In this episode of hack radio David Gaines spoke with political philosopher Dick Timmer, who just earned his Ph.D. from Utrecht University with a thesis on wealth.
As a political philosopher, Temer studies social, economic, and social issues from an ethical and normative perspective. The central question is how attitudes can be done differently and more justly, both with regard to the relationship between the government and the citizen, and between the citizen and the collective. In the current context, for example, he examines what measures the government imposes on individuals and how – depending on the perspective – it protects rights and violates rights. When this power is justified and how far these restrictions can go – these are questions of political philosophy.
This ethical perspective is often missing in political discussion. “Very little people realize that the normative and ethical assumptions behind concepts such as purchasing power and economic growth are also important,” Timmer laments. For example, the climate movement has drawn attention to the fact that economic growth goes hand in hand with more emissions. I think there should be more awareness of core standards in the public debate.
The meaning of the limits of wealth
The idea of the limits of wealth is the idea of the Belgian-Dutch philosopher Ingrid Robbins in the context of her project on limits at the University of Utrecht. In his dissertation, Temer elaborated in detail a number of arguments about the meaning of this wealth limit. First, the pursuit of political equality is a good argument. Second, there is the inefficiency argument, where the trade-off is made between people who are socially and socially in poor condition, and below the poverty line, and those who have so much wealth that it no longer really matters, Timer out explains. “There are always conflicting interests, but when the balance is balanced, the benefits of redistributing that wealth outweigh the disadvantages.”
Robins didn’t just investigate The benefit of these wealth limits, but also try to specify an amount. Her findings show that people can indeed indicate such a limit in a statistically significant way. In the Netherlands, this limit is about 2.2 million euros, including home, second residence, holidays, car, etc. Another study in the UK also yielded an appreciable limit, which turned out to be much higher: about 70 million lbs.
equivalent to the poverty line
The search is only the beginning of reaching the limit of wealth, because this limit is ultimately a political and social choice. “However, this is not a completely new question, because we already have a poverty line, which has a huge impact on many people’s lives,” says Timmer. “This limit was determined by comparing a lot of experience and thinking together on the issue of determining when someone lives in poverty, along with sufficient political support to actually set the limit.”
Opinions about boundaries on a scale are determined by the scale on which a person falls. For example, it is normal for the rich and the poor to have different opinions about where the line should be in terms of poverty or wealth. In the literature, objections have been raised that a poverty line of US$2 per day would be too arbitrary. Timmer agrees: “It is true that opinions differ about where the line should be.” “However, there are good reasons to use this limit.”
Over the limit
After their considerations, Robeyns and Timmer come to the conclusion that there are ethical and normative arguments for setting a wealth limit, but that the next step is the consequences of such a limit. This can go in different directions. Timmer thinks taxing everything is a possibility, but there probably isn’t enough support for that. You can also reduce wealth indirectly through an inheritance tax, or you can make a moral appeal to the wealthy to use wealth in a socially beneficial way. Take Bill Gates, for example, who has a lot of money, but is involved in charitable work on a large scale and in this way redistributes his wealth himself and thus uses his money in a way of social and social value. But what about equality? It can leave a bigger imprint on the political front and have a great impact on people’s lives. Is this desirable then?
Timmer: ‘In the final phase of the project, the participants were presented with dilemmas, such as Choosing between more taxes on great wealth or a cut back on some public services. There they proved, according to respondents, that the importance of large assets carries less weight than public utilities and that there is a limit above the importance of significantly diminishing.
The question of why someone continues to work hard after introducing a wealth limit can be asked once that limit appears. This unintended side effect can have an impact on society and the economy. However, Temer does not believe in such a scenario: “I can’t imagine that the economy will collapse. People will adapt a little, but they will certainly continue to work to reach the limits. It’s actually similar to an inheritance tax. From an economic point of view, this is a less disruptive tax because people would not work less if it was increased. From an ethical point of view, this is fully justified, since it ensures equal opportunity by eliminating undue advantage and greater efficiency because money is redistributed to the weak.
It is also expected that creative solutions will be put in place to deal with this wealth barrier by moving or channeling capital. In principle, this problem applies to all progressive taxes on wealth, making the tax ineffective if it is not defined globally.
Merit as a counterargument
In debates about wealth, the concept of “meritocracy” is often central to justification of great wealth and the debate against the limits of wealth. Timmer came to the conclusion that arguments for merit often depend on factors such as birth, parents, inheritance, capital, skin color, gender, etc., and thus do not tell the whole story. “Most economists say that building wealth has more to do with supply and demand than with merit,” Timmer said. It is better to be a middle-level banker than a talented violinist. Although a violinist may work harder, be more talented and also have more of a social advantage than the average banker, the latter simply works in a highly paid professional sector. So the argument for hard work, talent, and merit does not justify building wealth.
Author article: Lies Verlinden