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The Intergenerational Justice Review, IGJR, (ISSN 2190-6335) is an English-speaking annual journal on intergenerational justice, seeking to publish articles of the most important research and current thinking from political science, ethics, and law.  Please click on the following links, if you want to find out more about IGJR , submissions , the editors , back issues or subscriptions

  Find the journal's web presence here.  

  Current Issue:

igjr_2_cover liegend_kleinIntergenerational Justice Review 2/2016

   “Constitutions as Intergenerational Contracts: Flexible or fixed?”

This publication is available as a free PDF here .



Editorial Excerpt
By their very nature, constitutions are intergenerational documents. With rare exceptions, they are meant to endure for many generations. They establish the basic institutions of government, enshrine the fundamental values of a people, and place certain questions beyond the reach of simple majorities. Constitutions, especially written ones, are often intentionally made difficult to modify.

Inevitably, constitutions raise important questions of intergenerational justice. When one generation enshrines its values in a constitution, and makes it difficult to amend the constitution, does it deprive future generations of the sovereignty each generation should be able to exercise? It might well not make a difference if those future generations share the values of their ancestors, but what if they do not? What if future generations see some important provisions of the constitution as not merely inconvenient, but as morally wrong, or even as a threat to their well-being? Of course, if enough people share this view, the constitution can be changed – but what if the division falls short of the supermajority needed to amend the constitution?

This is the dilemma created by constitutions, particularly written constitutions which require supermajorities to alter their provisions. In our judgment there is no perfect solution to this dilemma. Rather, every solution represents a balancing of interests and risks.

On the one hand, constitutions are valuable precisely because they remove some questions from the hands of electoral majorities. The institutions of government and the basic rights of individuals and communities are among the matters commonly protected by constitutions against the impact of day-to-day politics. Future generations benefit to the extent that constitutions establish just and stable institutions which can adapt and change peacefully to changing needs and circumstances.

On the other hand, constitutions, like people, can age poorly. The values enshrined in a nation’s constitution can be ethically wrong when adopted (for example, the protection of the slave trade written into the U.S. Constitution). Time can also demonstrate that some provisions of a constitution are unwise. Technological change may also alter the effects of some provisions. (Consider the difference between the right to bear a 1790 firearm, and the right to bear an automatic weapon in 2010.) And the values of a people can change, too. To some extent, all of these sources of discontent with a nation’s constitution may be inevitable. The framers of a nation’s constitution are not all-wise and all-seeing, and even if they were, the constitution that fits a nation in its youth may be quite different from that which fits it two centuries later. The question, then, is how future generations can adapt to their constitution, and how they can adapt their constitution to their needs.

This, in essence, is the problem we posed to the authors who submitted articles for this issue of the Intergenerational Justice Review. How do you balance the importance of placing some questions beyond the control of a simple majority in a written constitution, with the need to preserve for future generations the ability to adapt it to their changing needs?

1) Iñigo González-Ricoy: Legitimate Intergenerational Constitutionalism

Abstract: This paper examines the legitimacy conditions of constitutionalism by examining one particular type of constitutional provision: provisions aimed at advancing future generations’ interests. After covering the main forms that such provisions can adopt, it first considers three legitimacy gains of constitutionalising them. It then explores two legitimacy concerns that so doing raises. Given that constitutions are difficult to amend, constitutionalisation may threaten future generations’ sovereignty. And it may also make the constitution’s content impossible to adapt to changing circumstances and interests. Finally, the paper examines the ways in which such concerns may be addressed at the adoption, formulation, and amendment stages. In particular, it discusses if the use of sunset clauses and regular constitutional conventions may, and under what conditions, successfully address such concerns.

2) Shai Agmon: Could Present Laws Legitimately Bind Future Generations? A Normative Analysis of the Jeffersonian Model

Abstract: Thomas Jefferson’s famous proposal, whereby a state’s constitution should be re-enacted every 19 years by a majority vote, purports to solve the intergenerational problem caused by perpetual constitutions: namely that laws which were enacted by people who are already dead bind living citizens without their consent. I argue that the model fails to fulfil its own normative consent-based aspirations. This is because it produces two groups of people who will end up living under laws to which they did not give their consent: (a) citizens who reach the voting age after the re-enactment process; (b) citizens who did not assent to being obliged by the majority vote’s results. I reject possible responses to my argument by showing that they result in making the model either impractical or redundant. The remainder of the paper discusses whether implementing the model would enhance the consent-based legitimacy of the modern state.

3) Michael Rose: Constitutions, Democratic Self-Determination and the Institutional Empowerment of Future Generations. Mitigating an Aporia

Abstract: Is the self-determination of future generations impeded by lasting constitutions, as Thomas Jefferson suggests? In this article it is not only argued that the opposite is true, but also that the question misses the point. It is demonstrated that the very demand for future generations’ full self-determination is self-contradictory, and that it is impossible to achieve. Applying the all-affected principle to future generations, it is shown that we will always affect them, and that we should employ an attitude of “reflective paternalism” towards them. With the help of institutions reviewed in this article, the interests of future generations could be introduced into today’s political decision-making process. The role of constitutions is to provide the prerequisites for democratic self-determination and potentially also to facilitate the institutional empowerment of future generations.

