Marina Hyde of the Guardian writes Jeff Bezos is on a quest for eternal life – back on Earth, we’re searching for Amazon’s taxes. What has Bezos done this time? I will edit out some of Hyde’s snark out of kindness to my readers.
On the one hand, it makes huge sense for Jeff Bezos to pour millions into a company seeking the secret to eternal life. Bezos was this month reported to be a significant investor in Altos Labs, an age-reversal firm which is on the scientific quest for immortality. Among other expansions, it is thought the firm will now open a lab within the UK.
Prolonging human life is not a bad cause. Bezos has more than earned the right to spend his personal fortune on whatever he wants.
Further developments in fauxlanthropy for the Amazon overlord, then, who has decided that death is as inevitable as taxes. Which is to say: not at all inevitable for the likes of him. I think you’ll agree [the new Altos lab] means so much more to our nation than a fair tax contribution from Amazon. You know we’d only spend that shit on social care or the NHS or something, when Jeff can see it’s far better for us to get people on ordinary incomes to pay extra for all that, so that guys like him are freed up to spaff their money on Earth’s most preposterous midlife crises. How else to interpret the fact that this eternal-life news emerged in the very week it was revealed that despite Amazon UK sales increasing by £1.89bn last year, the firm paid just £3.8m more corporation tax?
Bezos is not Amazon. If Amazon isn’t paying its fair share of taxes, that’s on your government, not Amazon, and certainly not Bezos personally.
Anyway, you’ll be aware that the old immortality game is already being played by a number of other tech bros, from Google co-founder Larry Page to Peter Thiel, both of whom have siphoned serious millions into the idea that “death is a problem that can be solved”.
Spending one’s own money is not “siphoning”. Siphoning is what the government does when it dips into my bank account to fund developers to the tune of billions of dollars to create a few thousand homes.
As for his other hedges, the form book shows us that Bezos loves to make splashy charity announcements at times he senses a kind of planetary disdain being levelled at him. A couple of months ago, he got straight off his little space rocket and declared that he’d be graciously parting with $200m to launch some new initiative called the Courage and Civility award, which will reward “unifiers and not vilifiers”, and “never ad hominem attacks”. What can you say, other than: well I should hope so, sir! To put things into perspective, Bezos’s wealth increased by $13bn on the single calendar day before he popped to the edge of space for four minutes. Even allowing for the $5.5bn he’d spent on getting his space operation to that point, giving away a couple of hundred million dollars is the equivalent of someone on the average UK salary parting with about £1.30 for charity.
If someone donates $200 million, don’t spit in their face. Bezos has every right to spend billions on space travel. If you want to donate billions to the charity of your choice, you’re welcome to start your own company.
Then again, he has long tended toward what Charles Dickens called telescopic philanthropy – a convenient focus on faraway “good causes” as opposed to the ones on his own doorstep he could fix pretty much immediately. Incredible, really, that a man who steadfastly refused to pay so many of his workers a living wage could ever publicly utter the words: “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel.” Yet here we are.
Bezos is not Amazon. As long as Amazon is complying with the law and people are working for them voluntarily, they are doing nothing wrong. If you want to give people a “living wage”, feel free to donate your own money to them.
We must hope the boffins do manage to grant him eternal life. At his current rate of personal growth, it feels like it will take Jeff that long to work out that charity begins on his home planet – and that philanthropy starts with paying tax.
Philanthropy has nothing to do with paying tax. Taxation is theft by the majority at gunpoint. Philanthropy is giving one’s own property to others. I hope Bezos continues to do whatever he wants with his wealth. He took an online bookstore and turned it into one of the world’s greatest companies. He deserves to enjoy himself.