By shifting debts into the future to let later generations pay for them, we are exploiting the people of the future. Or are we?
By shifting debts into the future, we are, in a way, transferring money from the future to the present. For example, if a government takes a credit and spends the money now and then taxpayers at a later time pay the credit back, we can think of this as a flow of money from the future to the present. In my previous article Trans-Temporal Exploitation, I described how the “financial crisis” can be seen as the result of “pumping” money from our time (2008 and later) to the time before that year.
As we can see, the transfer of money from the future to the present is possible. But we should also note that the transfer of money from the future to the present is not necessarily and in all cases an instance of exploitation. We buy (and sometimes sell) things every day. If we get something for our money and if buyer and seller are happy with the deal, the financial exchange is a fair one. So, not every exchange of money is an instance of exploitation.
If we apply this thought to the transfer of money from the future to the present, we can conclude that such an exchange might be a fair one if the people of the future get something from us for the money they pay.
In other words, there is not only the possibility of stealing from the people of the future, there is just as well the possibility of trading with them.
For example, money from future people may be used to collect seeds and store them in a gene bank (see picture). Another example would be to use the money to buy a piece of forest and preserve it. We would, for example, take a credit and use the money to buy the land and pay for its preservation (e.g. for the employment of rangers who protect it from loggers and poachers). We would then pass part of the credit to future generations, so they would contribute to the preservation of the forest. Essentially, we would sell the forest to them.
Generally, passing on debts to the next generation is not exploitative if we also pass on a corresponding value (in the examples: seeds with their genetic diversity, a piece of forest), i.e. something that we suppose to be valuable for future people. Money flows from the future to the present and things are kept for the future, thus being “exported” to future people. We might think of this as a time machine that can transport money in one direction and things in the other.
In some subsequent articles, I want to investigate this general idea in more detail, looking at how such schemes could actually work, what would happen if this idea was applied on a large scale and how it could be used to solve some of our problems (especially environmental ones and what consequences this could have for our economy. The general idea here is that environmental problems can be solved by selling resources to the future instead of destroying them. The question will be what changes would have to be made to our economic system to make this feasible.
(The picture is from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aluminium_bags_for_seed_storage_at_Svalbard.jpg, showing bags with sees to be stored in a gene bank in Spitsbergen).