SEPTEMBER 01, 1981 by LUDWIG VON MISES
Men value fractions of time of the same length in a different way according as they are nearer or remoter from the instant of the actor’s decision. Acting man does not appraise time periods merely with regard to their dimension. His choices regarding the removal of future uneasiness are directed by the categories sooner and later.
The economization of time is independent of the economization of economic goods and services. The value of time, i.e., time preference or the higher valuation of want-satisfaction in nearer periods of the future as against that in remoter periods, is an essential element in human action. It determines every choice and every action. The time element is instrumental in the formation of all prices of all commodities and services.
The social process of production never stops. At each instant numberless processes are in progress some of which are nearer to, some remoter from, the achievement of their special tasks.
Every single performance in this ceaseless pursuit of wealth production is based upon the saving and the preparatory work of earlier generations. We are the lucky heirs of our fathers and forefathers whose saving has accumulated the capital goods with the aid of which we are working today.
Capital goods—the factors of further production produced in the past—are not an independent factor. They are the joint products of the cooperation of the two original factors—nature and labor—expended in the past. They have no productive power of their own. Noris it correct to call capital goods labor and nature stored up. They are rather labor, nature, and time stored up. The difference between production without the aid of capital goods and that assisted by the employment of capital goods consists in time.
For success in entrepreneurial activities, mere anticipation of the direction in which the market will react to a certain event is of little significance if it is not supplemented by an adequate anticipation of the length of the various adjustment periods involved. Most of the mistakes committed by entrepreneurs in the conduct of affairs and most of the blunders vitiating the prognoses of future business trends on the part of “expert” forecasters are caused by errors concerning the length of adjustment periods. There is in the course of a man’s life a right moment for everything as well as a too early and a too late.