the data flowing to managers in real time, then crunched by a proprietary software system called ADAPT. She knew, like the thousands of other workers there, that if she didn’t hit her target speed, she would be written up, and if she didn’t improve, she eventually would be fired.

Amazon’s cutting-edge technology, unrelenting surveillance, and constant disciplinary write-ups pushed the Eastvale workers so hard that in the last holiday season, they hit a coveted target: They got a million packages out the door in 24 hours. Amazon handed out T-shirts celebrating their induction into the “Million Unit Club.”

But Dixon, 54, wasn’t around for that. She started the job in April 2018, and within two months, or nearly 100,000 items, the lifting had destroyed her back. An Amazon-approved doctor said she had bulging discs and diagnosed her with a back sprain, joint inflammation, and chronic pain, determining that her injuries were 100 percent due to her job. She could no longer work at Amazon. Today, she can barely climb stairs. Walking her dog, doing the dishes, getting out of her chair—everything is painful. According to her medical records, her condition is unlikely to improve.

Not that this is a surprise, we’ve been outsourcing enforced disability to poorer countries for a long time. Makes sense that eventually neoliberalism would eat its own children.

Traditional left analysis would say that strong union culture should prevent this, but the system that has long destroyed workers’ bodies convinced society three decades ago that the trade off is worth it. We get cheap goods and the price we pay is other people’s well-being. This time the wage slaves get smart phones, an affordable car, and a mass media distraction delivery system. We’ve lost the battle to make things fair because now (almost) everyone gets to partake of the endless churn of goodies. The kicker here? Much of the pressure on workers comes from the success of Amazon’s consumer culture social engineering so that we now expect everything to arrive yesterday.

Neoliberalism tells us that things are getting better for poor people, and if we just keep trusting, globalisation will improve things even more. But it’s inevitably a race to the bottom because mass consumption requires back-breaking wage slavery, resource depletion, and environmental pollution. Eventually that gets to us all.

The thing that amazes me is that we’re still buying it. I feel like I am describing some future-set dystopian novel, and the scary thing is that the AI, transhumanism, technofascist society is just around the corner. They’re already building it. There is no way to make what is happening here better. We’re burning the wrong Amazon.

155 comments on “The cost of capitalism ”

  1. Blazer 1

    A free T-shirt!

    Gee some people are ungrateful.

    • Robert Guyton 1.1

      A free T-shirt made in a Vietnamese sweat-shop!

      Seams fitting.

      • weka 1.1.1

        Righteous thread, if a little short.

        • Adrian Thornton 1.1.1.1

          The problem is ( as a guy from the rag trade) many of the garments made in low wage countries are and have been for a while, pretty damn well made. I well remember the early imported t-shirts into NZ made in Fiji and China they were absolut shit, they would only last a couple of washes before they would twist and stretch all out of shape.

          When I ran my screen print/design business up in AKL during the late eighties into the late nineties I held off using imported garments as long as I possibly could, and even tried making a thing out of being the printer who used NZ made goods, but eventually I had no choice but slowly move more and more into those imported garments that we all knew were being made by pretty much slave labour, I hated it, and tried to appeal to the better instincts of my clients, but at the end of the day most (not all) of them only cared about the price….and look at us now, nearly all of our garment industry gone, all those good jobs gone…thanks neoliberal Labour, job well done you fuckers…but at least we get to have a great trading relationship with China.

          UK calls for UN access to Chinese detention camps in Xinjiang

          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/25/uk-calls-for-un-access-chinese-detention-camps-xinjiang

          Amazon is only a continuation of all of us letting our countries sell our morals and principles for some cheap products made on the back of fellow workers we all knew were being exploited, there ain't no free lunches, and now that experience is coming home to roost as the great Malcolm X once said…

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oD6aX3dHR2k

  2. Climaction 2

    the answer is making smarter choices about consumption. Amazon only exists as it satisfies desires of consumers.

    • Dukeofurl 2.1

      Desires ? Because I have ordered some books I get emails every few days telling me 'I might like this' .

      Its not even economic as they lose money on a lot things people buy with their huge infrastructure costs

      • Peter chch 2.1.1

        No one forces you to buy from them. And as for the emails, ffs, just hit the 'unsubscribe ' button. As for being uneconomic, bs. Like them or not they are super efficient.

        • greywarshark 2.1.1.1

          You defintely are super efficient peter chch. You throw aside all the dross about a balanced economy and jobs for all to make a reasonably good life, and morals, and ethics, and expectations of a righteous nation, and hypocrisy in pretending that being in poverty is an outcome of poor personal attitudes and lack of diligence etc etc etc.

      • Gosman 2.1.2

        If they are not economic then in the long run the business will fail.

        • roy cartland 2.1.2.1

          So we make their unethical business practises uneconomic by outlawing them. Good idea.

          • Gosman 2.1.2.1.1

            No, if the model they are following is uneconomic there will be no need to impose regulations. They will go out of business in due course.

            • Blazer 2.1.2.1.1.1

              The GFC gives the lie to your statement.

              The banks became insolvent ,yet are still here today….bigger and bolder and just as…insolvent.

            • roy cartland 2.1.2.1.1.2

              If there were no need for regulations, the woman's back wouldn't be screwed. That's not economic.

            • UncookedSelachimorpha 2.1.2.1.1.3

              What "is economic" depends on the rules we agree as a society.

              The current rules make it "economic" (profitable) to screw and injure workers while making an enormous profit for a handful of people at the top.

              Change the rules.

              • Gosman

                No. That's the problem with many on the left. They think they can redefine economic to suit their definition of what they want society to want. This is the sort of thinking that lead to the failure of soviet style communism and for nations like Venezuela and Zimbabwe to think they can control prices of goods and services with no negative consequences. All you can do is influence economic outcomes. You don’t get to “create” them.

                • Dukeofurl

                  Uber has been banned in London , because of its failure to follow the rules. Indeed its business model is to break them

                  Uber is an economic failure as well, doesnt make money.

