Re: Market failure to sufficently weigh the future

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Mon Oct 30 2000 - 06:43:13 MST

Hal Finney wrote:
>A better example would be a 60 year old considering an apple eaten when
>he was 30. ...


>IMO the real effect here is that we prefer situations in which our
>life is improving. ...

This is an interesting hypothesis, worth exploring.

>I can't see how evolutionary effects could cause discounting of the past.
>There is nothing you can do to change the past so it doesn't matter what
>you think of it, unlike the future. ...

It might matter that you anticipate how you will feel later about actions
taken today. And these preferences might be a side effect of other
evolutionary pressures. But I agree that it is far from obvious how
evolutionary pressures would produce such preferences.

>I don't agree that this effect can be aptly described as "tastes changing
>over time". Your tastes don't change, all of your likes and dislikes
>are stable.

Their terminology is standard, and to me completely reasonable.

Why don't you just bite the bullet and tell us that their theory doesn't
describe your preferences? How much are you willing to spend today to
give yourself in ten years $1 more to spend then, and how much would you
be willing to spend today to give yourself ten years ago $1 more to spend
then, assuming we could arrange a time machine to implement this choice?

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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