Disagree "Policy makers who care about well-being need a recursive model of how adult life-satisfaction is predicted by childhood influences, acting both directly and (indirectly) through adult circumstances. Layard et al. (2014) estimated such a model using the British Cohort Study (1970) and showed that the most powerful childhood predictor of adult life-satisfaction is the child's emotional health, followed by the child's conduct. Among adult circumstances, mental and physical health are much more important that family income accounts that for only 0.5% of the variance of life-satisfaction. Initial conditions and the early investments in children are important for the individual, the society, and the national and the *global* economy! Over time, parents and countries were investing differently in children, which seems to explain part of the well-being differences within and between groups of children and adults. Academics, policy makers and decision takers are daily talking and writing about sustainable development with more and more focus the well-being of the individuals. These discussions are increasingly supported by robust strong empirical evidence about the factors and the early investments that increase the individuals' well-being. Part of this development is explained by the increasing use of the WELLBYs (life satisfaction-adjusted years of life) of the population and the ability of the WELLBY methodology to address complex externalities. Layard, R., A. E. Clark, F. Cornaglia, N. Powdthavee, and J. Vernoit. What Predicts a Successful Life? A Life-Course Model of Wellbeing, Economic Journal, 124, F720 F738, 2014. "
Professor Daniela Andrén
Senior Lecturer, Örebro University School of Business
Agree "Forget ethics and philosophy for a moment; forget a utopian/mechanistic view to policy making. When values inform decisions, it requires a predictive model of the future. Uncertainty about the near-future consequences of a decision will always be tighter (smaller) than the uncertainty about far-future outcomes. Therefore, it is never possible to treat future generations ""identically"" as those today. More specifically, on such long time frames, or whenever there is high complexity, uncertainty, or novel dynamics, the kind of benefit/cost thinking which may work for shorter-run outcomes will become inappropriate. Mixing long with short would overwhelm every single short-run decision with enormous uncertainty that comes from the long-run predictions. Thus, even if we agree to prioritize wellbeing in some way, the same approach cannot be used. For this reason, societies develop other heuristics or general conservationist policies to look after those in the far future."
Professor Chris Barrington-Leigh
Associate Professor, McGill University
Neither agree nor disagree We need to consider policy alternatives in term on all known benefits and costs, independent of whether they occur now or in the future. We need systems thinking over time. An obvious example is an investment in energy production alternatives: solar has minimal negative externalities on the environment compared to coal. Polution from coal could affect future weather patterns which could negatively impact food production, among other things.
Doctor Tony Beatton
Visiting Fellow, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
Disagree There should be an equal treatment of human being across generation but what has to be considered is that a change affecting permanently the future is affecting more individuals than just the current generation...in this sense future generations should weight more
Professor Leonardo Bechetti
Professor of Economics, University of Rome Tor Vergata
Agree I agree for the most part, except that there are some known cases where treating future generations equally leads to absurd implications. In those cases, we may need to discount future generations relative to the current generation.
Professor Daniel Benjamin
Associate Professor of Economics, University of Southern California
Neither agree nor disagree I wonder to what extent intergenerational discounting arguments would apply here, if a happy society today does have positive effects on future outcomes (including wellbeing itself).
Professor Martin Binder
Professor of Socio-Economics at Bundeswehr University Munich
Disagree "I do not necessarily disagree on weighting each future generation as much as the current generation, but the question is whether (i) we can predict their preferences or (ii) how many individuals will they be in the future or how long will we exist. In fact, we could also take into account the wellbeing of other beings, and not only of human beings. Again, if we know what are the determinants of their wellbeing. We could however take a human rights approach. This is, we might want to grantee that decisions taken today do not jeopardize the existence of future generations and their right to a dignified life. This is, taking decisions today that do not compromise the possibility of future generations to meet their needs."
Professor Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell
Professor of Economics, IAE-CSIC
Neither agree nor disagree When making any decision, we weight more heavily information that is more certain. For a similar reason does it make sense to weight more heavily the relatively more certain quantity of the wellbeing of today's alive humans (and our potential to alter said wellbeing based on known current technology) relative to the well-being of future humans at whose existence and happiness we can only guess. Additionally, when setting policy to promote the wellbeing of present humans we are also directly impacting the welfare of future generations, through such mechanisms as the intergenerational propagation of wellbeing and the decreased tolerance for dirty and dangerous environments that is created when incomes rise. The tradeoff between the wellbeing of present generations and that of future generations is therefore not as stark as is often portrayed.
Professor Gigi Foster
Associate Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator, School of Economics, UNSW Business School
Completely agree Equal treatment of generations corresponds to what has always been argued in political economy.
Professor Bruno Frey
Visiting Professor of Economics and Wellbeing, University of Basel
Completely disagree This is not a workable suggestion. No current generation is totally selfless towards all future generations, nor is anyone prepared for the possible consequences of that stance, such as that current generations should be willing to forego all pleasures in the case that allocating all surplus to future generations benefits those future generations more than it costs us now. It is also presuming that there will always be future generations and that humanity in the far future will be in some essential way the same as it is now. That is an untrue depiction.
