Height of Louis XVI
Height of Louis XVI
It’d be great to see this book get some traction.
Across various disciplines, scholars were starting to see that something was happening at the upper levels of society, and we ought to pay attention. I started to think through the ethics of extreme wealth concentration in a systematic way, and after a decade I became convinced that we must create a world in which no one is super-rich – that there must be a cap on the amount of wealth any one person can have. I call this limitarianism.
Interview with the author:
Inequality has grown so much because we’ve come to look at society in a different way, a neoliberal way that involves celebrating the market, scaling down the welfare state, distrusting government, and no longer seeing ourselves as citizens but as “investors in human capital.”
In my student days, we all seemed engaged in one or another political or charitable activity. Now students — not all of them, but many — see themselves as just attending school to get a degree and make some money on the side. And when they don’t study or make money, they go on holiday. A much more consumerist lifestyle. You can call it an economistic lifestyle.
I see ourselves instead as what the ancient Greeks would call political animals. We need to work politically toward a more caring society, a less harsh society, societies less into everybody for themselves and letting the richest among us win while others get left behind.
I really like most of this article. Thank you for posting it!
However,I disagree with this sentiment. Between my direct observations of what high school and college kids do regarding public and community service and my interactions with a relatively large contingent of recent college graduates every year at work, my impression is that contemporary young people are much more involved in service than 20-30 years ago.
Great to hear. Ingrid Robeyns may well have different experiences with young people, since she was born in Belgium and now live in the Netherlands.
I’ve taken a crack at her book / collection of philosophical papers “Having Too Much”. The thesis is good, but I’m frustrated in places a the constraints that the conventions of philosophy put on her discussion. There’s a lot more the Limitarian crowd could be doing to collaborate with modern (post-Chicago school) economics to really start pinning down ideas instead of ending up doing a lot of hand waving.
Grumpy math guy talking… if I put my money where my mouth is I’ll be back with notes.
I see what you mean. I don’t know if it’s just more hand waving, but she does have this fairly concrete bit to say in the interview:
I try to ask people to look for ways to contribute to a better society that fit their personality and skills. I ask them to join a democratic political party that respects the rule of law. They have options. And I think that people should also join labor unions. We’ve come to forget the contribution unions make to protecting basic worker rights.
As you look across the world today, what gives you the most hope and inspiration?
The activists. I’ve dedicated Limitarianism to activists in general. Activists are taking risks — often with their own lives, especially in the Global South — to make change.
I’ve also been teaching climate ethics and have seen a big difference over the last year. You now have companies that are really trying to do things differently. That’s fantastic — because if these companies can scale up, we could have a different economic system. But other companies are still actually killing the Earth. And who is really fighting these companies? It’s the activists.
So that’s why activists give me hope.
Can’t use his yacht as a tax dodge? The horror!
The nerve of that billionaire tax cheat!
It would have qualified as a superyacht in the eighties, when it was new. But yeah, by today’s standards, it’s an embarrassment among the super rich.
Of course they are.
If the Lincoln Project (or similar group) pointed out how some wealthy oligarchs were treated by Putin, could it change their shriveled hearts and monstrous minds?
Surely voting for the autocratic bear eating faces party wouldn’t end with a bear eating their face… /s
Money is a helluva drug.
I realize you are asking rhetorically, but… a near-infinite supply of money sure can insulate someone from the natural consequences [if not also the logical consequences since various legal “systems” enable them] of bad behavior/choices. Usually. Your quoted example and the French Revolution that @Brainspore quoted being exceptions.
My guess is, anyone whose addictions and ego are as fully wrapped up in power and scorekeeping and luxury is unlikely to see the light, as it were, even in these IRL scenarios. I am sure they’d rather risk it, just like they’d rather kill our planet than change, see the light, do the right thing, step up, etc. because they are addicted to what they have and enjoy today.
I admit that addiction to delusion, extreme comfort and power is not the sole province of billionaires. But they are the ones who are overwhelmingly more damaging to us and our planet, than us plebs. At the risk of overstating/repeating what @milliefink said upthread…
Trying to end on an upnote, here is an IRL example of someone from Patriotic Millionaires (?!?!) making better choices, or starting to:
Abigail Disney has pretty consistently said that it’s messed up that she’s never had to do any work in her life because of her Grandad. Just hand the principal to a reputable financial advisor who likely slams it into an index tracker.
Without wealth taxes, or at least taxing wealth-derived income as hard as labour-derived income, she doesn’t need to actually risk the capital, or take a day-to-day interest in the companies she’s invested in, to be unimaginably rich.
In a press release in January, the agency said it had compiled a list of 1,600 high-income individuals with tax liabilities. After assigning 900 cases to agency officials, the IRS was able to collect more than $482 million, with more to come.