American Laziness Is Apparently Hurting the Economy

According to the economist Tyler Cowen, American laziness is a huge problem. In his new book, The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream, Cowen argues that Americans – no matter what they say — are less risk-tasking, less entrepreneurial, and less productive than they were in the past. Cowen writes, "America seems to be producing major triumphs at a slower pace than before and also to be limiting some of our earlier grand achievements."

So what's that about? Cowen's general argument is that we've become hyper-obsessed with creating perfect lives, which in turn means insulating ourselves and creating bubbles we're afraid to change. His general thesis is that this desire for stability is a reaction to the upheaval of the 1960s and '70s.

On CNN Money, he pointed a finger at our instant-economy as an example of this laziness and complacency: "Tech's great. It's fun. I've got four Amazon packages outside my door. But we have a problem with this precisely because it's enjoyable and comfortable. All this tech innovation encourages leisure and staying at home."

He indicates that one of the biggest areas of American complacency and failure is transportation. "The overall picture on transportation does not suggest a dynamic economy," he writes. "Slow, inefficient travel has made Americans less likely to travel, with the knock-on effect of removing political pressure to improve transportation systems."

His thoughts on how to reinvigorate the population are not all that encouraging, saying it usually comes in the form of trauma. i.e. war or natural disaster.

Still, there is a way to take the reins, and that's by making positive and productive changes in your own life. "Those who make a change (regardless of the outcome of the coin toss) report being substantially happier two months and six months later," he said. We'll give it a try.