                  The 'left' isnt making the rules about business service and accounting standards.

                  • Gosman

                    Those "rules" you mention are an artificial construct. That is why they had to ban Uber. Because Uber highlighted the ridiculousness of the rules.

                    • Dukeofurl

                      " Uber highlighted the ridiculousness of the rules."

                      No they didnt

                      "Uber has been banned in London after the regulator said it found 14,000 trips in which unauthorised drivers had used verified accounts to pick up passengers.

                      TfL said all 14,000 trips carried out in these circumstances were uninsured. Some of them were carried out by unlicensed drivers. In one instance a ride was carried out by a driver whose licence had been previously revoked."

                      Who new that taxi drivers had to have a drivers license and maybe even a taxi endorsment.

                      Uber was allowing all these sorts things as it had been picked up on the same breaches earlier

                      https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/uber-banned-in-london-over-fake-drivers-scandal-20191126-p53e1h.html

                    • UncookedSelachimorpha

                      Yes – everything you don't agree with is an 'artifical construct'.

                      While the human-created system of value (money, gold, labour etc) and the way we agree to trade them – operate only to immutable natural laws, to the same standard as gravity and thermodynamics.

                      Mere right-wing zealotry and ideology in my opinion.

                    • Incognito

                      The whole concept of "rules" is a ridiculous Eurocentric term anyway.

                    • roy cartland

                      "Those "rules" you mention are an artificial construct"

                      And the 'market' isn't? How about 'money'?

                      "redefine economic to suit their definition"

                      And 'economics' means knowing one's home:

                      'oikos' = home, 'nomos' = know.

                      But it's the left who are the ones that change meanings to suit themselves? Please. Even by your standards, you're slipping, Gossy.

                    • Dukeofurl

                      It seems that every NZ uber ride is charged on credit card to a Dutch entity.

                      Not sure its accounting for GST but be be totally sure its not paying any national taxes anywhere….. how can local taxi companies compete, or even if they provide all the details of their drivers incomes ?

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Poorly regulated capitalism (greed) is a recipe for cyclic crises, not to mention scandals great and small. Is the balance of business regulation and transparency about right in NZ, or globally for that matter?

                  "Australia's First Bank", Westpac, continues to make a tidy profit.

                  "Chief executive Brian Hartzer resigned on Tuesday amid allegations Westpac had committed the biggest violation of money-laundering laws in Australian history."
                  https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/117727475/westpac-nz-confident-despite-australian-scandal-that-cost-chief-executives-job

                  How ANZ Bank fought for more than three years to keep its role in New Zealand’s biggest Ponzi scheme quiet, and stop a regulator telling out-of-pocket investors the details.
                  https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/07/17/685359/anz-loses-the-key-to-transparency

                  The government is being too slow to introduce new regulations and policing measures on building supplies, the National Party [Ha!] says, as SkyCity announced its convention centre would be further delayed by the replacement of flammable panels.
                  https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/382434/skycity-replacing-grenfell-style-cladding-panels-we-just-need-to-get-on-top-of-this-national

                  No-one created the GFC, it's simply an embedded outcome of global capitalism. The big banks will continue their gouging, gorging ways – they're already "too big to fail".

                  Humankind and capitalism are in an unsustainable co-dependent relationship that can't end well – and yet we remain irrationally hopeful.

                  "For up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success!
                  Grow the roses!
                  Grow the roses!
                  Grow the roses of success!
                  Oh yes!
                  Grow the roses!
                  Those rosy roses!
                  From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success.
                  "

            • Dukeofurl 2.1.2.1.1.4

              Amazon is 'crossover' business model which is essentially a monster ponzi scheme.

              Even the main currency for the pay of permanent Amzon employees ( not the contract drones in their fulfillment hives) is Amazon stock

              But while he certainly does seem to be having fun, he is also building a company, with all the cash he can get his hands on, to capture a larger and larger share of the future of commerce. When you buy Amazon stock (the main currency with which Amazon employees are paid, incidentally), you are buying a bet that he can convert a huge portion of all commerce to flow through the Amazon machine. The question to ask isn’t whether Amazon is some profitless ponzi scheme, but whether you believe Bezos can capture the future. That, and how long are you willing to wait?

              Why Amazon Has No Profits (And Why It Works)

              We have seen in history these sorts of business manias

              The Dutch Tulip Craze

              The South Seas Bubble

              Like them we will all say , why didnt we see it coming , but some did.

              The end result is usually an economic crisis which affects those unconnected most.
              Just as Fonterra tried to hide is growing financial issues by delaying payment to suppliers, Bezos can be delay his payments too.

              • Phil

                We have seen in history these sorts of business manias… The Dutch Tulip Craze

                Fun fact: the Tulip craze wasn't actually a thing, in any meaningful economic sense anyway.

                The notion that an entire nation engaged in, then collapsed under the weight of, a tulip bubble mania is basically a Calvinist myth that our pop-culture grasp of history continues to propagate.

                https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/there-never-was-real-tulip-fever-180964915/

                • Gosman

                  A more appropriate example would be the Darien scheme which was a state sponsored attempt by Scotland to become a great trading power. It's failure lead indirectly to the Act of Union with England in 1707.

                • greywarshark

                  The afficionados went after 'broken bulbs' and the unusual patterns that the flowers showed as a result of virus affecting their development. There was competition on one aspect of the product to a marked degree. and players in that sector became very competitive.

                  It seems that there can be developments around IT and the internet that will drive the combatants to a frenzy and change the sector negatively.

                  When the pushers of technology get us all addicted and we can't do anything for ourselves any more, without using some machine, app or technical marvel, we will be vulnerable to be controlled, mistreated and ruined by the vagaries of the market. It has already started. The Tulip Bubble is just an example of addiction and hyperbole joined.

            • Wensleydale 2.1.2.1.1.5

              We must not regulate! We must not intervene in the sacrosanct workings of the market! The filthy hobbitses must not touch the precious!

