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The Carletonian

“How rich is too rich?” EthIC hosts debate with students and faculty

<sday, April 21, students crowded into a lecture hall in Leighton to hear a debate of the question “How rich is too rich?”  Professor Michael Hemesath and mathematics major Isaac Hodes argued that there is no such thing as too rich. Opposing them were Professor Daniel Groll and political science major Kristen Vellinger. No side was declared the winner, but a discussion followed the debate.

The student organizers of the debate, Hunter Knight and Hannah Kyle, were satisfied with the number of people in attendance.  “We had twenty-five to thirty people,” said Knight.  “It was a good turnout.”

The debate was a product of EthIC (Ethical Inquiry at Carleton), a group run by economics professor Mike Hemesath, Knight and Kyle.  The purpose of EthIC is to encourage Carleton students to explore ethical issues in their lives, and to further that exploration EthIC has brought guest speakers to Carleton, held workshops, and started a summer book club, which is free for all Carleton students to join.

Daniel Groll,  Assistant Professor of Philosophy, who became involved with the Question project, got the idea for this question from “The Life You Could Save,” a book by philosopher Peter Singer.  “I was looking for a question that people would think was relevant, a question that I feel the force of,” he explained when we discussed why he chose this particular question. 

The Question’s website explains further: “Suppose your gross annual income is $40,000 in your first job after college… you will be amongst the richest 1% of people in the world and earn more than 36 times the median world income… Do we have an obligation to give away some of our wealth?”

The debate itself was the product of an online discussion which has gone on for nearly the entire year, at the web address  Each year, EthIC will post a single question on its online forums, and allow students to respond throughout the year in an online discussion, culminating in a live debate like the one on Thursday night. 

The debate on Thursday was planned to be the conclusion to the online discussion.  “Hannah and Hunter were the driving force,” Groll explained.  But the Question isn’t over once the debate is done.  The online site is still up, and next fall, Groll, Hemesath, and the student workers in EthIC will choose a new question on the EthIC website.

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