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A bit of hardship will do us good

The carefree days of cheap, plentiful Ubers. Getty

The middle of 2017 might just have been “the zenith of civilisation”, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. An Uber would arrive in a minute; service in a bar or restaurant was “lightspeed”. But the age of abundant labour, and companies flush with investment offering their products at bargain prices, is over. “Why, then, am I taking it so well? Why do I chuckle so serenely as driver number three or four cancels on me?” For one, “frictionless living” was never a good deal for the workers who powered it. “A tilt of bargaining power in their favour is worth some minor gumming-up of a night out.”

But it also had drawbacks for the customers. We became used to rock-star levels of convenience, and that does “strange things to one’s ego” – minor stresses and problems transform into harrowing ordeals. “Orwell’s great insight into empire was that it was bad for the master, not just the subject,” and the same is probably true for the age of Deliveroo. Comforts can be corrupting. There’s an argument that some exposure to stress is “more conducive to long-run robustness” than prolonged ease. That’s why, riding “a midnight Tube that would have been a chauffeured Prius five years ago”, I don’t mind. “The inconvenience might be saving me from something worse.”