February 29, 2012

The rich are rich because they are greedy and cheat

There's a new study out there set to open some minds to reality:

Raul K. Piff et al., Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior. PNAS 2012. Pay per view (free in six months or already depending on global region).

Abstract

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

They even justify their unethical behavior because for them greed is somehow ethical, something good (as Reagan would memorably state in his reign), justifying almost everything (while for the rest of us it is obviously not). 

I wonder if there is a greedy gene and if we could inactivate it with genetic engineering. Of course I also wonder if such thing could be ethical... but sounds better than guillotine, right?

In the media: The Independent, Kaos[es].

Other great discoveries of modern psychological science: conservatives are quite scared, and progressive and open minded people are generally smarter.

7 comments:

  1. I attended two elite universities and got to know some students (and some of their parents) from the 0.01% (those with vast wealth and passive income for several generations - none of their grandparents had a job) very well. I can verify all of this as the simple truth. F. Scott Fitzgerald said it very well. "The (truly) rich are very different from you and I."

    By the way, in my opinion, some of the 99th percentile people are the hardest working and most ethical people in society, Just because someone took out massive loans and studied for years to become a dentist and is using their current high income to pay taxes, interest, and a mortgage does not make them one of the moneyed elite.

    Many of the people supposedly in the top 1% (in reported taxable income) have zero or negative net worth well into maturity. In other words, are they glorified debt serfs and tax mules. They can be so easily screwed because they are NOT sociopaths!

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  2. "Just because someone took out massive loans and studied for years to become a dentist and is using their current high income to pay taxes, interest, and a mortgage does not make them one of the moneyed elite".

    That's what I'd call middle class. They are an "species" on their own right. Ever heard of Type A personality?

    "... ambitious, aggressive, business-like, controlling, highly competitive, preoccupied with his or her status, time-conscious, arrogant and tightly-wound. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics" who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence".

    They usually fill in the intermediate ranks, the middle (or upper-middle) class.

    It's an old theory from the 50s, which has been challenged in some aspects but still seems to hold some sway (probably because it found something real).

    "The (truly) rich are very different from you and I."

    Yes, but not in anything that makes them "better"... except money and power.

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  3. This study is another statement of the obvious. I guess it is good to have scientific proof, maybe we can redesign our governments to take this into account. There was this one comedy skit where a politician advertised that he was a narcissistic sociopath who would do or say anything to get elected. I thought it was the most accurate representation of our political and business "elite" that I have seen.

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  4. FWIW, the study is measuring college kids who say they are rich, rather than the adults who made the money.

    There is good anecdotal evidence to suggest that the values of scions of wealthy familys and heirs to great wealth generally have values quite different from the values of the parents who actually earned the money.

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  5. Good catch (college "kids"), Andrew. But don't forget that even in the most vertically mobile of Capitalist societies, about 90% of the rich are "silver spoons", born already wealthy. And also do not forget who are the fathers and mothers educating them: those immoral ideas do not grow alone but are learned from their parents and class circles.

    So the study is valid, unless proven otherwise. I do not think that your claim of "anecdotal evidence" can stand, specially when there is a lot of systematic evidence on how almost every wealthy person ever was clearly evil and predatory. Just read their non-apologetic biographies: they made their money piles by bloodsucking and backstabbing (and there's no other way unless you really hit the golden pot with a very revolutionary patent like the tetra-pack or something).

    Nobody ever grew rich by mere working.

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  6. Andrew wrote:
    "the values of scions of wealthy familys and heirs to great wealth generally have values quite different from the values of the parents who actually earned the money."

    I sense a comprehensive theory in the making of why cultures, nations, and civilizations fall.

    Or, as a contemporary Arab proverb puts it: "My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet-plane. His grandson will ride a camel.

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  7. So you think these guys are any different from, say, the railroad barons who are their grandfathers?

    C'mon! What I sense is ideological need to hide the facts.

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