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Amazon warehouse workers 'peed in bottles' fearing punishment for taking breaks (pulse.ng)
785 points by vezycash 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 689 comments



Is this worth it? Is this worth having the ability to pick between 10,000 different toasters via internet and have them delivered to your doorstep in 2 days?

Sometimes I look at society as a complete organ, with a hypothetical ability to make cohesive decisions for itself. And I think, it is making extremely self-destructive choices. All for the sake of satisfying the urge to buy more, at lower prices, with more convenience.

I wonder how much of the stuff in those warehouses is utter garbage that gets bought and used just once.


We can have both. Amazon isn't going to implode if they pay some extra pennies for reasonable working conditions.


I don't think we can, companies like Amazon can't stop thinking about costs, it's in their DNA, it's what they live and breath.

Distribution is all about margins, if you can't keep costs low then you are toast, they are always utterly miserable places to work.


You can force them to give provide conditions, or else they have to pay monumental fines / managers go to prison, etc. They will get the point.


Is the point to use robots? Because I'm pretty sure they already know that.


The only way to make reasonable business decisions is to think about costs in any company.


Why would Amazon pay one more penny than they have to? To win a nice guys award? To get a warm, squishy feeling inside?

There is precisely one solution to this problem, and it is us electing leaders who change the rules in favor of the working masses, and enforce those rules mercilessly against exploitative employers.


People deride unions, but collective bargaining has also been a very effective solution in the past.


And that's why people deride unions. It's a defence mechanism.


...why would a defence mechanism for worker health be something people deride?


To weaken it, so that it has less people and less power, and is not respected by the rest of the population.


Why would anyone with sufficient money and organization to support a candidate support one who would change the rules in favor of the working masses?


For the same reason the mouth passes food to the stomach instead of keeping it to itself. The same reason we remove tumors from the human body. The whole organism (or in the case of human populations, superorganism) depends on nourishment flowing through the whole organism, not concentrating in small pockets.


Not everyone is a sociopath.


Just everyone with power


It's a process of selection...


> To win a nice guys award? To get a warm, squishy feeling inside? Why not? There are plenty of well-natured, kind people in the world. The price of being not nice is quite high.


Or stop putting band-aids in a fundamentally broken system, and change it altogether.


To... what?


We haven't reached the peak of human wealth distribution systems with a byproduct of the fall of feudalism. Let's rack our brains, I'm sure we can figure something.


Instead of being cryptic and beating around the bush, why not suggest a system if you've already racked your brain and figured something out?


No we can't, Amazon is popular because it's cheap because its hyperoptimised. And if not anything, there are other major issues other than worker's rights (which are bad enough).


We don't need both. 10 toasters is more then enough to fulfill our needs.


This is far from being unique to Amazon and from my experience constant pressures like these are prevalent in many low to mid-income paying jobs. I briefly worked as an Insurance Claims Representative for Farmer's Insurance. At the time, I lost my place, my car died and I was running low on funds so I had to take the first thing available. The job offered a free car and the first 4 weeks were spent in training. As someone who had previously only been exposed to the intricacies of white collar work, I found the whole experience to be quite eye-opening. Nearly every claims rep I met looked or acted as if they were chronically stressed, some hid it well while others wore it pretty plainly.

I later found out that they were always on edge because on any given day, one mistake could cost them their chance at a raise, bonus or any cost of living increase for the year. Farmer's had an elaborate points system used to determine eligibility for pay raises (basically cost-of-living increases). We were mobile and had to investigate 3 claims per day without exception. Our daily assignments and locations were algorithimically generated by very substandard software (didn't fully take into account variations in traffic over time and wasn't based on reliable, curent data in the first place). It was in Los Angeles, so traffic and distances between appointments could be immense. Yet, we weren't allowed any exceptions. If we didn't make one of our appointments, depending on the size of the claim, that could disqualify you from a bonus or pay raise. Too many (5-8 per year) could jeopardize your job. The same went for providing iaccurate estimates. So if you missed something (more realisistically paid out too much without trying to deny responsibility) on one flagship luxury or sports car (7 series BMW, S Mercedes, etc.), you'd likely lose your bonus. It's like every day is a chance for you to lose while I feel like for many of us here on HN, each day is a chance for us to earn a bonus.

UPS drivers are under the same pressure. That's why they leave packages outside or in the lobby of buildings. If they don't complete their algorithmically generated deliveries for the day, they're dinged. They can never question the software either. Customer service is another field with similar pressures. Being under that daily constant fear and pressure for such little reward must be so mentally taxing, like if one was still in the food chain


I should add that a couple of years ago, I received a check in the mail for several hundred dollars due to a class action settlement launched on behalf of the Claims team. Management really pushed for employees to hit that 3 claims a day mark , granting overtime in the most limited of circumstances by suggesting that we could eat and be driving to an appointment during the lunch hour. In effect, they encouraged us to skip lunch if we needed to and/or to eat while driving. Remember, this is coming from an automotive insurance company.

As someone who only worked there for a month, it was a pretty nice unexpected bonus.


I am by no means siding with Amazon - check my post history. But as far as I know, there exist state and federal laws covering this. Even in my podunk state, law requires an uninterrupted 15 minute break per 4 hours worked, and even guides when that time must be allocated. Anything over 6 hours must be given an unpaid 30 minute meal period. Not perfect, but we aren't pissing in bottles.


> Sometimes I look at society as a complete organ, with a hypothetical ability to make cohesive decisions for itself. And I think, it is making extremely self-destructive choices.

One of my favorite philosophical thought experiments! I'd argue that that society is an organism comprised of several governments/companies which act as the organs.

I usually observe each organ making decisions to optimize its use of money, (or blood in this metaphor!).

It is usually clear that these decisions have net negative effects on us individual humans (cells) in the organism.

But the question remains, when each company and government optimizes for money instead of individual health, is that healthy for the success of society, the broader organism?


The trouble is not the decision to optimize for financial or physical health, the issue is that Amazon seems to see some people as part of its organism (long-term entity), such as its engineering talent, and other people, like these poor warehouse workers, as a temporary part of a future robotic optimization. Companies like Apple value their lowest level employees because nobody is sure that computers will competently replicate sympathetic customer service. Amazon doesn't need its warehouse workers' soft skills, only their muscle and basic logic.


It's not like people's entire paycheck is going toward materialism. In the US, nationally, roughly 70% of consumer spending is essentials (more or less): housing, transportation and food.


You might find the film Samsara quite interesting. It's a timeline documentary showing how people live all over the world. Timelapses show the interconnectedness of things that happen too slowly for us to appreciate. Like star trails.

The film evokes a sense of how things are connected and all the suffering we create due to a desire to alleviate suffering.


What's your solution then? Are you implying that manual laborers had a better time at any point in history before Amazon existed?


I did manual labor up until I finished college. I never felt forced to piss in bottles to keep any of those jobs.


Other countries have proper labor and employment laws. This wouldn't be allowed in the bulk of the rest of the west.


If you sell toasters then yes


Guilty, I bought a robot vacuum on Amazon and used it once.


It's not only worker's rights (which is bad enough). It's many things, for example the environment. For instance, the amount of fuel burned, and carbon emitted, to deliver an item in 2 days instead of 3 is 40% higher (sorry I don't have a citation right now). We're boiling our planet alive for the slightest of conveniences! It's bonkers! Like we're filling the oceans with trash for using completely superfluous plastic packaging that improves our lives in the most negligible of ways. All of this to sell ever increasing (because current market capitalism demands constant "growth") piles of crap.


And for some reason one can only buy two sizes of socks. For shoe sizes 6-12 (regular) and 12-16 (large). A sock that fits 6 through 12 shoes sizes? Capitalism failure.


I thought the same thing until I discovered H&M socks. Say what you will about their labor practices - at least they make socks that fit my feet.

www.hm.com/us/product/92297


Since we're talking about Amazon and you're talking about sock sizes and I remember Alec Baldwin ordering "Bresciani's" on the first Alexa commercials: https://www.amazon.com/Bresciani-Cashmere-Over-Calf-Dress/dp...

In multiple sizes...


Such is the way of capitalism.


Worth it for me, so I continue to buy stuff on Amazon.

If the workers don't like it they can work elsewhere or start their own Amazon.


Do you believe there should be minimum standards for working conditions?


That's a specious question - there are minimum standards for wrking conditions. What people upset at Amazon really want is to change those standards, which is a completely fair standpoint. Let's not muddy the waters by papering over 100 years of accomplishemnts of US labor...


I was just questioning the ideology of the person I replied to, not making a statement on the current situation. I'm trying to get people to see that the current situation is the result of organized labor, not some natural condition we happen to find ourselves in.


To the degree that workers are not your slaves or property, yes. They should be free to decide who to work for, and employers cannot treat people as their property. But as long as there's informed consent, most things are pretty fair.


Informed consent to piss in bottles to meet impossible quotas, or die from starvation. Good choice.


If their next best option to working at an Amazon warehouse is starvation, then it's a pretty good thing for them that Amazon has a warehouse there. That said, I strongly suspect they have better "next best" options.


Funnily enough, we have enough food and shelter in the U.K. that this shouldn’t need to be a choice people have to make - the issue is one of inefficient resource allocation. Instead of noticing this and solving the problem, our Government have decided that if you desire any sense of dignity, you deserve to die.

Have some fucking empathy.


An Amazon warehouse being there is the reason they don't have many other options.


So you are against things like paid time off, 40-hour work week, weekends off, workplace safety/health standards, ect.?


Not against them. I'm against them being required by law. (Some safety standards should definitely be part of the law). But if the law limits hours then it hurts some people more--if they didn't have to pay overtime, you might be able to work twice as many hours. For many programmers, working 1.5x as many hours might be worth 1.5x the salary. But if the company is required to pay for overtime by law, it may be more economical to just hire new workers. In that case, the guy who wants to work overtime is at a disadvantage. This is similar to what happens in part time jobs where people want to work more hours but it's cheaper for the company to hire someone else. The long-term effect is that people have to work 3 part time jobs to get by rather than 1 full time job where there's more opportunity for growth/raises.

With health and safety standards, there's always going to be some really shitty jobs. For example, in terms of health and safety mining coal is pretty undesirable. But if nobody is doing the job, the demand still stays there and the position is available for much higher pay. If you could earn $500k a year doing a job that's destructive to your body it can still be very much worth it. Of course, most of these workers either have few choices for work or are not totally aware of all the health issues associated with their jobs. This is obviously of concern, but I don't think banning the job outright is the right way to go.


Can I say "yes" without being down-voted? I'd like the government not to limit free association of moral agents. Two people should be free to work together under whatever arrangement they voluntarily enter into.

All our current system of labour and union law has accomplished is the offshoring of suffering. We've not gotten rid of the existence of, nor our reliance on abhorrent working conditions. We've just moved them elsewhere, in the process wasting tremendous amounts of energy (not to mention the associated destruction of the environment) shipping things to and from more lenient jurisdictions.

I propose that if the working conditions we rely on were present under our noses, we would do more to try to actually mediate our dependence their production.


I understand that viewpoint,and even agree with it mostly on a person to person level, but if the government didn't have these laws why would it be any better. When people tried to negotiate with companies without the states involvement, the companies used violence to try and get their way.

Corporations aren't moral agents and can't be treated as such


  the companies used violence to try and get their way
And that's exactly where we need the state, in order to protect us from violence. I'd just like there to be limits on the scope of its authority. Corporations are just groups of people.


Corporations may be groups of people but they don't get treated like people. There's no corporate death penalty for companies that end up killing people. There's no corporate jail to remove companies that can't behave out of society for a set amount of time. There's fines that seem to never be greater than the profit the companies earn from breaking the law and it just becomes a cost of business.

If they're going to be treated like people then go all the way, but until then they need to be regulated to prevent the worst of their excesses that have been played out again and again


  Corporations may be groups of people but they don't get treated like people
They don't have to be. All we have to do is hold individuals accountable for their actions. If a person in a corporation orders violent suppression of a labour dispute, then they are personally accountable. A corporation is a legal fiction. It can't be held accountable because it doesn't do anything, the people who run it do.


As I replied to the parent, the laundry list of items is a little odd, since, in the US at least, the only thing there that's protected by law are the workplace health and safety standards.

And... I guess I must not be as optimistic as you are. If we didn't have things like OSHA, I do not expect that most workplaces would act in the best interests of their workers' health and safety. Look at countries where there aren't OSHA-like laws and see how well they do there. (Hint: not well.)


Minimum wage is certainly protected by law.

  Look at countries where there aren't OSHA-like laws and see how well they do there
That's exactly my point though isn't it? We still rely on goods produced in those places, we just don't have any visibility into the conditions they are produced in. We've just offshored the suffering, not alleviated it.


I'm fully agreed with this. The question is then what are the ways we can improve the working/living conditions of people around the world. The way workers around the world have fought for better conditions is by using their ability to withhold labor and collectively bargain with the capitalist class.


And they should continue to do that. In fact this works quite well without government interference (labour/union law) or even in spite of it (See the Indian independence movement). I'm suggesting we need the government to protect us from violence when negotiations go awry, not to interfere in said negotiations between free private entities.


See: the Inclosure Act.


In the US, at least, paid time off, a 40-hour work week, and weekends off are not specified by any kind of law.

I'm definitely a fan of workplace health and safety standards, though. Countries without those tend to cut corners to their workers' detriment.


all things that exist without the government and which vary wildly amongst professions. i work far more than 40 hours and don't take most weekends - as I am entitled to.



> If the workers don't like it they can work elsewhere

Note that the submitted article is from the UK, where the workers might not be able to work elsewhere, and where they may have had some element of compulsion through the current benefit system to apply for and take jobs at Amazon.


> ...might...may...

Sounds like speculation.


No, it's accounting for the large numbers of people involved.

For clarity: people claiming Universal Credit will have been compelled to apply for work at Amazon, and will have had their benefits cut if they had refused to apply. And, once employed, people face a minimum 6 week wait before they can apply for benefits if they leave Amazon, and that time is extended if they chose to leave or were fired.


Are Amazon's margins razor thin? I'm trying to understand what compels them to be so toxic in their work environment. Especially compared to the people I know who work at Costco, I struggle to understand why Costco treats employees so well, and Amazon treats their employees so poorly.

It's really sad, regardless.


Costco employees interact with customers.. Having a healthy interaction with customers is important, and treating employees well goes a long way in helping grow a customer base.

Customers will never interact with the person that boxes their amazon shipment. Those individuals are not seen as people, but just a necessity to continue operations.


But the real reason is the culture promoted by the founders.

Costco's Jim Sinegal steadfastly refused to cut employee pay and benefits to satisfy investor's demands. That kind of "employee first" thinking starts at the top and filters down throughout the entire organization.

Even if you're being charitable towards Bezos' attitude towards employees, it's clear that people aren't his focus. He's focused on automation, growth and performance. That kind of thinking also starts at the top, and filters down through the rest of the organization.

I remember reading a profile of Zappos around the time they were acquired by Amazon, that highlighted the differences between the two companies. Zappos built its brand on legendary customer service, and there are all kinds of stories about how the retailer empowering its reps to offer customer service that goes above and beyond. Things like sending flowers to a customer's hospital room.

In contrast, at Amazon, every time a customer has to interact with a human, it's seen as a failure. The goal is to remove human contact from the sales process as much as possible.

With that attitude, it's no wonder that employee wellbeing isn't a major focus.


Costco (retail) appears to treat their employees much better - much higher base wages, regular increases in wage, benefits, etc.

Also know a past Costco corporate employee and only had a positive impression.


Retail positions are different than warehouse positions. It's like how UPS drivers make bank, but the guys who load the trucks break their backs for scratch (even with union representation!).


There are warehouse positions in Costco as well. Costco seems to skirt labour laws a little less than other retailers.


I worked at UPS as a package sorter/loader/unloader. The money was great and the part time position offered pretty good health and dental benefits. Only issue was the job was hard on my health. Weird hours and repetitive motion can tear your body to shreds if you let it. But the hours were consistent and there were plenty of opportunities to make extra money during the holidays.


