As David Williamson’s latest foray demonstrates this idea that we’re stealing from our kids is back in fashion.
Cruise Ship Australia is in fact living off resources that took billions of years to accumulate. We’re eating up our past at a prodigious rate. Our grandchildren won’t have it nearly as easily as we have.
At the Fabian Society function for David McKnight’s book ‘Beyond Left and Right’ Race Mathews made the extra-ordinary comment that the major task for Australia’s politicians in the next generation is to explain to Australians how we need to lower our standard of living because the Indians and Chinese would be increasing their call on the world’s resources.
A similar (though slightly less confused) idea is at the heart of the Australia Institute sponsored Genuine Progress Indicator (though it seems a little orphaned since the Australia Institute removed the link to the GPI from it’s homepage.
The GPI’s attempt to flesh out the GDP numbers to generate more sensible indicators of welfare is sensible enough in principle. But it has unfortunately been taken as an opportunity to ideologically bias the result in various not so thinly disguised ways.
The fact is that, although each generation degrades the earths resources (by mining them) all modern generations have bequeathed to them all their intellectual property (you can’t take it with you!). And that turns out to be worth so much more than the itty bitty bit of resource theivery going on that it doesn’t bear mention. It’s amazing to me how rarely this gets mentioned in debates on intergenerational equity – and what it’s implications are.
Of course one could still argue that things are or will go downhill in other regards – we seem to be becoming more unequal and who’s to say that’s not more important in a rich society than a bit more riches. And there’s greenhouse which could become a nightmare for us. But the popular version of this – that our children will scrounge around trying to find energy or other resources because we’ve snaffled it all is nonsense.
I wondered if anyone could refer me to any empirical work trying to quantify the two contrasting effects.