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How fresh and wondrous electricity seemed to Americans in 1916

From Maggie Koerth Baker at, a fascinating
glimpse of 
how fresh and wondrous electricity seemed to Americans in 1916
Pity she spoils it by an attempt at finding the cloud in the silver
lining at the end.

Centralized electricity changed energy
production from a difficult, in-home process that kept the messy
by-products of progress literally in your face, into something
magical that happened when you threw a switch. The choking smoke
was still there, but not at your house. There was still heavy labor
involved, but it wasn’t done by you or your children. For the first
time, people were able to pretend that their standard of living was
provided, free of downsides, by little elves that lived in the
wall. All benefit, no detriment. Action without consequences. In
other words, this is the point where everybody went a little bit

The beauty is that this is still happening in parts of Africa
and Asia. A report on the Philippines estimated that
each family derives $108 a month in benefits from
connecting to the electricity grid – cheaper lighting ($37),
cheaper radio and television ($19), more years in education ($20),
time saving ($24) and business productivity ($8).  As the
miracle of electricity reaches a village, people inhale less smoke,
read more school books, cut down fewer trees and find time to do
other things that earn them more money.

The people who run the power stations aint elves but have
comparatively well paid jobs that enable them to be customers to
their customers.

By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  rational-optimist