Friday, April 5, 2019

Long range planning

There’s a famous psychological test that was originally done by Stanford called the marshmallow test. The basic idea is that young children had the option of getting one small reward right away or waiting for later when they’d get two rewards. The results seemed to show that those kids who could delay gratification would grow up to do better later in life.

Years later the tests were thrown into some doubt. The results may not be due to the kid’s virtues so much as a measurement of economic background.

Delayed gratification only makes sense if certain conditions apply. If you expect to be treated fairly, feel safe, have and can maintain excellent health, waiting until later makes sense. In a less secure environment getting what you can as soon as you can is actually the wise decision.

Take something as simple as retirement planning. If you can put aside and invest money while you are young, by the time you reach retirement age a nice bit of wealth can be accumulated. That makes perfect sense, but only really applies to a select group of people.

Take someone who’d seen their parent’s lose their nest egg when the real estate bubble burst in 2008. They thought their investments were “as safe as houses.” Turns out in an overheated real estate market houses aren’t that safe. Then they find themselves in a low paying job, poor health care, and a long history of being ripped off. Due to poor diet and stress they may find themselves with type 2 diabetes and a heart condition before they are forty. It happens all the time. Investing in the stock market for their sixties makes no sense to them. Buying a bass boat and having some fun now does. Considering they may never make it to 60, that makes a kind of perverse sense.

If a kid from a poor background is offered a marshmallow now or two later it makes sense to get it now. That one treat is real. The second treat might be a trick. He fears he’d end up waiting for two and getting nothing instead. When you see the rules change without warning and rip offs are common, delayed gratification is a shaky bet.

Countries do well when everyone feels they are being treated equally and fairly. It gets dangerous when the elite skew the game heavily to their advantage at the expense of all others. At some point the common people get sick of never having a chance at that second marshmallow. When people feel they have no future and nothing to lose, short term solutions, often involving violence, seem like a viable option.



  1. "A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush" so goes the old saying but I prefer to see the birds in the bush.

    1. Are the birds real or just a bunch of decoys set out to fool us?


  2. I have thought about my co-op shortages . . . a lot of the food co-op people are preparation minded and buy in bulk. They snapped a lot of chicken feed and other things up this month.

    1. Well there you go. Maybe they have their ear to the ground and hear trouble is coming?