In 1970, Professor Edward Banfield of Harvard University offered a new definition of class. He defined class positions in terms of time perspective, not income.
Banfield wrote that the individual’s orientation is a function or two factors:
01 ability to imagine a future, and
02 ability to discipline oneself to sacrifice present for future satisfaction. The more distant the future the individual can imagine and can discipline himself to make sacrifices for, the “higher” his/her class. The criterion, it should be noted, is ability, not performance.
This use of the term “class” is different from the ordinary one. As the terms used here, a person who is poor, unschooled, and of low status may be upper class; indeed he’s upper class if he is psychologically capable of providing for a distant future. By the same token, one who is rich and a member of elite may be lower class. He is lower class if he is incapable of conceptualizing the future or of controlling his impulses, and is therefore obliged to live from moment to moment.
When we consider the ramifications of this definition of class for contemporary attitudes, the implications are grim. What we are seeing in the USa (and Australia) today is a steady increase in lower-class citizens. As human time perspectives shift to the short run, class position drops.
What made Banfield’s detractors so furious was his arguments that since class is a product of time perspective, the government is unlikely to be able to raise low-class peole to middle-class status. The government can pour billions of dollars into the ghettos, but the results will be very different from what the bureaucrats have promised. Without a lengthening of time perspective, without an increased commitment to deferred gratification, without an increase of self-discipline for future gains, the ghetto will remain what it is today.
Our proper goal is to raise children who are truly upper class. They must have a commitment to the future. They need to have an understanding that their efforts have long-term consequences. We must strive to create a moral perspective in our children’s minds that offsets the siren call of the short run. Ultimately, I know of no capital investment more important than this – not gold, not diamonds, not real estate.
This having been done to the best of our ability, then we must adopt a strategy of wealth transfer to our children.
The long-run perspective takes discipline. People want a fast payoff. They want visible confirmation of their genius, measurable in dollars and cents, and easily displayed. They are not after long-run gains, meaning lifetime gains. They are after brilliant tips that will reflect their own genius.
For long term capital multiplication an increased time perspective is a necessity. It is a commitment to the future that builds a capital base.
Have your children (or grandchildren) shown an interest in natural health? If so, we would urge them to read Ann Wigmore’s RECIPES FOR LONGER LIFE