Book Reviews

1) May, James R./ Daly, Erin (2014): Global Environmental Constitutionalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 414 pages. ISBN: 978-1-107-02225-6. Price: 65 Pounds.
2) Gürlevik, Aydin/ Hurrelmann, Klaus/ Palentien, Christian (eds.)(2016): Jugend und Politik: Politische Bildung und Beteiligung von Jugendlichen. Wiesbaden: Springer. 528 pages. ISBN: 978-3-658-09144-6. Price: 49.99 Euro.
3) Bos, Gerhard/ Düwell, Marcus (eds.)(2016):Human Rights and Sustainability: Moral Responsibilities for the Future. Oxford/ New York, NY: Routledge. 218 pages. ISBN: 978-1-138-95710-7. Price: 85 Pounds.



 igjr_1_2016_cover Former Issue:

Intergenerational Justice Review 1/2016

   “Low Electoral Turnout among Young Voters” 

This publication is available as a free PDF

  Editorial Excerpt

The global trend towards greater longevity means that the number of older voters is constantly increasing, and the proportional number of younger voters is decreasing. In many of the world’s democracies, older people vote more consistently and in greater numbers than their younger counterparts. The apparent reluctance of the young to exercise their right to vote only serves to reinforce this demographic trend. The result is that politicians tend to pander to the “Grey Vote”, and young people run the risk of being under-represented in parliament while seeing their issues overlooked by governments. In such a scenario, young people may be easier targets for unpopular government measures, such as the belt-tightening associated with austerity.

The statistics make the case. In Germany’s 2013 general election, the average voting turnout was 72.4%. All of the age-cohorts above the age of 45 fell above this average, whereas all of the age-cohorts below 45 fell exactly on or below it. Turnout was highest amongst 60-70 year olds (almost 80%), whereas turnout amongst 18-21 year olds was below 65%.

In the United Kingdom, turnout in 2015’s general election among those aged 18 to 24 was at a mere 43%, far below the average turnout of 66.1%. The participatory gap has widened over the decades and its last year’s figures were exceeded only in 2005, when youth turnout was a staggering 24 percentage points below that of the entire population. A recent article in The Economist (23 April 2016) suggests, however, that this is partly due to the fact that most British university students live in short-term accommodation and tend to move frequently, which makes it harder for them to register as voters in the first place.

In either of these cases, would lowering the voting age make a difference? In Germany, where 16 year olds are eligible to vote in the local elections of some Länder (federate states), there is some evidence to suggest that a cohort who obtain their voting right at 16 will have a higher poll turnout over the course of their whole lives than a cohort who are not allowed to cast their first vote until a later age. In other words, early participation seems to set a trend for life.


1) Charlotte Snelling: “School’s out!” A Test of Education’s Turnout Raising Potential

Abstract: Youth turnout in the UK is falling despite young people representing arguably the most educated generation. This article examines education’s role in social sorting, contending that the positive impact of educational expansion on electoral participation is tempered by relative education concerns. Using the 2011 UK Citizens in Transition Survey, it argues that education affects turnout by determining young people’s positioning within social networks. Some of these networks are more politicised than others. Individuals with relatively lower educational status continue to be excluded from more politically engaged networks – irrespective of their educational attainment – and as such lack the mobilisation and greater sense of political efficacy required to vote.

2) Thomas Tozer: Increasing Electoral Turnout Among the Young: Compulsory Voting or Financial Incentives?

Abstract: The low electoral turnout of young people raises serious concerns about intergenerational justice and representative democracy. A powerful method is needed to address this low electoral turnout: if young people can be encouraged to vote in greater numbers then this may lead to a virtuous circle for which politicians take young people’s views and interests more seriously, and more young people vote as a result. I argue that a scheme of financial incentives for young voters between the ages of 18 and 28, paid only once a young person has attended an hour long information session and an hour long discussion session on the election, offers such a method. Section 1 of this paper outlines the extent of the problem of low voter turnout among young people, section 2 establishes that this is a problem for democracy, and section 3 analyses the reasons why young people choose not to vote. In section 4, I consider two prospective solutions to the low electoral turnout of young people, compulsory voting and financial incentives, and argue that while compulsory voting constitutes an unacceptable violation of our liberty, offering financial incentives to vote does not, and, in the form that I propose, such a scheme offers a powerful short-term and long-term solution to the low electoral turnout of young people. Finally, section 5 summarises the key arguments of sections 1-4, and argues that if academics and politicians are genuinely concerned about improving the political representation of young people and reducing the democratic deficit then they must seriously consider my proposed scheme of financial incentives for young voters.

Book Reviews

1) Schäfer, Armin (2015): Der Verlust politischer Gleichheit: Warum die sinkende Wahlbeteiligung der Demokratie schadet. Frankfurt: Campus. 332 pages. ISBN: 978-3-593-50198-7. Price: 39,90 Euro.

2) Heckelman, Jac C. / Miller, Nicholas R. (eds.) (2015): Handbook of Social Choice and Voting. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 424 pages. ISBN: 978-1-783-47072-3. Price: 140 Pfund.

3) Gosseries, Axel / Meyer, Lukas H. (eds.) (2009): Intergenerational Justice. New York: Oxford University Press. 432 pages. ISBN: 978-0-199-28295-1. Price: 70 Pfund.


Further Information

Publisher: The Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations (Stiftung für die Rechte zukünftiger Generationen) and the Intergenerational Foundation.
Editors-in-Chief: Antony Mason, Hans-Ulrich Kramer, Jörg Tremmel, Markus Rutsche
Layout: Angela Schmidt, Obla Design
Print: LokayDruck, Königsberger Str. 3, 64354 Reinheim (www.lokay.de)

Editorial offices:

Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations, (Stiftung für die Rechte zukünfti-ger Generationen)
Mannsperger Str. 29
70619 Stuttgart
Tel.: +49(0)711 - 28052777
Fax.: +49(0)3212 - 2805277
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Website: www.intergenerationaljustice.org

The Intergenerational Foundation
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Website: www.if.org.uk