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I Am Bezos (iambezos.com)
136 points by diimdeep 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 116 comments

I am torn on this kind of subject.

On the one hand, this amount of money is ludicrous. However, he did put in both the work and the risks to get it.

The real problem to me is the fact that this money will get down to his descendants, who will have done nothing more than be born.

We all are born with our own stars, some better than other (and I definitely count myself among the lucky ones), but it's being born into this kind of wealth that is disturbing to me, making it for yourself not so much (depending on how you made it of course)

>>The real problem to me is the fact that this money will get down to his descendants, who will have done nothing more than be born.

I always look at it from the opposite side - it's my choice to leave my money that I made to my descendants. If I didn't want to do it, I would have donated it or spent it on stuff, or simply written them out of my will. So yes, maybe they didn't do anything to "earn" it but it is my choice to give it to them - just like we pay for our children's education and clothing and buy them presents and gifts, one should be free to chose to leave them a massive pile of money. That money should probably be taxed, sure, but if we approach it from the angle of "should I be free to leave my descendants inheritance" then I think the answer is a resounding yes.

> but if we approach it from the angle of "should I be free to leave my descendants inheritance" then I think the answer is a resounding yes.

Is the answer a resounding "yes"? I don't see why it should be. There are many ways in which we restrict freedom in order to have better social cohesion (e.g. fraud is illegal). If inherited wealth creates social problems through distorting, over generations, access to opportunity and unbalanced political power, then of course we should restrict the ability to pass wealth down generations.

It is very clear that inheritance allows accumulation of wealth (and therefore political power) beyond what a single human would (normally) accumulate (because of access to opportunities, starting from well above zero, etc.). This is clearly bad for society (reduces opportunity etc.). Therefore we should restrict it.

Are you against all inheritance? Or inheritance only above a certain level? Because I honestly, hand on heart, cannot see anything wrong with the idea that if I worked hard and have a house + some savings, I should be able to give it to my children just so they don't have to spend 30 years of their lives paying off a mortgage. It's my gift to them. How is that different than gifting them a laptop or a car, except for the scale of the gift?

I can see the argument for extreme taxation above certain levels, so you don't end up with effectively dynasties snowballing all wealth, but the level above which I'd restrict it is so high it would be maybe in thousands of people. Other than those extreme high levels of wealth, I think you should be able to leave to your kids whatever you want to leave(again, not against taxation on it etc).

This is against the grain, but I am against inheritance. It seems most egalitarian for us all to start at the same level. I would of course like the "lower bound" to be much higher than the state currently provides, but that's a different issue.

In The History of Western Philosopy, Bertrand Russell made an observation (to which I'm parapharsing):

In modern society, we have come to expect, almost demand, and seem to inherently know it is best that no political power be transferred by heredity. Curiously, we have not made the same conclusion with economic power.

If not inheritance how do you feel about parents spending on their kids (and grand kids and great grand kids and nieces and uncles ...) directly? Not being sarcastic. No money, No problems applies to me so I myself am trying to find where Id fall if I ever came to this kind of wealth!

Another related aspect to consider is that it's really not very hard for the wealthy to create an inheritance-like legal vehicle even without special cases like trusts.

Should it be legal to contract with someone that you will give them $1B now, and they will provide each of your descendants at least $X/year (or guaranteed job, housing, etc.) for the next 50 years? If this kind of contract remains legal — and I don't see how you could make it illegal without stomping on a lot of contract principles — then the only thing we're really changing is the timing and quantity of taxation.

Allowing inheritance makes intergenerational economic development possible for far more than the ultra-rich (who could already do it anyway). That doesn't mean taxation policy shouldn't be considered, of course.

Just how collectivist would you like the United States to become?

I don't live in the United States, so don't really care that much what happens there to be honest. There are a lot of assumptions (and lazy labels) being used in this debate, and many models exist in which you don't have such extremes of wealth, and it's not all passed down. Attitudes to inheritance vary widely (look at the difference between attitudes in the UK and Sweden, for example).

If you really want my personal view (which I'm not sure of given the phrasing of the question): I would prefer to see a system where people have the opportunity to create great things, but in which their opportunities are not tightly constrained by what their parents did. I'd also like to see a system where we didn't have such gaping wealth inequality as it creates political inequality (and health inequality, etc.). This does not translate as me wanting (insert country) to become "collectivist" as much as wanting a different balance.

