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War and Time Preference: The American Army in Australia

April 21, 2014
Police crime sceneJohn McKerrow writes in today's Mises Daily:  Still, as important as the above explanations are, high time preference offers another reason for the conduct of American soldiers. The importance of time preference in understanding human action is nothing new to those who have some awareness of the Austrian School. Yet, among mainstream historians, whose knowledge of praxeology is limited, time preference is virtually unknown. The correlation between high time preference and crime, barbarism, and de-civilization is even more alien. This is not surprising given that there are very few studies that explore this correlation in any detail. Edward C. Banfield paved the way in his book The Unheavenly City Revisited, where he observed that:
The threat of punishment at the hands of the law is unlikely to deter the present-oriented person. The gains that he expects from the illegal act are very near to the present, whereas the punishment that he would suffer — in the unlikely event of his being both caught and punished — lies in a future too distant for him to take into account.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe expanded on Banfield’s insights in Democracy, the God that Failed:
While high time preference is by no means equivalent with crime ... a systematic relationship between them still exists, for in order to earn a market income a certain minimum of planning, patience, and sacrifice is required: one must first work for a while before one gets paid. In contrast, specific criminal activities such as murder, assault, rape, robbery, theft, and burglary require no such discipline: the reward for the aggressor is tangible and immediate, but the sacrifice — possible punishment — lies in the future and is uncertain.

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