You Are Jeff Bezos

A Choose Your Own Adventure Game

When you wake up this morning from unsettling dreams, you find yourself changed in your bed into a monstrous vermin.

  • You are Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos' employees are now your employees. His money is now your money. Nothing you say or do will convince anyone you are not Jeff Bezos, even his closest friends and family.

What do you do?

  • I go to the bathroom.
  • I scream and sob with terror over this unnatural event.
  • I spend all his fucking money.

You go to the bathroom. It takes you about nine minutes to do all your business. You flush the toilet, because any game with a bathroom that does not allow you to flush the toilet is not a real game.

In that nine minutes, you, Jeff Bezos, make $540,000. That's more than nine times an American's average annual salary and 20 times the median salary of an Amazon employee.

  • Jesus christ.
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26 Responses:

  1. pagrus says:

    I keep getting the bad ending, GameFAQs is no help

  2. MattyJ says:

    I had to stop playing when I ended on 'You are Elon Musk'. I couldn't risk going through that again.

  3. Perry says:

    I always thought that envy was a vice, not a virtue, but I guess people are into reveling in it anyway.

    • NT says:

      It's ok if you pretend that you're somehow a better person than the people you envy.
      I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because my decisions don't have any consequences worth tweeting about.

      • Perry says:

        > It's ok if you pretend that you're somehow a better person than the people you envy.

        Lets put an emphasis on "pretend". I've found fairly few of the "Eat the Rich!" crowd who are actually virtuous, but boy do they do a good job getting angry with others for the "crime" of having earned more money. Such people also pretend it is a virtue to criticize business people for existing, and rich people for having their money, as though it was all a zero sum game, which of course it isn't — the game isn't even remotely zero sum. The world's total supply of goods and services is not, after all, fixed, so it is not the case that one person having more means another has less.

        Many of these casual public adherents to legitimized public expressions of envy are even fairly rich people themselves, even have businesses, but naturally they think of themselves as virtuous and anyone who has more money than them as being remarkably evil, or at least, so they proclaim in public. Somehow their own stores and restaurants and factories and the like aren't evil, though, only other people's are. ("I run a nice honest business, but he's got more money than me, so he must be terribly, terribly bad" certainly reads a great deal like envy.)

        There are, of course, societies that do operate on a zero sum principle, and those are precisely the societies where most such upper class critics of other people earning money would find themselves imprisoned for having even the "modest" businesses they themselves own. Those societies are also generally desperate and poor. (Many such people were happily chirping about how great Hugo Chávez was and how wonderful Venezuela was even past the point where it became obvious that starvation was beginning in a country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world. I've heard few to no retractions from the former admirers, many even claim that the Bolivarian paradise Chávez was building has somehow been ruined by foreigners, but the mechanisms they propose for this are universally implausible.)

        Anyway, I find it interesting that people complain about others for no better reason than that they earn some large amount of money per minute, as though this was in itself a reason to think they were somehow bad.

        Again, envy is a really, really ugly emotion, and this reads as nothing more than the sort of envy we usually try to teach children not to indulge in, but it seems that at least at the moment, we have political movements (on both sides of the supposed political divide) who anchor their entire program in the basest possible human emotions: envy, fear of people unlike themselves, dehumanization of those judged to be members of outgroups, etc. This tendency appears both among the "build a wall and make Mexico pay for it!" types and among members of the "eat the rich!" crowd, though remarkably each believes that only the other exhibits such abhorrent beliefs.

        I'm sure I'll now be told that it's different here, but everyone claims their own vices are not actually vices and that the people they mindlessly hate deserve it. No one ever admits there's something wrong with their own views. No one ever cops to having base and unreasonable emotions, no one ever sees themselves as the bad guy. I know people who honestly believe Mexicans are going to destroy U.S. society by committing the horrible crime of crossing the border and working hard, I know people who honestly believe that landlords are evil for wanting to charge market rents. The arguments are all the same, the claims that I'm a bad person for pointing it out and that the arguer's personal hatreds are different from other people's hatreds are dull and basically inconsequentially distinct from those of others.

        • jwz says:

          Once again, someone is here to give voice to the voiceless: the poor, underrepresented billionaires who cannot defend themselves.

          getting angry with others for the "crime" of having earned more money.