        • Psycho Milt 2.1.2.2

          If they are not economic then in the long run the business will fail.

          So what? If the history of capitalism teaches us anything, it's that the ruthless exploitation of your workers is not just "economic," it's highly profitable. The market won't self-regulate the problem described in the OP, instead it generates it.

          • Gosman 2.1.2.2.1

            Except the history of capitalism should teach you that the vast majority of people are much, much better off today than they were before capitalism became the dominant system in the World.

            • Psycho Milt 2.1.2.2.1.1

              To quote weka: "that's alright then. Permanent and painful disability is ok so long as the long term economic trends are mostly positive."

              • Gosman

                Noone is claiming that Permanent and painful disability is ok but nice strawman.

                You are seemingly wanting to throw out the entire system as a result of a few negative outcomes.

                • It's not a straw man, it's exactly what you're arguing. The OP describes how poor regulation of capitalism means companies like Amazon can inflict permanent and painful disability on their staff. Your counterargument is that most people are better off under capitalism. Weka's paraphrase of your counterargument is accurate.

                  You are seemingly wanting to throw out the entire system as a result of a few negative outcomes.

                  Now there's a straw man. The negative outcomes are a result of poor regulation of capitalism by societies – the solution to that would be better regulation, not wholesale destruction.

            • Dukeofurl 2.1.2.2.1.2

              Never studied the long History of China Gosman.

              A mixed socialist capitalist system , with the best of both is far and away the best 'system'

              • Gosman

                Are you advocating for the Chinese system then?

              • A mixed socialist/capitalist system is what the liberal democracies have. Whatever that is that the CCP is inflicting on China, "best" isn't a useful word to describe it.

                • Chris

                  The other day I was browsing a high school economics textbook dated 1978 and it said "In New Zealand we have a mixed economy." Obviously that's not quite the case now but it was nice to see NZ was so upfront about that back then.

                  • Gosman

                    It was a mixed controlled economy. Now we have a mixed free market economy. I know which one works. It isn't the one where the government paid our farmers to produce milk, wool, and meat.

                    • The point being the word "mixed." It's a mix of socialism and capitalism. At issue is the nature of the mix, with the OP taking the view that the restrictions we put on capitalism should include making sure that the capitalists don't get to act as though human beings were an expendable commodity. It's beyond me that anyone with a conscience would argue against that view.

                    • Gosman

                      Depends on your definition of mixed. In Socialism the means of production is owned by the State usually.

                    • And in capitalism the means of production is owned by private investors. NZ has both types of ownership, hence "mixed."

                      More to the point, NZ imposes limits and requirements on the activities of capitalism in the interests of society as a whole. That also is socialism and is a general feature of liberal democracies (it's also the only reason Marx' description of capitalism is no longer accurate, so we have a lot to be grateful to our socialist ancestors for).

                    • Kevin

                      "It isn't the one where the government paid our farmers to produce milk, wool, and meat."

                      So who paid for the giant irrigation schemes up and down the country then?

                    • Exkiwiforces

                      Yes, good question Kev? Who and what type government were they Gosise?

        • A 2.1.2.3

          It's gonna fail anyway. According to Dave Kranzler, Investment Research Dynamics they lose money on every item sold and cover this with accounting tricks.

          Bring it on! Happy to say that I haven't purchased from them for quite some time.

      • Climaction 2.1.3

        You can’t resist the temptation of goods marketed to you on the assumption of your taste? Adult life must be extra hard for you

    • Nic the NZer 2.2

      Its so big because its put so much of its local competition out of business.

      • Peter chch 2.2.1

        Yes, but often for very good reason. As an example, I enquired recently at ChCh bookshop Sorpio. They could get the book I wanted, but would take two weeks and cost $70. Got I from Amazon in 3 days for $30, including freight.

        Same when I buy contact lens from US. Not just cheaper, but quicker. Kiwi shops really need to lift their effort, rather than endless whingeing about unfair competition.

        • Obtrectator 2.2.1.1

          At least your local shop could have fulfilled the order, even if at an unconscionable price. There's too many items that are simply unobtainable here at all, either because "there's no demand" (never mind the one standing right in front of you) or it's "uneconomic/unprofitable".

        • weka 2.2.1.2

          "Not just cheaper, but quicker. Kiwi shops really need to lift their effort, rather than endless whingeing about unfair competition."

          the $40 difference is paid in pain by the women with the back injury. Neolibs need to stop pretending they're moral.

          • Psycho Milt 2.2.1.2.1

            It's like some of the commenters didn't even read the OP. Still, nothing new there I guess.

            • Peter chch 2.2.1.2.1.1

              No, I certainly did read it. My point is that Kiwi business owners need to lift their game and fight back. All the complaining in the world will change nothing.

              Personally, I usually favour the local chemist, dairy etc for the relationship and service. They cannot always compete on price, so need to compensate with service.

              Sadly, way too many, like Scorpio, have a sense of entitlement. They deserve to be sidestepped.

              • weka

                Again, one of the reasons that Amazon can sell you the same book for $30 is because they use appalling labour practices. How can you not have made that connection while reading the post?

                • Peter chch

                  Yes, I made the connection. Have you made the connection as to why consumers favour the likes of Amazon?

                  Not just because of price, but also service.

                  Did you not read my post? Many Kiwi businesses grew up with a sense of entitlement.

                  And there is no shortage of scum bag local employers. Take a look at Moffats at Rolleston, like something out of Charles Dickens. Minimum wage, poor safety and so on.

                  Whinging and whining will not change a thing. Local businesses need to compensate price with service. Many do, but many have a bad service attitude.

                  • weka

                    "Have you made the connection as to why consumers favour the likes of Amazon?"

                    Yes, the subtext of the post is clearly that the well off are happy with the cost of capitalism because of what they get in return.

                    "Many Kiwi businesses grew up with a sense of entitlement."

