A commenter on Cafe Hayek this week lamented about stagnant wages. While it’s unclear whether the comment was based on fact or the commenter’s gut feel, it did remind me of this passage from Steven Landsburg’s book More Sex is Safer Sex (p. 29).
In the 1930s, we had a Great Depression, when income levels fell back to where they’d been about twenty years earlier. For a few years, people had to live the way their parents had always lived–and they considered it almost intolerable. The underlying expectation–that the present is supposed to be better than the past–is a new phenomenon in history. No eighteenth-century politician would have dreamed of asking “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” because it never would have occurred to anyone that they ought to be better off than they were four years ago.
Rising income is only part of the story. …
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