We have a strange complaint about Jeff Bezos and Amazon here – that the company kills retail jobs by being more efficient. Well, yes, it does, that’s the very thing which makes us all richer over time, killing jobs. This is actually the great and grand economic task, to kill jobs, to reduce the amount of human labour that is required to meet any particular one of our wants or desires. The why it makes us richer is that this frees up labor to then go off and sate some other of our desires or wants. This thus is anti-economic drivel:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The death of the British high street is only making Jeff Bezos richer[/perfectpullquote]
Sure. But it’s also making all of us richer. Precisely because it’s killing off all those High Street retail jobs:[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] For those who argue that Bezos’s empire has grown too powerful, he has a powerful response: people love Amazon. Bezos has industrialised instant gratification and we cannot get enough of it. But it has come at a cost. The retail industry is Britain’s largest source of private sector jobs. A spate of collapses in the first half of 2018 — including Toys R Us, Poundworld and Maplin Electronics — contributed to 85,000 workers being left without a job. HMV collapsed days after Christmas last month with more chains expected to follow. The Centre for Retail Research estimates that 164,100 retail jobs will be lost this year. [/perfectpullquote]
We desire retail services. We also have a scarce resource to provide them. Of course, all economic resources are scarce, that’s the definition of them. If it’s not scarce then it’s not an economic resource. And human labour is indeed an economic resources, it’s scarce. There are 7 billion of us out here but we still can’t supply everything to everyone that can be done with human labour. Some things – say, tending to the elderly – are not done or done skimpily because we’ve just not got enough hands to do it.
So, along comes a new technology to supply those retail services. Amazon is indeed exactly such a technology. The complaint is that Amazon uses less human labour to provide those retail services. Excellent, isn’t it? That means that we’ve now freed up some of the human workforce that used to provide retail services to tend to the elderly. We’re richer by whatever value we put on the elderly being tended to.
Or, of course, whatever else it is that those former shop clerks now go and do. Ballet, teaching, bashing tin perhaps. We’ve skimped on a scarce resource in sating one human desire meaning we’ve the resources to sate another.
Amazon kills jobs, it most surely does, and ain’t it absolutely grand?