          "Earned", right. How about crimes like not paying taxes, which are only crimes if you're poor?

          they earn some large amount of money per minute, as though this was in itself a reason to think they were somehow bad.

          Really, though, it is a fantastic signifier of that. Nobody gets to the vast levels of wealth of someone like Bezos without being a gangster. Nobody.

          • NT says:

            > Once again, someone is here to give voice to the voiceless: the poor, underrepresented billionaires who cannot defend themselves.

            Strawman. Nobody is here to defend the top 0.1%.
            The complaint here is about the hypocrisy and childish self-defeating bullshit of the top 5% percent.

          • Perry says:

            > "Earned", right. How about crimes like not paying taxes, which are only crimes if you're poor?

            Don't you own a business? How do I know you paid your taxes? I mean, you say you have, but everyone says they have, right? Shouldn't I be protesting your lifestyle? I mean, you're wealthier than all but a small fraction of a percent of the US population, and by world standards, you're in the top tiny fraction of a percent. Clearly if you were a decent person you would be giving all your worldly goods up — no one "needs" to own a nightclub and a restaurant and the rest, right?

            Only, that argument would be as unreasonable as all the others being made, even if it's no different in any respect from the one you're making.

            > Really, though, it is a fantastic signifier of that. Nobody gets to the vast levels of wealth of someone like Bezos without being a gangster.

            Jeff Bezos's company ships something to me several times a week. I use his service because it is vastly easier for me to get decent products at a reasonable price that way than any other. In doing this, he's done me a huge service. A new clock for my office wall arrived not very many hours ago, as did a book I couldn't possibly have found at the local store. He's probably saved me thousands of hours over the years hunting around on foot only to get worse products at a higher price. I'm glad to have paid him for the service of saving me that time. Over the years, I've probably paid him a small fraction of what those lost hours would have cost me in lost earnings — he captured only a tiny fraction of the surplus I did.

            Because hundreds of millions of other people find his products and services useful, they voluntarily use them, and as a result he's very very rich — but only because hundreds of millions of people want to use his firm's services. I could choose to buy from all sorts of firms, but I don't, because his does better by me than theirs along a variety of metrics. (For certain products, like computer parts, I use competitors services, because they're better.)

            So he got really rich doing what he does well. Not by "gangsterism", which would imply using guns to use violence to get your way. Which is, by the way, what most people who think he doesn't pay enough taxes would like — they would like their prejudices and hatreds to be enforced by the police. They would cheer if (say) they saw a cop beating Jeff Bezos up. In this, they're not much different from the people who think any given group, from blacks to bankers, need to be kept down by the police more of the time. And it's true, he's more able to defend himself than the average black person who is victimized by racists, but it's not true that the sentiment being displayed is any more savory. In the end, it's the same desire to see people who are part of an outgroup physically harmed, mostly just for being members of the outgroup.

            Anyway, though, I'm sure loads of other people could make precisely the same argument about other people, say people who own restaurants. "How did he get wealthy enough to buy a restaurant? Normal people who work stocking shelves don't have that sort of money. He must be a gangster. He must have stolen it. These excuses about how he worked hard and his company IPOed are garbage — it was theft from other people that got him his money."

            The problem is, of course, that the argument is false. But it's easily applied to people who own nightclubs, not just people who own internet department stores.

            Anyway, I've heard this same argument thousands of times. In no case does it seem to amount to more than "I'm envious of the rich person, and because it is socially acceptable to slag rich people, I'll express that anti-social sentiment in public, pretending that it's virtue and not vice." Only, from what I can tell, envy is just about never virtuous.

            • jwz says:

              My disinterest in arguing with you could only be described as "sexual" in intensity. Go rant on your own blog.

            • tfb says:

              I have no idea if companies owned by jwz pay their taxes. But, thanks to the disclosure rules around publically-traded companies, I do know that Amazon &co don't. And annoyance is also not zero-sum: I do not have to be less annoyed at the tax-avoidance strategies used by Amazon just in case it turns out I have to be annoyed at those used by jwz (if there turn out to be any).

              (And please, let's not argue about avoidance vs evasion and why avoidance is OK and how it's not Amazon's fault. That woukd be boring.)