Probably the question is not wether inheritance should be allowed or not, but how much. Let's cap it at 100 * median yearly salary? Or tax the rest, or whatever.

Or tax it once and for all while it's "earned". (Make tax rate wealth dependent above a certain line?)

There are plenty of policy possibilities to explore that are redistributive and not binary.

> On the one hand, this amount of money is ludicrous. However, he did put in both the work and the risks to get it.

Did he? Don't get me wrong, I think if he's earning that amount of money and legally, then he deserve it... but I don't think he's the only one putting "both the work and the risks to get it". If any, is the sum of every (exploted) Amazon employee that makes possible to Bezos to make that amount of money.

He made a lot of good decisions. It was unlikely that an outsider would become the world's largest retailer, because others were there with existing infrastructure and knowledge, especially mail order retailers like Sears in the US or Otto in Germany. But they missed the boat. All they had to do was to transfer their catalogue to the internet and expand. But somehow they failed and a nerd with an online bookstore grew bigger and bigger because he understood the internet much better. Oh, and the mail order businesses were no angels, either. Otto has been running its own logistics company since the seventies and they are not particularly famous for high salaries.

Of course, there are lots of people at Amazon who work hard and/or smart, but without the guy at the top making the right decisions, it does not work.

Does it mean Jeff Bezos deserves to be THAT rich? I dunno.

I think it's useful to realize this isn't a binary question, in almost any sense:

1. As you said, the amount of luck you are born with makes a huge difference in how much you "deserve" the money, for some definition of deserve.

2. Part of this luck includes things like your intelligence, ability to work, energy levels, etc, risk tolerance, all of which is (partially) genetic, and contributes to the whole "he put in lots of work" part of the equation. So even for that, you can't really give him sole "credit".

3. And obviously, the society he lives in paved the way for lots of this success, in so many different ways (not least of which is creating the internet in the first place).

4. Then again, we don't have to say "well he did the hard work, so he should reap 100% of the benefits". In fact, we don't say that - we tax him quite a bit, so that not 100% of his money goes to his descendants, rather part of it goes to maintaining society, helping poorer people, etc.

5. Worth mentioning that "put in the hard work" is one framing of what he did - but I'd personally prefer framing it as "created a huge amount of value for other people, worth so much money, and he got some percentage of that.

6. Of course other people might disagree with point 5, or at least want to point out that part of the value created was possibly do to exploitation (I mostly disagree with this framing - not saying there was or wasn't exploitation, but I think at a minimum you have to acknowledge that Amazon did provide a lot of value to a lot of people, way more than the insanely large amount of money that Bezos has).

I mention all the above, because I think it's useful to reframe things from moralistic question of "what someone deserves" in an abstract sense, to the much more practically relevant question of "someone created some amount of value, got to extract some (smaller) part of that value, how much of what they extracted do we want to take and spread around society, versus how much do we want them to keep?". That is usually the actual question facing voters/lawmakers, and has lots of ramifications, but is much more concrete, and more easily lends itself to optimization.

Western society is very individualistic, and so this kind of reasoning makes sense.

But let's say you view the world like you are part of a family tree. The farmer makes sure he works hard to give his kids an education. The educated kid finds a well paying job, but notices that the real money is when you run your own business. He sets his kid up with starting capital to run his own business.

If you look at the world like this, is it still wrong that you try to give your kids an advantage? It's of course up to the kids to either waste it or build something meaningful. But I don't think you want to discard any benefit that a parent tries to give their kid.

If by "risks" you mean subverting the law, then yes he did "earn" this money.


>The real problem to me is the fact that this money will get down to his descendants, who will have done nothing more than be born.

Well, then wait until you hear how much his ex wife got after divorcing... At least he chooses to give the money to his children or not—regarding his ex wife, he had no choice at all.

Come on, you don’t need to be a Marxist to realize Amazon is enabled by thousands of exploited grunts.

I feel like it's such a small step to go from recognizing this to accepting that all labor under capitalism is exploitation. Some less than others for sure, but ultimately wealth and power flow up and the workers of the country (world) have no say in that. We don't get to capture the full value of our labor.

He didn't put in work worth 100b dollars.

Imagine you bake cakes by hand, how many can you make? Few dozen a day? Imagine that you then put together a machine that automatically makes cakes - thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of cakes a day. It was your idea, and sure, other people helped make it, but you initiated the machine building process. You now have a warehouse with million of cakes in it - would you also argue that you didn't put in the work to have them, since they weren't made by hand?

