Should an economy cater solely to those who pay taxes in the region, or to those yet to come? I think the answer is both.
If today’s institutions were to cater to only the current generation, we would have a license to abuse our economy and environment in ways we would not wish upon our children. We would use up our natural resources. We would run up our federal government debt and expect our children to pay it off.
And, we would rationalize to ourselves that such an unfortunate legacy is okay because our children will be able to enjoy a bounty we could not imagine today. Perhaps they will even thank us for leaving something to fix in their lives otherwise filled with leisure in a land of milk and honey.
Few of us really believe that someone else should pick up the tab for our indulgences. We’ve paid too high a price for the folly and greed of others. A global financial meltdown reminds us just how fragile our economy can be.
Fortunately, our cities, towns and other public institutions outlive us. If managed well, they can live forever, so we must administer our towns for those who follow. If we fail, we steal a heritage from our children.
If we are to leave a viable town for our children and theirs again, we should do what we can to create a vibrant, sustainable economy. We must be diligent to create opportunities, develop succession plans and produce a quality of life that will not die when we do. We can do so with the sense of grace and appreciation for those who toiled to make our town a region where we could thrive.
There are a couple of essential dimensions to this formula. We can raise families here and create opportunities and amenities so they want to stay and raise families of their own. And, we can foster a creative class of artists and entrepreneurs, engineers and educators, medical providers and musicians, poets and writers who can add to the social fabric that will act as a magnet to others.