In much of the world, (liberal) democracy (in a broad sense) is seen as the best (or least bad) system of government, and in the 20th and 21st century, living standards have improved markedly in countries ruled by such systems and clearly outperformed competing systems, such as (attempts at) socialist/communist one-party rule with a planned economy, on many counts. But the regular 4-5 year election cycle puts short term gains over long term gains and rewards the interests of voters over non-voters, such as children or unborn generations. Those short term interests may be detrimental for the long term of the next 50–300 years. The failure to reach a global agreement on climate change at COP25 is a case in point. Of course, this failure is not limited to liberal democracies.

In political theory, have any systems been proposed to amend liberal democracy and build in ways to systemically consider more long term interests that may be of immediate concern to voters (or even require painful measures for the next years)?


1 Answer 1


Numerous mechanisms have been proposed to address the various sources of short-termism ranging from youth quotas in representative assemblies to mandatory posterity/environment clauses in laws etc. Here's a summary table from a book on the topic (Institutions For Future Generations, OUP 2016).

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Whether they are practical and don't have other downsides... is a different matter.

As another chapter in the book discussed (p. 85), there are some fundamental problems/limits with all such mechanisms in the really long run, namely authorization and accountability:

there is no way for future generation to election their representatives in the present. [...] there is no way for future generations to hold anyone accountable who purports to speak on their behalf.

Well, other than tarring and feathering them in the history books, which actually might carry some weight with some leaders, but not with all...

  • +1, good and a solid answer. the risk I see is that a) the real concern, not in OP's question, that of selfish countries is still outstanding and b) that any change in political systems incurs political capital which means that, instead of spending it to fix global warming, we would be spending it debating this stuff and thus diluting popular attention and mobilization. this perfectly answers the question, yes, but i for one would be ill-amused if political energy went into making it happen. Jan 8, 2020 at 14:58
  • Numerous mechanism have been labeled as being for the encouragement of long-term thinking. "The purpose of a system is what it does." When you examine these things and find that nearly the only effect is to increase the size and power of government, you need to stand back and re-examine the accuracy of the label.
    – puppetsock
    Jan 8, 2020 at 17:10

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