How important it is for individuals and countries to think about the future, rather than focusing on the present?
To place precedence on the present or the future? Carpe diem, or save for a rainy day? When Aesop wrote his fable about the grasshopper and the ant, he was telling us the wise soul plans ahead. However I would argue that the answer for an individual is different if considered philosophically versus practically, whilst organisations such as countries (which are structures rather than people) have another answer yet.
Existentially an individual’s life is a cocktail of events, emotions, senses and consciousness that forever appear in the present. The future is an abstract concept that cannot provide happiness (presuming that is life’s goal), and considering it is merely trying to guess and create the right circumstances. If thought about this way then the present is the crux of life because it holds our meaning.
Yet practically people do not live in such a manner: we always assume there will be a tomorrow, and therefore we build plans. We study for exams not because we enjoy studying, but because we have aspirations. In this sense we are trying to build a story, leading towards a happy ending, occasionally enjoying the telling. This contradicts our existential truth and possesses an element of risk as not all circumstances can be controlled (studying for an exam is worthless if one is run over by the number 27 bus tomorrow).
And just as we build plans, so we build structures like countries. They are functioning units generally built for processes, with expectations to manage future circumstances and span generations. They have no happiness or consciousness; because of this they must place future considerations before the present, because that is their raison d’etre.
Therefore, to conclude, I would say that although individual’s assume that the future exists and circumstances can be manipulated (making us story-builders and gamblers on a presumed higher happiness) it is the present where our true existential happiness lies. If this is the meaning of life, then concentrate here and let the future fall as it may.