Social Security, Generational Justice, and Long-Term Deficits

52 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2005 Last revised: 10 Nov 2010

See all articles by Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: November 9, 2010


This paper assesses current methods for evaluating the long-term viability and desirability of government activities, especially Social Security and other big-ticket budget items. I reach four conclusions: (1) There are several simple ways to improve the current debate about fiscal policy by adjusting our crude deficit measures, improvements which ought not to be controversial; (2) separately measuring Social Security's long-term balance is inappropriate and misleading; (3) the methods available to measure very long-term government financing (Fiscal Gaps and their cousins, Generational Accounts) are of very limited value in setting public policy today, principally because there is no reliable baseline of the government's likely future expenditures and receipts; and therefore (4) the government's current annual and 10-year deficit projections, while highly imperfect, are nonetheless the best measure available for assessing fiscal policy, especially compared with Fiscal Gaps and Generational Accounts.

Keywords: Deficits, National Debt, Generational Accounting, Fiscal Gap

JEL Classification: E60, E62, H50, H55, H60, H61, H62, H63

Suggested Citation

Buchanan, Neil H., Social Security, Generational Justice, and Long-Term Deficits (November 9, 2010). Tax Law Review, Vol. 58, p. 275, 2005, Rutgers School of Law Working Paper No. 005, 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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