“Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”
Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress, (House of Anansi Press, 2004) (Carroll and Graf, 2005)
(This book resulted from Ronald Wright’s 2004 lectures in the famous Canadian series, the Massey Lectures. The lectures are broadcast on radio by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), whose website features an excerpt from the Wright lectures. You may get a podcast of Wright’s lecture 1, here; and lecture 2, here. Wright suggests that, after 10,000 years of experimenting with civilization, generally leading to failure, we have a chance to get things right, now, if we act wisely. “It describes in particular how four historical civilisations – those of Easter Island, Sumer, the Maya and Rome – self-destructed due to a lack of foresight and to wrong choices. Wright argues ‘each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.'” Martin Scorsese is developing the movie rights.)
Wright’s use of the phrase is the earliest I’ve been able to document quickly; but it’s a popular phrase now. Please note in comments if you know of an earlier use that can be tracked down.