Borrowing money. Staying up too late. Not maintaining your car. Procrastinating. Industrial pollution. Lack of preparation.
All examples of doing something now that will [usually] cause and require a larger expenditure of resources later. Its really easy to do; the future is uncertain, and I’m not there yet, and now is *right now* and I’d rather do something else.
It can be a good thing. Mortgages are *awesome* conceptually; I want to get people in a home before they’ve added enough value to society to earn one (read: saved enough money to purchase it outright). Staying out late with an out-of-town friend because they’re leaving in the morning is almost certainly worth the minor misery and loss of functionality the next day or two. And it is an amazing relief when you put off that $500 dollar repair and your car gets totaled, or you put off doing some work until the last minute and the project gets cancelled.
However, it sucks really bad when you didn’t put that $500 into your car, and you end up on the side of a road late for an interview. Or you put off the work till the last minute, and you find out your best friend is in town for that weekend. Or you get too big of a house, ’cause the bank would love to loan you more money, and you end up underwater on your mortgage, torn between an eternity of too big of payments that won’t pay themselves back and the cost and misery of moving again as well as locking in your loss.
Stealing is a strong word, but its perfectly accurate: future you, future society doesn’t ever get a say in what you take. Future you just has to work with whatever you left for them, future society left to figure out how to pay off a 20 trillion dollar debt. Just like with Hollowing out the Past, I wanted a term that really emotionally communicates the *cost* of these actions, as they are so often performed without consideration of their benefits.
The balance between investing in now and investing in later, between planting and feasting, could describe the summary of civilization. There’s no single answer to any question of “how should I spend my time/money/effort”, but there is better and worse answers depending on how much future you will benefit and suffer from your decisions.
And as you’ll be future you in a moment, properly caring for future you is worth your consideration.