              • Perry says:

                But, thanks to the disclosure rules around publically-traded companies, I do know that Amazon &co don't

                First, Jeff Bezos is not Amazon. Second, I guarantee you they've paid all the taxes they're legally obligated to. The day someone here shows me a check they've decided on their own to write to the government to pay more than they legally owe is the day that I start taking this sort of complaint seriously.

                Tax "avoidance" happens every time any US citizen puts money in their 401(k) plan. That's not the same thing as not paying your taxes.

                And please, let's not argue about avoidance vs evasion and why avoidance is OK and how it's not Amazon's fault.

                In other words, you are saying I should pretend that legal behavior that most of the country engages in, which is to say, following the rules, indeed, following rules that were generally deliberately set up to encourage things like retirement savings, or investment in new equipment, or business development in particular regions the government specifically wanted new businesses to move into, etc., is somehow dirty.

                If you have a retirement plan like an IRA or a 401(k), and most people do, then you've just claimed that you yourself are doing something wrong — clearly you are a bad person. If you have a house and you claim the mortgage deduction, then you're avoiding taxes — why are you avoiding taxes that way? There are states that have low sales tax zones (lots of them in fact) to encourage businesses to move there, and you're basically claiming everyone who shops in such a place to lower their overall bill is doing something wrong even though the government deliberately set things up to encourage that — if you've ever shopped in such a place, or even picked up something in an airport duty free shop, you've clearly been one of the terrible, terrible people "avoiding" taxes.

                • tfb says:

                  I am suggesting that countries have legal systems which are not perfect and that therefore there are acts which are legal and wrong as well as ones which are illegal and right. And quite clearly an organisation or individual which takes advantage of the legal system to pay close to zero tax on billipns of dollars of income is doing something legal but wrong.

                  And yes, I have indeed done things like that as well (no, not saving for pensions but explicitly taking advantage of loopholes) and yes, I feel bad about that.

                  I'm done here: arguong with trolls is dull if addictive.

                  • Perry says:

                    Using the term "troll" to refer to someone who has a legitimate (if substantial) disagreement with you is entirely unreasonable.

                    Unless there is good reason to believe in your own infallibility (and among all too fallible humans there never is such a reason) there is nothing wrong with giving space in your information diet to viewpoints that disagree with your own — and there's a great deal wrong with presuming that anyone who disagrees with you is either crazy or pulling a con of some sort.

        • Kaleberg says:

          The problem is that it has been a zero sum game since the 1970s. The rich have gotten richer at the expense of everyone else. Now, one could pretend that if the rich hadn't gotten richer, then everyone else would be in even worse shape than they are now, but that argument isn't convincing.

          Basically, most of the envy has been the wealthier envying those less off. They envied pensions, and they took them away. They envied upward job mobility, and they took that away. Rich people envy poor people's very existence, and they let them know it.

          • Perry says:

            The problem is that it has been a zero sum game since the 1970s

            That would imply no economic growth since then, which is demonstrably false.

            I know some people think that the GDP is somehow a fake measure, so one can look at more concrete measures. If you examine almost any objective measure of human wellbeing from 1970 to today, we see that the poor are dramatically better off.

            It is often forgotten, for example, that in 1970 almost 7% of the US population lacked indoor plumbing. That wasn't a small number of people — indeed, it was the overwhelming bulk of the poor. The number without indoor plumbing today is now so low it is below the error of measurement and is certainly well under half a percent if not under a tenth of a percent.

            Whether you're looking at the fraction of the people at the bottom decile in the deep south living without air conditioning or the fraction of people who have unfilled cavities in their teeth, pretty much along every metric, poor people are dramatically better off today than in 1970. Note that you picked the 1970s, not me.

            If you don't believe me, go to a statistical abstract of the United States (an annual US government publication) and look up the numbers. Pick something arbitrary (say number of cars owned on average by people in the bottom decile, or fraction of houses without roofs in good repair). Look at 1970 and then look at 2018. The distinction is always dramatic.

            • Kaleberg says:

              No one says that the 1960s and 1970s War on Poverty didn't have its positive effects, but the old working and middle classes have been hollowed out. Look at any chart tracking household incomes. There has been economic growth, but the bottom 90% has just managed to hold its own or fall behind a bit.

