By Steve Brawner
Are you the type whose beliefs don’t always fit neatly into a conservative or liberal label, but “moderate” sounds too mushy and none of the other “isms” fit?
Or what if one of those labels does fit, but you’re worried about the overall state of American politics, where it’s all about today’s winners and losers? Meanwhile, negative consequences are passed down to our children and grandchildren whenever possible because, hey, they don’t vote.
If any of that describes you, may I suggest calling yourself a “future generationist”?
I’ll explain what that means, but first, let’s describe what’s happening with contemporary conservatism and liberalism as practiced by the Republican and Democratic parties. Those ideologies are no longer overarching but flexible belief systems contributing to a constructive debate. Instead, they’ve become cobbled together collections of rigid partisan positions on specific issues. Those positions often are based on which parts of the parties’ bases give the most money, vote the most often, or shout the loudest. That’s how the debate over health care, which affects every American, degenerates into tribalistic, party line votes.
These past two years, the differences between “liberal” and “conservative” have been muddied. What are the conservative or liberal positions on free trade, NATO, or the importance of the president’s personal character? Tweet me if you know the answers.
The path forward is not “moderation,” if moderation means simply pandering to the two sides’ base instincts. (In other words, voting for higher social spending to appease Democrats while cutting taxes to bring Republicans on board, and then congratulating yourself for being “bipartisan.”)
Instead, the path forward is “future generationism.” That’s the idea that our descendants must always be a primary consideration, not an afterthought.
So, specifically, we’d no longer accept a $20 trillion and growing national debt, equal to $61,000 for every current American and more for future ones. If that’s the uncompromisable idea, then the solution – some combination of spending cuts and tax revenue increases – becomes possible.
On climate change, the debate would shift from whether it’s a doomsday certainty to whether it’s at least a threat to our offspring. If it’s a threat, then it must be addressed without ignoring competing considerations. It would be kind of like how a terrorist attack at a particular airport isn’t certain but could happen, so you try to prevent it while still running the airport. That shift could bridge the divide between believers and skeptics. Relatedly, we’d seek to develop sustainable energy sources faster. After all, a finite supply of fossil fuels are in the ground, and future generations will need alternatives.
Other examples? Repairing the country’s decaying infrastructure would become about our children’s highways and water pipes and not merely about our own. We would invest heavily in medical cures even if it takes decades to see success. We would prioritize space exploration, funded with today’s dollars and not through debt.
The future generationist philosophy could be embraced by both liberals and conservatives, all of whom could incorporate it into their current belief systems. Then this divided nation again would share a unifying principle: We must not add to our offspring’s burdens or detract from their life’s quality. While we may not agree about what’s right, we at least would agree about what’s wrong. Various interest groups could still win, but not by forcing our children and grandchildren to lose.
Our ancestors sacrificed much. They risked their lives to come here. They often worked their best years in menial, backbreaking jobs so their offspring could enjoy better lives. Whether at Plymouth Colony, Normandy’s beaches, Birmingham’s streets, or Tranquility Base, they took small steps so that succeeding generations could enjoy giant leaps forward.
We can never pay them back, but we can pay it forward. We’d win too. In this age of isms, we’d find common ground in believing that what’s best for our children’s country is what’s best for ours.
It’s worked before.
© 2017 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.