Intergenerational Justice in the United States Constitution,
The Stewardship Doctrine:
I. Historic Overview

A. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Old Testament Traditions.
Greece and Rome

There is nothing new about a political society's need to balance the sometimes competing interests of the living, the dead, and the yet-to-be-born. One policy area in which such issues have always been prominent is that of property inheritance.

Plato addressed the intergenerational concerns associated with estate distribution in his Laws. He conceived of the polis as an assemblage of clans, each clan being composed of the present generation, its ancestors, and its descendants.f3 Speaking through the character of "the Athenian," he explained that individuals' property rights are limited in significant ways by the interests of both prior and later generations: "[N]either you nor this property of yours belongs to yourselves, but to your whole clan, ancestors and descendants alike. . .." f4
A similar sentiment can be found in the oath sworn by every Athenian citizen:

"We will ever strive for the ideals and sacred things of the city, . . . we will transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us." f5

As Professor Frederickson notes, "The Athenian public service ethic called for more than equality between the generations. It tilted the balance in favor of later generations." f6

Under the Roman empire, as under the Athenian, private property interests in land were understood to be limited by long term communal interests in preservation. On the Italian peninsula, much of the land was held in emphyteusis f7, posessio (precarious tenure), usufructus (lifetime tenure) f8 and related forms, all of which stressed the landholder's responsibility to manage the land resource responsibly. Outside the Italian peninsula, land was never completely private. f9 Access to such resources as air, wildlife, running water, the oceans and their shores was recognized as each person's inalienable birthright by the Justinian Institutes. f10

Moreover, according to Cicero and Augustine, whose writings were well-regarded by the American founders, f11 Rome's eventual decline resulted from the failure of latter-day policy makers to continue placing the long term interests of the intergenerational community above short-term factional interests. f12

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