10 Questions About The World Our Children Will Inherit

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If you are a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, somebody’s big brother, or big sister, you probably care deeply about the world our children will inherit. Kids can’t create that world for themselves. They can’t vote, hold political office, make contracts, or control their daily schedule. They have little money to influence the businesses they deal with. Their voices are easily ignored. We have to look out for them.

If we have to act as their guardians until they are old enough to protect themselves, how are we doing? We can look at the question in two different ways. The first is in the private world of the family, neighborhood, and local school. Most of us probably get a passing grade there because most kids in America, most of the time, are healthy, well-fed, and learning skills and good values.

But what about the public sector, the one in which we work together to create the world they will inherit as adults? In that world, are the leaders weput in office making the hard choices about what has to be done today to deliver a livable world when our kids become adults, a couple of decades in the future? Or, do they just tell us what we want to hear to get through the next election and hope we won’t notice as things fall apart for our children?

Let’s look at some specifics:

  1. Do they set up schools that nurture and educate all children so they are ready to become active, employable citizens as adults, or do they allow many to leave school without employment and citizenship skills?
  2. Do they encourage a vibrant, competitive economy so the next generation can find good jobs and start businesses of their own, or do they allow corruption, business concentration, and poorly designed regulation to stifle it?
  3. Do they protect the natural environment so our kids will inherit a healthy ecosystem, or do they allow development that destroys natural areas and pollution that threatens our health and climate?
  4. Do they keep up the roads, bridges, harbors, and public buildings we inherited, or are they leaving a debt of deterioration to be made up by the next generation?
  5. Do they set up zoning laws so the next generation can find affordable housing when they start families of their own, or do they lock in rules that boost the cost of housing?
  6. Do they tax us enough to pay for the services of government we want, or do they chain the next generation to unpaid debt for what our generation spends?
  7. Do they fully fund public pensions or do they leave a big hole for the next generation to fill?
  8. Do they maintain the alliances, international institutions and armed forces that allow us to live in a peaceful world, or do they allow them to waste away and invite aggression that the next generation will have to counter?
  9. Do they set up our legal code to allow the next generation the maximum amount of freedom compatible with a peaceful society?
  10. Do they make laws easy to change when our kids become adults, or do they use legal devices to tie their hands?

How many of us would give our elected officials passing grades on most of these? We can count on them to take care of short-term interests because we, the voters, demand it. In this website, we’ll tackle some questions that they often ignore. How can we make sure that all children–not just our own–will reach adulthood as healthy, well-educated citizens who can participate skillfully in the political process? How can we encourage them to enact policies that will ensure an abundant and healthy world in the 2030s, 2040s and beyond?

Like to learn more? See Six Ways a Longview Democracy Would Be Different.

5 thoughts on “10 Questions About The World Our Children Will Inherit

  1. A foward looking perspective democracy would be an amazing shift for this country. How do we get buy-in from the groups with controlling interest who’s myopic view of government is not only partisan but also incestuously self serving? Unfortunately, I feel as though politicians will only start to include conversations about the next generations when they have either devised a way to exploit and monetize their input, or have been knocked over the head and somehow awoke in Thomas Moore’s Utopia.


    1. Thanks for your comment! I think you have stated well the the second hard problem of a prospective democracy. The first, I believe is deciding what should be on the agenda to make sure we have healthy kids, a healthy democracy, and a healthy future. The second in how to actually get the agenda passed. There are days when I like your knock ’em on the head scenario, but I think the realistic way to get elected officials and the civil service on board is to show them how their careers will benefit it they do.


  2. I love this idea of focusing on future generations…it seems this is something we say we do but, in actuality tend to be overly invested in the next election cycle, fundraising, or today’s tweet. These are all distractors from the long-term vision we need to determine the best policies for the future. This is also probably part of the reason we’ve neglected climate change. Beyond the deniers, for too many it’s easy to enjoy a little warmer weather today hurry to care for the next (fill in the blank weather related trauma) rather than reckon with and invest in what’s needed to care for our planet for future generations. Thanks Tom for getting us all thinking and furthering the conversation.


  3. Thanks, Mary Jane.

    One of the key messages of time management books (I think I have them all) is that the urgent tends to squeeze out the important. That’s certainly true in a political world that feeds off a 24 hour news cycle.



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