… is from page 235 of Matt Ridley’s 2010 book, The Rational Optimist; (I’m re-reading Matt’s book in preparation for a new class that I’m teaching this Fall semester at GMU; the class is entitled “Economics of Sustainability”):
Suppose you had said to my hypothetical family of 1800, eating their gristly stew in front of a log fire, that in two centuries their descendants would need to fetch no logs or water, and carry out no sewage, because water, gas, and a magic form of invisible power called electricity would come into their home through pipes and wires. They would jump at the chance to have such a home, but they would warily ask ho they could possibly afford it. Suppose that you then told them that to earn such a home, they need only ensure that father and mother both have to go to work for eight hours in an office, travelling roughly forty minutes each way in a horseless carriage, and that the children need not work at all, but should go to school to be sure of getting such jobs when they start to work at twenty. They would be more than dumbfounded; they would be delirious with excitement.