Intergenerational Justice: The Rights of Future People or the Duty of Fair Play

Tokyo Institute of Technology Department of Social Engineering Discussion Paper No. 2011-05

19 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2011  

Makoto Usami

Kyoto University

Date Written: November 23, 2011

Abstract

Among various views on intergenerational justice, the most widely accepted theory invokes the rights of future generations. However, the rights theory seems to suffer from the non-identity problem addressed by Derek Parfit. Some rights theorists attempt to circumvent the problem by examining causal links between actions taken by preceding generations and their effects on succeeding ones. Others try to do so by replacing future individual rights with such collective rights. This paper argues that both individualist and collectivist versions of the rights theory fail to supply grounds for intergenerational concern. The paper then offers an alternative theory that refines the idea of duty of fair play developed by John Rawls and applies it to the context of intergenerational relationships.

To begin with, I identify several characteristics of posterity and explicate the adverse implications these characteristics have for other major theories of intertemporal concern than the rights theory. Next, different versions of the rights theory are closely examined from the perspective of the non-identity problem. Then, I offer an alternative argument for caring about future people, which is founded on the idea of intergenerational fair play. This paper concludes by noting that the fairness theory, unlike its rivals, does not face the non-identity problem or any other problems stemming from the features of posterity previously identified.

Keywords: fairness, resourcism, sufficientarianism, non-identity problem

Suggested Citation

Usami, Makoto, Intergenerational Justice: The Rights of Future People or the Duty of Fair Play (November 23, 2011). Tokyo Institute of Technology Department of Social Engineering Discussion Paper No. 2011-05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1964904 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1964904

Makoto Usami (Contact Author)

Kyoto University ( email )

Yoshida-Honmachi
Sakyo-ku
Kyoto, 606-8501
Japan
+81-75-753-2967 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.soc.titech.ac.jp/~usami/short_bio_in_English.htm

Paper statistics

Downloads
210
Rank
115,756
Abstract Views
1,016