              • Perry says:

                The living conditions for almost everyone were improving steadily for centuries, with a big uptick at the time of the industrial revolution. The main driver was, of course, increases in labor productivity thanks to technology and capital accumulation — centuries ago it took months of human labor to make a single shirt, and now it takes a minute or two of human labor. If you can make far more stuff with each hour of labor, there's much more stuff to go around. (If anything, there was a slowdown at the point of the "war on poverty", but never mind that.) If little can be produced, then people have little. When a great deal can be created per unit time with the same labor, people are much richer. Labor productivity, the amount someone can construct per unit time, whether shirts or toasters or bread, has gone up radically since 1970, and thus so has the standard of living.

                If you examine any objective measure of wellbeing, say as another example the fraction of poor people who have working central heat in their homes, conditions have steadily improved during the period in which you claim that they got worse. The reason is straightforward — a poor person produces more per hour and thus the cost of a new gas or oil heater costs fewer labor hours.

                If you prefer abstract measures, GDP is up, so the game is not zero sum, GDP per capita is up, and there is no evidence that dollars in the hands of wealthy people have meant that poor people have become poorer — incomes did not plummet, but rather rose (per capita income using constant dollar metrics went up something like 2.5x since 1970, the period you picked.)

                Lets not forget what zero sum means — it means that there's no change in the pool of resources, wealth is constant, and if one person gets $1 more another literally must have $1 less. This is, again, demonstrably not what has happened since the 1970s. In inflation adjusted dollars, per capita GDP went dramatically up during the period in question. If it were zero sum while the rich had gotten richer, we would expect that the GDP would have remained the same (or at least that GDP per capita would remain the same) but that the wealth of poor people would be lower by exactly the amount of the transfers to wealthy people. This is simply at variance with reality, indeed, is dramatically at variance with reality. You can check for yourself pretty easily, the data is all public.

                I get that it has never been fashionable to look at actual statistics, just as it is frequent these days to claim GMOs are dangerous when the facts say they aren't, or to claim that vaccines cause autism when they don't, or to claim that immigrants are somehow dangerous when they commit crimes at a lower rate than native born people, etc. However, the way we settle these questions isn't with woolgathering or saying "but I think", but rather by going to statistical data. The statistics say that the system is not even vaguely zero sum.

                I'll quote the economist Paul Samuelson: “When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do?” [Samuelson often attributed this quip to his hero Keynes, but the evidence is it was his own.]

                • margaret says:

                  All but the most bootlickiest of bootlickers would have a hard time going around the table at a white house cabinet meeting and say all the fortunes represented were earned by those controlling the power from those fortunes. And their children will wield substantially more power – and they too will have their subservient bootlickers saying "more power to them, more power to them."

                  • jwz says:

                    "The extremely poor are better off today than in 1970" and "billionaires have their boot on the neck of the world" can both be true.

                  • Perry says:

                    The first sentence of that was too ungrammatical for me to parse, but I will repeat I am not a fan of this administration (or most, for that matter).

                    Regardless, however, I think I've disproven the substantive claim made earlier, which is that the economy is a zero sum game and that we can presume that a dollar earned by the wealthy implies a dollar taken from the poor. If there's another substantive claim you would like to make that we can examine, I'm happy to address it.

                  • Perry says:

                    (The sentence that was too ungrammatical for me to parse was Margaret's. I'm unsure how to respond to JWZ's — it isn't a factual statement as such — and he's already indicated that he doesn't want to engage me in discussion and I'd rather not violate that as it's his blog.)

          • tfb says:

            This is not true if by 'everyone else' you include non-Americans (non-first-world people more generally) and specifically Chinese people. Of course it is very fashionable to ignore those people: 'America First' and all that, but they turn out also to be human beings and huge numbers of them are not now living in extreme poverty who were 20 years ago.

            Please don't take this as supporting the way people like Bezos behave in any way (see my other comment).

    • James says:

      Perry, did you actually play the game? It's not so much about envy as it is about how little money it would take to solve so many of society's ills relative to Bezos's wealth.

  4. P says:

    > "Earned", right.