Thomas Friedman writes about "situational values" versus "sustainable values" in today's column, and summarizes them as follows. Someone who is acting on situational values thinks, "I'll be gone when the bill comes due." Someone acting on sustainable values thinks, "I will never be gone. I will always be here." He then goes on to point out the many ways our leaders, corporations, banks, and individuals have been acting as if they'll be gone when the bill comes due.
I like this description. Back when I was developing software, I ran into the same two kinds of programmers. There were those who wrote code as if they would be gone tomorrow, and there were those who wrote code as if they were also going to be the ones who would have to maintain it. I tried to write code as if the person who would have to maintain it were a homicidal maniac who knew where I lived.
If we're only living for the moment, if we are not thinking about the consequences of our actions today on the next generation, and the one after that, and the one after that, then what does that make us?