Professor Paul Frijters
Professorial Research Fellow, CEP Wellbeing Programme, London School of Economics
Neither agree nor disagree I think we should prioritize the wellbeing of the next generations while we can. We have already lived much of our lives.
Professor Carol Graham
Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Completely agree If we accept that a government should treat 2 unidentifiable current people the same, then there can be no ethical reason to change that practice just because the unidentifiable people are of different generations.
Professor Arthur Grimes
Chair of Wellbeing and Public Policy, School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington
Agree "One of the main problems of policymaking in democracies is to give policymakers an incentive to take the wellbeing of future generations into account at all - since most of them won't yet be voters at the next election. In principle, though, the wellbeing of future generations should matter as much as that of current ones. There are, however, some technical difficulties in this kind of intergenerational wellbeing accounting. I want to mention only two. First, it is not clear whether and how the future should be discounted. When measuring wellbeing in monetary equivalents, one has to take into account that future generations will probably be richer and thus a future dollar will generate less additional wellbeing than a dollar today. Of course, there is uncertainty about how much richer future generations will be. Recent research proposes to use discount rates that decline over time to adjust for this uncertainty. Another problem concerns the intertemporal comparability of standard wellbeing measures. For example, when life satisfaction is measured on a scale with fixed end-points (e.g. 0 to 10), the meaning of these endpoints can change over time. When objective circumstances change, e.g. when societies become richer, the same response on the 0-10-scale might be an indicator of objectively better (and subjectively preferred) life circumstances for future than for current generations. This has to be taken into account when comparing the wellbeing of different generations."
Professor Andreas Knabe
Professor (Chair in Public Economics), Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg
Completely agree I do not believe that there is a moral rationale for discounting the wellbeing of future generations relative to the current one. Nevertheless, the public does not see things this way, and policy makers cannot and ought not ignore the preferences of the public that they represent. This is not unlike the question of whether policy makers should preference the welfare of their own citizens over that of people living in other countries.
Professor Guy Mayraz
Lecturer, University of Sydney
Agree Since we have appreciated the investment outcomes of past generations, we should learn to ensure wellbeing outcomes for future generations with current investments. This principle should inform policies.
Professor Maurizio Pugno
Full Professor of Economics, University of Cassino
Disagree In economics we are so used to intertemporal consumption analyses and time discounts that we may be inclined to apply some discount to future well-being. However, there is no reason at all to introduce any difference between the well-being of present and future generations. Differentiating between the present and the future is just a matter of perspective; this is: of which generation you belong to.
Professor Mariano Rojas
Professor of Economics, Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla
Neither agree nor disagree In principle it seems obvious that present and future generations should be treated as of equal moral worth. However, this is an ethical position that is not subject to empirical analysis. On a more practical level present and future generations need to be treated differently. We can observe the outcomes experienced by the current generation and how these are distributed across the population. It is therefore possible to target policies on the basis of their impact on wellbeing. However, for future generations we do no know their preferences, capabilities, constraints, or the technology with which they will be working. It is therefore challenging to directly evaluate the impact of policies on the wellbeing of future generations. We can, however, consider whether the aggregate stocks of productive resources that we pass on to future generations are larger or smaller than those available to the current generation. This is at the heart of the OECD's capital stocks model of intergenerational wellbeing (OECD, 2013, 2015) and the measurement of intergenerational wealth (Arrow, Dasgupta et al, 2012).
Professor Conal Smith
Senior Associate at Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, Victoria University of Wellington
Completely agree Principally yes, if one adheres to the moral 'Greatest happiness principle'. Practically, there is the problem that prediction of effects on future generations will typically be less certain. So policy makers will often have to balance certain effect on the present generation agains uncertain effects of future generations.
Professor Ruut Veenhoven
Professor of Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Completely agree "The question of intergenerational utility discounting is one of the most controversial isues in welfare economics, and one of the most consequential ones. For instance, depending on the pure rate of time preference, economists' assessments of climate change policies vastly differ (e.g., Stern 2007, Nordhaus 2019). Thinkers like Pigou rejected pure time preference in public decision making -- provided there is no uncertainty as to the very existence of future generations. Disregarding this latter aspect, the issue of time discounting is not much different from spatial discounting: should policymakers take account of the wellbeing consequences of their choices in distant places outside their nations? An important consideration with respect to both temporal and spatial discounting is whether taking account by a national decision maker of 'too many' people affected (in time and space) will overuse the respective countries' resources. For instance, is it advisable to spread a finite amount of some natural resource evenly over infinitely many generations? Or: how many refugees should be allowed to come to a country? Adam Smith (1759), in his ""'Theory of Moral Sentiments"" , may have been right in positing that moral duties come in different intensities depending on mental, spatial and temporal proximity, if only for pragmatic reasons.The limits to discounting appear to be the basic needs of both the present and future generations. Nordhaus, W.D. (2019), Climate Change: The Ultimate Challenge for Economics, American Economic Review 109, 1991-2014. Smith A. (1759). The Theory of Moral Sentiments, London: Andrew Millar (1967).. Stern, N. (2007), The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review, Cambridge University Press "
Professor Heinz Welsch
Professor of Economics, University of Oldenburg