The Atlnatic | Megan McArdle | No More Servants
I've seen this topic crop up a couple of times now. McArdle, Kling, and Kling's commenters all give good reasons servants aren't more common. Many of the reasons of theirs I find most convincing boil down to: "we have servants, we just don't call it that." So you go out to eat more and order take-out/delivery and buy pre-made meals instead of having a cook; you have a landscaping company, not a gardener; a cleaning service, not a maid. It's more efficient this way for any number of reasons.
Fine. But I think this just pushes back a little rather than answer the question. There are still tasks we could hire out to companies like cleaning or landscaping services, but we don't. Why not?
Why can't I hire someone to go run errands for me for a couple of hours like I can hire someone to come around and clean for me? The only convincing explanation I've seen is that it takes as long to explain what you want done and monitor the assitant as it does to do it yourself.
But surely that can't last, right? At some point some combination of IT and poor people with a work ethic has got to add up. What tasks have simple instructions that I could specify with a form on a smart-phone? Those tasks are businesses waiting to happen.
Grocery shopping is one possibility, already partly in existence. (I wonder why this service is AFAIK always coupled to delivery. If I were a smaller grocery chain who didn't want to invest in the overhead of delivery trucks I would set up a system to allow people to order groceries and pay for the online, then swing by the store, grab their bags and go.) Why don't we see more valet parking?
PS As someone (Warren Meyer?) pointed out, seven out of eight of the reasons McArdle gives for not wanting to hire help could apply equally to businesses not wanting to hire more employees.