John Goodman pitched his new series, Alpha House, on The Daily Show last week. Ordinarily, a talk show guest selling his wares is about as newsworthy as government incompetence. But this had a twist. Alpha House is Amazon’s latest venture—original content for the Web. In the actor’s words, the show is part of the company’s far-reaching plans for “world domination”. Goodman modestly called himself just a “cog” in Amazon’s war machine.

The first three episodes will be free to Amazon customers; thereafter, they will only be available initially to subscribers of Amazon Prime, the company’s “free” two-day delivery service that costs $79 a year.

Alpha House is just Seattle’s latest pounding of war drums. Competing with cover stories deifying Jeff Bezos are Amazon’s almost daily announcements: it is testing the grocery home delivery business in Seattle and Los Angeles; it is adding 5 more “fulfillment centers” (you and I call them warehouses) to the 89 it had in 2012; it will build a massive warehouse on the outskirts of each of the top 20 U.S. metropolitan centers (thereby extending its same-day delivery reach to half of America); it bought a robotics company, Kiva Systems, to make these warehouses deadly efficient; it’s competing with PayPal with its new on-line payment system; and, in a bold bid to replace the word chutzpah with bezos, Amazon has just asked its first road kill—independent book sellers—to carry its Kindle e-readers in their stores.

Goodman wasn’t kidding—Amazon is out to conquer the world. And its war machine is same-day delivery. If it succeeds, retail will never be the same; Wal-Mart will become soda shop quaint and consumers will wax nostalgic over the free ravioli samples they once enjoyed at Costco.

After World War II, national supermarket and drug store chains sprang forth like dragons’ teeth to eviscerate the small independents that lined Main Street, winning this brief struggle by superior pricing. The chains had greater buying power, advanced distribution systems, lower payrolls and, because they built on the edge of town, lower rents; the chains thus profited wildly while selling at prices the independents couldn’t touch. Fast forward a generation or two and Wal-Mart and Target began winning the same war with the same tactics—brilliant efficiency and lower costs—but this time the victims were those once invincible, suddenly old-school chains. The super-discounters built even farther out of town. Following closely on their heels was Costco with even better prices, more distant real estate and greater efficiency. (Costco’s prices are so cheap that its net profit of $1.7 billion in 2012 was less than what it charged its 68 million members in annual dues—meaning it made nothing on the merchandise it sold.)

Thus, over the past couple generations, bargain retailers have become increasingly efficient—and profitable—by putting consumers to work, by making them drive ever greater distances to their stores, by offering them less and less in-store assistance, by almost requiring they fight for a parking spot in front of their cavernous warehouses. In short, bargain retailers succeeded by eliminating the retail from retail, by forcing the consumer to become part of the delivery cycle through driving its most expensive leg—the last two miles.

Now Amazon is proposing to turn that business model on its head.

Ratcheting up these very tactics exponentially, the company will be more ruthlessly efficient than its older competitors ever imagined. Instead of an oversized warehouse store you drive to fifteen minutes away, Amazon will have a million square foot warehouse an hour from your house that you will never see. If Amazon’s strategy succeeds, you will no longer fight traffic or swear over non-existent customer service or grow old in a check-out line; instead, you will click your order and Amazon will deliver it to you in a couple hours.

Same-day delivery could turn out to be the greatest need none of us knew we ever had. Or it could fizzle. After all, who really doesn’t have time to wander over to Costco on a Sunday afternoon to visit with the rest of the town and sample that free ravioli? Who wants to be even more isolated, staring ever longer into the abyss of a computer screen? But since few companies have ever gone broke inventing needs for the American public, let’s put sociology aside and focus on the money.

Amazon’s vision—delivery to every consumer’s door—has to be exponentially more expensive than having those millions of consumers spend their time and gas money driving themselves to a warehouse store. Who will pay for that added cost? If the consumer has to pay it, will she still love Amazon? Amazon is not Apple—it has no status symbol product for which it can charge whatever. Amazon is a discounter that must live and die by its prices.

If Amazon were to force its manufacturers and sellers to subsidize this added delivery cost, how long would they survive? For that matter, how long can Amazon continue to survive without making a profit? Amazon’s gross revenues have risen to perhaps $75 billion in the last fifteen years, but the company isn’t making any money. It posted a $39 million loss for all of 2012 and it just lost $41 million in the third quarter of 2013.

Amazon now has nearly 25,000 employees and has spent almost $14 billion since 2010 on warehouses alone. In its more purely electronic days, the company barely eked out a profit when it had the advantages of very low overhead and the ability to avoid paying state sales-taxes. Will it make a profit now?

Wall Street thinks so. Thus far, Wall Street has given Amazon more than a free pass on profitability, it has handed the company a blank check. Amazon’s stock is up 60 percent this year and 393 percent in the last 5 years. Its enthusiastic supporters extol Amazon’s wisdom in foregoing profit while investing billions in fixed overhead and insist the company could turn a profit any day it wants to by simply ceasing to reinvest every penny it earns.

Wall Street may be right or, like Rommel running out of oil in North Africa, Amazon might burn through all of its patient money before completing its global conquest. Ask yourself this: when has a quest for world domination ever really worked out?