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Neighbors in Time: Development and Use of Some Values for Intergenerational Justice from the Jewish and Christian Religious Traditions

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The overlapping understandings of Jewish and Christian traditions (the Traditions), both influencing and reincorporating Western culture from the Greeks to the present, underpin many of the ethical constructs of present society, in ways both obvious and subtle. The concept of justice is central to the ethical outlooks of both religious traditions. This article systematically develops values related to justice from within the Traditions and extends them to the question of intergenerational equity as proposed precepts for assessment and action. Many of the results seem familiar because they are deeply embedded in our culture. They are assertions that transcend time — the value of human life; an obligation to support the necessary interests of others, especially the powerless; the concepts of brotherhood, the common good, and stewardship of resources; and the transmission of knowledge, resources, and values through the vehicles of families and communities. Other ideas from within the Traditions, such as giving beyond the requirements of equity and the connection of human life with God whose abilities are unbounded by time, continue to draw people beyond the limits of culture. These outlooks are organized into 17 statements or proposals constitutive of this view of justice. These summary statements are used as the basis for comparing a system of principles proposed by a panel of the National Academy of Public Administration for intergenerational decision making with the views represented by the Traditions. This broaches a broader question of fairness in resource distribution. The article concludes with reference to some developed resources of the Traditions from which further insight can be drawn, and another illustration related to resource allocation. It is hoped that the article helps stimulate wider analysis of the values on which our decisions are made.

Keywords: Christian; Intergenerational; Jewish; decision making; ethics; justice; values

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Salutary Technology, Inc., Moorestown, NJ 08057

Publication date: 2000-12-01

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