Best teenage job I ever had. They treated us with respect and the pay was exceptional for the job, you could live a middle class lifestyle on it. Sundays they paid time and a half. They also had great holiday events, with a very memorable Christmas party I still cherish. I wish more retailers would treat their employees so well.

EDIT: it does go to the top. The CEO resisted investor pressure to reduce wages and perks. Mad respect to him for treating his employees like people instead of cogs.


So I need a replacement for broken GPS cradle mount. Can I get at Costco?, no, but I can buy a new GPS for a couple hundred. At Amazon I can buy this 6 dollar item and bundled with few more low price items I can get it delivered for free.

Costco has far fewer SKUs and sell in bulk only high quality and price items. So they can afford to pay well because they only entertain customers which are spending far more for fewer high selling items and not few dollar obscure replacement parts.


Yes, a famous quote by Bezos is "Your margin is my opportunity". Also, he runs the company the same way. A lot of capex for Amazon is reinvesting in the company.


Exactly. If there's money to re-invest, there should be money to treat employees at least decently.


On the other side of the coin, if they hadn't spent the money on reinvesting, they wouldnt be the size they are now or employ as many people.

(This is not saying they shouldn't treat employees better, just that the reason they employ so many people in the first place is bc of reinvesting and expanding to more areas. It's not as simplistic as, 'if they have the money they should spend it on people instead of business')


If you can't grow your business to be a monstrosity without treating your employees like slaves, your business should not exist.


I work at an Amazon warehouse. I'd rather be able to do that and write code on the side than be unemployed and have to live with my parents in the middle of nowhere. My parents don't even have an internet connection.


That's the problem with the current labour market. A job sounds almost like a favor, because it's better than nothing, but workers (should) have rights too.

There will always be someone who has less and is therefore satisfied with less, and companies will capitalize on that to offer the bare minimum to get the job done. Ultimately the person who'd do the job for more gets no job, the person doing the job for less doesn't get a fair compensation, and the only party benefiting is the company.


Right, it's hard to get even a crappy job. Except at an Amazon warehouse. There were relatively few hoops to jump through, and I don't think I even had to interview for it.

(Well, "crappy". Aside from the low pay and bad hours, it's alright. I haven't seen any of the abuses that get talked about, although I'm sure they happen elsewhere.)

Over half of new hires quit or get fired - I'm not sure which, but probably both - in their first two months, and they mostly hire for 20 hrs/wk part-time schedules. So it's not hard to see why Amazon is an easy place to find work at.

I've applied to a few hundred jobs in my life, ranging from software development to slinging lattes, and Amazon is the only company that's ever even given me an offer. Most of my male friends are in similar positions: they're pretty smart, but they can't get anything better than FC, retail, truck driver, that sort of thing. (Truck driver was, in terms of pay, the best outcome I know of, but that was one guy and he killed himself over it last year.)

The impression I get from my (generally more successful) female friends is that the only things that matter nowadays are networking and credentials, and most public job postings are only put up as formalities.


You clearly completely ignored my second sentence. "That's not to say they shouldn't treat employees better'.

It is a simple fact I stated. Reinvesting in new areas allows them to employ more people in those areas. This isn't an opinion, it's just a fact.

> If you can't grow your business to be a monstrosity without treating your employees like slaves, your business should not exist.

Hardly any companies make it to be "a monstrosity" in the first place. Jeff Bezos did it by reinvesting and expanding. Apple did it with ridiculous margins and taking advantage of people in foreign countries (who literally jump off the roof of FoxConn to end the suffering). Microsoft did it with monopolistic business practices. IBM and Google as well. Giant clothing companies to this day still get caught with their hands in sweatshops. Banks milk people for fees and have the power to crash the stock market through stupid gambles, taking peoples savings down with them. Airlines take advantage of their employees by paying almost nothing and customers by merging until there is very little competition and then gouging fees from people. Same with ISP's.

The idea that "a business shouldn't exist if it can't get gigantic without unfair practices, taking shortcuts and hurting and taking advantage of people" is a moral one, but not realistic in today's world.

Should it be changed? Yes. Of course.

But all I did was state a fact. It's how the economy works. And Amazon would not employ as many people as it does now without the reinvestment in new areas and taking shortcuts in other areas, like how they treat their employees. Just a fact. A fact that is despicable. but a fact nonetheless.


My comment was more of a call to action, but I can see how that wasn't clear. Apologies if you felt I didn't properly comprehend your comment.


Ah, cool. Well for what it's worth, I agree with what you said. Becoming a behemoth at the cost of human suffering should not be acceptable in a civilized society.


>On the other side of the coin, if they hadn't spent the money on reinvesting, they wouldnt be the size they are now or employ as many people.

Where is the evidence? Whose to say how much faster they would have grown without the employee misery and churn?


> Where is the evidence?

Basic math?

If you have $1 million to spend (as an example), and you can open a new store and hire more employees at a lesser rate, or pay your current employees more and not open a new store:

opening a new store = growth and more people hired + more revenue

paying your current employees more = less "employee misery and churn" and no growth + less revenue


> no growth + less revenue

I'd argue it's more like *slower growth, which should be acceptable, especially at Amazon's size.

Also, I'd in fact argue that making sure your employees have time to go pee wont significantly hurt your bottom line. At most you might need to hire a few few more people. Amazon operates at numbers big enough that this shouldn't be a considerable expense.


My comment you replied to was a direct response, not in the context of the original conversation.

> I'd argue it's more like *slower growth

Exactly my point, just in a different context. I was speaking on a much smaller scale than Amazon as an example.

If you own a restaurant, and can open a second location and hire more people, you are reinvesting and expanding and bringing in more revenue, which you can reinvest to open more locations. If you pay your current employees more instead, then you aren't opening that new location, and there is no growth (or much smaller growth if your employees do a better job, which would be incremental compared to opening a second location), but people are happier and less taken advantage of.

It's a fine line to walk, and very rarely do companies get it right. Costco is an example of a company that does get it right. There are, unfortunately, far more examples of companies that don't.

The person that replied to me asked for evidence of how reinvestment causes slower growth than paying people more. That side conversation had nothing to do with Amazon.

> Also, I'd in fact argue that making sure your employees have time to go pee wont significantly hurt your bottom line

No one is arguing that. In fact, I agree with it.


Unless the public can somehow get politicians to govern according to their desires, the way the world actually is, rather than how it should be, will continue to be defined by alpha leaders like Jeff Bezos and Xi Jinping.


The public does not know how the world is


I see this quote often, but it hasn't really panned out for Amazon in practice.

I see other large tech companies (Google, Apple, Facebook) with these huge profit margins every quarter, year after year. Amazon has never made a dent in any of them, nor made a sizable profit themselves, despite all of that "opportunity."

Perhaps he's not speaking of tech but of retail, in which case the margins of companies like Walmart are already incredibly tight.


I'm sorry I was unclear but the reason Amazon is purported to have low profits is due to the massive capital expenditure that they do year over year. Hypothetically they could turn a profit when they want to.


What's mysterious for me is just how much less Costco charges for staples than Amazon does. For example, for Honey Bunches of Oats cereal, Costco charges $0.15 per ounce (if you buy it locally), while Amazon charges $0.52 per ounce. Sometimes Costco even cuts 25% off that price. Bezos has a very long way to go if he wants to conquer that market!

https://www.costco.com/Post-Honey-Bunches-of-Oats-with-Almon...

https://smile.amazon.com/Honey-Bunches-Oats-Almonds-14-5-Oun...


That product isn't sold by Amazon, but by some other seller. A comparable product (though sans Almonds) sold by Amazon through their grocery delivery service is also $0.15/oz.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IAE91AI/ref=afx_dp_ingr...


Ah, I suppose I didn't see that because Amazon Fresh is not available in my market.


Plus there's no torrent of stories about mistreated Costco or Trader Joe's employees.


Amazon is about convenience and variety first, followed closely by price. If you want to drive to Costco and buy the bulk-version of the few choices they have then yes they will be much cheaper.


> Amazon is about convenience and variety first, followed closely by price. If you want to drive to Costco and buy the bulk-version of the few choices they have then yes they will be much cheaper.

I feel like that's pretty revisionist. For a very long time, shopping at Amazon was about price first, variety a close second, and convenience a very distant third. I doubt so many people would have developed a habit of shopping there so much if the advantages were truly "convenience and variety" first.

Amazon's prices have gotten much less competitive the last several years, which has disrupted the value proposition that caused many people to choose it.


You don't have to revise history to say that it's true today. They definitely had a price advantage for a long time because internet commerce didn't have sales tax and they gained a massive following by the time that was legislated away.

I find it hard to believe that free 2 day shipping and free customer-first returns did not sway opinions though since it basically pushed the entire industry forward.


Retail in general is thin-margin. That is why you see Amazon try out all sorts of things from cloud to videos, because their core is so thin margin, that any non-core looks more like an opportunity rather than spreading out resources, say in contrast to a Google or Facebook, who have solid cores high margins.


But their pricing hasn't been best-possible for a while now. I've been more and more frequently finding better prices through other venues.


That's because big box retailers are shipping at a loss: i ordered something from Home Depot that was $10 and got free shipping, 3-4 days too. For the same cost as the in-store item. No way is that profitable for them

They're all okay losing money in the short temp to capture online consumers


Are small sellers on ebay selling at a loss too?


AWS has pretty good margins afaik.

They have the money to make huge acquisitions and invest in planes, drones, etc. They have the money to treat their employees decently.


And I doubt the AWS staff is peeing in bottles to make their numbers.


I’m wondering the same. It’s not like amazon is deeply discounting anything like they used to. Often cheaper to buy stuff at the big box stores - or at least the same price.


But they bring the products to your door...


So do Walmart/Target/bestbuy all with free shipping...

I fail to see the point of that comparison really.


> But they bring the products to your door...

That's being presented as some giant perk nowadays, but I don't really get the appeal. You're buying something sight-unseen and hoping what you'll get in a few days will match the mental images formed from the pictures. You can't size up the item in person, you don't get an excuse to leave the house, and you have to wait longer. If you don't like it, you have to go through the hassle of boxing it up, printing forms, and finding a post office.


Depending on where you live it's a big pain to get to a store (rural people need to go far while in the city traffic makes going across town a huge pain). Not to mention not having to wait in a checkout line.

I actually looked at my Amazon order history, it's beyond boring: soap that was out of stock last time I was at a physical store, washing machine cleaner, an OXO cutting board and a cheese grater, Anker USB charger, etc. I would never choose to go to a store and compare for any of these items and was quite happy to have them show up downstairs. If I do need to return I just print off a piece of paper and take the same box back downstairs (from my perspective way easier than having to go back to a store and wait in line).


In kingdoms and corporations, the more you keep from the masses, the more can go to the king. I think the fundamental reason we need democracy (at work and in civil society) is that humans have a hard time resisting riches for themselves even at the expense of others. Since these workers have no power at Amazon, they can’t effect the changes necessary to improve things. Incidentally a workers union could help here, though I think we’ve made it hard for those to thrive.


I don't know about Amazon workers but Costco workers are dang happy as far as I can see. Always jovial, joking, and teasing with each other. They seem to form good friend networks there working side by side and stuff.


> but Costco workers are dang happy as far as I can see. Always jovial, joking, and teasing with each other. They seem to form good friend networks there working side by side and stuff.

That margin is Amazon's opportunity. /s

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/706779-your-margin-is-my-op...


what sort of margin are we talking about and how does it translate to gross margin? Margin of comfort, of happiness?


It’s worth recognizing also that the fulfillment part of the business has only one way to impact bottom line, by always cutting costs.

We often talk about the importance of working for a profit center not a cost center within a business. Amazon fulfillment is a great example of this.


They're less than razor thin. They generally lose money every time they sell you something. This has become less true over time with the explosion of third party sellers, but it's still generally true. The revenue from Amazon Prime subscriptions does not cover the costs of providing benefits to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Costco has a different target market than Amazon. They target relatively well off people who can afford the upfront cost of a membership and have the capital to buy goods in bulk. That customer base places a relatively high value on customer service.


Would be interesting to know whether it's a local problem or happens in other Amazon warehouses too. I'm fortunate enough to have worked in the USA, Canada and the UK and out of the three, I've found culturally, coworkers in the UK seem to be more afraid of the what the boss will say all the time and there's a lot of micro management going on. This is just anecdotal of course on my experiences and I would like to know if this happened in Amazon's warehouses elsewhere.


They seem to (from overhearing covos on the train that serves the warehouse near MK) employ a lot of eu migrants from the poor countries that are used to abusive management an don't know their rights.

It was also implied that there had been capture of first level supervisory positions who played favorites.


> I'm trying to understand what compels them to be so toxic in their work environment.

Their warehouse employees are extremely replaceable and amazon knows this.


That shouldn't be an excuse for anyone with a shred of humanity or decency.


and so? it's a power inequity and the mid-1800s into the early 1900s were marked by the workers who were treated like this struggling to take power back to force via the law better treatment. We mostly call those people "socialists" or "the labor movement" today.


Why is the assumption when articles like this are published that this is representative of what it's like working in an Amazon warehouse?


Warehouse employees at Amazon are a stop-gap measure, and will only exist as long as they're more efficient than robots on a given task.


It all starts with Bezos. But, look at all the engineers who work there with stockholmes syndrome. Most of Amazon's Glassdoor reviews are like 3,4 and 5 stars, then when you read the actual comments for those 5 star reviews, you see the horror that is amazon.


The measure of innovation and progress is how a society treats it's most vulnerable members.

With Amazon, it's hard to imagine all the smart people that are being paid well, and used indirectly to squeeze the folks on the "factory floor", however unintentional.


Bezos. Jeff Bezos is the reason why Amazon treats workers they way they do. Compared to other tech giants, Amazon is incredibly anti-employee. Look at how their stocks vest.

I worked at Microsoft during Balmer's reign. The founder/CEO's attitude dictates the work culture. And causes harm if it's bad.

I live in Seattle and often hear this joke: Being an Amazon customer is the best. An investor is great. An employee not so much.

I worked at Amazon in 2005 and was a customer before that. But I can't support Bezos anymore because he negatively impacts how people are treated. It's not on par with Nike's sweatshops in the 90s, but I still canceled Prime and stopped buying things from Amazon.


Judging from some of the comments here, software engineers working in Amazon must either be stupid or irrational to continue working there, given the market for software engineers. Amazon is a highly successful company with significant anticipate growth still to come. All that success doesn't come without talent. So maybe not stupid, maybe just irrational? Tech companies in general, and Amazon in particular, are highly data driven and people are constantly challenged to make design choices and decisions based on data--they are being constantly asked for hard evidence on why a certain choice is better than another. In a way they are optimizing for rational people in their recruitment. Could it be that they are more rational than average? Could it be that they are qualified to look at their work experience and weigh it against the compensation, and make the choice to instead go work for Microsoft, or one of the many tech companies around the Seattle area? Maybe they are all just masochists?

(Disclosure: I am a software engineer in AWS, and I love my job. Sorry, can't speak for non-tech jobs. Opinions are my own.)


At least one reason is that the stock has done so well. A typical software engineer hired 4 years ago is incredibly well compensated at Amazon because of this.

Consider a mid-level software engineer hired 4 years ago, on April 16 2014, with a salary of $100k. A typical stock grant at hiring for a mid-level software engineer in 2014 might be $400k over 4 years, backloaded so most of it comes at the end; on April 16 2014 the share price was $323, so the grant would have looked something this:

  Apr 16 2015: 154 shares @ $323 = $50k  = $150k total comp
  Apr 16 2016: 248 shares @ $323 = $80k  = $180k total comp
  Apr 16 2017: 371 shares @ $323 = $120k = $220k total comp
  Apr 16 2018: 464 shares @ $323 = $150k = $250k total comp
But the share price has gone through the roof since then, so things look more like this:

  Apr 16 2015: 154 shares @   $383 = $59k  = $159k total comp
  Apr 16 2016: 248 shares @   $625 = $155k = $255k total comp
  Apr 16 2017: 371 shares @   $901 = $334k = $434k total comp
  Apr 16 2018: 464 shares @ $1,440 = $668k = $768k total comp
That mid-level, totally normal software engineer is making more than $750k this year because the stock price has gone up so much since 2014. They're likely to put up with a lot of bullshit to get that kind of financial security - that's not just a down payment on a house, it can be the whole thing in cash in the east side suburbs, with great school districts.

