Intergenerational justice and the chain of obligation
AbstractThe actions and decisions taken by the present generation will affect not only the welfare but also the composition of future generations. A number of authors have used this fact to bolster the conclusion that the present is only weakly obligated to provide for future welfare since in choosing between futures of poverty and abundance, we are not deciding the welfare of a well-defined group of future persons but instead deciding which set of potential persons Ð the poor or the rich Ð will become actual. Provided that future generations have lives that are worth living, they will be grateful to us for bringing them into existence Ð or so the argument goes. In this paper, I argue that this position overlooks an important aspect of the intergenerational problem. We are obligated to provide for the actual children of today, who will in turn be obligated to provide for their children, and so forth from generation to generation. A chain of obligation is thus defined that stretches from the present into the indefinite future, and unless we ensure conditions favourable to the welfare of future generations, we wrong our existing children in the sense that they will be unable to fulfill their obligation to their children while enjoying a favourable way of life themselves.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.
Volume (Year): 1 (1992)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.erica.demon.co.uk
environment; philosophy; intergenerational justice; obligations to future generations;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
You can help add them by filling out this form.
CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
- John C. V. Pezzey, 2004.
"Sustainability Policy and Environmental Policy,"
Scandinavian Journal of Economics,
Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(2), pages 339-359, 06.
- John C. V. Pezzey, 2002. "Sustainability Policy and Environmental Policy," Economics and Environment Network Working Papers 0211, Australian National University, Economics and Environment Network.
- John C. V. Pezzey, 2001. "Sustainability Policy and Environmental Policy," Economics and Environment Network Working Papers 0104, Australian National University, Economics and Environment Network.
- Mullen, John D., 2001. "An Economic Persective On Land Degradation Issues," Research Reports 27999, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries Research Economists.
- Richard Howarth & Richard Norgaard, 1993. "Intergenerational transfers and the social discount rate," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(4), pages 337-358, August.
- Howarth, Richard B., 2007. "Towards an operational sustainability criterion," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 656-663, September.
- Toman, Michael & Pezzey, John C., 2002. "The Economics of Sustainability: A Review of Journal Articles," Discussion Papers dp-02-03, Resources For the Future.
- Richard B. Howarth, 2004. "Against High Interest Rates," Rensselaer Working Papers in Economics 0404, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Economics.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Andrew Johnson).
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.