… is from page 43 of Robert Higgs’s superb 1971 book, The Transformation of the American Economy: 1865-1914 :
We must remember, too, that major productivity gains often resulted from a series of minor improvements. The spectacular technological advance captures everyone’s attention, but ultimately the small, unspectacular advances may have had an even greater importance.
Indeed so. Having available at the supermarket, not just whole milk and skim milk, but these as well as 2% milk and 1% milk – plastic freezer-storage bags with zip-locks – rolls of kitchen paper towels with double the number of perforations that they had up through the 1980s – improved logistics that get goods from warehouses to retailers in less time and with less variability in time (thus lowering retailers’ costs by enabling them to reduce the inventories they must have on hand) – putting wheels on all luggage (so that today people have, not really luggage, but rollage). These and countless other unsung and typically unnoticed incremental improvements are largely what make us moderns as spectacularly prosperous as we are.