… is from page 93 of economist Lionel Robbins’s excellent and still-relevant 1937 book, Economic Planning and International Order:
At any moment the magnitude of desirable change may be so small that to prevent it may seem a very minor evil. But, in the long run, it is just these small changes which amount to those big changes which we recognize as economic progress.
DBx: Yes. Modernity’s enormous prosperity pool is filled mostly drop by drop. An individual drop being so tiny, and the pool today containing so gargantuan a quantity of prosperity drops, it’s easy not to notice each drop or to regard each drop as insignificant (or perhaps even worthy of contempt).
It’s even easier to suppose that the loss of one or two drops – or the prevention of the addition of a few more drops – is nothing to fret about. As far as propositions about the importance of any few particular drops go, such lack of fretting is understandable. But try to generalize the principle used to justify the destruction or prevention of a few particular drops. Which few drops? Why not also wipe out those other few drops? And who gets to decide which drops to sacrifice and which to keep?