                    Sounds like you have a beef about that. You are asserting that, and trying to make a connection between that and what I wrote in the post but I can't see the link. Further, whatever issues you have with Scorpio, they cannot out compete Amazon on price. That such bookshops still exist in NZ suggests they are giving service that people want.

                    I wasn't whining. I was pointing to the problem of Amazon's business model and that there is no way to fix that under neoliberalism. You can ignore the realities of that, including the moral ones, if you want, but your argument here that somehow if NZ bookstores gave better service people would pay $70 for a book they can get for $30 from Amazon just doesn't make sense.

              • greywarshark

                Scorpio has agents they buy from who no doubt aren't as big and influential as amazon. If you want to live in NZ as a citizen then you will need to think of supporting the economy that supports you. But like the majority you want you cake and to eat it too. We will need to go onto a sort of war footing. People co-operate to save themselves when it is war. At present it is the phony war still.

            • weka 2.2.1.2.1.2

              Lol, sometimes it's hard to tell if they didn't read the post or are just not very smart.

        • Brigid 2.2.1.3

          But surely there are other suppliers besides Amazon and Scorpio. Did you inquire with any others?

          • Pingau 2.2.1.3.1

            There are a few other options in Christchurch but not many. Scorpio are a great local bookshop … so what if it takes a little longer and they pay their staff properly (I assume) and have decent working conditions. Buy less and pay the price (the monetary price) for what you really need/want.

            People used to use all those arguments about economics etc. to retain slavery in the 19th century western countries.

            • Brigid 2.2.1.3.1.1

              Fishpond and Mighty Ape are great alternatives to rotten Amazon.

              Of course there is the other option as well.

              Don't buy the damned book.

        • roblogic 2.2.1.4

          I was just gonna recommend bookdepository.com but a quick search revealed it was gobbled up by Amazon years ago! angry

      • cleangreen 2.2.2

        Yes to Nic the NZer we should not allow ‘bigger’ to become another monopoly as that is what this company is planning.

        Then they will place astronomic pricing of products on us all then once they kill the competition.

        • Climaction 2.2.2.1

          That’s not the way the free market works, if prices go sky high, someone will be there with another solution at a price consumers will pay.

          amazon is only as big as it is as it pursues a low margin model predicated on efficiency, at any cost as wekas post points out

      • Climaction 2.2.3

        Which it was only able to do so because people chose to consume products via its channels. If you buy from amazon as you can’t find a local supplier, you are the problem

      • cleangreen 2.2.4

        Nic is right

        Amazon are heading to destroy all competition, They will be a monopoly.

        Then we will suffer from monopoly with astronomic predatory pricing once all competition is destroyed as that is their game.

        China are now storing many of the worlds resources so they will effectively control the market later then when resources dwindle.

  3. Sanctuary 3

    You what interests me about this? These people interest me:

    https://www.amazon.jobs/en/teams/fulfillment-center-management

    These are Amazon's willing executioners. A big sprinkling of ex-military, and lots and lots of solidly middle class of the type who you would regularly bump into everywhere. I bet most of them have solidly liberal social credentials.

    If you need a reminder that the middle class, white collar managerial enablers of neoliberalism are not the friends of socialism, just click on the link above.

    • Obtrectator 3.1

      A phrase that occurs in every other job ad on the page that the above link takes you to:

      "At Amazon we believe that every day is still day one."

      … of Year Zero?

    • weka 3.2

      "If you need a reminder that the middle class, white collar managerial enablers of neoliberalism are not the friends of socialism,"

      This. Also think many of the working class have lost the will to agitate. Neoliberalism captured everyone.

  4. Stuart Munro. 4

    Book depository is better.

    • weka 4.1

      Owned by Amazon. What are their labour practices like?

      • Stuart Munro. 4.1.1

        When I visited their warehouse in England in 2012 they didn't seem onerous.

        In general Book Depository has been cheaper as free delivery is standard. I suspect part of the problem with Amazon is items that are not books – not so readily and safely handled.

        Another issue is digitization – ebook sales overtook printed book sales in 2012, forcing cost cutting and restructures throughout established publishing.

        • weka 4.1.1.1

          good to know although 2012 is some time ago. I use BD for the same reason. I agree that a big part of Amazon fuckery is the non-book sales. But I'm not going to be surprised if their book handlers have shitty work conditions too.

        • Siobhan 4.1.1.2

          Free delivery..I've always wondered what people think that means. Maybe the US, UK and New Zealand postal and courier service are willing to deliver no charge? Or..maybe the happy workers pay postage for you? IDK.

          https://fortune.com/2017/07/16/amazon-postal-service-subsidy/

          https://gen.medium.com/confessions-of-a-u-s-postal-worker-we-deliver-amazon-packages-until-we-drop-dead-a6e96f125126

          Book Depository was designed to cover the market of consumers who are ‘anti Amazon’..and it works..the number of folk I meet who think they are avoiding Amazon by buying off BD..its hilarious.

          • Siobhan 4.1.1.2.1

            oops..and this link..

            In the first financial results filed since the acquisition, The Book Depository recorded a £15.3m pre-tax profit for the year – a 400% rise from the £2.9m it made in the 18 months to December 2011, before Amazon bought it. However, sales at the company in the 12 months to 2012 totalled £125.5m, whereas in the 18 months to December 2011, sales totalled £147.8m.

            Amazon reported in the files that during 2012, The Book Depository¹s intellectual property was sold "to another Amazon Group company" and "licence agreements have been entered into so the company retains the right to utilise the intellectual property". This resulted in an extra £15.7m in "other income" for The Book Depository, according to accounts.

            The arrangement whereby Amazon makes inter-company payments to form "a tax shield" has been heavily criticised in recent months, since Andrew Cecil, director of public policy at Amazon, appeared in front of the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons in November last year, asked to explain Amazon's low tax payments in the UK despite its high sales.

            https://www.thebookseller.com/news/profit-surge-book-depository

            anyway..enjoy the 'free' postage..and the austerity budgets being served up by our Governments thanks, in part, to tax avoiders like Amazon..

