Is there anything Amazon won’t do? The one-time online book retailer has steadily stretched its tentacles across vast swaths of the American marketplace, and its interests include numerous and disparate ventures, from health-conscious grocery stores to streaming entertainment.
And now, apparently, healthcare. Jeff Bezos’ brainchild is partnering with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to tackle the American economy’s biggest bugaboo. Per the Wall Street Journal:
The companies said the venture would be "free from profit-making incentives and constraints" and would develop technological solutions to provide simplified, high-quality health care for their hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers ...
While it’s clearly in these companies’ interests to lower their healthcare burdens, the undertaking is also aimed at improving employees’ health outcomes. Such an effort will require significant investment and, if the partners are being earnest, generate zero revenue.
The move is just the latest in a series of philanthropy-focused efforts by a new generation of CEOs, generally tech titans, who are putting a more benevolent face on an economic system that is increasingly (and usually wrongly) shouldering the blame for the widening wealth gaps in much of the world.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to give away 99 percent of his wealth and his company has commissioned, and published, studies demonstrating the social media platform’s potential harm to society; Elon Musk, of SpaceX and Tesla fame, has open-sourced the technology driving sales of his electric supercar; and Amazon’s Bezos last year took to Twitter for suggestions on where to donate portions of his vast fortune.
Despite the often socially liberal views of these Left Coasters (Zuckerberg is vehemently pro-immigration and Bezos owns the left-leaning Washington Post), their attempt to harness capitalism for the public good is a very good thing. For though Republicans currently control the presidency, Congress, and the majority of state governments, the voters of tomorrow will likely not share the current electorate’s zeal for the private sector.
Millennials — on track to become America’s largest voting bloc — are flirting with socialism at levels never seen on this side of the Atlantic.
They overwhelmingly favored Bernie Sanders in the run-up to the last presidential election and, according to a major poll last year, prefer socialism to capitalism (45 to 42 percent); that’s a ten-point swing for the nanny state when compared to the general electorate.
American elections are increasingly decided by razor-thin margins, making millennials’ flirtations with socialism more than significant — they are a doomsday clock for free-market believers. There’s always the chance that today’s millennials will follow the path of previous generations and become more conservative with age, but thus far they have proven largely an enigma as far as trends are concerned.
One thing is clear, however: they are obsessed with technology to the point that they have made rock stars of today’s tech leaders. If anyone can convince this much-maligned generation of capitalism’s potential for benevolence, it’s the likes of Zuckerberg, Musk, and Bezos.
Of course, capitalism has a long history of philanthropy. The Rockefellers and Carnegies established charitable foundations that continue to this day, and just over seven years ago, capitalist icons Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, along with 38 other billionaires, vowed to give the majority of their wealth to charitable causes.
Today’s young voters, however, are too far removed from the Soviet bread lines of the 80s for memory to provide the proper precaution, and their views of both history and economics have been shaped by an educational system far more liberal than any previous generation’s.
In short, capitalism in America needs all the help it can get. Any socialist alternative would likely punish profits such that survival for these firms would become the immediate priority. Such a transition would force the state to further intervene in matters of increasing the quality of life for millions of Americans.
Given government’s track record in such matters, such a scenario should be avoided at all costs. And today’s tech giants should be applauded for their efforts in demonstrating capitalism’s potential for serving not just industry titans, but the public as well.
Greg Jones runs The Drunk Republican blog. Follow him on Twitter @DrunkRepub.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.