We usually act as though the future matters less than today. Many institutions apply "discount rates" to the future as a way to formalize that view. But strange things happen if we assume even a 1% annual discount rate for social benefits. This would mean that saving a life this year is as valuable as saving roughly two lives in the year 2100 — and is also as valuable as saving more than one million lives in the year 3400.
This paper examines the arguments for applying social discount rates, argues that none of them work, and calls for treating the future as though it matters as much as the present. (35 mins.)
Political institutions generally operate on 2-to-4-year timescales, which aren’t long enough to address global issues (as the issue of climate change has shown). This talk analyzes sources of political short-termism and describes institutional reforms to align government incentives with the interests of all generations. (Video - 30 mins.)