Saturday, July 04, 2009

Obligations to the future

One of the main considerations in ethics is the 'Veil of Ignorance', a concept put forward by John Rawls in Toward a Theory of Justice:
no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, strength, and the like. I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities. The principles of justice are chosen behind a veil of ignorance.

Racism and sexism are bad for many reasons, one of them being that they violate this social contract. Reasoning from the Original Position also leads me to support public education, and public health care, especially for children and those with genetic disorders.

It is obvious to see why people should not be discriminated on the basis of where they are born. But how about when they are born?

We are polluting the world today, and incurring debt, all at the expense of people who are born 10, 20, 30 or a hundred years from now. They do not have the choice as to when they would be born. They are people just like us, albeit located in a different time.

So when we dismiss their concerns and well being, when we harm their interests to gain immediate benefits for ourselves, are we making a moral mistake somewhat akin to racism?

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