Amazon (and Seattle in general) could be in big trouble if the stock price turns around. I don't think that's likely, but it's kind of scary to me.


Are those numbers real? As in, does (did?) Amazon really do $400,000 in stock grants for routine (I don't mean that to sound harsh, I just mean "not as a super-exceptional process to land a world-famous developer") software engineer hires?

If they are, holy shit. I thought the meteoric rise in housing prices around here was almost entirely due to the influx of people compounded by this region's seeming inhospitable allergy to building housing stock at anywhere near a reasonable rate.

But, damn, if your table is even within 80% of reality, I am floored. No wonder it's virtually impossible to rent or buy anything for a "realistic" (for me, and I make a pretty good income, or so I thought) price anywhere between Edmonds and Auburn. The rest of us, even those employed in the technology industry, simply cannot compete with that kind of cash on the barrel.


Yes, this is typical, more or less. Amazon tends to pay with a low base salary and high stock component. What I described would be somewhere between “pretty competent developer” and “tech lead on a team of 8,” not anything unusual like hiring a superstar principal engineer.


Amazon is minting millionaires like crazy. Of course people want to work there.


Anyone could have bought this stock if they would have known the price. Yes, the decision to join amazon turned out to be great money wise, but still doesn't explain why the top talent works there.


Hm, I don't understand what purchasing stock has to do with it. If someone bought the stock then they would own it. But that's not what happens when a company grants you stock - it's a promise to deliver you shares later.

If this hypothetical employee quit on April 10th, 2018, they would not get the 464 shares (== $668k) on April 16th, 2018. They also would probably not get a comparable offer if they quit to join Facegooglesoft. So, if they quit, they lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's enough to keep many people even if the work is unpleasant.


I am saying you could not anticipate which company's share will rise above the rest.


The contrast between payout to engineers and unqualified workers is impressive. Especially if those workers live in a place like California with high living costs.

I think growing housing costs are much more scarier for a worker than an idea that some engineer gets 200-300k less.


How professional technologists are treated by their giant tech employer is utterly orthogonal to how lower-skilled, hourly warehouse workers are treated by the same company.

Why do technologists reliably chime in with completely irrelevant details of a technologist's experience of working for a tech company, in response to articles talking about how poorly those companies treat their non-technologist staff?

What does the one have to do with the other? "Amazon can't be all bad, if they aren't abusing (some of) the subset of their workforce that can meaningfully vote with its feet"?

EDIT: not singling you out specifically, but you did the thing here, so you get the follow-up.


People are really, really good at assuming that their experience of just about anything is a representative sample. And because their experiences are subjectively pretty important to them (naturally) they must be objectively important and relevant in the grand scheme of things as well.


I think everybody is doing this? Looking through the comments and its nothing but people talking about SDEs and other well compensated employees, when the crux of this article and others like it are the issues faced by warehouse workers, which I'm betting make up a large majority of the ~550k workers employed by amazon.


At the risk of rehashing other comments here, software devs at Amazon are profit centers - when they work the company gains exponentially more value than it pays them. A good engineer retained can often deliver 2X to 10X the value of a new hire. The company treats them them accordingly.

Warehouse employees are cost centers. They're replaceable pseudo-robots that are filling in the gaps until the engineers mentioned above finish building the real ones. A new worker at a cheaper rate is objectively better than retaining one, because the number of boxes packed tends to increase inversely proportional with age and tenure. The company treats them accordingly.


Piggybacking on what you were saying I don’t disagree from a purely business sense. But I find it ironic society seems to have this constant droning fear about actual robots becoming sentient and dissenting but doesnt fear the droves of these sudo-robots who are already able bodied and sentient and being actively antagonized (piss in bottles, etc) to dissent.


> A good engineer retained can often deliver 2X to 10X the value of a new hire. The company treats them them [sic] accordingly.

The turnover rate is generally less than 2 years.


We’re mostly talking about large comp packages here, and I’m guessing they all vest over 4 years? I’m not saying devs are particularly pampered, just that there’s no comparison with the warehouse workers.


The people in my recent college graduating class who were planning on going to Amazon for software engineering were going there with a plan to burnout after 2-3 years and take their experience elsewhere. It was seen as worth it for the money + resume, even knowing those years would suck.


My Amazon RSUs more than knocked out my significant student loans, so I have to say that's a reasonable strategy.


Bit like been a lawyer for one of the big firms.

They work you like a dog but proof that you can 'graduate' from them gets you better offers afterwards.

Crazy system when you think about it.


I think it largely comes down to a few factors: Amazon does a lot of hiring, changing jobs is a hassle that many people won't do just because of momentum, and we naturally only hear about the very worst of what it's like to work at Amazon. If you keep hiring enough developers, enough of them will stick it out thanks to momentum (through possibly sub-optimal but not necessarily tortuous conditions) for long enough to have a large number of developers at any given time.

I worked at Amazon for ~5.5 years, and it was fine. I wasn't in bliss, but it wasn't awful, it was fine. I eventually left not because conditions worsened but because my team's responsibilities eventually shifted to work I disliked enough to overcome the momentum (web ads), and I found out they have a very generous severance program if you know what to ask about.


>> I found out they have a very generous severance program if you know what to ask about.

What do you mean? Are you referring to the severance you get if you leave on a PIP?


Yes, but you can also opt-in to that. I told my manager I was dissatisfied and thinking of leaving, he suggested I talk to HR about the pivot program. They then put me on a PIP so I could accept the severance option.

Also I had been on an actual PIP before and I'm pretty sure that option wasn't mentioned.


this is crazy to me, check out /r/consulting they view being on a PIP as a doomsday clock where the company will find any excuse to fire you in the next 6 months.


I can't speak universally, but I "passed" mine, and lasted another full year before leaving willingly. My manager seemed to very earnestly want me to pass, and implied that most people do.

All that said, I would advise that if you get put on a PIP, just take the severance right away. You're ineligible for a raise or additional stock grants in the cycle following the PIP.


I think the conditions apply more to the warehouse workers than the software engeneers.

Presumably both groups are vastly different regarding qualifications, income, ability to switch jobs and freedom to structure their work, so I think they should be taken separately when discussing workplace conditions.

(As an analogy, during the industrial revolution, the people that designed the machines probably weren't the ones that were working 18-hour days in hazardous conditions either.)


Not to offend you or your work, but IMO Amazon makes the worst software out of all the big tech companies. I think that this is related to their ability to attract and retain talent due to their poor work culture.


What software specifically? The AWS cloud is still the leader in most products.


AWS is the leader in the cloud because of its 6-7 year head start on the competition, not because their product is better than their competitors. There was even a company built on top of AWS that made money by creating a reasonable UX on top of that product.[0]

walmart.com is better designed that amazon.com. I don't know when that happened but you can take a look at two product pages for the same book and be the judge. [1][2]

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I could rant about Amazon's software for days, but in the end software doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad company. If I order something from amazon I expect to get it quickly and in the case something goes wrong I can talk with someone who will be more than agreeable. That is why they are successful, not because of their software prowess.

[0]: https://www.heroku.com/

[1]: https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp...

[2]: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Thinking-Fast-and-Slow/20530246


Heroku is PaaS while AWS started as IaaS and these are completely different. AWS has some PaaS offerings now and is leading the way in an even lighter abstraction with FaaS/serverless. Azure and GCP definitely have unique products but AWS still has plenty of leading tech and I think it's rather misleading to say they don't have anything better. In several instances they're the best simply because there isn't even any serious competition for that niche.

The design of a webpage for companies doing 100s of billions in revenue will be rather subjective and hard to change without materially affecting that revenue so I'm not sure how valid that comparison really is, or what it has to do with "better software".

I will say that building the infrastructure to power such an efficient ecommerce empire along with AWS is not trivial and you're likely vastly underestimating the quality of their systems based on what seem to be rather surface-level observations.


Heroku was targeting a much different audience from what AWS was targeting back in 2007 (yes everyone, its been over a decade!). AWS has gradually crawled up the stack over the past few years, but I'd still say Heroku is targeting customers for which the Heroku model is exactly what they want/need.

I'd also say that if AWS had a 6-7 year head start on the competition, then that was the competition being lazy. It's not as if Microsoft/Google didn't have the ability to deliver a cloud platform back in 2007, and history shows they were delivering cloud products around this time. Microsoft Azure was announced in 2008 and launched in 2010; Google App Engine launched in 2008, storage in 2010, and VMs in 2013.


Those product pages aren't really self evident as to which is better, I actually prefer Amazon's also, it seems to have more details about the item in addition of course to the 1000s of reviews.


While this isn't a direct problem with Amazon vs Walmart site design, I'm more likely to use Amazon due to the amount of reviews.

Walmart can do one thing right, while Amazon has the majority of it right for me. It's going to take a lot to sway me away from Amazon.


>Judging from some of the comments here, software engineers working in Amazon must either be stupid or irrational to continue working there, given the market for software engineers.

Hacker News hates big companies, Amazon being evil is in the zeitgeist, and people are unable to contextualize criticisms properly.

Being a software engineer at Amazon is fine (yeah, yeah, congrats, out of the tens of thousands of engineers you were able to uncover a few horror stories and terrible teams. Shocking) and very lucrative.


Does the treatment outlined in the article apply to just warehouse workers or does this policy apply to software engineers/office bods also? (pee in a bottle etc?)


There have been reports of toxic management [0] and at least one suicide attempt over the years [1], which indicates that the problem is not purely on the warehouse floor.

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-...

[1] http://fortune.com/2016/11/29/amazon-employee-suicide-attemp...


> Judging from some of the comments here, software engineers working in Amazon must either be stupid or irrational to continue working there

This is sparing the employer at the expense of the employee. Employee's employment status is.....far more sticky.


> Amazon is incredibly anti-employee

They prefer calling it 'customer-centric'

> Amazon, Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company


> They prefer calling it 'customer-centric'

If they'd like to be actually customer-centric, they can start by implementing a search that doesn't rank counterfeit products with a single 5-star review over real ones with 5000 reviews and an average rating of 4.9.

I feel like Amazon's reputation for being "customer-centric" doesn't actually reflect their current practices, but instead it leans heavily on past reputation (when their competitors were worse) and a convenient return policy that papers over problems.


Next you gonna ask for something crazy like "sort by number of reviews" and "consistant UI on product pages"?

The technology is not there yet man!


I'm not ignoring your point, but I use a Chrome extension to sort by number of reviews.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/sortem-for-amazon/...


Apple complains Amazon's US site is selling fake products

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-37715531


FWIW: I think Amazon's stock vesting schedule for ICs is reasonable considering the sizable hiring bonus (iirc ~$20k for new graduates). Stock grants are intended to reflect an employee's ownership in the company, and rapidly increase with tenure.

That said... Amazon is definitely not human-oriented. Leadership within established business units is brutally efficient, with far too much faith in their metric goals. Ask any engineer about HR's survey tool, I think that's a prime example of cultural decay within Amazon.

Amazon used to be "customer obsessed" with a strong engineering culture... these days the cultural values are "maximize revenue, minimize costs".


> I think Amazon's stock vesting schedule for ICs is reasonable considering the sizable hiring bonus (iirc ~$20k for new graduates)

One can get this bonus basically everywhere else in the area with similar sized companies. Hell, I got way more than that 8 years ago.

The vesting schedule is diabolical:

> 5% 1st yr, 15% 2nd yr, then 20% every 6 months

coupled with the turnover rate: http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/business_inside...

I can't imagine anyone rational and with reasonable technical skills thinking this is a good enough incentive to join the company.


My company's vesting schedule used to have a 3-year cliff: 0% first year, 0% 2nd year, 75% third year, 25% fourth year.

It's a much more reasonable quarterly vest with a 1-year cliff now.


I think it's brilliant. If you live in Seattle and know anyone who's a mid-level corporate employee at Amazon, you should notice that it's a great way of selecting talent who are committed to the company and who will stick around. Also, contracts are re-negotiated every two years, so if you chain them up, you're getting a pretty significant annual payout.


It's brilliant for Amazon, not so much for the employee and it doesn't matter if you're committed to the company if the relationship is not bilateral (and it's often not). You can re-negotiate your pay and stuff but if the company has a financial incentive not to, there are several HR devices to keep you from doing so. Let's not bring up the regular reorgs which are notorious for wiping out careers.

I've been living in the Seattle area for a really long time and I've heard so many horror stories coming from Amazon that I could fill a book.

Also, I am aware of the 'Amazon is not for everyone' narrative. Yes, I agree, it's not for people who value their work/life balance and expect to be treated as a human at their workplace.

I am also aware of the 'it depends on the team' narrative. That's bullshit. Indeed it does depend on the team but 'generally' (to quote Zuck) it sucks.


I am in no way an Amazon supporter, however I fail to see how any single company can "wipe out your career". As a skilled engineer, you have many options. And incidentally, from the sounds of it, it seems like if they let someone go, they would be doing that someone a favor.


Pretty sure he means to wipe out your career within the company.


Exactly what I meant. And this results in wiping out your unvested stock.


That works in theory, but in practice, Amazon still has shitty employee retention. Top software talent is a seller's market. Most people who have the choice would choose Facebook, Google, or Microsoft over Amazon because Amazon is stingier.


Companies are not committed to employees. The easy example is that they have layoffs, even amazon and microsoft. a committed company would do what microsoft used to do, since they had basically endless openings, if your project was canceled you had 2 months to find another job. and you could always find another job.

The other reason to consider carefully before going there is they sometimes try to scare people by enforcing non-competes. So what are you going to do, deliver papers? Here's a recent article - https://www.geekwire.com/2017/business-personal-amazon-web-s...

edit - here's an example of layoffs in seattle https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-laying-o...


I don't know about that joke anymore. Being an Amazon customer used to be great, but the deliveries are bordering on ridiculously horrible now.

I order something on Prime, then it doesn't show up when I expect it to, I get no notification of any delays, and then when I log in to see what's going on they have changed the original expected date so I can't even see what I was originally promised unless I took a screen shot.

This has been the case on 2 thirds of my deliveries over the past 3 months. And I'm not even going into the sham that is 3rd party selling.


I'm seeing this as well - and ironically, I live within walking distance of an Amazon fulfillment center.

The scummiest part, though, is that when packages get completely lost, half the time I can't request an automatic refund, I have to work with a customer support rep to get it issued.

Realistically, it should be completely automated. If Amazon knows my package was lost (in my most recent case, it never even shipped!) not issuing the refund automatically is anti-consumer greed.


"....I have to work with a customer support rep to get it issued"

I'm finding more and more (or maybe it's always been this way?) that the onus for correcting or making sure something is correct, is ALWAYS placed on the last person in the chain.....the individual.


This is especially true for medical and insurance problems. You don't pay the individual/customer, and you have no incentive to help them (other than they might go somewhere else a little less bad). For people that haven't had to go through this yet, such as a claim gone wrong, everything seems fine. One example of this has been life insurance companies verifying eligibility only after the person has died and someone has made a claim. It seems part of the business model to make life so miserable for customers that they give up trying to get what they were promised.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-life-insurance-inves...


My biggest peeve is that every time I go to reorder something the price has gone up another 10%.

I never hear other people complain about this though. I wonder if it’s not widespread?


> My biggest peeve is that every time I go to reorder something the price has gone up another 10%.

> I never hear other people complain about this though. I wonder if it’s not widespread?

I've gotten increases like this on some items, though not as consistently as "every time."

I no longer consider Amazon to be generally price-competitive with other online retailers and big-box retail. I pretty much only shop at Amazon when I have no idea where to buy the item I'm looking for (such as weird informally-imported things).

