Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Rich Really ARE Different

Ten percent of Wall Streeters may be clinical psychopaths, lacking empathy or compassion for others.

William  Deresiewicz writes  in the NY Times
The only thing that puzzles me about these claims is that anyone would find them surprising. Wall Street is capitalism in its purest form, and capitalism is predicated on bad behavior. This should hardly be news. …. 
Capitalist values are antithetical to Christian ones. (How the loudest Christians in our public life can also be the most bellicose proponents of an unbridled free market is a matter for their own consciences.) Capitalist values are also antithetical to democratic ones. Like Christian ethics, the principles of republican government require us to consider the interests of others. Capitalism, which entails the single-minded pursuit of profit, would have us believe that it’s every man for himself.….

But it's not just Wall Street.  It's people of wealth generally.  From a recent paper in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, a meta-analysis of behavioral studies correlated with wealth and social class
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.  
Now does this mean that every rich person is a disdainful snob?  Of course not.  It's a trend, not an absolute. But why does it happen?  Daisy Grewal in the HuffPo
But why would wealth and status decrease our feelings of compassion for others? After all, it seems more likely that having few resources would lead to selfishness. Piff and his colleagues suspect that the answer may have something to do with how wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused. Another reason has to do with our attitudes towards greed. Like Gordon Gekko, upper-class people may be more likely to endorse the idea that “greed is good.” Piff and his colleagues found that wealthier people are more likely to agree with statements that greed is justified, beneficial, and morally defensible. These attitudes ended up predicting participants’ likelihood of engaging in unethical behavior.
So it's worth remembering that members of Congress are disproportionately wealthy, 
and their hold on power depends on having super-wealthy people give them money.   It's little wonder that so many of them have no interest, really, in the realities that affect the rest of us. We aren't really their constituents.


Tom Sramek, Jr. said...

Apparently Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."

MarkBrunson said...

Not terribly surprising!

Brother David said...

It also perhaps helps us to better understand the widow and her mite.