The extreme wealth we see in the world today was made by through a system of unsustainable growth, and illegitimate cost/benefit models, that forced costs on most vulnerable and degraded the climate in a way that is taking millions of innocent lives.
The most just and effective solution is to calculate those costs and use them to pay young women to ensure they have any children at a time, place and with resources that compensate the harm and protect the child and their environment. This replaces illegitimate political systems with no functional protections in the having and rearing of children, and thus none for the ecologies those children would consume.
We begin by simply asking: What are we doing to assure the conditions in which children born and raised, including their environment and role models, are being improved so as not to undo the benefits of the work we are otherwise doing in the world? In asking the question we are looking for those who use child welfare policy to undo the values they claim to promote and are thus being unjust and ineffective.
Lawyers, tasked with interfacing between citizens and their legal obligations, are key to upholding the legitimacy of any law-making political system. And since at least the Enlightenment, the legitimacy of political systems has been contingent upon those systems including and representing their subjects. Any obligation to follow the law, like laws that entitle wealth, derives from our participation in making it.
Lawyers often deal with political legitimacy in terms of baselines for assessing what is a cost and what is a benefit. These traditional baselines, abstract and static, have failed, and should instead begin with one geared towards future children, and nonhumans, or the most vulnerable. The absence of that basic form of justice has led to notions of freedom for those alive today that destroyed the freedom of future generations (it even cut into the basic rights of future generations to have children safely and sustainably), and ensured a climate crisis set to kill millions.
The system of assessing costs and benefits never started justly, with family planning that would actually ensure children’s rights. Instead it exploited them for economic growth, a move that destroyed our environment to enrich a few.
It was the freedom of some – mostly white privileged men – to exploit birth and generational positionality at cost to others and their true (o mutual) freedom.
Our legal systems have failed because they do not begin justly, with minimum thresholds of welfare, equity, and development in the creation of children, the future majority, and thus in the creation of the actual political relations that legitimate political systems.
And while the fundamental instruments of universal human rights were based on the idea of dignity, or treating persons as ends rather than means, world leaders in the latter half of the 20th Century reversed the orientation, evading the children’s rights necessary to empower in favor of using future children to enable economic growth and vast inequity.
As such we are not included as influential and equal participants. We do not offset equally each other’s capacity to influence the rules (e.g., equal influence over the rules of our democracies) we must live by and thus the power others have over us, even when moving towards that ideal would be as simple as investing in parenting delay and equity funds, which create smaller and more equitable families.
In fact we do the reverse, exploiting future children and their vulnerability to grow economies.
It is this dynamic inclusion of voices as political equals, as a duty to them and from below, not might-makes-right coercion from above around rules vulnerable future persons would not agree to, that legitimates systems.
Nonhumans and the institution of animal law – the height of any legal system in that it obligates protection of the most vulnerable – lost the most from these lies. It may be that social movement that forces our species towards a an animal rights baseline that includes all animals.
Justice starts with protecting the most vulnerable, future children and thus indirectly the nonhumans they would otherwise consume, to ensure climate/biodiversity restoration via birth equity (defined as an equal and influential role in one’s democracy) and thus a form of modernizing Diversity-Equity-Inclusion – and-Justice that ensures mutual self-determination for all.
How could there be a binding social contract that does not even begin justly, with minimum thresholds all would want for their birth and development, assessed with simple metrics? To the extent legitimacy is remised on the self-determination or sovereignty of the government’s constituents, this is where it would have to start.
As an attorney I worked for wealthy “philanthropists” that benefitted from the baseline/system in which they empowered themselves at deadly cost to others and their freedom, and then used their wealth and positionality to hide that fact, and delay life-saving climate reparations.
They chose to deny future children the values their lives reflected, e.g., seeking minimum thresholds of personal welfare, expecting equal access to opportunities, participating in and adhering to political/legal systems that purported to represent the governed, using and enjoying an environment relatively conducive to human and nonhuman health, enjoying a right to have a child in relatively safe conditions, etc.
That denial long-run exacerbates the risks of things like mass shootings executed by those who feel disempowered in an unjust world, shootings in which the innocent die rather than those who benefited from the fundamental system that led to that result.
Future climate protests will challenge these men, urging them to compensate the young women whose future children they harmed. Those that choose inequity-driven concentrations of wealth and power over young women demanding that – as a truly constitutive act – the ecological and other costs of wealth forced upon their children be repaid, threaten the self-determination many fighting for freedom in the past died to protect.
Demands for birth equity-based reparations are now before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Free people will prioritize the demands over competing interests, and adhere to a fundamental system of obligation that empowers its members.
The baseline error can be summed this way: Why could the most vulnerable could not use their role in their democracy to evade the climate crisis and the death and cataclysmic inequity it will bring, and to protect their own kids and the nonhuman world those children need?
The lies lawyers told, that systems were legitimate even when they did not include and represent their subjects, ensured they could not. Lawyers should know all of this, and act on it, if they want to avoid benefitting from a system that harms others.