Ironically, I'm actually starting to use Amazon as an "online showroom" for general searching, but actually make my purchases elsewhere.


Also they don't give price adjustments for most of the products they sell. I bought a book and the day after I received it, the price dropped 30%. The customer support would not refund the difference. Instead I had to ship back the product first and buy it again. Now to ship it back, I have to pay the shipping unless I lie and say it was defective or go to their Amazon store in San Jose to drop it off.


FYI - Check your credit card benefits! Most offer free price protection for items you buy with the card, its saved me hundreds of dollars over the years. In fact, I just got a $40 check in the mail the other day for a price protection claim on a TV. And the price protection works on other retailers too - so if you bought the product on Amazon and it goes on sale at Walmart next week, you can make a claim for the difference in price.


I have had absolutely no problems with package delivery.

The one thing I returned was a breeze.


Deliveries are not done by Amazon where I live - it's usually 3rd party.


That doesn't really change anything. The customer interaction is with Amazon and they own it including paying for it either with Prime or directly.


Those third parties likely owe pretty much their entire business to amazon. When a company can't exist without a specific client, is it really a third party?


I think delivery companies may vary - in my area, some deliveries are still completed by the national mail, major couriers, however small (and often incompetent) carriers are starting to.

The reason for my comment was that my experience receiving a shiny package doesn't really overlap with what employees are being put through. Both reflect poorly on Amazon, the conversation about employees is a valid on it's own as there are avenues with Amazon to already complain about poor delivery and have a recourse.


Is is all on Bezos or does the way we structure society also affect why people are willing to endure this treatment?


When you have $100B, you're one of the people structuring society.


People I am friends with in management make a lot of money, with great stock options and bonuses; floor workers are the people that get crapped on. If you're in logistics, you're making a killing, and generally have a good work life. So I'm told. Same applies to Alexa and AWS teams.


Not all employees are treated poorly. Yeah, the stock vest is back loaded, but they typically give cash upfront, which you could just turn around and buy stocks with..


That's a poor argument. I've gotten offers from many tech giants. They all included a sign-on cash bonus. Often much bigger than Amazon's.

Amazon's total offer was usually about 100k lower. Sometimes more. Amazon SWEs still earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. So being treated poorly and paid less is relative.

In Amazon's defense, I have friends who enjoy working there. The MBAs especially love it. Again, it's not like anyone is stuck in some Nike sweatshop from 1974.


White collar jobs are somewhat different than. We have choice, we have power.

The best bet for amazon warehouse employees, and delivery drivers, would be to unionise. This would lead to either 1) More investment in robotics, taking away menial jobs 2) Better conditions for shelf-stackers.

Both are good -- as a society we should not be making people work when the work could be done by robots.


More automation -> less jobs -> more pressure to keep working at the awful, but paying job you have.

I think best solution is universal basic income, but that of course is far from being accepted in USA. But it gives power to people, it make them not being so afraid to lose a job, so employers have to act accordingly.


> I think best solution is universal basic income

I have said before here that I cannot imagine universal basic income working in the USA unless American culture changes drastically to favour heavy state subsidy of arts, culture and community centers. In the Nordic countries where a substantial portion of many communities are on the dole, the state generously provides concerts and theatres and social facilities so that those people have something wholesome to do, they don’t just all sit home and drink (some do, of course; you can’t win every time). What would small-town Americans do with their time if they weren’t working?


They won't be just not working, they also won't have to work, for life. That might cause change of behavior.


Possibly, UBI or negative income tax (which is probably easier to administer) may be required, but it may not. In India, they still employ someone to sit on a chair in a lift pressing the button. Even in the western world we employ doormen.

Of course while people vote against their best interests (the false belief that hard work guarantees success) I'm sure that those with the power will continue to exploit those without.


> In India, they still employ someone to sit on a chair in a lift pressing the button.

A culture of makework can be harmful in that it would push some people to do pointless jobs when they might actually do something beneficial for society (but perhaps not profit-generating) if they were given free time.

For example, I am fortunate to work remotely in a job that pays me a lot of money, but I am in a country with low cost of living. That means I only work 2–3 days a week. All the rest of my time I am busy with obsessively editing OpenStreetMap, writing the occasional journal publication in the field I trained in at university, and participating in the local arts scene as an audience or writer. I know that if I got to receive UBI, I would still be doing things with my time that are overall contributing to society. Please don’t make me sit in an elevator all day to press buttons instead.


Yes, pushing buttons or boxing amazon deliveries is a waste of humanity's time. The question is will society allow us to move to a system where we work 20 hour weeks doing the same amount of productive work we do now.

I would like to think we will. I suspect we'll have people doing 60 hora a week of breaking rocks for no reason other than making those higher up the food chain think they aren't hetting a free ride.


UBI should be there to fight exactly that, those pointless jobs. It increases value of people's time, so even if there will be a doormen, they will be paid very good and that will be choice of the people.


Roboticization is great for the long-term, Star Trek style economy.

It's the Bell Riots and Sanctuary Districts I'm worried about.


Of course... Star Trek's economy didn't run on robots, it ran on magic wish boxes that would defy the laws of physics in the real world.

Which is why I suspect when it comes to Star Trek's future, we'll get to the dystopia, but not the utopia.


I disagree only in the assessment that unionization isn’t also good advice for people with desk jobs. The C-level sees us as expensive workers who need to be treated better but still an expense rather than peers.


> Amazon's total offer was usually about 100k lower.

Come on, that's so misleading. Offers from the big tech companies come in 4 year bundles. There's no way your offer was $100k per year lower unless you didn't get leveled the same at Amazon as you did Google.

I got an offer from Google in Mountain View and despite being CONSIDERABLY higher, the COL difference made Amazon's pay higher. And that assumed stock prices remained the same. They've doubled.


It's not. I had offers from multiple companies at sde 2. Amazon's was so bad that the recruiter was embarrassed to tell me they couldn't up the offer. I'm sure there are huge variances but the last comp survey on hn showed Amazon is a bit behind.


> which you could just turn around and buy stocks with.

Which just benefits the company even further?

Edit: if you downvote please reply. How will I correct my stance if I get no feedback? I'm not sure why I'm getting down voted.

Edit: Thanks for the comments. I did assume this meant Amazon stock. Didn't think my comment sounded so combative until I was told.


I did not downvote you, but I will speculate that the single question does present as somewhat confrontational and, depending on mood, might have been interpreted as combative.

If I understand your meaning and if your post's "confrontational" mood is/was the issue, you might have cast your post declaratively instead of interrogatively.

For example,

> Using compensation to buy stocks would benefit the company even further even though the company may unfairly exploit its employees. This would run counter to the employee's own interests.

Or something along those lines.

Recasting questions as statements sometimes reduces the rhetorical signals which can be interpreted confrontation.

EDIT: Remove double quotes; add emphasis. Clarify last sentence. Use past perfect in first sentence. Recast second sentence.


They didn't say to buy Amazon stocks.


If you're buying AMZN on the market, that's coming from other investors, not the company itself. It's already sold that stock (the IPO was back in 96) and benefited directly from it at that time.


Well, increased buying of AMZN would drive the price higher, and ostensibly, this percolates up to Amazon and it's employees.


Not trying to be combative! Just providing a counter argument. Although it doesn't directly and immediately benefit a company, doesn't having lots of buy interest keep the stock price high, which _is_ beneficial for the company in general?


Yep, you're totally right. I was only distinguishing on direct benefits (cash flow). There are certainly many more indirect benefits to performing well on the stock market.


Well, him and the people higher up the food chain that enable him. Tech workers at Amazon could organize to prevent this kind of mistreatment of warehouse employeees. If the AWS team alone walked off the job in protest, the resulting panic and media coverage would squeeze Amazon to improve.


Sad to see this post downvoted when it seems obvious.

If you work for Amazon as a developer make this issue known. Few people have as much power to impact the company as a group of developers - we all know what a pain in the ass it is to hire.

I'd never work at Amazon knowing how it treats its workers. Given the market we're in I don't get why others would - if you work for Amazon you should be able to jump ship for another good company.


Part of what they’re so highly compensated for is also to turn a blind eye to the poor people who suffer under these conditions, to ignore the abuse that undergirds their work.


I don't think they compensate so much better than other similar companies. Their vesting cycle sucks too.


How does their stock vest?


It's backloaded. 5% of the stock grant vests in year 1, 15% in year 2, and then 40% on year 3 and 4.

The argument is that they have a demanding work culture which people want to leave after a year or two, but are then incentivized to stay to earn out the bulk of their grant, or alternatively that they promise huge grants knowing that many people will not get to the point where they are collecting the bulk of it.


Amazon offers a RSU vesting schedule of 5%, 15%, and 40% over 4 years. [0]

[0] https://www.quora.com/Amazon-offers-a-RSU-vesting-schedule-o...



Bezos’ great business leadership is exalted and his methods picked apart and adopted throughout Amazon.

But I do wonder how insightful, clever or useful those methods are when towards the edges of his empire people work in constant fear and pee in bottles to survive.


| I live in Seattle and often hear this joke: Being an Amazon customer is the best. An investor is great. An employee not so much.

The ever-increasing home price in the Seattle area seems to indicate it isn't bad enough to stop them from working there.


Because home prices in Seattle are dictated by the quality of the Amazon employee's work environment.


Take a look at the operating margins for international(negative), NA(barely positive even), and AWS.

Graphs for this are shown here: https://www.recode.net/2018/2/1/16961598/amazon-jeff-bezos-r...

This is also in the article:

The e-commerce giant posted a record profit of $1.9 billion during the last three months of 2017, marking the 11th straight quarter of positive net income for Jeff Bezos’s company.

About $789 million of that can be attributed to a tax benefit resulting from President Trump’s tax plan. But even without the benefit, the profit number would have been the largest in the company’s history.


Meanwhile they shove all of their software developers into one of the highest cost of living cities in the world and pay them six figure salaries.


Maybe it's changed since I lived there, but I don't really think Seattle is "one of the highest cost of living cities in the world". It is (or was) quite a bit cheaper than NYC or SF, for example.


Seattle might not be the most expensive city to lie in but it is right up there. Same price as LA accoring to this data:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/cost-of-living-calculator/compare...

And depending on how you break this list down (Exclude Bermuda from North American cities,bundle Bellevue/Seattle, Brooklyn NYC) it's in the top 10

https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/region_rankings.jsp?ti...


Then again, it's quite a bit higher... "Cost of a gallon of gas in Seattle: $2.40"... try $3.79 this weekend.


I bet those gas prices are fixed to some point in time. Might be too much work to keep up to date gas prices but not instantaneously update other parameters.


Its going to get so , because even though its not as bad property wise as california, it is following the same path of increasing taxes and expenditures by the local government. I could already see a stark homelessness growth in just one year.


Cheaper than Irvine, CA as well.


You would think Amazon would be a pioneer in remote IT work, wouldn't you...


> Are Amazon's margins razor thin?

They don't make any money on distributing products.


Same as Walmart.


This is how you get your Amazon Prime same day/two day delivery.


I'm pretty sure they could still offer this service and treat employees well. Implying Amazon _needs_ to be like this is largely turning a blind eye to the problem.


I agree, but Amazon maximizes their profit by using these conditions. They eek out profit margins by using human sacrifices.


If that’s true, then charge us more and be a real human.


Thing is they don't need to. They could just tap a bit into their huge revenues before re-investing them in making planes or making huge acquisitions.


If you have Amazon Prime, you can choose to have a longer delay (ie. the same as non-Prime consumers) when selecting shipment options.


My choices will not improve the conditions of warehouse workers.


My fear is that the future of work for most people is not unemployment, but shitty jobs like this.

My feeling is that in order to avoid this and prosper, the people need to own the robots that do all the work (Marxism heyy). If robots provide huge productivity gains, then they will provide those gains for their owners. If it’s the big corporations that own them, they will see the gains. But as long as people are treated like machines, they will be left out of this prosperity. Instead, if the people own the machines collectively, then they can enjoy the productivity gains themselves as a group.

What do you all think of this?


Well, Marx and Engels did accurately identify that a large reserve of under-employed workers, or people who didn't previously participate in the labor force, is what enables the most exploitative jobs.

All necessities in life cost money: food, housing, childcare, healthcare; and those in the most precarious social positions are the people most willing to accept abusive employment for reasons directly tied to their survival. This is a natural consequence of a socioeconomic system that asks everyone to fend for themselves.


Please, the world had 94% extreme poverty in their time, and its down to less than 10%. The model of exploitation they have cannot possible account for that.

I have tremendous sympathy for the empathic pain they had by seeing those levels of exploitation. Das Kapital's first volume is basically 50% accounts of child labor and exploitation. But they had no way to know that when the state holds the capital the results are even worse, had marx seen the soviet union at its prime he would have probably revised his own theory.

Marx's reserve army doesn't hold water. And he himself denounces that one of the most common ways of the exploitative model was precisely how much the aristocrats ignored private property rights and pushed people to extreme poverty and marginalization.

He had and still has many interesting ideas, but he was very much wrong about many of them. Which is fine, all these economists got things super wrong.

And another interesting point Marx made: Look how well America is doing! Europe should be like that.


Extreme poverty is defined as someone living on less than $1.25 a day. Do you think that exploitation isn't occurring as long as someone isn't living in extreme poverty?


The exploitation model needs self-generating poverty. If it is lifting people out of poverty then it is destroying itself, as it will run out of the required poor people.

You can argue its not going fast enough, but the direction is unequivocally upwards so far.


Well now you're conflating extreme poverty with poverty. There are millions of people living in poverty in the united states. And you don't really need someone to be in complete poverty to exploit them.

Also, the direction currently is towards stagnating wages and growing wealth inequality.


> Well now you're conflating extreme poverty with poverty. There are millions of people living in poverty in the united states. And you don't really need someone to be in complete poverty to exploit them.

After extreme poverty ends, you get poverty to uplift and so on.

> Also, the direction currently is towards stagnating wages and growing wealth inequality.

The problem with such nice catchphrases that are repeated over and over by interest groups is that they are inaccurate, and often end up advocating for even higher inequality.


> The problem with such nice catchphrases that are repeated over and over by interest groups is that they are inaccurate, and often end up advocating for even higher inequality.

What specifically is an "inaccurate catchphrase" in what I've said?


Stagnant wages are the cause of multiple effects, many of them that are extremely localized. The US has had this effect, but the world has had it go extremely upwards in the last 5 decades. And along lower wages, have come increased value. The internet, for example, is super cheap and might not count as much into the budget of a person todaY: but tv and entertainment was a much higher cost between cable, newspapers, etc etc.

Smartphones, safer cars, cheaper travelling. Have to be very careful to look only at nominal bills to make economic judgement.

And maybe the most problematic and expensive things americans suffer generationally, housing and healthcare, are the defacto most intervened and regulated markets of all. It is the state, in its magnificent regulatory capture, that its pushing poverty unto people.

Also inequality has always been a topic of conversation, what is new is income inequality, and its still an open problem, not something there is economic consensus about. There are other things that have economic consensus, for example, getting rid of corporate taxes. But you dont hear that coming from "high inequality and stagnant wages" guys.


So "stagnant wages" was what you called an inaccurate catchphrase?

>housing and healthcare, are the defacto most intervened and regulated markets of all. It is the state, in its magnificent regulatory capture, that its pushing poverty unto people.

I won't defend much of anything about the state of housing or healthcare in the US. The government is certainly a huge part of the problem, I have no issue accepting that.

Here's the thing: I don't think that all government programs are good. Some are designed to push poverty unto people like you said. But the solution isn't to get rid of all regulation or the idea that government can be used as a tool for the masses.

We need to have a government that is much more aligned with the interests of the people than the interests of large corporations and capital. To me the way to do that is to expand the limits of democracy to include how the economy is run, how natural resources are used, and what the relationship between capital and workers should be.


Expand the limits of democracy as a way to vote expropiation?

