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Ingrid

The capability book has been written – though not here

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 12, 2017

Once upon a time, and following the inspiring example of JQ who wrote large parts of his Zombie Economics on this blog, I started a project here writing chunks of my capabilities overview book (zero, one, two, three, four—and that was it). As some of you may recall, the aim of this book project is to provide a graduate-level introduction to the capability approach that would do justice to its radically interdisciplinary nature. I have good news and (to me at least) somewhat disappointing news. [click to continue…]

Sunday Photoblogging: Mouille Point Beach, Cape Town

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 10, 2017


I was in Cape Town this week, for the annual conference of the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA). Since earlier this year I was elected President-elect of the HDCA, and have also been an associate editor for its journal for a few years, I was occupied with the conference and organisation matters from the moment I arrived till the closing session which I chaired. It is frustrating to be in a building several days non-stop, and not seeing anything of the city, so I was very glad that Ina Conradie, my former PhD Student and a longtime resident of Cape Town took me to Mouille Point Beach, to inhale the smell of the ocean and get some clamshells for my sons. Friends had warned me that Cape Town beaches are white-sanded and may be without shells, but not this one! I’ve never seen so many shells on a single beach, including some very beautiful ones.

Sunday Photoblogging: flowers

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 27, 2017

Longtime readers of our blog know that my oldest son Aaron (now 11) developed an interest in flower-arranging. It is wonderful to see how he has this talent that neither of his parents knew he had, nor did we do anything to help him discover this talent: he did it all by himself initially, with the help of some youtube demonstrations by Japanese flower artists. When we discovered what he could make, some local flower sellers started to support him, and he was lucky that my sister Kristin has a degree in flower arranging and hence could learn him some techniques. [click to continue…]

Sunday Photoblogging: view from another walk

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 20, 2017

We encountered this funny sight recently at the outskirts of Spa, where we were enjoying walking along the GR5. (More fans of the GRs out there?)

I’m glad the owners of the (former) fence decided not to cut the tree, and obviously not because there aren’t enough trees in the area!

Sunday Photoblogging: Never forget

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 12, 2017

This is a picture of a memorial in Berlin Mitte, where from 1942 onwards the Nazis brought together 55.000 Jewish men, women, and children. They were then put on transport to Auschwitz and Theresienstadt, where they would be brutally murdered. The details on the memorial are pretty effective in reminding us of the scope of the inhumanity that the Nazis brought over Europe, but in the end the message is so simple that even Donald Trump must be able to understand this:

Never forget—resist war—protect peace.

Sunday photoblogging: Sunflowers, before the evening rain

by Ingrid Robeyns on August 6, 2017

I’ll be posting the Sunday Photoblog for a few weeks – Chris is occupied with other things. I only have my (old) smartphone at my disposal to make pictures, but I love making some shots when I’m walking, despite that they never capture the real thing. Here’s one from an evening walk in the South of France two weeks ago, half an hour before it started to rain.

The fidget spinning fad and disability discrimination

by Ingrid Robeyns on May 21, 2017

Here’s an important article by Aiyana Bailin, who argues that the recent fidget spinning fad shows something disturbingly:

Something that was considered entirely pathological and in dire need of correction when done by disabled people is now perfectly acceptable because it is being done by non-disabled people

So here we see disability discrimination at work. For some neuro-atypical and disabled people, stimming is a way to reduce stress, and indeed also to concentrate better. But often they are told not to do this. The same holds for other forms of behaviour that neurotypicals consider ‘abnormal’. The fidget spinning just shows how much of a social convention, and hence form of domination, those social norms regarding ‘normal behaviour’ are, and that at least some of those conventions are biased against the needs of some groups of disabled people and neuro-atypicals.

Earlier this week, I came across another example. A therapist told me that social skills training for autistics entails, among other things, that they learn to look at the eyes of another person when talking to them. But why would that be a desirable good? What, except for some social convention, would make it that it is considered inappropriate not to look at the person you’re talking to? Why can’t we just accept it to be as it is – that for some people, it’s easier to have a conversation if they do not have to look you into the eyes?

But the good news is that the article by Aiyana Bailin gives us an opportunity to learn something. I suspect it will eye-opening to many of us. It’s an example of how disability discrimination works, and examples may well be more effective in showing the working of disability discrimination than some abstract theory. Yet it’s an example of a more general problem that Bailin wants to draw our attention to:

But the power structure is still there. There’s still a rigid hierarchy of who gets to decide which behaviors are normal or pathological. There’s still a societal subtext that tells people who are different “be less like yourself and more like us.” We need to work on that.

