People have always looked with disapproval on people who try to avoid work. Everyone believes that hard work builds character and whichever era you are living in, present generation always has it easier than previous generations, who had to work much harder.
For all these arguments against laziness, it is amazing we work so hard to achieve it. Every industry is trying to do its part to give its customers more leisure time. If a business is successful and profitable, then it has successfully removed an obstacle standing between a large number of people and a life free of cares or work.
The healthcare industry is a good example of this. Brilliant scientists work very hard so people can stay out of the gym and gorge on chocolate instead of their vegetables. Indeed, their discoveries lead to longer retirements, and thus more leisure. From computer to zipper manufacturers, every business makes a profit by making life easier for some segment of the population. We just cannot admit to ourselves that we are working hard to become lazier, so we spin the language. We say that a new product will make processes more efficient or will create synergies.
If a company comes out with something that will “revolutionize” the way we do “X”, it is really saying you can produce the same as you did before, but now we’ll throw in some time for your leisure as well. The constant advancements of civilization results in greater production of free time.
The Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises described it eloquently: “The expenditure of labour is deemed painful. Not to work is considered a state of affairs more satisfactory than working. Leisure is, other things being equal, preferred to work. People work only when they value the return of labour higher than the decrease in satisfaction brought about by the curtailment of leisure. To work involves disutility.”
We all would like to reach a state where we could spend our time doing leisure-based activities, or even just being lazy. However, the whole reason we have economics is that civilization will probably never reach that state. Technology has a long way to go to maximize the incredible resources on earth or possibly out in space, thus our hard work must make up for this deficiency. Yet we are obsessed with moving in this direction. We all want to stop working.
In the free market, individuals are always balancing their money income (or real income in exchangeable goods) against their real income in the form of leisure activities. Both are basic components of the standard of living. The greater their exchangeable-goods income, in fact, the higher will be their marginal utility of a unit of leisure time (non-exchangeable goods), and the more proportionately will they “take” their income in the form of leisure. It is not surprising, therefore, that a coerced lower income may force individuals to work harder.
So, let’s hear it for leisure time. It may seem paradoxical that we work so hard all year so we can sleep on the beach for a week at Hawaii, but there is a method to our madness. As we work harder, leisure time for others increases in both quality and quantity, and we can assume that everyone else is returning the favour.
Milan is a veteran stock market investor and educator on equity investing. Connect with him on firstname.lastname@example.org