At the present-oriented end of the scale, the lower-class individual lives from moment to moment. If he has any awareness of a future, it is of something fixed, fated, beyond his control: things happen to him, he does not make them happen, Impulse governs his behavior, either because he cannot discipline himself to sacrifice a present for a future satisfaction or because he has no sense of the future, He is therefore radically improvident: whatever he cannot use immediately he considers valueless, His bodily needs (especially for sex) and his taste for “action” take precedence over everything else and certainly over any work routine, He works only as he must to stay alive, and drifts from one unskilled job to another, taking no interest in his work.
–Edward Banfield, The Unheavenly City
Note this is NOT about money. For example, how many rich Hollywood types can you think of that fit the quote above? It’s about cultural traits that promote survival of a civilization versus those that do not.
Harvard professor Banfield’s ideas were controversial (I found out about Banfield through reading the, er, interesting Gary North, for example), and from a quick perusal of his work I can already see some whoppers with which I disagree — but….
I think our entire public culture has morphed into such a present-oriented state. Long-term thinking is increasingly not evident in public discourse except among small groups of like-minded folks. It used to be you could rely on business and political elites to be a reservoir for long-term worldviews, but when elites are becoming infected by the present-oriented worldview as well, things start to fall apart.