My new research project focuses on a special issue: Time horizon among the citizens. It is widely believed in Political Science that (1) people in democracy have longer time horizon comparing those in authoritarian because the political system is relatively stable. (2) Political elites have longer time horizon than ordinary citizens.
However, how do we measure time horizon in political science? Few had discussed this issue, not mentioning measure it. In Economics and Psychology, some researchers try to measure the concept of time horizon through “future discounting rate/social rate of discounting”. They measure individual’s time horizon by “you prefer 100 USD today, or 500 USD 1 year later.” However, I found that this measurement cannot explain people’s democratic belief, at least in a preliminary analysis from representative data of Taiwanese people in 2014.
I found another variables that can represent the idea of time horizon. In Asian Barometer, participants are asked “Give up gains in the present for the possibility of larger gains in the future” and “While dealing with others, give up immoderately self interests for the possibility of larger gains in the future is important or not”. The figure below is the aggregated results among east asia countries and its correlation to the level of democracy (by Democracy Index in 2013) (I dropped China because rumor goes that China dataset at that wave is to some extent problematic).
Surprisingly, in average people in Autocracy have LONGER time horizon comparing to those in Democracy. The correlation is negative but insignificant (P=0.206). Tocqueville had ever argued that democracy promotes shorter time horizon if people are not equipped with virtue or ethics.
Well, it is clear that the result is also preliminary. The next step of this project includes:
(1) Clarify the similarity and difference of Time Horizon/Future Discount Rate/Intertemporal Choice
(2) Comparing different measures and their capability on measuring the concept in political science
(3) Explaining individual difference through social demographic variables
(4) Explaining the cross-country difference.