Historically, those who could learn to wait, who knew the importance of investing their time as well as their money, would be the ones to profit in the great game. In an era of self-help – Samuel Smiles’s classic manual came out in the same year as Mrs Beeton’s work – those who managed to avoid the lure of the pie shop in favour of homemade soup were the very people who had the best chance of winning at life.
This is much more than a metaphor. The University of Toronto researchers discovered that those North Americans who live in areas where there is a high density of fast food “cues” do actually find it harder to save for the future. Still, you can’t help feeling that behind the well-meaning implication that rational citizens should eschew eating in the street if they want to enjoy the good life, complete with Puccini and a pension, is a slightly different – which is to say, very old – message. And it is this: anyone who does choose to dive into KFC rather than go home for supper is morally derelict or simply ignorant. Either way, they’re heading for a fall.
Sigh. A couple of well known facts.
1) Many of the poor suffer from hyperbolic discounting, have shorter timescales, than the rest of us.
2) Fast food joints tend to be clustered in areas where the poor live.
Are we then to conclude that fast food makes the poor have short time horizons? Or that the supply is there to feed the pre-extant demand?