Bezos built an empire. And like all empires, they are built by other people. But it's Bezos who started it.

Even in your customtailored analogy, the dude who is wasting cake-making supplies on an unprecedented level to just hoard them up in a warehouse is definitely in the wrong.

Thanks for the pre-school analogy, but I still think it is wrong for one person to control 100b dollars of assets/wealth. Someone being a founder doesn't really translate to any meaningful explanation of why they should have this much power.

Not to say I agree or disagree with you, but I believe you're talking about different things.

1. Did he do work worth 100b usd?

2. Should this mean he controls 100b dollars of assets/wealth and/or have this much power.

I'd actually state 2 more specifically- should having control of 100b dollars give someone so much power

(3. An alternative point that many people state: should people who have much less than the average have such poor lives in comparison to what is achievable.)

I probably fall on different answers to the above questions than you, but I think it's helpful to separate out the various different statements that are being made here, at least as I see it.

If I make an invention that provides $1000 value to 100 million people, the work i put in is worth $100B. It doesn't matter if i did that in a day or decade.

Sure. The point being that Bezos didn't do that. He did provide value and should be filthy rich, but not $200 billion rich. Much of his wealth is unfairly extracted from others he exploited. If he treated every employee humanely and gave them salaries roughly corresponding to the value they provided, he might only be worth $100 million instead of $200 billion.

What "invention" are we talking about actually? Amazon was simply the first to grab an emerging market. If there was no Bezos, someone else would have made the same thing soon anyway. It was just a matter of being fast to act and having resources to invest, no more no less.

It would be unjust—nay, it would be abusive if we didn't let bezos make this much

But I can click a button and a book and a computer and a pair of scissors show up, giving me free time for things I want to do.

And this happens for more people than I can even imagine.

I assume since he's handing over some of the responsibility that he might do something beneficial to the human race with his money.

C'mon, he put in at least 4 dollars worth of work.

True, but he did create value worth 100b.

Why does it matter how much you suffer or work or whatever? It's all about results.

Is it fair? No idea, but that is how the world works. If you don't agree, you can take a look at societies that value the work inputted, such as communism. But in the end the real world cares about value, not work.

Where were you born and raised?

This is sensationalist.

It's based on net worth, not income. But net worth of billionaires is incredibly inflated by the way we measure it.

Bezos' net worth is based on the stock value of Amazon, and is based on taking the _highest_ price someone is willing to buy 1, _one_, share of Amazon and multiplying it by the amount of shares Bezos has.

No one is willing to pay 200 billion dollars for Bezos' shares, and saying they are worth 200 billion is simply false.

His net worth is dependent entirely on other people being willing to give him money for his Amazon shares, and that is dependent entirely on the value Amazon brings to its customers, or how willing people are to give Amazon money for Amazons services.

Now, if Bezos decided to sell all his shares for cash he could surely get billions for them, as Amazon is generating incredible value, but not 200 billion.

I agree with you that it's not accurate, but you're also missing the forest for the trees.

Let's say no one is willing to buy all those shares for $200B, ok, but do you think he could find a buyer at $50B? Probably several.

So just divide the number on the website by 4, does that really change anything?

I think the first two statements would still stand:

> This is sensationalist. > It's based on net worth, not income. But net worth of billionaires is incredibly inflated by the way we measure it.

That being said, I also think that this inequality increase is a problem for the society as a whole. However I haven't heard yet about a concrete and satisfactory solution/measure to tackle it and that would be effective.

I am consistently surprised at how anti-inequality activists return, again and again, to the same tactic of restating the numerical and relative degree of wealth inequality. Like how, every new year, the media publishes the same stories about how Bill Gates / Jeff Bezos / Elon Musk (or whoever the latest richest person is) has earned more than the average person's yearly salary in x number of minutes. This happens despite the repeated, abject failure of this tactic over the past decades to help their cause and create a mass consensus in favour of stronger redistributional measures.

It seems to be a common anti-pattern of political activism across the spectrum: Things that are so intrinsically outrageous to activists that they assume their reaction is universal, and that simple exposure to the facts will be enough to convert others.

I find the public opinion has change drastically - nowadays pretty much everyone I socialize with agree the current and growing wealth inequality is absurd and unsustainable.

Large numbers are very difficult to understand, which is why I think things like this website works.

