April 13, 2007
What Do We Owe Future Generations?
Posted by Leandra Lederman

I’m currently at the Critical Tax Theory Conference, which is being held this year at UCLA. Steve Bank and Kirk Stark have done a terrific job organizing the conference, and we heard four papers this afternoon, all of which were really interesting. This post focuses on a project Neil Buchanan from GW is in the early stages of, which he plans to develop into a series of articles or a book. I borrowed his title for the title of this post: What do we owe future generations?

This question is of course much, much broader than tax. As Neil pointed out, all major policy issues can fit under the rubric of the question. Among the specific questions he raised is how we balance the interests of current and future generations. One question that comes out of that, which I believe Joseph Dodge raised, is whether there are positive duties to future generations, or just negative ones. At a minimum, it seems to me that we should be cautious in closing doors that future generations will have difficulty reopening. So I raised the question of whether we appropriately internalize the externalities our behavior imposes on future generations.

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