Thu. June 1: Webinar on Poverty, Aspirations and Riches

On June 1st, our distinguished guest speaker Ingrid Robeyns will be discussing issues found at opposite ends of the income distribution with YSI economic development group member Dr. Svenja Flechtner. This is our second webinar in preparation for our conference on Dimensions of Poverty coming up in Berlin in June.

Svenja will discuss problems faced by policy makers with respect to the aspirations of the poor, while Ingrid Robeyns will challenge the view that policy makers should be concerned with poverty alone; they should watch out for the riches too.


Should Aspirations be a Matter of Policy Concern?

Literature dealing with aspiration traps indicates that a life of poverty, deprivation or exclusion may hinder people’s development of goals and aspirations that would best serve their interests. Many authors seem to suggest that governments, schools, development agencies or NGOs should develop policies to help individuals avoid aspirations which are too low. However, it is not yet fully clear how these policies need to be designed in order to increase people’s welfare. To bridge this gap, this paper compares two different welfare approaches and examines how useful these might be when looking at normative implications of policies regarding aspirations. Drawing on Sen’s capability approach, we conclude that policies addressing aspiration traps need to be accompanied with policies that address, more directly, poverty and material hardship. To alleviate poverty, it can be helpful to make people reconsider their aspirations; however, this can complement but not substitute other policies. Moreover, to ensure that policies that address aspirations are not detrimental to welfare, they should not push people towards specific choices: policies that provoke overambitious aspirations may eventually lead to frustration.

Svenja Flechtner is a Post-doc research assistant at the department of International and Institutional Economics of the European University Flensburg/Germany

Having Too Much

There is widespread agreement in society that poverty is to be avoided, and that our social institutions should be such that they minimise the risk that people will be poor. But what about the opposite of the spectrum––the situation of extreme affluence? Is that a situation that is, from a societal point of view, undesirable? Or are those who condemn situations of extreme riches merely motivated by envy? In this talk, it will be argued that there are various reasons why situations of extreme affluence are undesirable from a moral point of view, given the world as it currently is. Academics, citizens and policy makers should therefore not only be concerned about poverty, but also about riches.

Prof. Ingrid Robeyns holds the Chair Ethics of Institutions at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Faculty of Humanities at Utrecht University.

This webinar is a collaboration between the YSI Development Economics and Philosophy of Economics working groups and the organisers of the DImensions of Poverty Conference (

Philosophy of Economics + Development WG
Thu, Jun 1, 2017 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM CEST

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