Thursday, September 30, 2010

On Instant Gratification

A conservative friend of mine, never known for his reticence, recently asked me "how's that hope and change working out for you"? My response is that it will take *way* more than two years to undo all the damage done by the Bush administration in 8 years of blundering and mismanagement.

Upon pondering why anybody in their right mind would think otherwise, I got to thinking about how the need for instant gratification permeates our politics as well as everything else. It seems voters have no ability to think in terms of what is best for our long-term interest. They focus on short-term only, and worse than that, it's not even the short-term interest of the country, but of their own personal lives. Reagan got elected by asking "are you better off now that you were four years ago", and that has set the stage for the degeneration of our politics where voters vote their narrow self-interest, as they (usually mistakenly) perceive it, rather than who would be the best person for the job.

The childhood obesity epidemic in this country certainly reflects the need for instant gratification, to the exclusion of any thought of longer-term self-interest.

I think an interesting study would be to look at lottery winners. I've heard enough to know that a fair number of them go through their winnings rapidly and end up back in poverty. People used to spending everything they have, don't lose that habit simply because they win the lottery.

On the other hand, people like Ken Jennings, the big Jeopardy winner, are used to thinking long-term, and I seriously doubt that Ken has spent a penny of his winnings. It is being saved for his kids' college educations. Ken's Morman background has prepared him to think long-term, and eschew the temptation to gratify today. Would that there were more like him.

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