In the policy world, elected officials often consider anything more than one year long term. Charles Rangel (D-NY), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, likes to quip "I don't buy green bananas" when asked to comment on policies for 2010 or beyond. But consider the other end of the spectrum. Orthodox history traces civilization itself back only 5,000 or 6,000 years (e.g., Sumer, Persia, China, Egypt); even 3,000 years ago, few people led what we'd call civilized lives, despite the beginnings of kingships under King David or the Zhou dynasty in China or the advances of the Mayan civilization. From this perspective, most of us alive today will live through 1 percent or more of civilization. And while each year's changes may seem small or marginal, they compound profoundly over a lifetime.
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