Re: Will there be time to Relax?

Robin Hanson (
Tue, 09 Nov 1999 13:47:38 -0500

Cynthia wrote:
> > .... We do know that in situations of extreme poverty,such as
> > during famine, people show the *least* social bonding. And as we have
> > gotten richer, we have spent more time on activities whose primary purpose
> > I think is social bonding: leisure, education, and health care. ...
>I think in time of plenty, social bonds widen. People in extreme poverty
>tend to only care about their immediate family.

An interesting thought. Let me rephrase. In famine and hard times, one cares about kin as always, and one is very grateful for the aid of non-kin allies. It is when one finds out who one's "true friends" are. But it is not a time when one *invests* in creating new non-kin allies. And it is a time when one may well "betray" those one doesn't consider true friends.

In times of plenty, that is the time to invest in creating new allies. In ancient times, other assets one could invest in tended to be less durable. So one invested in allies, by partying and other forms of leisure with them, and by helping them in times of health need.

There is also a life cycle effect. When one is young it is a good time to invest in allies, as those allies can be useful for the rest of your life. And your skills at doing other things are less. So youth is a time of bonding, via partying and schooling. When you are old, those allies are worth more to you, but you invest less to create new allies.

If the world gets richer as you get older, these two effects, times of plenty vs. famine, and youth vs. older age, counter-act each other. Each person feels more constant as they age, even as the world as a whole spends more on leisure, health care, and schooling.

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