In Defense of Jeff Bezos

they're not the ones making it so that Jeff bezos can earn 1,000,000 times more than someone who works in one of his factories

Jeff Bezos doesn't earn 1,000,000 times more than someone who works in one of his factories. He has earned the same ~$80,000 annual salary every year for decades. He doesn't even receive stock options as part of his compensation. His 16% ownership of Amazon accounts for almost his entire net worth.

And Jeff Bezos has owned that same 16% of Amazon (previously, owning much more than that) since it was worth, well, nothing at all.

Suppose I am a painter and we are friends. I give you a painting for your birthday. It is a nice enough painting but other than the sentimental value it has to you, it is worthless. But suppose, ten years from now, I am killed in a car accident. And ten years after that, interest in my paintings suddenly spikes. Ten years after that, the estimated value of the painting I gave you is $10 million.

Thirty years has passed. You're in your 50s or 60s. Would it be fair for the government to force you to sell the painting, then confiscate $9,950,000 from you to spend on other projects? After all, that's a $50,000 windfall for you, so you should feel good about it, right? Or suppose you simply decide to sell the painting, since you need the money more than you want to keep the memento of our friendship--perhaps your daughter needs a million-dollar operation to save her life. Would it be fair for the government to take $9,500,000 on the reasoning that nobody needs to or should make more than $500,000 in a year?

With stock it's even worse. If the government forced Bezos to sell ten billion dollars' worth of stock, that actually reduces the stock value (due to supply and demand). So not only does Bezos lose $10 billion, and not only does he lose another $X billion in share price plummet, but the government doesn't even get $10 billion in the bargain!

And this is all before we consider the possibility that Bezos, on losing his ownership stake, ultimately also loses control of his company, putting it at risk of mismanagement by disinterested profiteers who might e.g. decide to gut the company for shareholder value, destroying thousands of jobs in the process. Oops!

The people who are "making it so Jeff Bezos" can be fantastically wealthy are his customers and his shareholders. He's not accumulating fantastic riches because "the system" somehow anointed him to succeed while others suffer. He just happens to be a person who provided so much value to society that the company he started enjoys a tremendous valuation given the likelihood that it will generate profits in the future. When you take that away from him it's not like grabbing a bunch of gold out of a dragon's hoard. It's more like siphoning fuel out of the engines of commerce.