Does the history of the lawn really matter?
No, it doesn't matter, but I think it's interesting. If you don't, feel free to skip over the posts, and not follow the links :-)
...but do we agree it has devolved primarily into a form of wasteful spending?
No, we - if you're including me in that we - most assuredly don't agree. As I and others have said, it provides a useful & pleasant area for play, sitting outside, etc. Of course it CAN devolve into waste (as anything can), if e.g. someone gets obsessed with having a "perfect" lawn, or if they spend all their time inside.
Also note that it's quite possible to have lawn AND all that other stuff. I have more potatos this year than I will probably eat, asparagus, lettuce, strawberries, peas, spinach... and if the weather cooperates, will have broccoli, fennel, peppers, cucumbers, and melons. Also grapes, quince, and a few apples, pears, & cherries. Alas, no peaches this year (late frost caught them all), but in a few years I should have plums, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, and hazelnuts... And that's not even getting into the flowers & shrubs :-)