I think that I agree with the overall sentiment but this

> abject failure of this tactic over the past decades to help their cause

There isn't a consistent "they" that have a cause. It's a sentiment that moves through society. The people who are outraged about billionaires on the internet today weren't even born a couple of decades ago.

The way I see it I'd rather live in the place where someone can be that wealthy than a place where it is not possible for someone to be that wealthy. Basically it's better that at least some one can and has made it that big than no one at all.

Is it the ability for the one person who makes it this big to buy their way out of following the law that's appealing?

For me, I like that this amount of wealth depends on exploiting people who aren't as good as I am. It makes me feel like I am winning.

> This happens despite the repeated, abject failure of this tactic over the past decades to help their cause

How do you measure this? Socialism hasn't taken over, thus it didn't help their cause? There are many factors at play, so you can't make and simple conclusions about a single strategy like this.

They should have used fixed-width font to avoid the annoying fidgeting of the number as it changes.

actually, there's also `font-variant-numeric: tabular-nums;` if you want to keep the same font (if that feature is supported)

Not in Exo, unfortunately.

Normally, I'd agree. However, in this case it might actually be beneficial to not add fixed-width, since the overall goal is that is should clearly be changing all the time.

Yeah, that's one of my pet peeves too for anything displaying columns of numbers, or a changing number. I heard of "font-variant-numeric: tabular-nums", but is there actually any reason for font designers to not make all numbers the same width by default? For me it's clearly a case of "aesthetics over functionality"...

Not all functions require fixed-width. E.g, I had the page open for a very little bit and it reached a point where the net worth was around $32,674. The function of showing numbers in this comment does not require fixed width. Aesthetics and readability are more important. Both of those are subjective traits. You can optimise for a particular group's aesthetic tastes, or a particular group's readability. Whether or not that requires fixed-width or not is not something I'm able to comment on, however.

Using monospaced when not necessary feels weird, because everything is unnaturally spaced too wide. Some do like the "typewriter" vibe, but in my experience most do not, and that's why fonts have variable spacing.

That's also why most monospaced fonts (and typewriters) tended to make letters such as 'i' or 'l' larger, not only for clarity, but also to fill up the ugly blank space around them. That's also important due to the fact that a blank space has it's own semantical meaning.

I was only talking about numbers, where this issue only applies to the "1" - all other numbers take up more or less the same space.

If you only make numbers monospace they stand out in a big block of text. You break up the ‘texture’, so to speak. Usually the designer doesn’t want that.

...and align the number to the right.

In a way are all Jeff Bezos, because Jeff Bezos isn’t just a numerical figure on a web site, Jeff Bezos is there in your heart. And in your TV. And your phone. And your doorbell. And your kid’s classroom computer. And that Prime golf shirt. And...

Bezos has earned this rate of increase in net worth. Further, he's so much more capable of happiness than the average person, and having a lot of money makes him happy.

It would be unjust—nay, it would be abusive if we didn't let bezos make this much

Took me longer than it should’ve for me to recognise the Utility Monster under the bed.


We could elect people who choose to tax the rich

If Bezos gave all his net worth away by distributing it equally among the world population, everybody (except one) would be about 25$ richer. How many problems would that solve? (Genuine question)

You can't refute one extreme with another. How about increased meritocracy across the board among those involved in creation of the value.

For most developed countries not much but I suspect those living off of a couple dollars a day would very much appreciate it


Great visualization on how crazy reality can be.

You didn't see the visualization of Bezos working.

I'm sure in the 5 minutes I had that page open Bezos worked as hard as I do in a full year, or as the average Chinese person does in their lifetime :D

Less than a minute to reach a year for me.

This is confusing. I couldn't tell what it was counting.

"Change in Net Worth" or something would make it clearer. But it's still not great.

"Money earned"

Except both "money" and "earned" are debatable. Net worth isn't all liquid, and whether it's "earned" seems to be the entire point of the website.

That doesn't make any sense. It's not like he could offload all his shares at the market price.

"earned" is tricky, though.

I love such websites. The inequality between the super rich and nearly all people is just enormous. It‘s not a critic on the inequality itself but one should understand what it really means. It‘s the difference between linear and exponential. He makes more than me in my whole life during my visit to the toilet.

So Jeff Bezos has made a site to show how rich he is, but then he wants us to "buy him a coffee"?

