Does Taylor Swift Deserve Her Billion Dollar Fortune? Virtual Debate Taping from Open to Debate, March 5

February 12, 2024
Shore Fire Media

Two political philosophers debate whether even the most beloved billionaires are a policy failure


In October 2023, Forbes declared that Taylor Swift had officially become a billionaire thanks to the earnings from her Eras tour and the value of her music catalog. No one disputes that she got where she is because of her unparalleled talent, relentless work ethic, and passionate support from millions of Swifties. But does this justify her fortune? Maybe not, say some philosophers concerned over whether any individual, including Swift, should be able to amass such wealth. They question the fairness of a system that permits vast wealth accumulation and argue that luck and systemic advantages often play a role. Those who take the opposing viewpoint point to philosopher Robert Nozick, who says if someone acquires wealth through just means without violating others’ rights, they are entitled to that wealth. To that way of thinking, Swift’s and similar fortunes are a deserved reward for their societal contributions. On March 5, award-winning debate series Open to Debate (formerly known as Intelligence Squared U.S.) will tape a virtual debate on the question: “Does Taylor Swift Deserve Her Billion Dollar Fortune?”

Arguing “YES” is University of Richmond Political Philosopher and Chair in Ethics and Democratic Values Jessica Flanigan, author of the paper “Wealth Without Limits: In Defense of Billionaires” and an upcoming book about the philosophy behind Taylor Swift’s music. Arguing “NO” is Utrecht University’s Ethics Institute Chair Ingrid Robeyns, author of the book Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth.

While the debate will not be released widely until March 15 via public radio, video and podcast, press are invited to attend and ask questions at the live virtual taping on Tuesday, March 5 at 12:00 PM ET. Media can email for virtual access.



* Jessica FlaniganPolitical Philosopher and Chair in Ethics and Democratic Values at the University of Richmond

Jessica Flanigan is the Richard L. Morrill Chair in Ethics and Democratic Values at the University of Richmond, where she teaches Leadership Ethics, Ethical Decision Making in Healthcare, and Critical Thinking. Her research addresses the ethics of public policy, medicine, and business. Her academic work has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Moral Philosophy, the Journal of Political Philosophy, and Philosophical Studies, including the paper “Wealth Without Limits: In Defense of Billionaires.” She has also written for Reason, Slate, and the Washington Post. She has published extensively in leadership, medical ethics, normative ethics, and political philosophy. Her books include “Pharmaceutical Freedom: Why Patients Have a Right to Self-Medicate,” “Debating Sex Work,” and an upcoming book about the philosophy behind Taylor Swift’s music. She gave the University of Richmond’s “Last Lecture” in 2017 when she was also the faculty member of the year. She won the Distinguished Educator Award in 2020, and several other teaching awards. She has a Ph.D. from Princeton, an M.A. from Washington University, and a B.A. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


* Ingrid Robeyns, Chair in Ethics of Institutions at Utrecht University’s Ethics Institute; Author of “Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth”

Ingrid Robeyns works on issues in contemporary political philosophy and applied ethics and holds the Chair in Ethics of Institutions at the Ethics Institute of Utrecht University. In recent years, she taught the ethics of institutions, the ethics of capitalism, the capability approach, climate ethics, and public philosophy. Her latest book is “Limitarianism: The Case Against Extreme Wealth,” and her other book is “Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-examined.” From 2017 to 2022, she was the head of the Fair Limits Project, investigating the plausibility of limitarianism in economic and ecological resources, which was funded by a European Research Council Consolidators Grant. Robeyns has achieved multiple awards, including the VICI Grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the Emma Goldman Award from the FLAX Foundation for her work on inequality, and was elected as a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. She holds an M.Sc. in Economics and an M.A. in Philosophy, and received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge.



Open to Debate addresses a fundamental problem in America: the extreme polarization of our nation and our politics. We are the nation’s only nonpartisan, debate-driven media organization dedicated to bringing multiple viewpoints together for a constructive, balanced, respectful exchange of ideas. Open to Debate is a platform for intellectually curious and open-minded people to engage with others holding opposing views on complex issues. We know debate works to find common ground: On average, 32% of the Open to Debate audience changes their mind on contentious topics after hearing a debate. That’s the power of debate done right, and at scale, it can change the direction we’re headed in America. Open to Debate is broadcast as a weekly public radio program, carried on NPR stations including WNYC (#1 in the nation). Open to Debate is made available as a podcast, video series, and digital platform, and records episodes with live audiences nationwide. Visit to become a member, access an archive of more than 220 debates, and attend live events.


For more information on Open to Debate, please contact Ray Padgett ( or Mark Satlof ( at Shore Fire Media.


Debate: Does Taylor Swift Deserve Her Billion Dollar Fortune?

Debate: Does Taylor Swift Deserve Her Billion Dollar Fortune?