Politics

I Want it NOW! Why Short-Sightedness is Holding the US Back

Profit margins and instant gratification are top priority for America, no matter what the long-term damage may be.

While watching yet another amazing video earlier by the YouTube channel Kurzgesagt, something he said really stood out to me and got me thinking.

First, though, if you’ve never watched any of their videos, well… I just really need you to get your life together and go check them out. They have videos about the world and universe all around us that are incredibly informative and entertaining. They’re seriously the best. I get no money for saying this, by the way. I just really like them, and you should too.

Their most recent episode was about building a base on the moon, how we can do it now if we wanted, and the many benefits (as well as a few possible issues) of said base. You should check it out.

“Sadly, it’s hard to get governments interested in long-term investments in the future of humanity.”

One part of this video really stood out to me, though. As he was talking about why we don’t already have a base on the moon – and most likely won’t have one soon – he pointed out that:

“Sadly, it’s hard to get governments interested in long-term investments in the future of humanity.”

And he’s absolutely correct. But, it’s not just governments that are trapped in this instant results mindset. I’ve worked for a couple different corporations, and they are the exact same. Most of them care more about making money today than they do of building up a base that will last them for the long term. So, they cut back hours. They decrease the quality of their products. They pay their employees less and wind up losing their best people. Anything and everything they can do to save a couple pennies they will do it, no matter how negatively it will impact customer service or employee satisfaction.

So, this strategy works for them for a couple years, maybe a decade. But the whole time they are slowly losing business, one sent back steak or one forty-five minute wait for food at a time. Or whatever their business. It’s slowly going away. Instead of seeing what’s going on and realizing that people actually do care about good customer service and quality products, they just keep coming up with new knee-jerk reactions to get back the money they are losing. You can see how this is ultimately a false economy by looking at the companies that actually pay their people well and pay extra for the better products. Those few corporations that have the high standards are the ones that are just killing it out there and always packed.

This stance is the same with the government, except they aren’t short-sighted because of money. Our representatives obviously care about money – both in terms of the budget and how much money lobbyists are slipping some of them to vote in particular ways – but money isn’t the main driver of their inability to think long-term; it’s votes that truly motivate them.

But money isn’t the main driver of their inability to think long-term; it’s votes that truly motivate them.

Human beings are naturally impatient people, and many of them only care about how something is going to impact their lives. So, imagine with me if you will…

A newly elected president makes a speech to the nation and tells you that he has a great new plan. He’s going to build a base on the moon! It’s going to have all the bells and whistles, it’s going to make it easier for us to start mining asteroids, which will, in turn, give us back a return hundreds of times greater than our investment.

The reporters ask him how long until we start seeing real results.

He says it will take about fifty to a hundred years.

What do you think the odds are of Congress approving that idea? I personally think it’s close to zero. The average person won’t support spending that kind of money on something that they will never benefit from. Some simply won’t really even understand the value of it, honestly, but the fact that almost none of them will even be around to see it come to fruition will immediately discourage them on the whole idea. If the people don’t support it, they probably won’t vote for a person who does.

For example, the only reason people were in such strong support of the first space race is that they were seeing rapid developments. America put its first satellite into space in 1958. Eleven years later, in 1969, we had a man on the moon. While even that stretch is pretty long for politics, it was still within nearly everybody’s lifetime. Not to mention the fact that we had to beat those damn Commies there!

Somebody is going to take that leap, and I find it hard to think that it’s going to be the United States.

Even more importantly, though, is that we as a nation were not at that time quite to the level we are now in terms of instant gratification. They didn’t have cell phones that could give them the answer to every question they could ask. For the most part, you still had to cook your own meals and couldn’t get anything you wanted frozen and pre-packaged and ready to go in minutes. There wasn’t a different fast food joint on every corner with a drive-thru lane that meant you didn’t even have to get out of your car. America today runs on convenience and immediate results.

Which brings us back to the original point. Politicians won’t go for any plan that does not benefit themselves or their voters right here, right now. Not in the United States of America, anyways. And most definitely not under the current administration that is just about as short-sighted as you can get. They’ve already shrunk the sizes of national parks to create more space for oil drilling, rolled back environmental protections, and basically did everything in their power to say that the present day profits of corporations are more important than the long-term survivability of humanity on our planet. Who cares about people two-hundred years from now? We’ll all be dead, so let them figure it out.

However… some other nation will decide to invest the money. A nation where their leaders don’t have to worry so much about votes and their people care a little bit more about what is going to happen in the future. It could be China, or India, or maybe even the European Space Agency. Somebody is going to take that leap, and I find it harder and harder to think that it’s going to be the United States.

This whole thing isn’t really about moon bases, of course. That was just a wonderful example to demonstrate another way that things are broken at the top. Even though it’s clear to everybody that a certain path would be more beneficial – not only to our nation but to humanity in general – our government would almost always choose the other option that benefits us now but does nothing (or potentially harms) future generations. It’s honestly a pretty terrible way to run a country.

As always, there are things you can do to help this. The more educated we are, the more we can see the value in long-term investments. Short-sighted solutions don’t work out in your personal life, and they absolutely don’t work for the government. We need to elect people into office who put an emphasis on education. We need to elect people who understand that if we don’t keep moving forward as a nation, we are going to get left behind. We need to elect people, and become those people ourselves, who value humanity more than money.

And we really, really need to stop driving slowly in the left lane, people…

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