As part of the George Washington Law Review's symposium "What Does Our Legal System Owe Future Generations? New Analyses of Intergenerational Justice for a New Century," participants discussed the nature of intergenerational obligations as they relate to fiscal policy. The panelists reached consensus that intergenerational justice is not an appropriate lens through which to analyze fiscal issues, because there is no obvious starting point from which to build a moral consensus about whether current generations owe anything at all to future generations, much less how to quantify any such obligation. In addition, even pessimistic forecasts indicate that future generations will be much wealthier than current generations, meaning that we are already being quite generous to our grandchildren. The discussion then turned to whether current fiscal policy should be changed. While panelists disagreed about how policies should be changed, there was at least apparent consensus that Social Security is either not a problem or at least not a major part of any long-term fiscal worries. Moreover, the biggest cause of any long-term distress is health care costs for all payers, not just for the federal and state governments.
GW Paper Series
GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 448; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 448
Neil H. Buchanan, Four Out of Four Panelists Agree: U.S. Fiscal Policy Does Not Cheat Future Generations, 77 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1402 (2009).