Future Shade

By November 1, 2017 January 2nd, 2018 No Comments

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they shall never sit in.  This Greek proverb is often explained as meaning that a selfless society thrives.  That’s a miss.  It’s not selflessness that leads one to build something which will provide benefits past one’s own lifetime; it’s a long time horizon.

Humans are the only animal capable of understanding their life and thinking past their own existence.  Those who build businesses or plant trees that will outlast them are usually not motivated by selflessness as much as a desire to create something lasting; maybe for their own offspring or maybe just for themselves.

A culture that promotes long time horizons creates a great society.  An example is Liechtenstein, perhaps the richest country in the world on a per capita basis.  Their culture is one of very long time horizons.

Adam Smith said the requirements for “opulence” were Peace, Easy Taxes, and Tolerable Justice.  To that we need to add long time horizons.