In the preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, one of the most important tasks laid out by the founding fathers was to “secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Each of these words, it seems, was chosen rather deliberately, and though our Constitution is undeniably a living document, these words seem to have established a perpetual duty for every generation of American people. What are the blessing of liberty? How do we secure them? More importantly, how do we assure that the blessings of liberty remain secured for posterity? The blessings of liberty are obvious; with the right to act according to one’s own conscious, it becomes possible for the individual to live the life she wants to live. But liberty—though clearly a quintessential American value—has natural limits. People should be allowed to do what they want as long as they are not causing harm to others. This not only includes their neighbors, but it also includes those who will not exist until a future point in time. In other words, the blessings of liberty necessitate a duty to posterity.
Posterity is composed of those who will live beyond us. If our well-being in the status quo causes us to ignore those who will inherit the nation, then we are abusing the blessings of liberty and ignoring our fundamental duties as Americans. If our wealth in the status quo exists only because of the debts we have imposed on future generations, then it seems such wealth will have been accumulated not from merit but from the theft of those who have not yet had an opportunity to speak up for themselves. If our use of natural resources in the status quo prevents posterity from enjoying our planet in the future, then it seems we are once again ignoring our fundamental duties as Americans. The Earth is not something that should be reserved for a single generation or even multiple generations; because the Earth is all we have, it ought to preserved and protected for all to enjoy.
Though passing debt onto future generations and exploiting finite resources in the status quo may both be tempting courses of action, they are fundamentally un-American in the sense that they directly threaten the well-being of posterity. Liberty can be an excellent virtue, but it will only be virtuous if its exercise does not cause harm to others. Because posterity cannot defend itself, we must realize the need to defend it in the status quo and act responsibly in every way that we possibly can.