The rich are different

They’ve got more money.  But some interesting research shows that’s not the only thing.  They’re also selfish bastards :-):

Psychologist and social scientist Dacher Keltner says the rich really are different, and not in a good way: Their life experience makes them less empathetic, less altruistic, and generally more selfish.

In fact, he says, the philosophical battle over economics, taxes, debt ceilings and defaults that are now roiling the stock market is partly rooted in an upper class “ideology of self-interest.”

“We have now done 12 separate studies measuring empathy in every way imaginable, social behavior in every way, and some work on compassion and it’s the same story,” he said. “Lower class people just show more empathy, more prosocial behavior, more compassion, no matter how you look at it.”…

In other words, rich people are more likely to think about themselves. “They think that economic success and political outcomes, and personal outcomes, have to do with individual behavior, a good work ethic,” said Keltner, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Because the rich gloss over the ways family connections, money and education helped, they come to denigrate the role of government and vigorously oppose taxes to fund it.

Of course, what’s not addressed here is why.  Does being rich just turn you into a selfish bastard or does being a selfish bastard make you much more likely to be rich.  I suspect it’s a bit of both.  And this speaks all the more highly then of rich people who aren’t selfish bastards, i.e., Warren Buffet.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to The rich are different

  1. cantabbabybarrister says:

    I think that this is largely true nowadays. However, this wasn’t always the case. There was a time when the rich were motivated by a sense of paternalism, a time when they recognised that they were extremely lucky and fortunate to be in their position. This led to wealthy people giving away large sums of money, or engaging in public service to put something back into society. While some (and in the US, I’m thinking largely of Bill Gates) still follow this model, many rich people today have become selfish, callous and self-interested.
    It would be interesting to explore when and why this change occurred.

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