            • Stuart Munro. 4.1.1.2.1.1

              Amazon was exceptionally poorly managed, not turning a profit for nearly a decade. The Book Depository was built outside them and initially at least avoided the mistakes and burgeoning fixed costs of the Topsy syndrome. Amazon will have been defraying its taxes with the losses accumulated during its years of gross incompetence.

              • SHG

                Amazon was exceptionally poorly managed, not turning a profit for nearly a decade.

                The fact that it didn't turn a profit was evidence of how well it was being managed.

                • Stuart Munro.

                  That may be true now, but from startup, Amazon was great at growing its apparent market, but very poor at developing a cash flow.

                  The aggression of sweating labour in its distribution centres is partly a response to this perennial unprofitability. This relates to the flaw in a business model focused on monopolizing a relatively low value discretionary purchase item like books.

    • Molly 4.2

      Betterworldbooks is reliable and affordable, free delivery as well.

      Their B-corp rating can be viewed online. B-Corp certification relies on the business model following the:

      "THE B CORP DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE

      We envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good.

      This economy is comprised of a new type of corporation – the B Corporation – Which is purpose-driven and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

      As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe:

      • That we must be the change we seek in the world.
      • That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.
      • That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
      • To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.

      There are a few NZ companies on there now, that have taken the time to get certified.

      • Stuart Munro. 4.2.1

        Thanks!

        • Molly 4.2.1.1

          No problem.

          (I always thought that a progressive tax system for businesses would include some kind of opt-in certification process like this. The result would determine the business tax %. Those who fall in the higher categories that contribute towards local communities, look after the environment, and just as importantly, reduced the externalities that are often borne by the commons, should be recognised by lower tax rates.)

          It’s actually good to see how many NZ companies have taken the time to get certified. There were only two a few years ago.

  5. Gosman 5

    Where is the evidence there is a race to the bottom?

    This study suggests that while there was a slowdown between 2007 to 2015 economic well being in the US has been positive for the past 25 years

    “Longer-term trends in economic welfare in the United States are mostly positive. According to our extension of the Jones-Klenow analysis, U.S. economic welfare has increased at about 2.3 percent per year since 1995,”

    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/ben-bernanke/2016/10/19/are-americans-better-off-than-they-were-a-decade-or-two-ago/

    • weka 5.1

      that's alright then. Permanent and painful disability is ok so long as the long term economic trends are mostly positive.

      • Gosman 5.1.1

        If we replaced all the workers with robots there would be no more permanent and painful disability occurring. Is that an outcome you would like to see?

        • weka 5.1.1.1

          How would those workers earn a living?

          What about the workers in the countries producing the goods?

          What happens to the pollution from Amazon's business model?

          How can Amazon continue with that model and reduce GHG emissions?

          All these things are interconnected. Trying to solve one problem without looking at the others just causes more problems, because the real problem is the underlying economic system.

          • Gosman 5.1.1.1.1

            No the problem is with any form of economic activity. ALL economic systems suffer the same issues as you bring up. Capitalism is just generally better at dealing with them than the others. There is a reason why the Soviet Union was a much worse polluter than the countries that came out of it when Communism collapsed.

            • Psycho Milt 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Capitalism is just generally better at dealing with them than the others. There is a reason why the Soviet Union was a much worse polluter…

              And that reason is that capitalism operates in liberal democracies that regulate its activities to some extent, not that capitalism is inherently superior. Unfortunately, that regulation doesn't go anyway near far enough and we get situations like the one described in the OP.

              • Gosman

                Or those countries are liberal democracies because Capitalism provides their societies with the fundamentals needed for a functioning liberal democratic nation (e.g. a large middle class)

                • Stuart Munro.

                  Rubbish. The Luddites were a prosperous middle class, especially weavers, impoverished by capitalists introducing industrialization. Capitalism is neither necessary nor sufficient to support a middle class, hence the hollowing out of NZ's middle class since your pack of swivel-eyed loons introduced Rogergnomics.

                  • Gosman

                    The Luddites were protected by arcane rules. This made them mildly prosperous at the expense of the poorer sections in society who generally couldn't afford the output of their work. When people decided to bypass the silly rules the Luddites naturally became concerned about losing the privileges and threw the equivalent of an economic hissy fit. Luckily for us they lost.

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      And thus we got dark satanic mills and Dickensian London. But Adam Smith's Moral Sentiments put paid to the worst of those excesses.

                • Meh – I'm no expert, maybe the two do go together. What we do know is that capitalism needs a lot of regulation and intervention by democratic governments if we don't want it to work the way Marx described it.

            • weka 5.1.1.1.1.2

              "No the problem is with any form of economic activity. ALL economic systems suffer the same issues as you bring up. Capitalism is just generally better at dealing with them than the others."

              So answer the questions then. If you think that robots will solve the problems at Amazon, be specific.

              How would those workers earn a living?

              What about the workers in the countries producing the goods?

              What happens to the pollution from Amazon's business model?

              How can Amazon continue with that model and reduce GHG emissions?

  6. cleangreen 6

    Leave citizens alone to criticize as criticism is a healthy part of "capitisism".

  7. UncookedSelachimorpha 7

    As I posted on Open Mike – and completely relevant to this post – 50,000 NZ working households are in poverty. The current version of 'capitalism' gives all the power to the few owners of significant capital, while the bulk of the population is reduced to little more than slaves.

    https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1911/S00301/more-than-50000-working-households-live-in-poverty.htm

    • Dukeofurl 7.1

      As commented in your previous post …its so out of date to be useless. All the data they used was from 2013 census

    • Gosman 7.2

      What nonsense. There is no comparison between work in NZ today and slavery. Get a grip.

      • Stuart Munro. 7.2.1

        Quite right – slave owners ensured slaves were housed and fed – they were valuable.

        • Gosman 7.2.1.1

          If you really think slavery was better or even comparable to what workers have today you are seriously deluded.

