Exploring the damage Amazon has done

A price too high to pay

In MacGillis’ view, the price our society has paid for the convenience and low prices Amazon offers is onerous. Government treasuries impoverished by lavish tax concessions to Amazon. Cruel and often dangerous working conditions in the company’s hundreds of fulfillment centers and other facilities where goods are prepared for delivery. Draconian anti-union policies that lead Amazon to fire employees at the merest hint of interest in organizing. Retail merchants forced into bankruptcy by online prices driven artificially low by Chinese counterfeits. And a spike in the opioid epidemic as workers struggle with the monotony and accelerated pace of operations. Overall, the damage Amazon has done is appalling.

Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America by Alec MacGillis (2021) 402 pages ★★★★★

An Amazon fulfillment center in North Carolina. Image: Winston-Salem Journal

The damage Amazon has done illuminates a larger trend

Yet Fulfillment is far more than a catalogue of Amazon’s sins. MacGillis views the company’s success within the context of a large and troubling trend. “By 2019,” he writes, “more than 70 percent of all venture capital was flowing to just three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts.” The digital revolution, in which Amazon plays such a prominent role, has exacerbated regional inequality.

About the author

Alec MacGillis. Image: American Academy in Berlin

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