What do you do if you're the world's richest man? You buy a major newspaper, gobble up the country's most famous high-end grocery chain, get heavily into space travel or some shit, transform the economy in mostly dehumanizing ways, block efforts to tax your mega corporation, and force cities to dance for the privilege of being the host to that corporation's second headquarters. And, apparently, you also get into funding preschools.
On Thursday, Jeff Bezos announced that he and his wife were starting something called the Day One Fund that will provide $2 billion in funding to nonprofits that help homeless families and also create a "network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities."
Those obviously laudable causes fit with Bezos's image as being above partisan politics—he owns the liberal Washington Post, but his recently launched PAC supports military veterans running for office in both parties, as he noted in his statement. But some people couldn't help but notice the whiff of techno-utopian arrogance clouding the whole project. For one, his vision of a high-quality preschool is awfully self-centered. “We’ll use the same set of principles that have driven Amazon,” he wrote on Twitter. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.” That's weird!
There's also some irony in Bezos's choice to fight homelessness, since Amazon recently successfully lobbied to death a Seattle tax intended to fight homelessness. More broadly, the company has been accused of exploiting workers around the world; a critic of Bezos might reasonably ask if he's so concerned with making the planet a better place to live, why isn't he looking at his company's own business practices?
Snark aside, the One Day Fund could undoubtedly do some good. If we're going to live in an oligarchy, we might as well hope that our oligarchs give some of their vast hoards of wealth to good causes.
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