Four Out of Four Panelists Agree: U.S. Fiscal Policy Does Not Cheat Future Generations

9 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2009 Last revised: 9 Nov 2010

See all articles by Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: March 10, 2009


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.

Keywords: Fiscal Policy, Deficits, Social Security, Generational Justice, Stimulus

JEL Classification: H62, H55, E62

Suggested Citation

Buchanan, Neil H., Four Out of Four Panelists Agree: U.S. Fiscal Policy Does Not Cheat Future Generations (March 10, 2009). George Washington Law Review, Vol. 77, p. 1402, 2009, GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 448, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 448, Available at SSRN:

Neil H. Buchanan (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

PO Box 357069
Gainesville, FL 32635
United States

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