I’m packing for a short trip to Berlin, where I’ll be giving a public lecture on Monday on the question whether there should be an upper limit to how much wealth a person should morally be able to hold (it’s open to the public so you’re welcome!). The lecture will draw from a paper I wrote that was just published in the most recent volume of NOMOS, which was edited by Jack Knight and Melissa Schwartzberg, and which is entirely on Wealth (there is a link to the PDF of my chapter online too, though I’m not sure whether that will stay there for long). I haven’t been able to read the other papers in the Volume, but a quick skim suggests the other chapters should really be very interesting. I’ll write more about the volume after the Summer, when I will have embarked on a 5-year ERC-funded research project investigating the plausibility of upper limits on ecological and economic resources. [click to continue…]

Individual emission budgets & footprints

by Ingrid Robeyns on April 22, 2017

It’s Global Earth Day, and this year the theme is environmental and climate literacy. I’d like to take us through an argument and a set of calculations. If what I write is correct, it only illustrates (but quite vividly, I think) the mess we’re in. So I hope that someone will convince me that what follows is wrong, or that the pessimistic conclusions do not follow.

[click to continue…]

Elections in the Netherlands

by Ingrid Robeyns on March 15, 2017

Today are elections in the Netherlands. They are labelled ‘historical’ elections, for both national and international reasons. The most important international reason is that this is a first of several national elections in Europe taking place this year, and the question is to what extent (right-wing) populist parties will win the elections. The fear is that this could lead to more countries being led by parties who want to pull out of the EU, and have more nationalistic and populist politics – closing borders, pulling out of international treaties, and perhaps even eroding the rule of law. The worry is that the Netherlands may be the first in a row of right-wing populist victories. [click to continue…]

She Decides

by Ingrid Robeyns on February 3, 2017

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation has launched an initiative to raise funds to counter the possible effects of Trumps’ signing of the so-called Mexico City Policy (also called ‘global gag rule’), which prohibits US government funding of organizations that provide access to abortions, or information about it. The initiative is called She Decides, and aims to give girls and women access to family planning services. [click to continue…]

Tony Atkinson has died

by Ingrid Robeyns on January 3, 2017

2017 started off badly, with the death of Tony Atkinson – the most important economist working on inequality, poverty (in affluent societies), the economics of the welfare state, and ‘optimal taxation’. Academics who have known Atkinson have lost one of the most humane, wise and gentle of their colleagues, who was genuinely caring about other people in his work as well as in his interactions with them.

The world at large has lost a wise welfare economist who was the Godfather of modern inequality analysis and therefore (and for other reasons) should have received the Nobel Prize. Without his work, inequality metrics and knowledge on social security mechanisms wouldn’t be what they are now; he continued working on normative welfare economics throughout the decades in which it wasn’t fashionable at all (I am not sure it is fashionable again, but at least I hope that the recent hugely popular and influential work by Thomas Piketty has improved the status of inequality analysis among economists.)

Atkinson’s work on how to effectively protect the poor and decrease inequalities will be badly needed in the years to come, so luckily he has left us a goldmine of scholarly papers and academic books, including most recently Inequality: What can be done? which doesn’t require an economics degree to be understood.

For Thomas Piketty’s obituary of Atkinson, see here.

What can we do?

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 9, 2016

We could wait to post something here on the Trump Election until we have processed the shock. But we should have a place to discuss how to make sense of this, and think about how to go from here. So here are my two cents; I am sure other Timberites will give us more matured reactions later. [click to continue…]

Before the Flood

by Ingrid Robeyns on November 6, 2016

I watched Before the Flood today, the Leonardi di Caprio film on climate change. I think it does a great job for three reasons. First, it brings the debate on climate change to the masses, which the articles that scientists write in Science or Nature won’t do, nor will the class with 25 graduate students to whom I taught climate ethics. It’s great to have in-depth and very detailed debates on either the science or the ethics of climate change, but this problem needs mass mobilisation. Second, it gives a more visual and narrative complement to an intellectual approach to climate change (have you ever tried to read the IPCC reports? You’ll understand what I mean). As Piers Sellars, an astronaut and director of the Earths Sciences Division of NASA says in the movie, he understood the problem of climate change intellectually for a long time, but only when he saw the fragility of the Earth from space, really captured the scale and significance of the problem. A film such as this one can be that non-cognitive complement for all of us. Third, Di Caprio interviews an impressive range of people from different sectors and different countries, which makes the movie interesting and rhetorically powerful. [click to continue…]

Sunday Photoblogging: Sunflower Symmetry

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 31, 2016

Sunflower Since it seems unlikely that Chris will be posting one of his marvellous pictures today, I made this with my iPhone this afternoon – taken from the side of the road somewhere in the South of France.

Ever since my oldest son has developed a deep interest in flower arrangements, I’ve seen more flower art in my house than in my entire previous adult life. But the sunflower doesn’t need arranging: it’s most beautiful standing by itself, or with a few other sunflowers – each of them being a little piece of art in themselves.