          • Stuart Munro. 7.2.1.1.1

            If you seriously pretend the comparison with slavery is not apposite, in a market so corrupted it even prevents workers from owning their own homes, you are even more disingenuous than you seem.

            • Gosman 7.2.1.1.1.1

              The market is not stopping people from owning their own homes. Regulation is.

              • arkie

                Ah yes, it is the regulation that underpays them!

                • Gosman

                  No the regulation that restricts the supply of land to be able to be used for housing or restricts the number of housing units that can be built on the land being used for housing already.

                  • Molly

                    Been here before with you Gosman – more than once, and despite pointing out the complexity of the housing issue, you continue to repeat yourself with absolutely no intention of learning.

                    So I've reposted here so that you can ignore it again, but others can perhaps take something away from it:

                    As you began to point out Gosman, there are multiple causes for the housing crisis, but you failed to continue past your simplistic and neoliberal talking points:

                    1. Landsupply is also restricted by landbankers and developers who are sitting on residentially zoned land, or releasing it only in tranches because that is the most profitable, especially when land is in short supply.

                    2. Taxation and investment policies have encouraged NZers and overseas investors to use property – particularly residential properties and flipping as a means to accumulate capital. These individual gains have externalities borne by communities both locally and nationally.

                    3. Similar policies and failure to address landbanking or houses kept empty intentionally, also restrict supply of housing.

                    4. Reduction in Housing NZ stock availability along with a reduction in access to existing stock, has increased the hardship of many.

                    5. We have inadequate data on the increase in household income vs the increase in housing costs, having only the small sample of the Housing Economic Survey to report on. Even this has average housing costs rising 43% while average household incomes rising 41%. But this ignores the reality of the uneven distribution that is contributing towards growing inequality. Those households that have incomes that rose higher and faster, are those more likely to be owner/occupiers and they often have lower housing costs than renters. Those whose incomes did not rise as much, will often incur greater increases in housing costs at the same time, putting them at greater financial stress.

                    6. National government and local government policy has no coherent strategy towards considered planning, and attempts to do so will result in a pushback that is typical for attempts at regulatory control. This would be a great move, but the Overton window – in this respect – is not currently open.

                  • Stuart Munro.

                    The 'market' is responsible for wage theft and exploited foreign workers. These people are structurally excluded from owning housing, and in turn suppress wages, excluding other workers.

                    They are not excluded by regulation, but by the crude process of accumulation that favours parasites like yourself.

                  • Incognito

                    You are sucking way too much oxygen out of some posts. Under this post 24 comments so far.

                    Besides slippery semantics you’re often plain wrong.

                    This comment of yours is a good example. In fact, a piece on Stuff today confirms that you’re making up shit, possibly because you smoke your own dope or possibly because you get a kick out of trolling here.

                    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/117718609/new-15-billion-project-same-old-problems-as-slippage-starts-on-housing-plan

  8. Pat 8

    As the comments on here make abundantly clear there will be no change to the race to the bottom model in western democracies until such time as a significant majority are negatively impacted…and that could take some time, but end it will.

    Appeals to deeper thought and common decency hold no sway for far too many

    • Gosman 8.1

      Good luck waiting for the significant majority to be impacted. There is little evidence that a significant minority are even adversely affected.

  9. greywarshark 9

    Recently there was a piece or a comment on the damage to the mental health and wellbeing of the call centres checking the content for vileness on the internet. It is all very well, as the person pointed out, for the top banana to say that they will eliminate bad stuff, but the worst needs to be sorted by algorithim and not by human. It can't all be algorithm or else you can't use the internet for medical purposes and instruction purposes like how do I cope with breastfeeding, have eczema on my wassname etc.

    But being made to watch pornography, ugh. Perhaps one could be pragmatic and make those already skewed by it, sort it out into terrible, bad, or some artistic clever moves. They already have their values slanted so use them as critics and sorters, they could be useful for once, and it might even cure them. Punishment for criminals tends to make them worse, so taking a different approach to offenders would be a sensible idea; like paying reformed safebreakers to use their skills; redeemed hackers to advise on preventive methods.

  10. SPC 10

    At some point these will be robot jobs, and there will be less people commuting to the workplace.

    A higher MW, a Democrat POTUS appointed Sec of Labour (aid to workers to sue employers for unsafe workplaces – or workplace income insurance for injured workers) and nationalised health cover are political responses.

  11. McFlock 11

    Funny how history repeats.

    Some of the worst abuses in chattel slavery occurred in the actual Amazon, during the height of the trans-atlantic slave trade. A Portuguese colony at the time (hence why it's the only non-Spanish speaking nation in South America), Brazilian plantations returned so much profit that slaves became consumables rather than capital assets. Paper rather than the photocopier. Once in Brazil they had a life expentancy measured in months, but in that time they would produce many times their value and so finance the system for further abuse.

    Think "Schindler's list" rather than "Twelve years a slave". The most brutal outcome of unrestricted capitalism, akin to the Belgian Congo.

    Left to its own devices, capitalism is a rabid, ravenous, all-consuming beast.

    • Gosman 11.1

      It is unlikely this was in the Amazon basin. This area of Brazil was largely undeveloped until well in to the 20th Century many decades after slavery was abolished in Brazil. Brazil's economic development was focused mainly along the East and North coast when the Portuguese ruled.

      • weka 11.1.1

        yeah, because that's the important bit.

        • Gosman 11.1.1.1

          I suspect the rest is not fact based either. There is no reference to anything anyone can actually check up on.

          • weka 11.1.1.1.1

            In my experience McFlock doesn't usually say things unless he knows what he is talking about. You're welcome to do some research to prove him wrong.

          • McFlock 11.1.1.1.2

            If I thought you genuinely gave a shit, I would link to a wikipedia article or even look up some notes and references from one or two papers I studied back in the day.

            Note the absence of links.

    • Dukeofurl 11.2

      "only non-Spanish speaking nation in South America"

      There were Dutch , French and English colonies too.

