"The Long Term Is ForUndergraduates"
from Richard Ostrofskyof Second Thoughts Bookstore (now closed)email@example.comSeptember, 2011My column for the summer months ended with a requestfor some response to its evolutionary perspective on humansociality. I had hoped to write about the uptake of evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology in theOttawa South Community. Receiving no anwers, I have hadto write about something else, and have chosen a remark byJohn Maynard Keynes – the title of this month's column.It's one of the most interesting comments I've ever read,and one I've thought about for years in connection with myown interests and writings – which certainly fall within thescope of Keynes' contemptuous dismissal. I'd like tospeculate here on what he meant when he said that "Thelong term is for undergraduates.".The fact is that many years ago I dropped out of gradschool (in mathematics), and so remained, in some sense, alife-long undergraduate. My BA from Columbia and mytraining in aikido were the extent of my formal education.Apart from that schooling I have been self-taught, for better and for worse – with the proverbial 'ignorant teacher.'Keynes was a very bright and very successful man, rightmuch more often than he was wrong, so I find hisdismissive dictum impossible to ignore, though on a gutlevel I reject it. In fact, all my life I have noticed thatundergraduate students and the lay public (includingmyself) seemed much more concerned with the long termthan the professional economists and sociologists, so in the purely descriptive sense Keynes was correct. But I think hemeant his remark more broadly – to say that the long termis
a waste of time
for real professionals in the socialsciences – which would explain, of course, why professionals avoid it, and why the public so distrusts them.Just why would the long term be a waste of time for the pros in fields like economics, sociology, and politicalscience? Or, why did Keynes feel that way? I can think of