Getting into this box is what's best for both of us. During your time in the box, you will learn so much, and yet experience so little. It's a wild ride, my friend, one well worth the time spent...and let's face it, you don't have much to do these days anyway.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Time Preference and Civilisation.

Two men live in a jungle. One has a low time-preference, the other a high time-preference. Both men require ten apples a day in order to survive, which they spend the whole of a day picking.

One day, both men independently come to the conclusion that if they could craft a special stick, that would make apple-picking so much easier, allowing them to pick twenty apples a day. However, the stick will take a whole day to craft, time they need to spend picking apples. Survival on nine apples a day is possible, but not without some discomfiture.

The high time-preferenced man, by definition, elects to avoid hunger and continues as he is. He spends the rest of his life solely engaged with picking and eating apples.

The low time-preferenced man endures a diet of nine apples a day for the next ten days, then spends the gathered ten apples on the day he crafts the stick. He now only needs to pick apples every two days to meet his apple needs. Then he realises he could do better with a shelter to keep the rain off, and spends every other day designing and building a shelter. With the shelter complete, he sleeps more soundly and feels more alert and inspired in the mornings. To express this inspiration, he whittles a flute...

The high time-preferenced man may desire and know how to build a shelter, or he may feel the need to express himself artistically, but regardless of his intelligence or innovation, he will never have the spare time or resources to build anything past his ten apples a day.


  1. Thus explaining why people are still living in grass huts in much of Africa. And no Islamic or African country has ever invented or built an automobile, computer or airplane.

  2. Pretty much sums it up, I'd say. Now, on to the eternal and never-ending discussion of - is it culture or genetics? As always, I'd say it's likely both, but there are one or two indications that culture has a stronger pull than genetics.

    It has been noted in certain immigrant populations in Europe that the second and third generation immigrants are a full 15 points higher than those who originally came, simply by living in a more developed culture.

    This is not to say that there aren't people who will never, despite cultural setting, be able to lower their time-preferences significantly, only that the human mind seems quite able to adapt.

    On the other hand, studies done on adopted children seems to confirm the other side of the story, namely that people from certain parts of the world have significantly higher time-preferences (I tend to couple IQ and time preference very tightly, perhaps too tightly, but sense there are no global "time preference comparisons" this will simply have to do). Thus, there might be certain limits to what culture can do, even if it can do a lot.

    What does this tell us? Well, from my view, nothing we didn't already know. My wish would be that we simply dismantle the whole welfare machinery and let people find their own places in society. No matter how you organize society there will always be people on the bottom. If we are striving for "fairness", then the only thing we might try to accomplish is to make sure that money is not redistributed from the "undeserving poor" (blue-collar workers) to the "deserving poor" (criminals, welfare-drones, etc.).

    Under our current system, the "responsible" working class has been shoved out in favour of the degenerate un-working class, and thus the despicable state of the who lower social class.

    1. As newrebel pointed out above: sub-Saharan peoples have had thousands of years, and yet never invented the wheel. Whether this is due to racial differences in cranial volume, skull shape, etc, or the R-selected environment in which they live in leading to these cultural and biological differences is still under debate. What isn't is their time-preference. As Vox Day points out, it took a thousand years for Europeans to become reasonably civilised after contact with Greco-Roman civilisation (or what was left of it, anyway).

      The poor and stupid (and yes, despite what geoih claims, reactionaries have an exact definition of stupid) will always be with us, and the point is not to institute barbarism and kill these people, but instead give them a place in society. The current paradigm is to buy the criminal underclass off with welfare so they keep out of trouble, but it clearly isn't working. What's worse is that it makes the children of lower-class hard-working individuals much more prone to becoming members of the criminal underclass themselves, the effect can be viewed most prominently with the proportion of mexican illegals in the US who them have kids.

      The other purpose of modern western-style welfare, frankly, is phariseeism from the SWPL crowd. As you point out, this system can't hold out for much longer.