When democracy is used to plunder, there is no way back. It will be living for the purpose of robbing others, and the poor have never fared well in such systems.

We live in a world with relative freedom but still very constrained. Look at the US spending 25% of its GDP through the state. And european countries reach 40 and even 50%! Half of every thing produced consumed by the state. The State is the enemy. It really is.

The most positive effect I can imagine is people being stroung enough to resist the powers of states and pit them against each other. The most scary future I see is the collaboration of countries. Concentration of capital is bad, but concentration of power is the true danger. And the State garners its concentration with the power of might.


What has more concentration of power, monarchies or representational democracies?

I'm suggesting that we can create a new form of governing that further decentralizes power.


Democracies are not powerful with a strong central government. If everyone votes something the state cant enforce, it would be pointless.


>had marx seen the soviet union at its prime he would have probably revised his own theory.

Actually I don't think so. Even Marx saw that socialism was a stage of history which followed from capitalism. In the same way that feudalism's aristocracy provides the conditions which create a merchant class that eventually overthrows the aristocracy, Marx sees capitalism and capitalists as providing the conditions which create a working class which eventually overthrows the capitalists. He would probably be annoyed with the soviets for trying to skip most of a phase and he would probably be annoyed with us, modern westerners, for not recognizing where in history we are - with rising inequality, increasing productivity but stagnating wages and the general increasing returns to capital.

>Marx's reserve army doesn't hold water.

Doesn't it? With chronic unemployment persisting since our most recent crash and now that we're finally reaching low unemployment ten years later, wages haven't moved much. If you explained the idea without mentioning Marx I think most people on the street would intuitively agree.


He would have revised his economic modeling I mean, not his historical argument which is still sensible to me, albeit potentially irrelevant.

I dont think the reserve army makes any sense in todays world. But it did in his were labor was so interchangeable that people migrated for labor in masse all the time. I dont think out of work janitors put a lot of pressure on software engineer jobs. That unemployment in general drops wages, or that full employment increases wages, is a much older concept than Marx's.


You don't think stagnation in wages can be attributed to the massive increase in women in the workforce?

Supply and demand, after all.


It might have had some effect but decline in Union membership and collective bargaining power are much more important. After all, we're seeing record profits and a massive transfer of wealth to the top 1%. If workers could effectively organize, the increase in workforce wouldn't matter.


Ridiculous, thats not how unions work. Look at the history of argentina, where unions have constitutional protections, and tell me thats what help grow the economy.

Unions can only raise a workers wage in two ways: by increasing productivity (which they seldom do) or by restricting the amount of workers.


I don't really know anything about the situation in Argentina but I don't think Unions are an unequivocal good no matter what form they take. Unions in many cases have leadership that don't have the interest of the workers at heart. What I really mean is that workers organizing together and using collective bargaining is a proven way to increase worker conditions and pay.


  leadership that don't have the interest of the workers at heart

  workers organizing together and using collective bargaining
So what you're saying is we need decentralized unions on the blockchain?


Uber for Unions :)


They do account for some, but not for all the changes. This is significant though, and often avoided to be spoken because of its pseudo-sexist interpretation.


That was a result of the incorporation of one of these reserve armies. Over time, new centers of industry will be born to serve the decentralized burbs that aren't cost-efficient to serve by existing infrastructure and the cycle repeats. We just happen to be living in one part of the cycle.


Overall I think the point is who cares what caused an increase in labor supply? It doesn't matter from where Marx's reserve army originates, just that capitalists desire and ensure that it exists to the detriment of the working class.


You really think that women as a group qualify as a reserve army?


Again, the composition of the industrial reserve really isn't the point. They're the able to work and unemployed. Whether we have at times integrated previously unused reserves on the basis of race or gender or class is basically irrelevant. The point is the fact of the reserve - that it exists. Look at 2008 on, we've had quite a substantial reserve with quite a diverse composition. But it's there, ensuring that wages won't rise (or rise much) during the boom times.

Perhaps we might have a better discussion if you told me what it is you're actually driving at because I'm not quite sure I see it.


The model said that

> large reserve of under-employed workers, or people who didn't previously participate in the labor force, is what enables the most exploitative jobs

This still holds.


> The model of exploitation they have cannot possible account for that.

No, what accounts for that is access to incredibly cheap energy, in the form of fossil fuels and electrification.

Energy is what lifted people out of poverty, not any of that other nonsense. Without coal, oil, and hydro power, most of us would still be subsistence peasants, regardless of whether or not we would live in Communism, Feudalism, Capitalism, Fascism, or some other -ism.


Out of curiosity, what is your model for the dramatic examples of India and China, which were faced with relative stagnation and incredibly dire, largely-intractable poverty for decades after WWII; followed by liberalizing (incrementally) their markets and explosive growth+massive declines in extreme poverty thereafter?

I don't know a ton about the economic history of these two countries, but prima facie this seems to belie your claim that it was simply energy availability.


India's explosive growth [1] followed electrification, not lead it. [2] It's 'intractable poverty' following WWII was only 'intractable' because of colonial exploitation - the British Empire squeezed it for cheap resources, labour, and wealth (By forcing Indian markets open to imports, and by banning some forms of local production - Gandhi's salt march was an example of resistance to that.) At the same time, the empire did not actually invest in the same kind of infrastructure that Europe enjoyed for close to a century.

China's a bit of a different case - but for contrast, compare it to the USSR. Despite three decades of war, civil war, near-genocidal purges, and some more war, by the 60s and 70s, it has lifted millions of people out of a similar level of intractable poverty. Again, not on the back of its economic system, but on the back of industrialization.

It's hard to stay poor (Compared to world poverty in the 1800s) when you have running water, indoor plumbing, and electricity.

[1] https://tradingeconomics.com/india/gdp-per-capita

[2] https://www.slideshare.net/ashishverma061/growth-of-electric... - Slide 16.


> It's 'intractable poverty' following WWII was only 'intractable' because of colonial exploitation - the British Empire squeezed it for cheap resources, labour, and wealth (By forcing Indian markets open to imports, and by banning some forms of local production - Gandhi's salt march was an example of resistance to that.) At the same time, the empire did not actually invest in the same kind of infrastructure that Europe enjoyed for close to a century.

You are extremely confused about the history here. The British left India in 1947; WW2 ended in 1945. India and South Korea had a similar GDP/capita in 1950; they were on opposite ends of the spectrum 50 years later after 50 years of a wide GDP growth gap (during none of which time did British India exist).

I believe more than most people in the path-dependency of politics, especially with respect to things like colonialism. A lot of the sclerotic, Soviet-influenced, bureaucratic strangling of the Indian economy during this period is at least partially attributed to (reasonable) democratic political backlash against the abusiveness of the British economic system, in the form of eg labor laws that have been harming the economy for half a century.


Energy wasn't sufficient, but it likely was necessary. That said, the energy was lying around all through history, so something exogenous got people to use it. And to develop the technology to do so.


> so something exogenous got people to use it. And to develop the technology to do so.

That was James Watt's steam engine, which was efficient at turning combustion into mechanical motion, and it was happenstance that it was invented in 1780, and not 1580, or 1980. People didn't suddenly develop a need to move heavy things in 1780 - it came around then because of advances in steelwork, precision manufacturing, and general refinement of the idea (Such engines were around for over a century, but were not compact, or efficient enough to be very useful.)

All of a sudden, the labour of a coal miner was enough to feed a 10, then a 50, then a 100 horse-power engine. It was the AGI of its era.


Though why were they in development? This article says an early one was developed in 1698, to pump water from a coal mine:

http://www.his.com/~pshapiro/steam.engines.html

Why was there a coal mine? Why not use wood or charcoal? Why didn't the Romans go down this path? They invented a toy steam engine.

These things have many causes. Obviously watson's invention was a big inflection point.

But, as for the question "were liberal markets necessary?" my suspicion is yes. But, I don't actually know. I think the answer begins before James Watt.


Because people have been trying to invent ways to mechanically augment human power since someone had the bright idea to make a lever.

Why the steam engine did not succeed because Watt, was because the same reason that tri-deck galleons and gunpowder did not exist in the bronze age. Non-trivial practical inventions require a massive pyramid of other non-trivial practical inventions, each of which requires a pyramid of other non-trivial inventions, all of which have to solve a contemporary problem - cheaply then their alternatives.

If liberal markets were necessary for the invention of the steam engine, why was it invented in England, and not in Renaissance Italy? It had liberal markets, access to capital, and was a center of technological and cultural progress for hundreds of years.

There's no particularly satisfying answer to that, other then 'happenstance.'


Right, this is close to my model too, but it's in contradiction to the GP claim that energy is the reason and economic structures are behind the point.

It's almost tautological to say that energy is behind growth, but it's also independent of economic structure, which effectively boils down to "the manner in which we convert energy to utility".


There are counter examples to India and China that resulted in high standards of living without liberalizing markets, generally from valuable natural resources and low populations. There are zero examples without access to cheap energy.

PS: The China boom looks 'good' mostly due to how terrible the country was run prior to that. Expand the time scale and compare to other countries and things don't look nearly as good.


I don't think it is completely true. In shitty countries, most people have a "job" working for the local dictator. They are exploited by force. It works because most work is just manual labor, they don't need highly skilled, well educated workers.

It is not the case in developed countries. For example, we don't increase food production by just adding more farmers with hand tools. We have mechanical engineers making more efficient machines, chemists producing better fertilizers, scientists studying plant growth, etc... These people need a high level of education, which mean they need the time and resources to study. People starving won't make the skilled workers employers need.

What really enables exploitative jobs is the need for exploitative jobs.


Please explain this "need" for exploitative jobs. Edit: No, I'm serious, I want someone to supply an internally consistent rationale that explains why corporations or society in general requires someone getting fucked over to function.


In OP's parlance, a shit job is an exploitative job.

He is saying that through progress there are fewer "shit" jobs, so there are fewer people exploited.

It never has been and never will be economically viable to pay a ditch digger the same amount as a doctor. So as long as jobs like ditch-digging exists, people must be "exploited" to fill them.


I don't think this meets specification. "it never has been and never will be economically viable" scans as handwavy, and I've yet to see anyone calling for "ditch diggers" (job automated out of existence by heavy equipment several decades ago, btw) a wage equivalent to what an MD makes. Your assertion, in essence, appears to be that people get paid low wages because low wage jobs exist. That does nothing to explain why a job sufficiently important to require a human being to perform is low-paying and so far nobody has advanced an explanation that takes into account historic levels of corporate profits and income inequality while wages have been basically stagnant since the 70s.


I think what the parent post is saying is that exploitative labour practices enable the existence of elites with enough leisure time to create philosophical and technological progress. It's basically the argument that there would be no great classical civilization without slavery, so slavery is justified by the achievements of the civilizations that used it.

I would like to think that in the 21st century we could have idleness for many, and abusive exploitation for none.


What's interesting is if you look at percentage household spending, food and healthcare are really the only recurring ones that are not trending downward:

- housing - trending downward when not attempting to live in dense urban area (i.e. prefab modular homes)

- energy - trending downward once renewables and battery technology catch up

- transportation - trending downward when looking at non-luxury cars as well as on demand (Uber, etc.) and electric cars powered by renewables

- childcare/education - trending downward when combined with homeschooling and MOOCs like Coursera, Udacity)

- clothes - trending downward when you focus on store brands

- entertainment - trending downward (Youtube)

What happens if you could build an automated machine that you owned that farmed for you in your backyard and its cost trended downward?

Then really the only cost that needs to be managed is healthcare.


It's interesting because Marx was writing in a time where automation was considered to even more imminent than it is today. Most intellectuals of the time were of the opinion that work weeks would reduce to 20 hours in a few decades, and people would live in leisure.

One thing Marx got right was this: He said that as long as Capitalism is the dominant system, there will always be full-time employment for the masses. There will be new jobs created in new fields which are far removed from producing goods(jobs like advertising, insurance, etc.). Marx thought that humans as a whole will never work for significantly fewer hours as long as capitalism exists.

Incidentally, Marx was vehemently opposed to things like Universal Healthcare, better Labour laws, Mandatory Vacation and a higher minimum wage. He famously said that if these things were considered Marxist, he himself was 'not a Marxist'. The reason? Because these measures are beneficial to capitalism in the long run because workers are more likely to stay working under a capitalist as their life is bearable. When conditions deteriorate, that is the time that workers are going to revolt and try to own the means of production.

So in reality most of the stuff liberals advocate like better pay and healthcare are decidedly anti-marxist and pro-capitalist. It is opposed by some corporations because they care more about short term profits rather than the long term sustenance of capitalism.


Yup, ideologically, liberals are the enemy of leftists unfortunately. And much closer to neo-cons. It’s why you’ll never see an actual Marxist anti-Imperialist on the masthead of so-called left-leaning (by some) pubs like NYT, WaPo, the Atlantic, etc. But they’ll happily hire tons of right wingers in the name of “ideological diversity” (see Kevin Williamson, Bari Weiss, plus the ones that have actually stayed on)


I believe it is technically possible to construct machines that produce most of life’s basic necessities at zero marginal cost. I am generally interested in finding others who want to work with me to design the first prototypes of these machines.

We can build any system we’d like.


So you have whatever mental model you have dreamed up for zero marginal production costs. Does this zero cost production include zero spoilage during the zero cost logistics to move the zero cost food, water, and shelter?

Of course, we can build all of those things because we'd like it. Zero marginal cost world peace awaits us!

I encourage you to chase this! I also encourage a backup plan.


The "marginal" costs come from gathering and refining the raw resources that the machines operate on, and maintenance.

We already have machines that produce food. Why do you think they are still manned by an entire workforce? Out of sadism?


I find these guy inspiring:

Backyard aeroponics: self-sustaining farm for Wisconsin cold - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4gsnFJRAB0

Internet of Farming: Arduino-based, backyard aquaponics - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2wWTadsBDA


>accept abusive employment

My friends and I tried to "end game" the conservative mindset and I hadn't thought of this option.

Our exercise was: if hard conservatives achieved their goal of, say, eliminating food stamps, what would happen? Presumably private churches etc couldn't pick up all the slack so the only thing we could think of was skyrocketing crime. What, are people going to just starve to death when they could simply walk out of Safeway with ten loaves of bread and a jar of peanut butter?


Why is getting a job not an option?


Do you think the only people on food stamps are the unemployed?

But,

Felony conviction, kids that need watching, physical disability, mental disability, age, lack of language skills, lack of any working skills, lack of available jobs for education level, lack of jobs at all, explicit or implicit racism, off the top of my head.

If you think "laziness" belongs on the list, pm me and I'll send you a digital copy of "Evicted."


All of those things make getting/holding a job harder.

None of them make it impossible.

I never claimed life is fair, but does unfairness really justify criminality?

Also, as the underlying discussion is "why might honest people need to steal food?", it's not very reasonable to include felony convictions as the first item on your list.


I know honest people with felony convictions. Do you think a marijuana smoker can't be honest?

I'm not arguing morality, I'm arguing reality. Just like a stock broker would be a fool to expect rationality in the markets, so too would a government be foolish to expect everyone to fall in line when the screws start to turn.

If you grow up a black kid on a street in Atlanta, and you watch your friends get snatched up by the cops for smoking pot, or shot in drive-bys or harassed for standing on corners, and you don't get to go to school cause they don't do bus service in your neighborhood, would you care about "fair?" You care about eating. You're a human. You need to eat.


I guess by honest I meant "law abiding". Obviously someone that committed and was convicted of a felony does not qualify.

From your example, it sounds like the real issue would be behavior from law enforcement / public officials that encourages criminality. The issue there is not "no food stamps". It's a bad system. Fix the system that you think is broken, and then you won't need food stamps, no?


Yes, exactly. But, I don't hear arguments to fix the system. And, the system must be fixed before dam plugs can be removed.

Another note, I think it's dangerous to simply conflate "law abiding" with "honest." The system that creates and upholds the laws is simply too flawed to allow it to be considered 1:1 with the country's moral code. See: rich people getting away with sexual assault for ages, the useless "war on drugs," illegal and immoral activity by federal agency followed by the persecution of whistle blowers exposing that activity, etc etc etc.

