Many social policies require substantial sacrifices by existing persons in order to benefit the yet-unborn members of future generations. There is a substantial consensus that we do have ethical obligations to consider the interests of those future persons in our decisions. However, the questions of whether we do in fact have such ethical obligations, and if so then how to properly balance those obligations with our obligations to existing persons, are greatly complicated by the often-overlooked "problem of person-altering consequences." This brief essay is intended to communicate to a broad readership the nature and scope of this problem and its dramatic implications for addressing these ethical and policy assessment questions.
Gregory S. Crespi, A Brief Reflection on the Problem of Person-Altering Consequences (2009)