It turns out that pie-in-the-sky is a kind of early 20th century American equivalent of the infamous phrase “let them eat cake.”
The latter phrase was never actually spoken by Queen Marie Antoinette, apparently, but she was (justly so) a symbol in her day of profligacy among the rich and a cavalier attitude toward the poor. When told that the huddled masses in Paris were hungry and had no bread due to a drought, she was supposed to have said, well then let them eat cake.
The modern version was coined by Joe Hill, one of the leaders of the early labor union movement in this country, the IWW (known as the Wobblies), who championed better wages and working conditions for factory workers. Hill, in a poem, mocked the widespread attitude among the wealthy of that day that the poor can only blame themselves for their poverty in this “land of opportunity.” And if they are hungry in this life, they will get their reward in heaven. “You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.”
Funny thing, my book is about making our basic needs – bread/cake/pies – a priority in this life, not in the sweet bye and bye, while the current generation of Ayn Rand capitalists and their neo-classical economist allies are the real purveyors of pie in the sky.