A system of laws is necessary, but not necessarily good. It should always be questioned and evolving.


Causing a rapid increase in gun sales. Two tenets of the platform hit with one stone.


But I do already own some of the robots. I have Amazon stock in my 401k. That's what "the people owning the robots" looks like.

What you're getting at is that there are many people right now who are too poor (and are going to be too poor) to ever own any part of the robots.

This century's great debate is forming up to be whether or not we should give them some anyway even though they can't "earn" it for whatever moving value of earn society is currently accepting.


Around 80% of stock is owned by the top 10% wealthiest individuals[1]. More recent work[2] puts the percentage even higher. You might own some of the robots but most people don't.

[1]: https://appam.confex.com/appam/2012/webprogram/ExtendedAbstr...

[2]: http://time.com/money/5054009/stock-ownership-10-percent-ric...


But you know what most people DO own? Unnecessary consumer debt that stunts their ability to save and invest. When the average car payment in America is around $500 a month, it's clear evidence that people have a spending problem rather than an income problem. Here's an idea: Teach people not to finance $500 worth of car each month (plus gas, plus insurance, plus maintenance, plus healthcare costs) and suddenly people will be able to amass multiple millions of dollars in investments over their working career.


Teach people not to finance $500 worth of car each month (plus gas, plus insurance, plus maintenance

How? Keep in mind, I drive a car I bought for $1700 cash and I've restored and maintained it with my own hands.

Most people don't have the time, knowledge, tools, or space to maintain an older car, so a new car with a warranty is a smart move.

New cars are safer and more fuel efficient. They last longer than ever before. Not having a car is not an option for most Americans.

I don't see how a car payment is indicative of poor decision-making.


I have concluded that, in the USA, most ordinary folks have, much to their detriment, never heard of Dave Ramsey.

https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/the-truth-about-car-payments


He's a mixed bag. Some sound advice, in particular the parts about living within one's means; but there's also things that are utterly unrealistic, like:

> If you were to invest that (...) into a good mutual fund with a 12% rate of return, you would have over $100,000 in 10 years! At 20 years, you would have made $470,000. And at 30 years? That mutual fund would be worth $1.6 million!

Maybe I'm not savvy enough but I have not encountered mutual funds that will reliably sustain 12% over three decades.


"Cash for Clunkers" took a lot of wind out of this particular sail. It crippled the used car market for years, and propped the door wide open for predatory "buy here pay here" auto sellers.

Nevertheless, I haven't had a car payment for so long that I can't remember the last time I paid one. Trips to the mechanic are frequent and costly, but at least I'm not uselessly paying interest.

I'm surprised Ramsey can have a successful national brand saying little more than infinite variations on "spend less than you earn", but there he is, and I guess some people need to hear it like that.


I've never personally owned a car, but I did grow up in a pretty car-centric area and am generally aware of my parents' purchasing decisions, in an environment where there wasn't a lot of money to go around.

If you must have a new car (we bought used fairly often, with good results), there are a dozen cars you can buy for around $15k, which works out to $270/mo with a 3.1% loan. I'm really stacking the deck here: I ignored cars that are too small, since I assume a family with children, I'm using a pretty high interest rate, and I'm ignoring used cars. Bear in mind that the _average_ payment means that it's ignoring the substantial amount of people who don't have kids and would be fine with a smaller car, or those with better credit who can get a better rate.

That being said, I don't know enough about the distribution of the discussed figure to say whether it makes sense in the way we're using it: $500 is the mean payment, not the median, so it would be a mistake to assume that there's an "average person" who pays $500. It's just as likely that some people have higher payments (that they can afford easily) and poorer people have lower ones.


You can buy excellent cars that will last a long time for far less than $500 a month. $500 a month for much more car than you need is a very poor decision because you can get by with much less and invest the rest.


You're really misusing that figure, here is the quote from the article you linked below:

>The average new car payment in America has crept above the $500 per month mark for the fist time, settling in at $503, according to a recent study by Experian.

and here's your statement:

>When the average car payment in America is around $500 a month

See the mismatch? This is not evidence that people (especially poor ones) are overspending on cars. It doesn't say anything about people without car payments, people with used cars, people who bought outright or even how many people exist in those categories. Besides I just put $500/month on a 5 year auto loan into googles calculator and I got a cost of $27,751. This isn't exactly an extravagant purchase for a new car.

Besides this notion that most people will ever be able to cut their expenses enough to "amass multiple millions of dollars in investments over their working career" is just painfully out of touch.


Isn't education the government's responsibility?

So, the American people don't have a spending problem, America has an education problem. (America has many education problems, really)

People only do what they know how to do. If you let a street worth of kids grow up on the street without giving them another opportunity, how are they gonna put food on their table? The ways they learned on the street. Same idea.


Can you post a reference to that $500 number? I find that hard to believe. I was leasing a luxury car for around $400/mo a few years ago. What kinds of cars are average Americans leasing? Rolls Royces?


$500 a month is basically a 4 year loan on a $20k car. That's a lot in a real sense but not a lot today in terms of a car. The only good thing is that cars post 2002 seem to be more way more reliable on average, however, finding low mileage cars is difficult. Suburbans/minivans and other family transport vehicles tend to hold their value fairly well (except maybe Dodge minivans)...


> The only good thing is that cars post 2002 seem to be more way more reliable on average

The manufacturers needed to make them last more than 100K because most of the manufacturers are closely if not directly tied to the financing, and if they wanted to make loans at high interest and 96mos they needed a car that would last at least long enough to cover the majority of new 65+ mo loans people are getting.


The figure is for purchase, not lease. You can get more car for your lease dollar because at the end of the lease, you have no asset that you own.



You've replied to multiple posts about these poor people with $500 month car financing. Prove it. And show what they should be doing instead.


https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/06...

Instead, buy a used car for $5,000 to $10,000 and use it. Invest the rest. Hell, financing a car for $200 and investing the rest would be much better than financing $500 worth of car per month.


The OP said prove it. You didn't do that.

Poor people aren't financing cars for $500 a month. $500 a month is the average monthly cost for a new car loan. Poor people aren't financing cars for that much.


Owning stock is really a very messy proxy for wealth. What do you think would happen if they all sold their stock? They would plummet their paper networth..

And its also not given that such a money, well gotten, has been produced by giving something in exchange, so it has removed tat money from less inefficient hands. It was still owned by someone, just changed hands.

Bastiat was right about something, using money as a measure of economics is just an invitation to confusion.


I think there are some differences between owning stock and owning the machines. Stock gives you abstract control through voting, and the board has much more power than you. When you own the machine, you can physically operate it yourself. It’s like owning a car versus owning stock in Uber - when you own a car you reap the benefits of cheap travel much more directly and in a very different way than getting a dividend check.

I think stock schemes can work as an abstraction, but only when combined with other bylaws that grant clear powers to shareholders (like a bill of rights). I write a little about that in one of my speculative fiction stories on automated society here:

http://tlalexander.com/corporation/


> I think there are some differences between owning stock and owning the machines. ... When you own the machine, you can physically operate it yourself.

i... sure?

if i'm not an expert in using (and maintaining) that equipment (who also happens to own a space which is large enough and zoned for that equipment, and proximate to the customers or raw inputs for the equipment), owning the corporation that owns the equipment is better than owning the machinery, because it means i also employ people to run (and maintain) the semiconductor fabs and wire bending machines and shit (which have been located in cost effective places) for me, so i can go off and do the things i know how to do well.

> ...when you own a car you reap the benefits of cheap travel much more directly and in a very different way than getting a dividend check.

i also accept all of the risks and responsibilities directly. if i buy into a hypothetical publicly traded ride sharing company, i don't have to worry about any of that.


>When you own the machine, you can physically operate it yourself.

Can I? I've got no clue how to run a Kiva, I just know that somewhere, there's one making me a few pennies right now being run and maintained by people who know what they're doing.


Following the car analogy, many people don’t know how to change their oil, but they could if they wanted. That is a freedom a piece of normal stock does not give you. If your stock truly represented an equal share of the operation, you could work with other shareholders and manage the local warehouse to your liking. It sounds like you’re satisfied with Amazon, so perhaps you won’t get involved. But it would give the warehouse workers a voice if they felt they were being abused.


I'm not exactly disagreeing. I'd absolutely explicitly dump my Amazon (the whole mutual fund its in actually) if a robot-owning stock with a "shareholder bill of rights" as you describe existed.

A product/brand independent "means of production" type investment is an interesting idea. It still doesn't fix the fact that there are people who are just never going to have the resources to buy into such a thing, which I think is really the core of the issue.


Yes, shareholder voting can be heavily manipulated just like political voting can. It's between guy A who does what the board wants and guy B who does what the board wants a lot of the time.

Of course if you are a common stock holder you are at the bottom of the barrel as far as value goes. Preferred stock holders get all their money first, and then common share holder get what's left (at least in a liquidation).


In a few centuries students in history classes will look back and try to understand why we let our people die in the streets.


SF spends 240 million dollars every year to help the homeless. That's more than most city's entire budget. The reason that money doesn't help anyone is because it won't go very far in a city where housing costs 2000$ per square foot. And it really doesn't need to be like this at all. It's an entirely man made disaster of colossal proportions.

There's plenty of blame to go around. You can thank all the NIMBYs and countless housing regulations that prevent cost effective shelter from being created.

It's within our technological power to create housing for a tiny fraction of what it costs today in SF: just look at the tiny house movement. Just imagine how much cheaper it would be if something like that was built but stackable. Housing, A potentially multi-trillion dollar industry, completely unassailable, very few companies or investors are investing in this, all thanks to: Regulation.

Regulations and land use policy hamstring developers, increasing costs endlessly. Instead of working against them, we should be working with them to streamline and reduce their costs and finding ways to create more competition between them, to ensure that people get the very lowest prices. It can be done. Places like Dallas are growing every bit as quickly as SF/bay area and can still create housing for 100$/sq foot. I suspect even lower prices are possible with the removal of regulation: which would finally allow humanity to innovate in this area, rather than creating yet more cat video apps.

This harmful idea that real estate is something that should go up and up forever is wrong: morally and economically. In a world that is progressing, things should be getting cheaper, even real-estate.

Right now, your options in SF are a 200$ tent under a bridge or a 2 million dollar condo. There, really ought to be more options between those two extremes.


> just look at the tiny house movement. Just imagine how much cheaper it would be if something like that was built but stackable.

Say, did you ever read or see "Ready Player One"?


I see your point. but, I'd rather live in a small apartment trailer (which could have heating, water, electricity, etc) than a tent.


I don't think so, reading real statistics on this kind of thing instead of alarmist and politically slanted headlines paints a very different picture of how the world is doing.

https://ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty


As global average quality of life trends upward, the American lower and middle class are dying quietly in the streets.

https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/o...

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/21/5720803...


So you're thinking that people in the future will wonder why we weren't more parochial in our sphere of concerns? More precisely, they'll be morally shocked at the notion that we were too close to treating all humans as of equal moral worth, instead of prioritizing those that are located closer to us geographically?

Don't get me wrong, I'm very aware that most moral systems have somewhat-principled reasons to prioritize those that are geographically closer to you. This is intended more to illuminate that side of the argument than as a full-fledged suggestion for how to set our priorities. But the claim being discussed here, that the future will wonder why we let people die in the streets, is still bizarre to me in the context that you're framing it in.


You act like we're putting in enormous efforts overseas to improve life, when we really aren't.


No, I'm not. You're projecting your overly simple-minded model of the economy and the world onto me.


toomuchtodo pointed out we're not doing enough about a problem that exists locally.

You argued that thinking globally is more important than thinking parochially, which is fine by itself. But it's totally unrelated to what toomuchtodo is saying unless we were taking global action in lieu of local action.

So I assumed you meant that, because it's critical to your comment being relevant.

If you didn't mean that, then your argument falls apart. toomuchtodo is not arguing for being parochial, they're arguing that we should be making it a priority to fight this problem at all.


That's a very niche problem in comparison - we're talking hundreds of millions of people leaving poverty across the globe compared to under hundreds of thousands dying of opioid overdoses. Perhaps it's because I'm not American, but I just don't find it that concerning when put into the larger picture.


Perhaps you not finding it concerning emphasizes the problem. As an American, it greatly concerns me. It’s also why populism and nationalism have taken hold in first world countries.


That some tiny portion of the deaths in your country are from opioid overdoses? People voluntarily injecting themselves with drugs and fucking up? Why exactly does this concern you so much? It's hard to see it as representative of a larger systemic problem beyond the American drug enforcement and medical systems resulting in over-prescription of opioids and fenantly entering common usage. Not much beyond that, is there? I don't see a larger trend to extrapolate from that.


The opioid epidemic is a symptom of underlying socioeconomic and societal issues. That is why it concerns me so greatly. It’s a canary in the coal mine, if you will.


I don't think so - over-prescription of opioids and more common usage of fentanyl seem to the be the key factors in the death increases. Nothing to do with underlying socioeconomic conditions nor societal problems. I don't understand how you're making that leap - care to elaborate?


The Guardian has an excellent piece far better than me rehashing it.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/28/deaths-of-de...

“Is the US facing an epidemic of 'deaths of despair'? These researchers say yes”


The whole lower and middle classes? What do you mean by this? What does "quietly" mean -- there's been a ton of activity on the opioid crisis in Washington lately?


It is fascinating how frequently modest increases in quality of living in third world countries is wheeled out as justification for the predations of capitalism. If we're going to have a serious conversation about how the world is doing that has to include the fact that the global economy is predicated on continuous growth despite finite natural resources. There is also a few environmental issues that might be relevant.


I'd advise reading the article I linked, the increases are far from modest in many cases.

I'll agree with you on the environmental issues, but I think we're well on the way to solving those too and largely via the same mechanisms, Chinese solar is close to pushing coal out of business on price. That's not to say there's no role for regulation in the environmental direction though, I certainly think there probably should be, but how to do so globally and fairly is a bit of a catastrophe.


I would be honestly delighted to know through what mechanism you believe collapsing marine fisheries, coral bleaching, the Pacific trash gyre, global warming accelerated desertification, aquifer depletion, topsoil depletion, and a whole host of other issues I can't name off the top of my head are on the cusp of being "solved".


we just halved poverty in the world in the past 20 years. Time to check your facts again.


halved != eradicated.

Given the incredible amount of energy and resources being wasted by some of the richest countries this level of inequality is far from acceptable.


You're assuming it will get better in the future.


I too am afraid that our future descendants will look at our actions with disdain.

But I am even more afraid that our future descendants will live in the same rampant callousness and cruelty that we've created and perpetuated.

If they live in a better world than ours and look at us like savages, then I think overall things will have gone pretty well.


I disagree


Care to elaborate?


They didn't - so no


Who is dying in the street in substantial numbers?


Poor people die earlier. More importantly though their quality of life sucks, especially in a country with tens of millions without health insurance. They may have rotten teeth and loads of stress, but hey, they are not dead yet so what's the problem?

Sorry that it's all The Guardian but they had a series that I happened to remember, and I think that publication has a good enough reputation:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/america-extr...

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/21/seques...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/01/un-extreme-pov...

Of course, if we find the slightest mistake or hyperbole (if there even is any) in an article or comment about the plight of the poor we can discuss THAT instead and dismiss the entire thought. Another form of bike-shedding, instead of using good faith for the discussion use every tiny opening of the "opponent" to sidetrack the discussion and to dismiss the issue.

So, where are the people of the masses of dying in the streets? None? Even in San Francisco they look shabby but very much still alive? Well, case closed I guess.


You're moving the goalposts. The person I replied to implied that people are literally dying in the gutters, so of course future humans will look at us with genuine confusion -- who steps over a dying person in the street? How does that make sense? It trivializes the problem and handwaves away the millions of people who help the poor/homeless, and the millions of dollars we spend on that.

If future historians look at any part of this with confusion, it'll be the part where we ignore mental health and think dumping cash/housing/whatever on a person will solve everything.


