What do we owe to our descendants? How do we balance their needs against our own? Tim Mulgan develops a new theory of our obligations to future generations, based on a new rule-consequentialist account of the morality of individual reproduction. He argues that the resulting theory accounts for a wide range of independently plausible intuitions--covering individual morality, intergenerational justice, and international justice. In particular, the moderate consequentialist approach is superior to its two main rivals in this area - person-affecting theories and traditional consequentialism. The former fall foul of Parfit's Non-Identity Problem, while the latter are invariably implausibly demanding. Mulgan also claims that most puzzles in contemporary value theory (such as Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion) are actually puzzles in the theory of right action, and can only be solved if we abandon strict consequentialism for a more moderate alternative.
The heart of the book is the first systematic exploration of the rule-consequentialist account of the morality of individual reproduction. Mulgan demostrates that this account is superior to all available alternatives, both consequentialist and non-consequentialist. Once we recognize the intergenerational dimension, moral and political philosophy cannot be considered in isolation. The latter must be founded on the former. Rule consequentialism provides the best foundation for a theory of intergenerational justice.
Future People brings together several different contemporary philosophical discussions: obligations to future generations, the morality of individual reproduction, the demands of morality, and international justice. While the focus is on developing a new account, there are also substantial discussions of alternative views, especially contract-based accounts of intergenerational justice and competing forms of consequentialism.