Amartya Sen, "What's Wrong With Inequality?"


On April 11, 2017, CEHV kicked off its Distinguished Lecture Series with Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics. Amartya Sen is Thomas W. Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University and was until 2004 the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.  He is also Senior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.  Earlier on he was Professor of Economics at Jadavpur University Calcutta, the Delhi School of Economics, and the London School of Economics, and Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University. Sen has made contributions to welfare economics, social choice theory, economic and social justice, economic theories of famines, and indexes of the measure of well-being of citizens of developing countries. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 and Bharat Ratna in 1999 for his work in welfare economics. He was also awarded the inaugural Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize in recognition of his work on welfare economics in February 2015 during a reception at the Royal Academy in the UK.

In his lecture, Professor Sen invited the nearly 700 attendees to consider a simple but pressing question: why is an unequal society an unreasonable arrangement? Given the current political and social energy around combating inequality, it is important to understand why inequality is a problem worth addressing. Sen proposed three compelling reasons for avoiding or rectifying inequality: (1) the ethical importance of avoiding arbitrariness, or the disparate treatment of people where there is no good reason to treat people differently; (2) the evidence that inequality between groups in a society causes significant deprivation in well-being for the disadvantaged population; and (3) the complementarity the goal of generally advancing well-being and the goal of reducing inequality. You can read Professor Sen's full abstract here.

Professor Sen's lecture has been uploaded to our YouTube channel, where it currently enjoys over 14,000 views.