Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Assessing government policy decisions from the perspective of intergenerational equity presents substantial problems. There are genuine limitations on our ability to measure intergenerational effects and, importantly, a fundamental arbitrariness in defining the relevant framework. Even perfect measurement of intergenerational effects, however, would remain useless without a robust norm of intergenerational equity to assess whether those measured effects are fair. And yet the question remains overwhelmingly important. Government policy affects people alive today and people who will be alive in the future, and we cannot responsibly make decisions about those policy matters in ignorance or disregard of how they affect future generations. The question of intergenerational equity is hardly misplaced; but, at least for now, we have no good answers.