Why Jeff Bezos Really Really Needs His Amazon Billions

He wants to go to space.

It’s not a joke. The world’s wealthiest person is putting his money into space exploration. Bezos puts about one billion dollars of his Amazon stock a year into it. It’s called Blue Origin, and it’s designed as a profit-making venture. Rockets, a lunar lander, habitats for living in space, those sorts of things.

Rich people are no different than the rest of us. They have just as many crackpot ideas. The difference is rich people can act on those ideas, and many of us will be enthralled by them just because a rich person is voicing them. Bezos is a rich crackpot, seemingly modeling himself as Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek. And his obscene wealth makes his crackpot ideas potentially dangerous. Because he can indulge in those crazy ideas.

Bezos is spending money on space research because he fears that Earth won’t be able to sustain humans growing energy needs. So he’s directed his company to create the means for people to explore and live in space.

That’s right, the man who is the world’s richest person, who pushes consumption as an end to itself, is sufficiently worried about consumption that he’s planning to colonize space. He’s quoted in the New York Times saying, “We will run out of energy. This is just arithmetic. It’s going to happen.”

“Do we want stasis and rationing or do we want dynamism and growth?” he asked rhetorically. “This is an easy choice. We know what we want. We just have to get busy.”

Let that sink in, Bezos, rather than invest in saving the planet he lives on, has already given up on it and is thinking about how he can profit off of space colonization. (we’ll ignore the ironies of his statement for now)

It’s well established that he’s an extraordinarily stingy plutocrat. He has a net worth of approximately $114 billion dollars, and has donated less than three percent of that wealth to charity. His new ex-wife, whom received only $38 billion in their divorce settlement, has signed onto the giving pledge, a modest proposal that the ultra-rich give away half their wealth, something the next four wealthiest people in the world did as well.

He could be paying employees better—median pay was a bit over $28,000 a year in 2018. He could be paying taxes—Amazon paid $0 in taxes on $11.2 billion in profits in 2018. He could be alleviating the homeless and affordable housing problems in his hometown of Seattle, a problem he helped exacerbate. Or maybe taking some profits to policing the counterfeit problem Amazon has created.  He could be improving life on earth in any number of ways, like building a carbon-free future if he’s really that worried about energy consumption. But he’s not.

I guess Amazon, not Bezos, also deserves props for some of their half-hearted efforts to help life on earth. They’ve invested $10 million, or one percent of one billion dollars, in The Closed Loop fund, to work on the circular economy. But as was pointed out in Energy Digital, Ikea is already using solar energy to power 91% of their stores.

Bezos’ high school girlfriend put it succinctly. “The reason he’s earning so much money is to get to outer space.” That’s from an article in The Atlantic. The article also points to a Miami Herald article that shared part of Bezos’ high school valedictory speech at Palmetto High School. There it reads, even then, “his grand plan included getting everybody off the blue planet and turning it into a big park of sorts.”

It’s a stupendously stupid dream. And he’s pursuing it. His vision fails to take into account actual human needs, like gravity, energy, nutrition, and the various natural resources we’ll need to live wherever we go. Space radiation is a huge problem, and just one of five major problems highlighted by NASA, which is a real problem when going merely as far as to the earth-orbiting space station—you encounter ten times the amount of radiation you would on earth. Even growing food on Mars, which isn’t nearly as inhospitable as other planets, would still be basically impossible even under the best circumstances. And, there’s no idea of what the costs of living in space will be, both in terms of what it takes to materially and physically support life, and much more. There are good reasons some call space “the impossible frontier.”

But the incredible difficulties presented once the relatively easy challenge of creating vehicles for space travel are no match for Bezos’ utopian vision, as quoted in CNet: “If we’re out in the solar system, we can have a trillion humans in the solar system, which means we’d have a thousand Mozarts and a thousand Einsteins. This would be an incredible civilization.” Hard to believe this is the same cold-blooded thug who started a bookstore claiming a love of books yet gives permission for countless counterfeits to be sold, and then expects intellectual property owners to do the work of policing his marketplace for him. Hard to believe he doesn’t see the same consumption problem he himself already detailed for earth.

I guess, as with the way he treats the rest of the marketplace, he’s happy burning the world down so he can own the future. I guess that is vision.

Good thing we’re helping him on his quest.


Share your thoughts.