      South America was Colonialism central

      • McFlock 11.2.1

        fair call on that – forgot about the guianas in particular. ISTR the Europeans still use French Guyana as a launch site.

  12. Kay 12

    Assuming that book (or whatever item) can also be physically accessed in NZ, the often significant price difference would be less of an issue if we had acceptable incomes and didn't always have to go for the cheapest option? How often do we hear how New Zealanders are the most price sensitive shoppers in the world? There's a reason for that. And guess the name of the economic system that drove down those incomes. Do the big retail owners who probably vote for lower business taxes, oppose unions, workers rights, anything to drive down wages, not realise this isn't a good thing from a business perspective?

    • weka 12.1

      I assume that a three term Nat govt would go hard after workers once it was finished with beneficiaries. Yet people still want neoliberalism.

      The other issue in that is that consumption is addictive, especially when under stress. But how many books do we all need? When we fix income and housing costs, we also need to shift away from the mass consumption model. I'm not sure we can fix one without the other.

      • Pingau 12.1.1

        I agree about our consumption. How about using a public library? Why do we have to own every book we want to read? It's true that sometimes your local library might not have it but if you have to wait because it is out – just wait. Save on packaging and air miles and save your own money.

        • weka 12.1.1.1

          it's been a big cultural and values shift in my lifetime. I'm not sure how we shift that again intentionally.

  13. cleangreen 13

    On reflection when I first went to US/Canada in the late 1970's to live and work it was Ronald Reagan who eventually smashed up the big tel cos first because they became to powerful and took over Government policy.

    Then ATT was just a mino compared to what Amazon and others are today. so we need to take stock of the future services of these mega online shopping magnets.

  14. Macro 14

    Just imagine if Jeff Bezos gave this woman a fraction of what he gave to charity in 2018? Or even the same amount. – It would still only amount to around 0.1% of his total wealth.

    Then again what if had the brilliant idea of hiring twice as many staff and there by cutting down the workload while still maintaining the output. Would his total wealth decrease so much he would become a beggar?

    https://twitter.com/gabriel_zucman/status/1198422794607845377/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1198422794607845377&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.vox.com%2Ffuture-perfect%2F2019%2F11%2F25%2F20981946%2Fcharity-billionaire-jeff-bezos-bill-gates-wealth-tax

  15. Karol121 15

    The age old argument and fight between industrialists and the labour force/labour movement, which we might refer to colloquially as; "the workers's struggle''.

    Every human being is born a trader, and remains so until his/her/otherwise's last breath.

    What is and isn't a(n) utilitarian society these days?

    Most exploitation can only be compared to or against that which is acceptable by standards existing in any one jurisdiction or locality, at any particular time.

    On working conditions and workplace environment, the progression has usually been something like this;

    Workers are exploited and recognise it as being exploitative.

    Workers form a body with a representative structure.

    Workers decide to take action to assert their perceived rights, guided by that representative structure, and/or they lobby political representatives for change.

    The employee usually budges or changes things a little, and progressively, over time, a lot will usually change in favour of the workers.

    In an ideal situation, improved conditions (above those conditions which do not expose employees to an exploitative or dangerous workplace environment) most usually come about as a result of profit generated by a business, not credit, although not always.

    Much in relation to working conditions, (when an employer is making a booming profit and the law does provide for at least a minimum workplace standard that is being provided by an employer), will depend on SUPPLY AND DEMAND.

    When the workforce available far exceeds jobs available, without a strong worker representative body, wage or conditions negotiation usually falls flat for the workers.

    Also, remove or interfere with any legitimate worker representative faction, and leave yourself wide open only to that which can be determined in relation to industry related law (civil or criminal), and pertaining to common law and collective or individual employment contracts or agreements.

    Still, I for one have been very happy with the use of many products sourced from overseas, and where I have never really wanted to consider too much, the factory or distribution centre conditions for those involved in the processes. I do not believe that I am unique in this regard.

    I get enough guilt thrown at me to wallow in already, for simply expressing myself in and amongst the community from time to time, or when simply doing or not doing that which one or another tells me is not consistent with their moral narrative.

    I personally wouldn’t wish to “F” Amazon. They may one day be delivering pharmacy items to the doors of NZ’ers who have few other options in relation to their prescription delivery.

    We could perhaps form a collective income pool, managed by a (kind of) trusted group of people who could collect tithing/tribute from us as purchasers, which could go in to a special welfare pool which could further fund those overseas workers who are engaged in supplying us with goods, or logistics associated with such supply.

    For local workers providing the same services in New Zealand, we probably wouldn't need to contribute to any similar pool, as there is already one in place. It's called a taxation pool, or "tax".

  16. Exkiwiforces 16

    There is a green roots push over here in Oz atm to boycott Amazon as result of the Amazon avoiding to pay their far share of tax in Oz.

    I try and avoid Amazon 99% of time because of the way they treat their staff and their dodgy tax avoidance schemes. Where as a few yrs ago I would buy about 75% of my books from them and now they are my last resort ie about 1% or less of my books come from Amazon.

    Now days I chase 2nd hand books of Abebooks or Books collectable which is a Oz and NZ search engine and from 2nd hand dealers who I have signed up to email who have left contact details in the books I have purchase. For new books it Fishpond.com.au, direct from the publishes, in some case direct from the author or from the various interest groups i'm a part of Shooting, Historic Aviation and the NZ Rail Society etc. The books I buy are highly specialise, so they are not at your local bookshop.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-21/how-amazon-australia-shifts-income-offshore-to-reduce-tax/11719232

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/programs/the-business/2019-11-21/the-loopholes-that-deliver-amazon-a-fortune/11727112

  17. Adrian Thornton 17

    How a grassroots Seattle movement delivered Amazon a major loss

  18. Ad 18

    Since there's no unions to speak of and they aren't coming back, the best Amazon substitute for human injury is robotics that replace more and more people, informed by the best AI money can buy.

    Amazon says it will be at least a decade before they can go fully human-free in their warehouses, but already they need fewer and fewer for their Christmas holiday peaks.

