It’s Either Inherited Or Of Mayfly-Stuff

Imagine two children.  One of them eats vegetables, while the other eats candy.

Most people would judge the first to have made the more worthy choice.

Now, some people with an overdeveloped taste for rules and strictness might ask: “Who are we to judge?  Surely the second child must in some way from their choice.  Candy is sweet to the taste and provides utility immediately.  Who are we to condemn this?”

Those with an even more overdeveloped taste for formal principles, however, would agree with the herd:  vegetable-eating is better.

Why do we think this?  The pleasure-principle-libertarian has a point, after all.  Isn’t candy vs vegetables just a preference, like a fondness for the color blue?

The key difference is that candy is a good choice in the short term, while vegetables are a better choice in the long (seventy years, and possibly longer, depending on epigenetics and follow-on effects) term.

Let’s introduce a property we’ll call reach.  Reach is simply the power to affect things at a distance.  When long-distance calling became cheap, everyone gained a bit of reach.  A baseball bat provides reach.

Reach is not just through distance, but also time.  The titular character in Ozymandias has great reach in his own era, but his achievements don’t last.

Which brings us to the point of this post.  For what timeframe should we aim our strivings?  The moment?  The year?  The decade? Our lives?  The next millenium?

Most people, when they seek to affect the world beyond the scope of their lifetimes, aim to do so through their children.  Why do people work at jobs they hate?  It ain’t so they can donate to medical research.

An unthinking hostility to inherited privilege, therefore, looks suspiciously like a boxing-in of human ambition to the short-sighted, the fleeting, the momentary.

Horribly, child-bearing and long-term planning are complements in the economic sense.  When you have children, the distant future becomes suddenly very relevant; likewise, the raising of children becomes a much more attractive pursuit when you grasp the reality of mortality.

This is horrible because the two reinforce each other, and both are being cut off at the knees.  As inherited privilege falls from favor, so does having children at all, as a vehicle for preservation of human labor.  And as birthrates fall, so do the incentives for average married father frustrated decline-enjoyer Joe to really give a damn about tomorrow.

“Inheritance” is two-sided, after all.  We might instead refer to it as “bequeathed” privilege, “entrusted” privilege, or “safeguarded” privilege.  The things my parents gave me, I treat as sacred.