Go to San Francisco. You'll meet them.


That assumes the profits go to the shareholders. I don't think that's a safe assumption and I don't think that will necessarily persist.


> I have Amazon stock in my 401k.

It's weird seeing someone writing this in a thread about how Amazon exploits its workers for profits (ie. in part for its shareholders).


Its not lost on me... I first thought "those bastards", then had a flash of insight, checked the breakdown of the biggest mutual fund I'm invested in and realized, I'm one of them.


As a thought experiment I wonder if it will be better or worse when Amazon eventually automates all those jobs (yes, maybe even the programmers' jobs one day).


With truly advanced multi-purpose robots (like in sci-fi), it would take just one donation of a robot to a charity to start a 'robot self-replication for poverty movement', where one robot build another with its own labor, doubling, and doubling again, until every down and out has their own pool of robotic laborers.


This implies a world with unlimited energy and natural resources?


I didn't mean to imply doubling forever. Also, yes I assumed that the robot would have to be employed at least initially to earn a wage, so that it could buy materials and components off alibaba.


How much do you think raw materials are going to cost in a world with free labor? What's to stop rich people from just buying up all the resources? With free labor they can use as much resources as they get their hands on.

There are structural problems in our society that cannot be solved with new technology.


Space is big. The asteroid belt plus robotics. There is a lot of energy from the sun. There is a lot of iron.


Fully Automated Space Communism.


> But I do already own some of the robots. I have Amazon stock in my 401k. That's what "the people owning the robots" looks like.

Is it though? Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't stock only generates value if it increases in price (or the company decides it wants to pay dividends), and not directly from the productivity of robots?

To put it a bit more clearly, your stock only makes you money if Amazon keeps growing. Let say Amazon were to reach a theoretical maximum size: profits and value stop growing. It would still generate massive amounts of money but would it be obliged to give you a cut of it?


To put it a bit more clearly, your stock only makes you money if Amazon keeps growing

No, I think you have it incorrect. As long as revenue > costs and internal expenditures, you make money by dividends. That's the whole reason we buy stocks. Price growth is ultimately just a projection of the belief in higher future dividends.


I don't want to split hairs because you are correct, and this isn't really directed at you.

I'd just like to point out that if you believe in roughly efficient markets, if your enterprise maintains its value, if you amass a pile of cash, that will be reflected in your share price.

The dividends come directly out of that share price whenever issued. You can theoretically amass a pile of money that would make Smaug blush, and this will increase your share price to reflect. But that cash isn't being reinvested, it's only going to increase linearly with respect to that cash position. Which is why in many circumstances investors frown upon it.


Many tech stocks pay very little in dividends or none at all, even if the company is quite profitable. In tech it's all about share price.


That's because they are growing at a large rate. When that growth stops the only option they will have is to pay dividends. The investors make money either way.


There's also buybacks, which has mostly been tech companies' weapon of choice when it comes to capital return.


If it stops growing and the "massive amounts of money" it generates result in a profit, then shareholders like the parent could vote that the company starts paying dividends to shareholders. So to answer your question: Yes.


Due to population increase the revenues would grow. When a company stops growing and increasing revenue its not keeping up with population increase and may as well be dying.

There are also stocks with high dividends, which are paid out based on profit and not by the stock increasing in value.

This is obviously ignoring the fact many people either make horrible financial decision or are too poor to invest in stocks.


> Due to population increase the revenues would grow. When a company stops growing and increasing revenue its not keeping up with population increase and may as well be dying.

I'd like to retort this because I think it's important to have a bit of perspective here:

1. Population growth doesn't imply market growth.

If I sell polio treatment, my market are the number of people with polio, which thankfully hasn't been correlated with population growth.

2. Market growth doesn't imply revenue growth.

Competition.

3. Revenue growth doesn't imply profit growth.

Say, for example, I run a company building cheap computers for the children of low-income families. As I move into new countries and expand my revenue I might want to, instead of increasing profits, make my computers cheaper so more children have access to them.

2 and 3 are usually not true when companies are trying to maximize profits, but I don't think 1 should be at all rare.

Anyway, this is besides where the discussion was meant to go, but thought I'd share.


Yes.

The revenue is used somehow. The board decides how. And shareholders elect board members.

Thus, if growth stalled, but there was excess revenue, the board would need to decide where it goes. It could be used to help growth revive, by using it to invest in future prospects, it could choose to use it towards employee compensations, maybe if it believes its required to retain talent, or it could choose to give it to shareholders as dividend.

If the board does make decisions the shareholders don't like, they can eventually be booted out and replaced by a new one.


Yes it would.

This isn't a new problem you are talking about. Stocks have worked like this since they have existed.

Go take a look at any major company that "stopped growing" but is still making money, and see how it works.


Well maybe the problem is that you own part of the company instead of the people who actually work there.


The average working class American is financing their car. The average car payment is $500. That is way too much car, yet people are financing that. Over the average working career, this $500 per month represents a foregone multi-million dollar net worth at retirement. So the average working class American is poor or struggling for cash not because of income issues, but because of spending issues. We have a spending problem in this country. If everyone working in Amazon's warehouses prioritized wise financial decisions, like not financing a car for $500 a month or more, they'd be able to demand better work conditions because they wouldn't be as dependent on the job.

Amazon needs to do better, but working class Americans also need to do better with their finances so they don't spend themselves into awful situations like this. Ultimately the idea that the average working class American will never be able to afford stock is just a fairy tale peddled by Marxists. The average working class American is more than capable of amassing a multi million dollar net worth by retirement by making wise decisions and investing, instead of crapping away all their income on things they don't actually need.


That average payment is for all Americans, not just working-class. The bottom 20% of American households spends only $3559/year on transportation (overall, not just on car payments). So either their car payments are much lower, or they just don't own many cars, but in any case they don't have many $500 car payments to forgo.

http://uk.businessinsider.com/how-high-income-and-low-income...


I can't find a way that $500 per month adds up to "multi-million dollar net worth". Even at a very optimistic 10% return rate, it comes to just over 1.1 million over thirty years. What assumptions are you making in your calculation to come up with 2million+ at retirement from $500 per month of savings?


... and how is spending $0 on transportation a reasonable solution, anyway?


It's not. Even if you walked to your job. The additional money you would pay in rent / time / uber is not worth it. Just buy a car unless you live in an actual pedestrian city.


In order to finance a dollar of monthly spending, you need roughly $300 invested. Actual returns are generally somewhat higher, due to requiring a lower amount of variance to handle sequence-of-returns risk in distribution, but the rule of thumb holds. Which suggests the car-buying habit puts you roughly $150k in the hole.


$500 a month is $6000 a year. $6000 a year invested from 26 to 66 at 10% interest per year is $2,921,110.87. At 12% it's $5,154,854.34.

Keep in mind this is just from a single decision the average person is making.


WTF kind of fairy land is this? 10% is already a dream, but at least it's a round number, unlike the 12% you just arbitrarily threw out there.


Just for clarification, where is 10% interest coming from? Mutual funds? 401k? Something else?

Serious question, I am not financially knowledgeable but I know you'd never get 10% interest in a savings account (for example).


Mutual funds / index funds / real estate


So you're expecting people to make 10-12% in after-inflation returns?


Making 7 to 10 percent after inflation is possible and it is sufficient to amass more than 1 million dollars by retirement just from changing this one habit. The point was that the average financed car is worth a massive amount in opportunity cost.


And isn't that 10% and 12 % growth assumption the reason all pensions are in trouble?


Ok so you're assuming 40 years instead of 30. That's where the discrepancy is. Thank you for clarifying.


Yep. You can also assume 45 years if someone starts working at 20 and retires at 65.


Not many places offering 10% ROI to people who can invest $500 a month.


So invest it as $6,000 per year. Doesn't have to be $500 per month.


> Americans also need to do better

Blaming any problem of this magnitude on individuals is not reasonable.

There's a systemic pressure toward overspending through advertising, etc., and we've created a society where many people make an amount of money, that, if spent "wisely", procures a stressful and unfulfilling existence.

Clearly Marxism is not the right solution: our system isn't inherently and completely broken, but it needs adjustment. I think Piketty has the right idea. A progressive tax on capital would do a lot to equalize this inequality — if we could ever amass the political will to implement it — though it wouldn't correct our current situation where everyone is constantly manipulated to think they'll be happy if only they buy this one more object.


> Blaming any problem of this magnitude on individuals is not reasonable.

This is just anecdotal, but I see this a LOT. The stubborn insistence that blame is paramount in any discussion and that the world should be made fair before action can be taken to improve one's life is a pretty substantial barrier to said improvement. Sometimes the deck is stacked, and working on unstacking the deck can happen in parallel with reacting to the world as it is now. Out of college, I had friends who made half as much as me and spent twice as much; income aside, we were both exposed to pretty much exactly the same environment, and somehow we made purchasing decisions that were completely swapped from what you'd expect. As the parent comment said, "Amazon needs to do better" too, but putting personal behavior outside of the realm of control of the individual isn't helping anyone, it's harming them.

I agree with your general point that simply wishing that people would do better for a behavorial issue at this scale is unlikely to do much, but I don't think that's implied by the GP comment's suggestion. There have been successful campaigns to cause large-scale behavioral shifts before[1], and recognizing personal choice as a potential mechanism of improvement doesn't mean we can't approach the problem in an intentional, structural manner.

Just an aside, but in all of this I'm taking on faith the power of advertising that the HN community at large seems to consistently think that we're helpless before; this has never been my experience; I don't care much about ads, I don't see any mechanism in which they could drive my purchase decisions, etc etc. To wit, I buy the cheapest option (that I haven't already tried and disliked) for cheap items and extensively research medium to high priced ones. There's no question that brand advertising affects my level of brand awareness, but it's _really_ not difficult at all to remove that factor from your purchasing decisions. If anything, my prior would be that all the people who blindly purchase based on brand awareness are shifting the value prop towards brands that are _less_ well-known, since theoretically they need to compete on something else (price, features, quality, whatever).

[1] Spend any time with Europeans and you'll appreciate how impressive the American anti-smoking campaign was.


I think my actual position here is a little more nuanced than it came across before, and I pretty much agree with you.

I find it silly to blame individuals (if only they would do better!). The law of large numbers applied to these cases guarantees that there is a systemic issue, not an individual one — however — I think this sort of "you all should do better!" campaign can be a perfectly viable solution to a systemic issue in some cases, if it can effectively shift enough mindsets to turn a cultural tide.

Blame is a ridiculous concept when talking about large-scale social dynamics, and effectively shuts down the search for any systemic adjustment that would constitute a fix.


Thanks for the response. I guess my main point of contention was assuming that the GP commenter was saying that it's 100% an individual blame problem, when that's belied by "Amazon needs to do better too".

> Blame is a ridiculous concept when talking about large-scale social dynamics, and effectively shuts down the search for any systemic adjustment that would constitute a fix.

I agree with you. Frankly, I rarely find the concept of blame to be all that useful for improving matters. For an example from the other side of the politically-coded spectrum, terms like "victim-blaming" are most often used as thought-terminating clichés, selectively applied to avoid having to justify one's point. For example, telling women not to dress provocatively when going out and telling tourists to keep their passport close to them and watch their bags are both just as "victim-blaming" as the other, but only one of these is given that label. (FWIW, the reason I disagree with the former and agree with the latter is that being able to dress as one pleases is a lot more core to my conception of fsirly fundamental rights than being able to avoid paying attention to one's belongings).


The people who whine about systemic causes will never admit that there's elements of personal responsibility in these choices.


Personal responsibility on a large scale is a systemic factor. It's like quantum and classical mechanics. A single quark has probabilistic behaviour, but a million quarks behave in an aggregate, predictable way. You can tweak personal responsibility en masse through new systemic inputs, but I don' think personal responsibility nor individual blame map well onto discussions of issues involving large groups of individuals.


The future of work is shitty jobs like this, but a la Uber you "get your side-hustle on" AKA have no rights or security as an employee ever anywhere.

e: Which, speaking of Marxism, this situation will keep you permanently alienated from your coworkers and will forever prevent community bonds from forming with them.


Which is basically the MO of those who are in power and control resources since forever, or at least in the U.S. - divide and conquer, project fault on outsiders, etc. For all that the internet has done, it has made weakening local communities easier.


The sad irony of Uber et al is that it's only a matter of time before those drivers are replaced by AI.

The point being, those drivers are doing more for the (short term) future of that company than any other entity. In the long term? For those drivers? The long term is not being an Uber driver.


What do you think these people were doing being being drivers for uber?


Probably struggling from the previous 40 years of union busting, rights erosion, offshoring, financial manipulation, and discrimination.


Struggling doesn't pay. What where they doing with the productivity before Uber, thats the question. Are you saying they weren't doing anything at all and uber lifted them out of extreme poverty?


Not the GP, but my guess is that they mean that they were doing equally bad jobs, but without Uber's pretense that it wasn't a bad job.


Poor them, being deluded from a job they had to a job they wanted. IF we could only enact legislation that forbid changing jobs.


> AKA have no rights or security as an employee ever anywhere.

I get what you are saying, but somehow this attitude also rubs me the wrong way sometimes.

It's like "Hey, I'll pay anyone a nickle per piece of trash they pick up in the local forests"

Soon: "NiceNature is the worst company ever! They exploit their workers to pick up garbage without proper protection, the employees have no rights or securities and are forced to pee on trees because no bathrooms are provided! Worst of all, they aren't even paid a living wage! /u/ythn is the worst CEO ever, he gluts himself off of the labors of the socioeconomicly desperate!"

Like, all I really wanted was to fix a problem I saw with our local forests, not become a human trafficker...


The problem with your framing is that a lot of companies like to pretend they are about making the world a better place, when what they are actually about is making their owners money.


That's not a good analogy to something like Uber, because there's no profit motive. What you described is essentially a government works program, which is a great idea! But that's not what anyone seems to be talking about.


You're right, the analogy is not good. I was more thinking about making an app for fun that solves some problem, makes you and your users a little money on the side, mostly intended for teenagers/college students, etc., but then the masses move into to squeeze every last cent out of it and I get demonized and accused of exploiting workers, etc, when it was never meant to be a life-sustaining employment opportunity to begin with.

I.e. "biting the hand that feeds you" syndrome. Can't we just make cool things that don't require you to give 401k matching to everyone who touches your cool thing?

Again, maybe this doesn't apply to Uber and they totally could be giving full benefits to all drivers, etc., but I'm just saying in general


this mentality becomes a problem when its pushing real jobs that people rely on out, especially when we are talking about the founders getting immensely rich off this.


Someone has to provide necessities to society. In absence of government directly providing it, we force companies to do it. What you want is, essentially, socialism, with a little bit of the market carved out for market capitalism. Sounds good to me!


This is a ridiculous comparison. How would you be enriching yourself by paying people to pick up trash? Did you get a contract from the government or the owner to pick up the trash? If you did, then yes you should probably take some of that money you made and hire some people to do the work or do it yourself.


> How would you be enriching yourself by paying people to pick up trash?

You get to have nicer forests to walk in?


I’m responding to their comment...

> /u/ythn is the worst CEO ever, he gluts himself off of the labors of the socioeconomicly desperate!"


From the point of view of creating a society with least inequality all must own an equal share of production. This is straight up Marxism, and anywhere anything like it has been attempted, it made everyone equally poor.

The problem is capital owns production, and capital is not distributed equally. And if you forcefully try to change that too much, capital leaves for greener pastures or is no longer put to work.

I don't think equality is a good goal. I think a good standard of living for all citizens should be the goal. After that's been achieved, I don't care how rich the 1% are.


I think this misunderstands economics. The day robots are in the market the value of what they produce will drop to nothing, much like most things done in high scale by machines today.

The value of things are proportional to the human labor expended to make them, if robots do free shipping and all of that, their cost will tend to drop to the cost of making the robots.

The public narrative that robots should be taxes is as logical as saying we should tax computer, or hammers. Its not economics. A more compelling argument is that the shift of work in the future will be even more detrimental than what we know, which might be true, but it has also been true in the past.


