Three cheers for laziness (and capitalism, for enabling it)
The reason you want any given thing is to make your life easier. But be honest: you are trying to find ways to stay in bed longer.
Transportation is one of the most touted historical victories of capitalism and the free market. Without them we wouldn’t have planes, trains, or automobiles, and instead we’d have horses. Horses are a lot of work. And it would take forever to get anywhere. Instead of zooming away and arriving quickly and relatively painlessly so you can hurry up and sit on a couch with your family, you would arrive ages later, dirty and sore and even crankier than you do after a long road trip. You also wouldn’t be able to sit on that couch as long because you’d have to trek back again. You only get so much vacation time.
Amazon’s artificial intelligence Alexa, which lives in its Echo and Echo Dot products, is the most accessible recent advance in the Laziness Market. For $50 you can turn the lights on and off, adjust the temperature, order pizza, Google something, order an Uber, and play music, without having to move or even push a button. All you have to do is work up the energy to talk. Essentially, Alexa is realising the universal dream of having your own personal assistant/butler, mixed with the caveat of not wanting to pay said person, and the millennial’s dream of not having to deal with an actual person.
The Millennial Effect
Millennials are lazy, but not so lazy that we would actually deal with a person. That’s just crazy. It’s why we don’t do take-out – so awkward – and is in turn why we love the idea of drones delivering our food. It’s why we love social media so much: we can deal only with the people we want to, when we want to, as much as we want to, without having to actually talk to them and, most importantly of all, without having to move.
The millennial search for laziness is so earnest that society itself is rearranging to accommodate it, and the free market is happily joining in.
Upper-middle class apartment complexes catering to millennials are all-inclusive: they have the usual pool, lounge, etc., but they also have coffee bars, actual bars, restaurants, movie theaters, valet dry cleaning for the millennials who consider themselves real adults, and corner stores, all in the same building so residents don’t have to go far and can have minimal interaction. It sounds like it verges on the edge of the occult, perhaps with somewhat of a Village feel, but that would require interaction between its members. So not to worry.
Of course, if they truly want to cater to millennials, they’ll include a Target, some kind of special Uber arrangement, and landing pads for burrito-bearing drones, but we’ll wait for that. Our day will come.
Netflix is obviously a major enabler of laziness, and we love it for it. But its new show The Crown is a particular, albeit subtler, somewhat more bourgeois, example of the Laziness Market at work. As I said to my mom, trying to convince her to watch it, “I mean I’m sure you could find a David McCollough or Alistair Cooke-esque biography of Queen Elizabeth II, but why read 750 pages when you can watch it on TV? Besides, Doctor Who plays Prince Phillip, and you can watch him and the Queen be cute together. They wouldn’t put that in the book.”
Moral: the apex of advancement in capitalism is the successful, affordable merging of laziness and cuteness.
Looking Ahead to the Lazy Future
The dream of millennials is to own a Tesla, primarily because they look like the coolest things ever invented, but also because they drive and park themselves. Cars are already better than planes because we don’t have to deal with as many people. (We never think to take a train so it can’t really be considered an option.) But a car that drives itself? We could go on trips and actually look at the scenery. We could engage with our fellow passengers, carefully and purposefully selected from our already-tailored group of friends. Or we could do what we all know we’re going to do: watch Netflix, check social media, and sleep.
This article was first published by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).