Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

On the Rich Doing Their Own Laundry

Brad DeLong recently quoted the following snippet from an email he received on his blog:

In Agatha Christie’s autobiography, she mentioned how she never thought she would ever be wealthy enough to own a car – nor so poor that she wouldn’t have servants…

Today, having servants is a luxury only open to the rich, whereas owning at least one car is a standard part of middle class life, outside of a few major cities. In Christie’s youth, however, it was just the opposite. Automobiles were the luxury, whereas most middle class families could afford live in servants (the same is true of many developing countries today).

The Christie quote (or paraphrase, rather) reminds me of something a Papal legate wrote about the habits of the Byzantines back in the day: “Their treasuries are overflowing, yet they do their own laundry.”

In both cases there is the same basic phenomenon at work. As a society gets wealthier, the real cost of most things goes down, but the real cost of human labor goes up. To quote John Nye: Continue reading


February 27, 2009 Posted by | Capitalism, Progress | Leave a comment