King Rat (gkr) wrote,
King Rat
gkr

Eco 200: future generations

(group) Do the decisions of people now living take any account of the demands of future generations for natural resources? Do these decisions take adequate account of the demands fo future generations? Is government likely to take better account of the demands of future generations? Evaluate the contention that government must serve as the steward of natural resources for future generations.

They do not. According to economic theory, people seek to maximize their marginal gain and minimize their marginal cost. While most people take into account their immediate family's future needs for psychological reasons, there is much less incentive to help their great-great-grandchildren and even less to help the children of other random human beings they've never met. It turns into a classic prisoner's dilemma. If everyone contributes to the stewardship of the environment, one family can maximize their gain by not contributing. Their children reap the same benefits as everyone else, and they don't pay a penny. But if everyone behaves as such, there is no stewardship. Even for one's own children, there is little to gain in the classic economic model because there is no economic benefit to an individual to have a better environement 5 years after his death, except in the sense that if his children know he didn't contribute to their environmental well-being, they might not help him in his old age.

Only a government can protect the environment adequately, given the innate spillover effect. However, this does not mean that a government will. Because democratic governments need to allocate scarce resources toward short term projects in order to get elected, long term projects like environmental stewardship will frequently not receive the dedicated resources they would under a good cost/benefit analysis.

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