Taking on Amazon

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Amazon is riding high. While it heads towards its $1tn valuation, Jeff Bezos’ company is approaching the first anniversary of a highly publicised search for its second corporate headquarters — or HQ2. The winning city will supposedly be picked on the basis of a high quality of infrastructure, human capital and transport.

But, argues Rana Foroohar in her latest column, Amazon has already rejected many cities that fulfil those criteria. Instead, it seems that the winners are likely to be places home to high-ranking US senators that included billions of dollars in tax credits and other subsidies in their bids. This is bad news for everyone, Rana writes. Communities that offer subsidies to lure big headquarters may see short-term gains, but the end result is usually negative. In the end, companies like Amazon are like the house in a Las Vegas casino. They always win.

Wolfgang Münchau warns that Europe’s nationalists are on the march. The anti-immigration partnership formed by the Hungarian prime minister and Italy’s interior minister is formidable because it could form the germ of a new coalition.

Peter Navarro, assistant to the US president for trade and manufacturing policy, argues that global postal rates give Chinese companies an unfair advantage over the US. The disparity will be addressed at this week’s congress of the Universal Postal Union.

Michael Goldfarb has a theory that could explain why US wage growth still so slow while unemployment is at very low levels. The answer, he believes, is that workers are fearful about holding onto their jobs, and enslaved to their credit cards.

What you’ve been saying

Smith earned his pension working just three years — letter from Ray Perman

Adam Smith’s pension was even better than Merryn Somerset Webb thought. Rather than 10 years, Smith worked only three years for a pension for life worth £60,000 in today’s money. His spell tutoring the young Duke of Buccleuch ended abruptly in 1766 when the Duke’s brother died. The work of the Invisible Hand?

Comment by Peter9903427 in response to Vanity Fair: a period drama for a millennial age

Thackeray's big achievement — wonderful in its completeness — is to take us right inside the mindset of the 19th-century British middle class. Almost all adaptations of Vanity Fair get glossy puffs by way of publicity build-up and then fail with audiences because most people cannot relate to someone as heartless as Becky Sharp who, among other ruthless selfishnesses, is cruel to her own child. There are, in the world's literature, great heroines (and heroes) who defy the entire weight of the social system around them, but Miss Sharp is too unpleasant to qualify as an ethically attractive one.

Depaato play important role in Japanese city life — letter from Dugald Barr

A surprising omission from Edwin Heathcote’s delightful article on department stores was the depaato of Japan. The grandest and oldest of these, notably Mitsukoshi, Takashimaya and Daimaru, trace their history back to the 17th century, while more recent entrants were associated with the numerous private railway companies, serving commuters from their suburban estates. All play an important part in the cultural life of Japan’s cities, with a floor typically devoted to art exhibitions and often another where craftsmen can be watched at work producing the wonderful artefacts on sale there.

Today’s opinion

Fear and debt lurk behind the mystery of wages
Employers benefit as job insecurity deters workers from pushing for salary rises

Amazon’s pricing tactic is a trap for buyers and sellers alike
The retailer’s behaviour parallels financial groups’ lending practices pre-2008 crash

Europe’s nationalists are on the march
Elections to the European Parliament next year will be a big test of populist strength

Today’s men are paying for the sins of their sexist fathers
They are nicer, fairer and at risk of being sidelined

Global postal rates give Chinese companies an unfair advantage
The US plans to use a meeting of the Universal Postal Union to renegotiate the rules

FT View

The FT View: Time for EU states to rethink daylight savings
Citizens have spoken on clocks, now it is over to national leaders

The FT View: A shake-up of audit’s oligopoly is long overdue
To improve choice and quality, the Big Four’s share must be capped

The Big Read

The Big Read: Greater Bay Area: Xi Jinping’s other grand plan
A project designed to pull Hong Kong closer to mainland China faces political obstacles

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