Where Should Society Draw the Line on Extreme Wealth?

Lucas Chancel in Nature: As radical as they might seem, calls for limits on wealth are as old as civilization itself. The Hebrew Bible and Torah recognized years during which debts should be cancelled, slaves set free and property redistributed from rich to poor. In classical Greece, Aristotle praised cities that kept wealth inequality in check to enhance political stability. And in 1942, then-US president Franklin D. Roosevelt argued that annual incomes should be capped at the current equivalent of US$480,000.

In Limitarianism, Dutch and Belgian economist and philosopher Ingrid Robeyns argues that it’s time for twenty-first-century governments to do the same. She explores what setting limits on wealth ownership might mean, and why our societies should want to do so. It is a fresh take on a much-needed discussion at a time when, for example, the richest 1% of the US population owns about as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

Robeyns, who has studied how people perceive wealth, opens with a provocative proposal — governments should set a wealth limit on the order of 10 million euros or US dollars per person. This figure, more of a guideline than a strict cut-off, “strikes a balance between what different moral and political considerations tell us is the maximum level” of wealth one should own, she explains.

Why cap wealth at €10 million? The author’s research across Europe suggests that this level, or an even lower “riches line”, would be broadly accepted by the population…

More here.

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