Charles Murray

Can you think of any earlier moment in history in which you would prefer to live your life? One’s initial reaction may be to answer yes. The thought of living in Renaissance Florence or Samuel Johnson’s London or Paris in La Belle Époque is seductive. But then comes the catch: In whatever era you choose, your station in life will be determined by lottery, according to the distribution of well-being at that time—which means that in Renaissance Florence you are probably going to be poor, work hard at a menial job, and find an early grave.

Charles Murray, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950, New York, 2003, p. xix