“It's fine to be well-off, but at some point, one has too much”

Ingrid Robeyns on limitarisme

Privé vliegtuig en sportwagen © iStockphoto.com/mevans
© iStockphoto.com/mevans

The gap between the very rich and the rest of the population continues to grow. Even the corona crisis couldn’t stop the expansion. On CBS News, professor in the Ethics of Institutions Ingrid Robeyns talked about the concept of ‘limitarianism’.

Climate crisis

“Limitarianism is just a word for the thought that there should be a moral limit to how much wealth you can accumulate”, Robeyns explains. “So, it’s the idea that it’s fine to be well-off. But at some point, one has too much.” And there is more to the concept. The large amounts of money that are used for accumulating even more capital or luxury expenses, can be spent in more beneficial ways. “We have this massive problem of climate change that also needs funding.”

The degree to which we can flourish depends on what others do.

Buying political influence

The rich make an inordinately large impact on society and according to Robeyns this is worrying. For example, there are the many ways in which the super-rich convert their financial wealth into political power. “It can, of course, be that you just fund somebody who’s standing for office who then becomes a president or a member of Congress,” she says. “It can also be that you, for example, buy up or fund, heavily fund, say, university institutes. And in that way, you shape the way the public conversation is going.”

“But I deserve it”

The frequently heard response “I built it up, I took the risk, so I deserve it” does not convince Robeyns. “Take any of these billionaires, put them on a deserted island, and just look at what they can do. They can do nothing. They can survive. So, that means for all of us, our quality of life and the degree to which we can flourish, depends on what others do.”