Collectively we have stewardship of our cultural conventions and moral standards. On a more prosaic level, we have stewardship of the economy and of our national defences. Future generations will benefit or suffer as a result of the quality of our stewardship.
Now we can’t go around forever thinking of future generations. In fact, some people say ‘stuff them they’ll be richer than us and can fend for themselves’. There is an in-between.
We are not required to have their interests uppermost. It would be too wearing and remote from current experience. However, if we do the right things today we will likely provide them with a reasonable inheritance.
There’s the rub. How do we assess what’s right? Take an economics example.
Proposals to raise taxes are usually examined through the narrow prism of who will pay and how much revenue will be raised. How many times do you hear about the effect this might have in reducing saving and therefore investment and therefore future growth? And, in turn, how this might ultimately reduce taxation revenue and, thereby, constrain choices? You don’t.
Consequences muddy the water, so they are ignored or glossed over. Certainly, in this case, by the side which wants to raise taxes.
Switch to the debate on same sex marriage (SSM). Giving gay people equal rights is the start and finish of the proposal. Nothing else to consider we are told.
Children take little account of consequences. They are children. Unfortunately, politicians have child-like attributes when promoting their favoured policies.
In the SSM debate, those proposing the change fit within the norm of being impatient with any discussion of consequences. Sometimes in the economics sphere, though not often enough, we have the advantage of an independent inquiry by the Productivity Commission.
The issue of SSM would have benefited from an independent inquiry. Instead we are flying blind. We are being asked to vote on a profound change to a longstanding and fundamental institutional arrangement without benefit of any objective analysis of the consequences which might flow from such a change.
In fact, politicians in favour of the change are treating us like children by telling us there are no consequences. How infantile is that?
If we vote Yes, we have no idea whether we are doing the right thing now and, by extension, what we are bequeathing future generations. It’s lousy stewardship.
It is simply not safe or responsible to vote other than No in these circumstances. This is not an argument against SSM. It is simply to say that we should behave like adults. Adults need to understand and evaluate consequences before deciding on change.