Amazon’s Welfare-Based Prime Membership is Anti-Capitalist

They should change their mission statement to: Punishing success, Rewarding failure.

Amazon has recently come out with a new promotion: if you have a government issued debit card for welfare benefits, your Amazon Prime membership will be $5.99 instead of the original rate of $10.99. The program’s supporters are claiming that it is supposed to equalize access to the savings that they otherwise wouldn’t receive. Although the program is based on voluntary exchange, it is important to highlight and criticize the anti-capitalist philosophy of such a program.

“If you are unable to produce value at a rate that would give you products otherwise out of reach, we will reward you!” or “Have you failed creating enough wealth to get what you want? No problem! We will use other people’s money to subsidize your desires.” are a few ways of stating this philosophy. More simply, it could be stated that this is a philosophy that punishes success and rewards failure.

Capitalism is based, in part, in rewarding individuals who produce and who create; individuals with a forward thinking vision. We look up to the Nikola Tesla’s and the Steve Job’s. They created products we consume now, decades before anyone had a concept of their ideas. They brought them into existence and reaped the benefits of the struggle to make it possible.

Amazon, with this new welfare-based membership, is claiming that to be wrong.

“More people deserve the benefits of these savings!” is what they declare, without any thought as to who supplied the wealth for Prime Membership to be possible in the first place. What Amazon is doing, rather than trying to lift people away from the reliance upon the state, is rewarding behavior that found people in that state in the first place. Why would a company, almost single-handedly responsible for the beautiful destruction of brick-and-mortar stores, make such a contradiction in their philosophy? The question might not be answerable, but certainly Amazon faces social pressures both externally and presumably internally.

What we do know is that this program is meant to punish success and reward failure. So, what would happen if the successful decided that they would no longer be punished for their success, that they would no longer subsidize the welfare recipients’ Prime membership?

A collapse of the entire Prime Membership program.

Welfare programs, like the new Prime program, are based entirely on the willingness of the victims (the successful) to take accept the sanction of the perpetrators (the unsuccessful). In other words, the whole system collapses once the successful realize they are the good and refused to subsidize failed, or bad, behavior.

This new program is meant to be a system of equality, but at what duty and at what price? Amazon answered this: at the duty to the unsuccessful and at the price of sanctioning the successful. Although the system is entirely voluntary and is still economically capitalist, the virtues surrounding the entire program is based in anti-capitalist virtues, virtues meant to strangle the success of others for the sake of those who have been unsuccessful.


One Comment

  1. Andy Hundley

    Although I agree that the philosophy of this new program is inherently redistributionist, I disagree that the program is bad because of it. Anyone can choose to start or stop their membership at anytime, and full payers’ services (most likely) will not be reduced. Those who pay full are paying a consensual and agreed upon amount for consensual and agreed upon services. The way I see it, the company itself is taking a financial risk by offering services at a lower price to some. That risk doesn’t translate to the consumer, in my opinion. Although this piece envisions a grand “atlas shrugging,” one must remember that the successful entered into this transaction willingly, just as they do have the right to exit it.

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