… is from page 287 of Matt Ridley’s indispensable 2010 book, The Rational Optimist (link added):
‘We cannot absolutely prove,’ said Macaulay in 1830, ‘that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us, and with just as much apparent reason.’ So, too, would say all that came after him. Defining moments, tipping points, thresholds and points of no return have been encountered, it seems, by pessimists in every generation since. A fresh crop of pessimists springs up each decade, unabashed in its certainty that it stands balanced upon the fulcrum of history. Throughout the half-century between 1875 and 1925, while European living standards shot up to unimaginable levels, while electricity and cars, typewriters and movies, friendly societies and universities, indoor toilets and vaccines pressed their ameliorating influence out into the lives of so many, intellectuals were obsessed with imminent decline, degeneration and disaster. Again and again, just as Macaulay had said, they wailed that society had reached a turning point; we had see our best days.
DBx: I’m very pleased that Karol and I named our only child Thomas Macaulay Boudreaux – in honor of the late, great Hugh and Pinky Macaulay and of the incomparable classical liberal Thomas Babington Macaulay (pictured above).
(Please do read the essay at the link added in the quotation. It might well be a candidate for the single greatest essay ever written in the English language.)