I happened to wake up in the middle of the night last week and turned on Turner Movie Classics (TCM). Playing at the time was the 1954 movie Brigadoon. I’d heard about it but never seen it. It’s about 2 guys on a hunting trip to Scotland who discover a place in mid-18th century Scotland in which people live as if it’s the mid-18th century. But it exists in the mid 20th century. One of the characters, played by Gene Kelly, falls in love with one of the residents of the town, Brigadoon. She’s a gorgeous woman played by Cyd Charisse.

I know it’s fantasy in the obvious sense. But there’s another sense in which it’s fantasy, a sense known to anyone who knows much about the last 3 centuries of economic history.

I caught only the last 20 minutes but in that time, we see Cyd Charisse dressed in a beautiful dress and looking beautiful as if she’s out of a 1950 issue of Vogue.

See the problem?

If the village really were mid-18th century, she wouldn’t look like that. She wouldn’t have beautiful clothing and she would probably have rotten teeth, just to name two.

I once wanted to write something for a think tank in which I gave prominence to the “hockey stick,” the graph that shows GDP per capita in the modern world from 1000 A.D. to today. The person at the think tank told me that the vast majority of their readers know about the hockey stick. My guess is that there’s at least a sizable minority that doesn’t.

Go ahead and have your fantasy about Brigadoon, but realize that if you were the character played by Gene Kelly, the actual Brigadoon would not be attractive and you almost certainly wouldn’t be attracted to the woman he fell in love with.

Here’s Don Boudreaux laying it out in more detail in a 5-minute video.

The pic above is of Cyd Charisse.