    Repetitive lifting is exactly the kind of job robots were built for, and we should be nowhere near them.

    • McFlock 18.1

      bold claim about unions, there.

      The interesting thing about automation in this instance is that employment is the main reason municipalities give Amazon land tax breaks for their facilities. If they don't pay rates, or corporate tax, or wages… what good are they to have in your TLA boundary?

      • Ad 18.1.1

        The remaining unions of any note are in the public sector. Even with those taken into account, US union membership is about 10% of the workforce and continuing to fall.

        Amazon are about as useful in your TLA as any other big-box retailer; few jobs per hectare, and low quality at that. But we buy more and more through the internet, so that's the way life is.

    • weka 18.2

      How will the people whose jobs are replaced by robots make a living? Body-breaking work or no job, both are shitty neoliberal realities. Sensible use of hi tech is one thing, but hi tech isn't a solution for a business model based on exploitation.

      • Ad 18.2.1

        Everyone's been waiting for the robotic-driven unemployment rate to soar for three decades.

        Never happened.

        • weka 18.2.1.1

          are you suggesting that Amazon will keep employing its current staff but in a different capacity once the robots so the shelf stacking? If not, what do you think will happen to them?

          I don't know if the automation revolution will impact jobs as badly as people say, but afaik, it's still a future prediction, not something that's happened in the last 3 decades. I expect it's also to do with precariousness as much as gross unemployment rates.

        • Stuart Munro. 18.2.1.2

          No-one wants to pay for that much IT support.

      • Adrian Thornton 18.2.2

        True that, very few politicians anywhere take a moral stand on AI except of course Bernie Sanders..

        "I'm running for president because we need to understand that artificial intelligence and robotics must benefit the needs of workers, not just corporate America and those who own that technology,"

        https://www.countable.us/articles/22132-bernie-sanders-takes-stance-artificial-intelligence-2020-campaign-announcement

      • greywarshark 18.2.3

        I'm reading Robert D Putnam's Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

        He has just compared a kid from a secure good income side of town and another opposite. Having a regular job that didn't break your back would have resulted in a better home life for the poor kid. She tried but her mother was an alchie, and the men she took up with were not the best.

        People who are struggling but willing should not be abandoned. There need to be opportunities to be in small communities that can look after their own gardens and manage themselves if employment is going to be 'flexible', and they will have fences to keep out deadheads. It might be a case that parents have to live elsewhere and just visit now and then because they are so destructive and are unable to turn their lives around permanently.

  19. pat 19

    "Everyone's been waiting for the robotic-driven unemployment rate to soar for three decades.

    Never happened"

    Nor did real wage increases nor secure meaningful employment.

    Theres more than one way to skin a cat

  20. David Mac 20

    Amazon don't pay any tax because they've never made a profit. Same with Uber.

    I don't think they're a worry because of neoliberalism but because their business model revolves around not making a profit. There is no money to share with employees.

    This flies in the face of traditional approaches, turning a profit was all important, the only way to survive. Bezos is a billionaire because of the value of his shares, his business burns money. Amazon, Uber, Tesla investors, they're all betting on future global domination.

    Uber will never make a profit with their current business model. Their future viability and motivating force for investors rests on driverless cars.

    • greywarshark 20.1

      I was reading recently about a successful author or musician, can't remember correctly, but I do remember that his work was used in a very good earning film and he didn't get a penny from it.

  21. That_guy 21

    In the short term it's terrible and calls for boycotts are sensible.

    Looking at the medium term, why is a human being lifting and carrying things in a warehouse?

    Yes, I'm aware that (if you're in the capitalist mindset, or if you're the worker), workers being replaced by a robot is bad. But what exactly is wrong with a situation where robots do all the work, the cost of producing consumer goods is very low, and everyone has a set of assured social services and lots of free time?

    Obviously I've recently been reading Fully Automated Luxury Communism.

    • weka 21.1

      Climate change, and the ecological crises.

      But no-one is talking about robots in a luxury communism. Most people want a kinder capitalism, and seem unable to cope with that just not being possible.

      • That_guy 21.1.1

        My wider point is that it's not actually a bad thing per se if robots take over boring manual labour (or even non boring non manual labour.. like paralegals). It's only a bad thing because of the current structure of capitalism where everyone is supposed to be working all the time, even if that work is worthless or damaging to the planet.

        • weka 21.1.1.1

          Yes, I got that, but I'm saying that development of robot tech probably can't happen outside of a context of destroying the earth, and that we need to be careful to not silo off the environment from social justice issues like worker rights.

          In some theoretical world, we might have been able to replace menial and damaging jobs with robots, but it's just not possible to do that now and not fuck the planet. That's not even getting to the problems of AI, surveillance state, transhumanism and so on.

        • pat 21.1.1.2

          If I recall correctly Keynes' vision of the benefit of increased productivity (of which AI and robotics is a part) was for increased leisure due to the reduced resources required to meet human needs (note, needs)….somewhere along the way that seems to have been lost

          • That_guy 21.1.1.2.1

            Yes, this is the topic of the famous "bullshit jobs" essay and book.

            I don't agree that automation and robots inevitably come with environmental destruction. Surely the whole point of the exercise is more efficient use if resources? Environmental destruction boils down to corporations not paying the full cost of producing their product. Nothing to do with tech, it's a legislation problem. So I just don't see the automatic connection.

  22. That_guy 22

    Also the idea that because automation hasn't replaced all workers yet then it's not a thing.. no. Two things wrong with that: automation has already done that in many sectors. And, the main problem with that idea is that people always overestimate tech in the short term and underestimate it in the long term. A few years back, robots could not climb stairs and had to be attached to a cable. Now they are running up stairs, doing backflips, etc.

    Basically a new tech is developed, there is an initial burst of news about all the things it's going to do, and when those things don't immediately happen then some people decide that it's a bust. Then people quietly work on the problem, and before you know it, robots are doing backflips.

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