I've read a fair amount of history, and I've read quite a few older books, so one of the things that I routinely fall back on when I think I'm having a bad time is to compare my life against that of even the richest or most powerful people of not all that long ago, or the lives of folks in poor countries today. It's hard to feel altogether sorry for yourself when you have access to a well-stocked grocery store, for instance, just for starters. Kings couldn't have dreamed of the meals I can fix, and I'm a frugal shopper and cook.
I find Jennifer F. has come to much the same conclusion, but she says it better.
For me, reading about people who broke the ice in the water basin in their bedroom when they got up in the morning so that they'd have water to wash their face with, and who took it as a matter of course that ice would form inside the house in winter, has a tendency to remind me that I'm embarrassing my ancestors if I happen to get impatient for the hot water to reach the bathroom from the water heater in the other room. That would be the heated bathroom. The heated, indoor bathroom. With electric lights. And a water-flush toilet that takes germs and smells right away at the flick of a lever. The bathroom that's near a kitchen with a refrigerator. The refrigerator/freezer, to be more precise. The kitchen that also has a garbage can that can be emptied into a dumpster which is emptied once a week, taking the germs and the smells right away...
I'm pretty sure I would have done all right as a pioneer woman. But I'm glad I wasn't one, all the same, thanks.
Beyond increasing my gratitude for what material comforts I have, I find that doing comparisons with the old days is also is a good trick for helping me cope when times do get tough. I can't tell you how often I've told myself something like 'good grief, up until a couple of generations ago nobody had this convenience/product/service/whatever, therefore it's obviously possible to live just fine without it.' Since I grew up in a culture that didn't generally draw sharp distinctions between needs and wants, this little mental trick has been very useful indeed. It's helped me to keep my life more simple than it might have been, I think, and has kept me from wasting money, too. Such a deal.
hat tip: PalmTree Pundit, who credits The Paragraph Farmer
Bonus Quotation of the Day… - (Don Boudreaux) Tweet… is from my colleague Bryan Caplan’s recent EconLog blog post “Progressive/Libertarian: The Alliance That Isn’t” (original emphasis):...
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