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Future Generations: economic, legal and institutional aspects

By K. Hubacek and M. Volker


In economics, the issue of ‘future generations’ is mainly related to the environmental problems of resource consumption and pollution and their distribution over long time horizons. This paper critically discusses fundamental concepts in economics, such as efficiency and optimality, in relation to the incorporation of future generations in present day decision-making. Cost–benefit analysis (CBA) and discounting are used as a starting point and criticized for its inherent flaws such as incommensurability of values and its tendency to hide rather than reveal underlying values which are assumed to be fixed. We then investigate alternative approaches, in which, unlike in CBA, the preferences are not assumed to be a priori but must be constructed. Thus, interest groups or individuals must sit down together and figure out what things seem to be worth. The aim is to involve all interested parties in planning for the future.\ud Similarly, on a national and regional level, increasingly stakeholder processes, deliberative and interest group procedures are used to develop strategies and visions for resource management and conservation. A similar case can be made for institutions at the international level. The legal examples provided in this paper show that rather than only installing an institution such as the guardian for the future on the global level, more ‘democratized’ bottom up approaches might be more appropriate.\ud \u

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd.
Year: 2008
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