One of the things that pushed me to cut down on my reddit consumption was how often you see people complaining about rich people or the "billionaires shouldn't exist" sentiment. I find it both concerning and not very well thought out.

Completely frivolous (and OT) rant: am I the only one who is super bothered by the fact that the "money counter" isn't in a monospaced font? I hate how it bobbles around every time a number changes.

Waited to earned 1c as minimum wage worker and then switched to bezos.

Wow this is depressing.

The amount of time it takes to reach the final number is infuriating

This is fun to watch, in the time it took to look at another article, the number that appeared was double what I make in a year.

If I had to bet, I'd say Bezos's wealth won't increase today. Amazon is -2.35% in pre-market right now. He will instead probably lose more than any of us has ever made.

I get the idea of the counter but it gives a little too simplified view. There's still risk involved even with Amazon.

I think your talking about his share holding. His compensation when that is excluded is still fairly high, (when all the perks are included).


Oh I agree, the counter is a nice novelty toy but I know its not realistic. I'm comfortable with what I make and what I invest in, at some point there is such a thing as too much money for a single person (not a social statement, just a statement about my situation).

Risk of not being able to afford food, rent, or (in the US) healthcare, for the average person: High

Risk for Bezos: None

> There's still risk involved even with Amazon.

I'd be willing to take way bigger risks with $100B to my name.

Bezos did not have $100B in his name when he took the risk of founding Amazon.

Please add one more counter : "How much money I lost by looking at other rich people's money go up!"

The page doesn't contain a lot of information, but still it manages to contradict itself:

- upper left corner: "I am Jeff Bezos"

- middle: "see how much $$$ I earn while you are looking at this page"

- lower right corner: "buy me a coffee"

[EDIT] Note to self: if I ever do something like this and want to collect donations for it, pick a project where I'm not pretending be one of the world's richest persons :)

Its a simple fun project someone did probably over a weekend.

No need to shit on it.

Sorry if my comment sounds overly critical, I edited it now to try to tone it down...

my cheapskate brother in law would probably say you don't get rich by buying your own coffee.

you actually lose some because you pay taxes, don't you?

But imagine that it allows to buy Bezos a coffee, kind of postirony right there.

I don't understand how the page contradicts itself?

Click on the upper left corner.

This is slower than I thought. I need to wait MINUTES to buy a top tier apartment in my city. /-:

He's made millions in the week I spent studying for an Amazon interview. neat!

What’s the formula here?

  INSANE_WAGE_PER_HOUR / 3600 * (Data.now() - starttime) / 1000

Well obviously I'm more interested in the INSANE_WAGE_PER_HOUR formula

Does anyone else feels like the hating on the rich is more rampant then ever?

The french royal family would like to have a word

How about we stop coveting our neighbor's wealth?

Maybe if we focused on what you have to do to get this much money rather than who you have to be.

Yes. Right after our neighbour starts paying taxes.

The names listed here pay more taxes than anyone.

Ah yes, because any criticism on the current wealth distribution must be born out of jealousy. There are no other possibilities.

don't forget economic illiteracy, that has a component too

I don't think there's a clearer case for a wealth tax than Jeff Bezos.

Bezos successfully monetized the internet. Kudos for him, and it deserves great rewards, but enough rewards to become the richest man in the world? Shouldn't a large part of the rewards go to the people who invented and created the internet, in large part the DoD and other government funded institutions. How about that randum person in Nebraska? (https://xkcd.com/2347/) How about all of those open source products Amazon depends on?

I Am Weasel.

What I actually have in common with Jeff Bezos is that I am driving a reasonably priced Japanese car, just like he did in 1999 whet he was already worth around 10 billion dollars. And I am perfectly happy with that.

And? Open your own business and make money.

"You'll never get rich working for someone else" may be true, but it doesn't mean working for yourself is a ticket to riches

Thousands of people (many on HN) have got rich working for FAANG over the last 10 years.

....I should've just invested my College tuition in AAPL, would be a millionaire now. It's a wierd world.

So the ones that became successful should be made to suffer to make your feel better?

seems easy. why nobody thinks about it?

- Some people do think about it.

- Some people aren't interested in that kind of life.

- Some of the people who are interested don't have the aptitude for it.

- Some of the people who are interested and have the aptitude, don't get lucky enough to make it.

- Even if everyone was interested, capable and lucky, you can't have an economy where everyone is an entrepeneur.

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