>The value of things are proportional to the human labor expended to make them

That's one theory of value--there are many others.


Shitty jobs is already spreading. Uber driver, Deliveroo biker, and their hundreds of copycats, all of them where "you're not an employee, you're a contractor".


Wait until the realize that the strip-club model of independent contractor would allow them to charge their contractors for the privilege of working in their environment.


My baseline intuition is that trying to jam equality into production instead of just doing so explicitly and intentionally doesn't make a lot of sense. To be concrete, I've never understood why (esp in America), we're so obsessed with trying to force social welfare solutions into the labor relationship instead of simply doing so directly, government action.

Your example of collective ownership of capital happens to horsehoe back to not being all that different from my suggestion, but what's the advantage of collective ownership over simply high tax rates (on capital gains, if you like) and redistribution?

The usual argument against something like this (e.g. a UBI) is the psychological effects on those who don't work, but that seems moot for the purposes of this comparison, since the exact same would be true of collective ownership of capital that you have no real-world experience with or connection to.


Thinking about what "owning the robots" might actually look like, the easiest way I can think to solve it would be for the government to buy index funds and use the proceeds to fund basic income.

This wouldn't own any robots from privately-owned companies, though.


Privately-owned companies not having publicly available shares for sale isn't really a barrier for the government - they write the tax laws. If the US government wants a piece of their profits, they can get it.


>Instead, if the people own the machines collectively, then they can enjoy the productivity gains themselves as a group.

Isn't this basically a corporation?


I think we need to democratize the means of automation.

Building blocks spanning microcontrollers to motors to power converters to lighting to the rapid fabrication of small parts have never been cheaper or more accessible. And why would you buy remote-controlled lightbulbs from BigCo if you could make one yourself (or get a friend to) for the cost of a sandwich?

Because you can't spare the extra $3 to buy a fair-trade organic lightbulb every few months, would probably be the answer. And that would probably be because you're stuck in jobs like these. So maybe I'm just spouting baseless optimism.


>Building blocks spanning microcontrollers to motors to power converters to lighting to the rapid fabrication of small parts have never been cheaper or more accessible. And why would you buy remote-controlled lightbulbs from BigCo if you could make one yourself (or get a friend to) for the cost of a sandwich?

I think you need to step out of the engineer shoes.

The majority of people struggle to understand their computer works, let alone building their own robots and writing the software.


Sure, but education on those topics has also never been cheaper or more accessible. And these days, you could use something like MakeCode to automate simple tasks without ever touching a programming environment.

There still aren't many people muddling through the introductory online courses on those topics, but there could be. Encouraging participation in learning about useful subjects seems like another good goal which could be helped by the low cost-at-scale of things like MOOCs, and showing people how to make useful things actually happen in the real world seems like a good way to reinforce that encouragement.


These people are working in very stressful environments, often for 10-12 hours/day, and making a pittance (which also adds to overall stress). Add a kid, and the idea of having time and mental energy for learning programming starts to sound a bit far-fetched.


Fine, but what can anyone do to reach someone in that situation? Could we maybe start with people who work 8-10 hours/day, make enough for beer money, and can leave their children with friends or family to make room for maybe 4-8 hours out of a month?

Or should we just look at the situation, throw up our hands, and


You're not the only one afraid.

However look at all the factories closing down and manufacturing jobs lost, plus coal mines etc. Many of those jobs weren't that great either.


I don't know if ownership of the actual robots is a key component. But certainly, have full access and power to customize the machines in use is important. Something similar is already happening now in the developing world where the first access to the internet and computing for most people is a mobile phone. There is a growing number of people who don't know how to type on a keyboard but know how to use a computer. Voice commands are a large part of their input. As great as voice command can be, there is power and flexibility you simply can't access without a keyboard.

The only way I learned to program and now have a career is because I had easy access to the internals of a computer. I could start tinkering. I started messing with the internals of the computer even before I started programming. My curiosity led me to the file system of games and I started replacing sound and image files to mod my games. If someone's access to computing is a mobile phone they download and install prepacked bins. The can't and don't get to look at anything under the hood. No matter how strong their curiosity is they can't just discover.


Personally I'm a proponent for basic income, and I think we're moving toward that in a more and more automated society. When we reach a point where more people can't work without high skill levels, the choices are either to let them die, live on welfare, or provide basic income.


Yeah, yeah, people own the robots, etc. You mean investors who own the shares of the company who own the robots? Because, frankly, I don't see any other model that works as society currently operates.

You'd have to shift to a model that, much like REITs, requires revenue to be distributed to the holders. By which point, you've just created an automation trust fund, and companies start selling ATFs.


In the absence of strong incentives to start employee owned businesses, I don't see the problems that creates those jobs being assuaged...


Sounds interesting, but also like a lot of bureaucracy. What happens when the people want to change the way the robots are operating? What if the robots don't do exactly what they're told? Who manages manufacturing robots vs transportation robots vs communications robots? Would the people have to elect representatives to deal with the robots?


I assume that the engineering would be run like an open source project. Debian is a good example, or the Linux kernel. The best stuff is decided by the contributors and anyone is welcome to fork and compete. Actual labor of manufacturing and distribution is handled by competing companies (which may be democratically operated) but the tech is open source so “lock in” (which is a man made inefficiency in the market) can’t do easily occur.

Life always takes work to run. Getting to work every day to pay for food at the store and run errands etc just to do it all again tomorrow feels like beaurocoracy too. I’d much rather have a world where the work I do to support myself is to vote on local community matters (the next merge request, etc), instead of commuting through a zoo and looking out the window at the sunshine.


For every good piece of open source software there is an awful lot of crap. For every good open-source organization there are a lot of dysfunctional little groups that work at cross purposes and never get anything done. You're talking about appropriating vital infrastructure here. How do you know your open-source corporation will turn out to be productive?


If you replace "robots" with "employees", does that make your questions any easier to answer?


This is why it is important for the robots to be open-source & open-hardware, to drive down the cost so that everyone can own their own robots. Imagine everyone having their own solar-powered FarmBot.

What we don't want is a society where the governments/corporations exclusively own all the robots, such that we have to go through them.


>>What do you all think of this?

Most of the software world made its choice. Remember the Open source movement is a political movement and not a software movement.

The point of Open source is to control the source or precisely 'Own the means of production'.


In reality, Open Source often ends up being charity for corporations. So many projects run by developers who can barely keep the lights on, which are then used by huge corporations for free.


Or maybe simpler if companies own the robots and people own the companies?


Ultimately, yes. Assuming also the people have control of the companies, rather than a board of directors.


The board is elected by the shareholders. The system could change, but I don't see how it would scale not to use a representative strategy like a board. How would shareholders micro-manage everything?


Subsistence farming and coal mining were shitty jobs too.

Most jobs have always been shitty, this is less shitty than most and pays somewhat better (I believe Amazon is harder work than Walmart but pays more). And you can't find Americans to work in the fields, mines, slaughterhouses anymore.

If it was really shitty the US would get foreigners to do it. So much of the stuff Amazon ships is made overseas we almost might as well cut out the middleman and ship it directly from abroad, put a few giant warehouses just offshore or in Mexico. (I kid)


Automatic default reply whenever I see "can't find Americans to work..."...

...at the rate of pay offered.

Speaking as a software engineer, if you offered me double my salary and secure employment for a couple years to work in a field or mine, I'd do it. Test me. Make me an offer. Slaughterhouses I don't know if I could do, but I'll bet plenty of people would for my current salary or less.

About a decade and a half ago I probably would've done the same for maybe $50/hr.


Oh, I totally agree... if you can get $13 an hour working at Amazon how much would you need to work in the field or the mine, harder, more dangerous, exposed to toxic stuff. $25 or $50 isn't so crazy.

By the same token, the fact that Amazon retains hundreds of thousands of employees at $13 an hour means working conditions can't be in a different league from Walmart etc. Of course Amazon should be managing this stuff so it's not a Dickensian sweatshop. But of course they know that and they know the worse it is the more they have to pay, and these stories are maybe a little overblown.

Or at least I don't see buying at Walmart instead of Amazon to be a humanitarian necessity or particularly welfare-enhancing.

I kind of see it as a FedEx vs. UPS situation, FedEx pays more and is more brutal, pick your poison as a customer or employee.

Everything you buy that's cheap is cheap because people worked hard in shitty jobs.


> the people need to own the robots that do all the work

What happens when a private party (or a competitive public party, like China) designs cheaper and more efficient robots?

The conflict is explored in Ayn Rand's "Anthem", where the society is a collective owner of a candle factory and therefore resists advance of electricity, or Mike Judge's "Idiocracy", where half of the workers in the country are employed in various capacities by Brawndo beverage company.


Then the Chinese also have robots? I haven't read those two works of fiction, maybe you could expand on what you think happens?


Society just ends up owning a bunch of obsolete tools whose products are of no interest to any consumer.


shitty jobs will disappear first (robots/automation will take care of it)... and if universal income becomes needed, it will be paid for by the robot-taxes.


The problem with Marxism is that in many of the places where it's been implemented in earnest, it's killed millions of people. Think of Russia under Stalin, China under Mao, and Cambodia under Pol Pot.

People try to rehabilitate Marxism every so often, but the problem of the murderous regime pops up again and again, for a simple reason: when the state arrogates to itself enough power to remake society according to some Marxian vision, it opens the door for abuses far worse than anything Amazon will ever perpetrate.

Are you sure you're not thinking about Social Democracy instead?


> The problem with Marxism is that in many of the places where it's been implemented in earnest, it's killed millions of people.

That’s the problem with Leninism.

The (biggest; there are others but this prevents even useful discussion of those) problem with Marxism is that people (even those who oppose Leninism and disbelieve everything else associated with it) accept Leninism’s propaganda that it is Marxism, rather than a system which adopts the rhetoric and stated end goals of Marxism, but abandons both it's mechanisms and explicit preconditions.


All Lenin did was decide that the dictatorship of the proletariat should be headed by an actual dictator. It's kind of an inevitable conclusion, given where he was starting from and some of the realities of people working in groups.

You are, of course, free to say that the murderous regimes that have popped up again and again are not the true Marxism. But then you have to explain why the false Marxism has appeared so often, and then to explain, given that millions of lives could be at stake, how to prevent a recurrence.


> All Lenin did was decide that the dictatorship of the proletariat should be headed by an actual dictator.

That's only a small piece of vanguardism, which while it is a big change isn't the only significant change (and is, in fact, an adaptation to the fundamental change, which is abandoning the prerequisite of the development of a broad working class identity under developed capitalism.)

> You are, of course, free to say that the murderous regimes that have popped up again and again are not the true Marxism.

Well, I mean its self-evident true, and I didn't need your permission, but thanks.

> But then you have to explain why the false Marxism has appeared so often

I don't see why I should, since I am not advocating Marxism and, even if I was, the reason a system designed to be workable and leverage existing dissatisfaction in undeveloped, precapitalist conditions keeps doing so is neither nonobvious nor germane to discussing the merits of a different system in the developed world. Leninism has done horrible things in the environments which it was carefully crafted to thrive in, but even with the assist given by it's opponents fear mongering equivalence-drawing that painted all opposition to capitalism as equivalent to Leninism, it's done stunningly poorly at gaining any traction in places that don't have he conditions for which it was adapted from Marxism.


Ayup, lets remember that the original councils of soviets in Russia were overthrown by the bolsheviks and dissolved when they came to power.


Indeed. All power to the soviets!


That's not the problem with Marxism.


If you're going to play that game, you can very easily make a case (and probably a much stronger one) that capitalism's body-count is much, much higher. For starters, you'd have to credit it with the extermination of the Native Americans, the blood-soaked history of 19th century European colonialism, and the First World War.


Dude, this isn't a game. Show some respect for the dead.

You're comparing apples to oranges here. The crimes you mention are all about subjugation of or violence against foreigners. Ill will towards foreigners is the human ur-prejudice -- it's older than our species, in fact. Giving in to this prejudice is something that could have happened under any politico-economic system. It happened under capitalism because capitalism is what we had then. If the world becomes a Marxist utopia tomorrow, and we travel to the stars, and find technologically underdeveloped aliens, it will happen then under Marxism too. It was certainly the case that the Soviet citizenry, however far advanced along the road to true communism they actually were, were perfectly happy to join the Red Army and oppress the hell out of the people of Eastern Europe for fifty years. And they did it they were told they were protecting the world from imperialism from the West!

The problem with Marxism that I'm talking about is much more specific. Communist leaders have a habit of liquidating populations that they deem insufficiently loyal. That's why Stalin killed the kulaks, Mao killed the educated middle class, and Pol Pot ordered the killing fields. Under capitalism there is no comparable tradition of massacring political enemies. And since political enemies are going to be a fact of life under any political system, thoughtful Marxists should worry a lot about how to protect them from the attentions of the state.


> Under capitalism there is no comparable tradition of massacring political enemies

Are you saying there has never been a dictatorship or authoritarian government with a capitalist economy?

Capitalism and socialism are economic systems, not necessarily ways of organizing a government. You can have capitalism with or without democracy. Democracy is the true tool against authoritarianism, not capitalism. And I don't think the people in this thread that are arguing on behalf of marxism want to do away with democracy.


I'm crimes I'm talking about all come from the rapacious desire for either land to speculate on or new markets to exploit, both of which are quintessentially capitalist in character.

Again, to play this game, we could just as easily say that your crimes are all about authoritarian dominance hierarchies, which certainly occur under capitalism, as well (how many people did Pinochet throw out of helicopters?)


I would not call the army conquest of land a result of capitalism...


or learn electronics and coding and be the guy/person who fixes the robot.


This is such a massive oversimplification as to be ridiculous, and it's so rampant in these discussions. Even if every person working a factory floor job was capable of doing this: They aren't supported whatsoever through such a transition, meaning minimum 2 years of living on basically savings, something most people who know "electronics and coding" would have a hard time doing, let alone someone on the poverty line, and the few who manage to do it, say five, can now oversee all four hundred machines that replaced them and their former coworkers. And all of that isn't even going into the fact that they machines they'd be maintaining in your ideal dream world are probably an ocean away being maintained by people who know that skillset already working for slave wages.


Yes, though that doesn't fix "the problem", only puts you on the better side of it.


When these robots arrive, you will most likely have plug and play electronics inside. There will be no user serviceable parts inside.


Without a fair amount of equipment there isn't that much that's user serviceable in modern electronics.

I was mulling that today as I worked on C# code to talk to a Sony camera over WiFi via JSON-RPC.

The fact that this unit has a wireless adapter, an entire TCP/IP stack and a webserver that can parse/generate JSON.

Basically the camera has processing power hundreds likely thousands of times more powerful than my PC and if it breaks there isn't anything on it that would likely be fixable with a soldering iron.


That's a naive way of thinking about economics, finance, and business. Marxism will never work. You can have robots that increase profit and decrease costs for customers at the same time. Take autonomous driving, for example - it can be both profitable and affordable at the same time, meaning that the average person will be better off.

https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/general-motors/2017/1...

The average working class American is financing their car. The average car payment is now an insane $500 per month. Over the average working career, that type of monthly payment represents a multi million dollar net worth at retirement. So if people are afraid of shitty jobs, they should prioritize wise financial decisions over short-term spending so that they can build their wealth and get leverage over shitty employment opportunities.


>The average working class American is financing their car. The average car payment is now an insane $500 per month. Over the average working career, that type of monthly payment represents a multi million dollar net worth at retirement.

This is completely wrong.

1. $500 is the average, averages are easily distorted by outliers. Most people who are worried about shitty jobs don't have $500 a month car payments.

2. Not spending $500 a month on a car doesn't mean you get $500 to invest. Most people need to spend > $0 on transportation.

3. $500 a month doesn't get you a multi-million dollar net worth. $500 a month at a realistic 7% gets you $1.2 million in 40 years. A more realistic $300 a month (from financing a cheaper car) gets you $700k.

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