Megan McArdle writing at Bloomberg has a wonderful article on economic perspective. It concludes:
In every generation, we forget how much poorer we used to be, and then we forget that we have forgotten. We focus on the things that seem funny or monstrous or quaint and darling. Somehow the simplest and most important fact — the immense differences between their living standards and ours — slides right past our eye. And when Ernst tried to remind us, people didn’t say “Wow, we’ve really come a long way”; they pointed and laughed.
We have stalled what made us prosperous, what McClosky calls market-tested betterment that often is called capitalism. Do read the whole thing.