Dad and daughter conversation, time

Daughter (walking out on the back porch, bored, more interested in redirecting dad’s attention than in the forthcoming answer to her question): “The U-n-h-e-a-v-e-n-l-y City? What’s that book about?” (the question is a ruse. It is the conversation she is interested in. And she knows how to get it. She is 9. She has learned.)

Dad (wondering what he must have done right that day that the gods have shined on him such opportunity): “One of the main things it is about is how orientation to time is one of the most significant causes of the difference between the rich and the poor.”

Daughter: “Huh…what does that mean? (Richard Mitchell taught me to see Socrates in such questions. He is there, instantiated in the nine year old, daring me, challenging me to put strings of words together that have meaning. I used to shy away from such challenge. Now I jump at the chance to try, and fail, and correct, and work toward meaningfulness)

Dad: “Let me see if I can give you an example that proves the point. But the point is that, on average, those who want now, demand now, pursue now, focus on now and so make the condition of satisfaction now are poorer than those who sacrifice now, live without now, willingly embrace dissatisfaction, and focus on later satisfaction.

Take two girls A and B. Same opportunity, except orientation to time. A is present oriented. B is future oriented. Assume for the sake of ease of calculation that they each make $10/hr. Both work 40 hours a week, but the shared opportunity is to come in to work early and work extra. Getting up early requires the sacrifice of satisfaction in the present. Does it feel good or bad to get up early?”

Daughter: “Bad”.

Dad: “So, B, who willingly sacrifices present satisfaction for future satisfaction is present or future oriented?”

Daughter: “Future?”

Dad: “That’s right. So, let’s play out the difference in orientation to time over time.”

Daughter: (with a smile) “Dad.”

Dad: “Bear with me. Assume B works 10 extra hours a week. How much more does B make, per week, than A?

Daughter: (looking up at the ceiling, a bit peeved at the introduction of math, but also feeling that it is within the range of her capacity and jumping at the chance to shine) “Um…$100.”

Dad: “Excellent! Ok, let’s say they both take 2 weeks vacation. I bet that B would actually work one of those two week given her time preference. But, let’s keep things simple. 50 weeks a year worked. At $100 extra per week. How much more does B make per year than A?”

Daughter: “Um (skipping over some predictable errors and the occasional “nope”) $5000!” (A large smile now emerges. Puritanical Libertarians know the value of virtue. But they also know the value of dollars. And they just grew! And nothing changed but time)

Dad: “Ok. Ok. Now, let’s assume nothing changes over time. It is predictable that other changes occur. That the time preference difference is associated with other differences that invite those responsible for meritocratic selection to choose B for advancement or that the same willingness to sacrifice NOW for the FUTURE prompts other strategic moves by B. But, for now, assuming no difference (the eyes are glossing a bit in daughter but she is ready for the next stage) what is the difference between A and B over 10 years? Remember, you just confirmed that B makes $5000 more a year than A.

Daughter: “$50,000!” (with real glee that we are talking such, to her, large sums of money).

Dad: “Excellent. So you see, even in this brief and artificial example, without probing very far in the way B’s time preference (which shows up not only in working but in spending, in saving, in social relationships) expresses itself, we can see that time preference is quite a powerful cause of differences between the relatively richer and the relatively poorer.

Those that are present oriented will choose crime as a way to satisfy wants, wanting goods faster than they can otherwise be satisfied.

Those that are present oriented will choose spending over saving faster, wanting goods faster than they can otherwise be satisfied.

Those that are presented oriented will choose divorce faster, wanting goods faster than they can otherwise be satisfied.

Those that are present oriented will choose drug escape faster, wanting the good of escape from some part of reality faster than they can otherwise be satisfied.

May I take two further, on social and one intergenerational continuations of the time-preference effect on the rich and poor?”

Daughter: “Uh-huh.”

Dad: “Ok. Assume B joins in marriage with a C who is similarly oriented in time preference, toward the future. Assume all else equal. A does not marry, But we won’t assume either that her time preference generates the trouble and expense of unwanted children.”

Daughter: “Unwanted children? Who would not want a child?”

Dad: “There are many children born today, the product of a man or woman, one of whom has decided that his or her care is no longer needed. The child, in that sense, becomes unwanted.”

Daughter: “Oh…” (The “Oh” is drifted. The gaze is somewhere else that is not good. It is the gaze given to the unpleasant imagination of a part of the world that one has not experienced first-hand but that now appears plausible and sad).

Dad: “Back to our example. When B and C combine, and stay together for 10 years, making the same extra due to time preference, what is the difference in income to A? Remember, B made $50,000 extra.”

Daughter: “Well, if B and C both make $50,000 extra, then the combined difference is $100,000. Wow. $100,000.”

Dad: “Yes, and that ‘wow’ is important. The artificiality of the example and the impact of government monetary debasement mean that the rewards in real dollars are much greater. That was the social example. We have one more. You ready?”

Daughter: “Yes” (said tiredly but willingly)

Dad: “What do you think the difference is for the child that grows up witnessing future orientation in parents and experiencing deferred satisfaction and gratification by being told “no” with regularity?”

Daughter: “I am not sure, but I guess (here she is inferring that wherever future orientation is riches will be) the child will be richer?”

Dad: “All things remaining equal, and they never do, that is right. Who knows what the child chooses. We will see. But, at least stored back in her memory bank of experience of what can be instantiated in a human being she has seen some measure of future-orientation. Heck, it is very likely that the dad and mom learned it, in part, by the model they received from their parents.”

The conversation continued with the smaller examples of the star soccer player, the developed piano player, the student who excels and is invited to college on scholarship. In each case the one who chooses work and dissatisfaction over immediate satisfaction increases the probability of greater riches.

The puritanical libertarian hopes a seed was planted in words. But if so, the words are the much less important part. The words are the mere conceptual organization of, in this case, purposeful life activity. And the puritanical libertarian bets that the orientation of his life on a day to day basis has much more to teach his daughters than his words ever will.

Words are cheap. These words are cheap. Where is the valuable and expensive? It is in the character of he who lives toward the future. Forget all the mumbo jumbo about not being present in the moment. If you want to be present in the moment, be there like more than that moment mattered. In any moment down here on this ole clod there is opportunity to pursue immediate satisfaction or to live dissatisfied and store up resource. Be in the present as if other future-presents mattered.

Published by Purilib

Anonymously interested in grasping the good life.

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