COVID-19 has exposed many issues about intergenerational justice. Lockdown forced many, including the youngest (and least at risk) to suffer economic hardship, in order to protect the oldest and most vulnerable in society.
Yet at the same time the elderly in care homes suffered the worst impact. After the pandemic, we will have to decide who pays: will future generations be burdened for years to come? Should we change the way we fund social care and the NHS, or the cost of pensions compared with support for the young?
Edmund Burke's remark that ‘society is but a contract between the dead, the living and those yet to be born’ has a potentially radical edge as both COVID-19 and climate change protests have shown us. ‘Extinction Rebellion’ demonstrators believe that those now living are, by their actions, threatening extinction of future generations. And how about inheritance? The Baby Boomers have pensions, housing and assets that the millennials are unlikely to achieve unless they can inherit, which results in growing societal inequality. Should they be taxed to pay for COVID-19 and to create a fairer society between generations?
The aim of these three lectures is to consider how different societies over time have grappled with these issues, and to point to solutions.