The New York Times has recently portrayed Amazon as a workplace somewhere between the first circle of hell and a bad section of purgatory, with harsh supervisors and backbiting colleagues that are the inevitable consequence of the company’s management practices. I did not need Jeff Bezos’s demurral to doubt the accuracy of portrait. In a company this large, there will always be bad supervisors, intriguing colleagues and disgruntled employees that can support a lot of wild anecdotes. And the New York Times, a newspaper that even a former ombudsman has admitted is on the left, has an agenda of attacking business the better to justify an intrusive state.
But let us suppose for moment that the Times portrait is more accurate than Bezos’s denial that overall these anecdotes capture the reality of the company. Is it really any cause for concern? The employees chose to work there and can leave at any time: it is not a case of indentured servitude. The white collar jobs portrayed here pay good wages. And most important of all, we have a competitive labor market that serves the needs of employees and consumers alike. Even the Times’ description shows that many employees find the culture empowering and thrilling. Some employees stay for a long period. Others use the skills they learn to start their own businesses. It may well make perfect sense for some people to endure upfront unpleasantness—even of the kind that leads to occasional tears—to gain discipline and knowledge that will later stand them in good stead.
And the result is excellent for consumers. I am sure I am not alone in finding Amazon to be the emporium of dreams.
Interesting things are happening at the Washington Post. 1. The Volokh Conspiracy has moved to the Post’s website. 2. Libertarian reporter/blogger Radley Balko has moved to the Post. 3. Ezra Klein, an influential progressive columnist/blogger is leaving the Post. Together, these represent a significant change in the Post’s website from progressivism towards libertarianism. It is true that the Post, although a clearly liberal newspaper, has included conservative voices among its columnists, such as George Will and Charles Krauthammer. But this appears to be a move towards libertarians on the web. The most obvious explanation for the change is that Jeff Bezos is changing the direction of…