To Ourselves And Our Posterity.
Concern for our own children and grandchildren is, of course, not unique to the American culture. But it is notable that the well-being of future generations--"to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity"--is part of our national mission statement. It's right up there, in the Preamble to the Constitution, with forming a more perfect union, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare.
"Our ancestors sacrificed much," Brawner wrote, in his concise, compelling style. "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."
To put the future ahead of the selfish present used to be normal, didn't it? There's a reason John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, and John Muir are American heroes. James Smithson never set foot in the United States, and yet has any single bequest done more for generation upon generation of Americans than the Smithsonian Institution? There's a reason the National Park System is called "America's best idea."
As the United States developed, individual state constitutions enshrined a mission that the U.S. Constitution did not: public education. Arkansas' Constitution specifically mandates that the state government "shall ever maintain a general, suitable and efficient system of free public schools and shall adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education." Why? Because "[i]ntelligence and virtue [are] the safeguards of liberty and the bulwark of a free and good government."
Curiously, the richer our country has become, the less interested we seem in investing in our posterity. Or perhaps we're no longer interested in investing in anyone else's posterity, no matter how important other people's children are to the general welfare of the nation.
What was the last sacrifice the American public was asked to make? Brawner, who has been railing about the national debt for as long as I've been reading his work, quits preaching and goes to meddling:
"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.')"
A "future generationalism" approach, he said, would recognize that $20 trillion in debt is unacceptable and would accept the solution: "some combination of spending cuts and tax revenue increases."
The debate over climate change, too, would shift to one of risk management. "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." Forward-looking politics, he said, would also "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."
In Brawner's vision, we would invest in our children's highways and water systems. We would invest in medical cures that we might not live to receive. We would prioritize space exploration--"funded with today's dollars and not through debt."
Children are often used as political props. I guarantee that Steve Brawner, father of two daughters, is not interested in that. But in the same way that our businesses may ask how a decision fits in with our corporate mission statements, future generationalism would ask how a political decision affects our goal of leaving a better state, country and world for our posterity. Nothing that helps future generations can truly hurt us now, although it may require us to be a bit less selfish.
Steve Brawner should go down in history as the founder of the Posterity Party.
Gwen Moritz is editor of Arkansas Business. Email her at GMoritz@ABPG. com.
Editor's Note Gwen Moritz
Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
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|Title Annotation:||Editor's Note|
|Date:||Sep 25, 2017|
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