Jeff Bezos did not become the world’s richest man by replacing workers with machines. Alone among technology pioneers, the Amazon founder — whose fortune briefly eclipsed Bill Gates’ last week — has cornered a mass-employment industry by making it even more laborious. It is rarely good for workers when someone invents a button to make a wish come true. Elevator operators did not long outlast the 1920s, when building owners fitted lifts with automatic controls. Americans who have lost their retail jobs since 1994 must rue the year when Bezos rented a Seattle garage and started rigging up experiments such as the "one-click" checkout. Yet the efficiencies of online retail lie in scant inventory and cheap property, not eliminating staff. To stand a chance of selling a $400 Breville food processor somewhere in the US, Macy’s has to stock it in hundreds of stores from Brooklyn to Santa Barbara, where it pays exorbitant rent in malls. Amazon will deliver the same kitchen tool to any addres...

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