Future preference

Writing the post on Oliver Burkeman’s last column reminded me of something I read years ago, in David Maraniss’s biography of Bill Clinton, First in His Class:

“Clinton formed his ideas on change as a freshman at Georgetown University. He often related the story about a course he took, History of Civilization. He remembered the professor (Carroll Quigley) saying that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Western civilization is the propensity for ‘future preference,’ the idea that the future will be better than the past and that every individual in society has a duty to make it so. This transforms the social contract from an agreement between members of society into an agreement between generations.”