A neat solution to the high class jerk problem
You might have heard about the recent study entitled Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior. In it, the authors figure out seven ways to measure the extent to which rich people are bigger assholes than poor people, a plan that works brilliantly every time.
What they term “unethical behavior” comes down to stuff like cutting off people and cars in an intersection, cheating in a game, and even stealing candy from a baby.
The authors also show that rich people are more likely to think of greed as good, and that attitude is sufficient to explain their feelings of entitlement. Another way of saying this it that, once you “account for greed feelings,” being rich doesn’t make you more likely to cheat.
I’d like to go one step further and ask, why do rich people think greed is good? A couple of things come to mind.
First, rich people rarely get arrested, and even when they are arrested, their experiences are very different and much less likely to end up with a serious sentence. Specifically, the fees are not onerous for the rich, and fancier lawyers do better jobs for the rich (by the way, in Finland, speeding tickets are on a sliding scale depending on the income of the perpetrator). It’s easy to think greed is good if you never get punished for cheating.
Second, rich people are examples of current or legacy winners in the current system, and that feeling that they have won leaks onto other feelings of entitlement. They have faith in the system to keep them from having to deal with consequences because so far so good.
Finally, some people deliberately judge that they can afford to be assholes. They are insulated from depending on other people because they have money. Who needs friends when you have resources?
Of course, not all rich people are greed-is-good obsessed assholes. But there are some that specialize in it. They call themselves Libertarians. Paypal founder Peter Thiel is one of their heroes.
Here’s some good news: some of those people intend to sail off on a floating country. Thiel is helping fund this concept. The only problem is, they all are so individualistic it’s hard for them to agree on ground rules and, you know, a process by which to decide things (don’t say government!).
This isn’t a new idea, but for some reason it makes me very happy. I mean, wouldn’t you love it if a good fraction of the people who cut you off in traffic got together and decided to leave town? I’m thinking of donating to that cause. Do they have a Kickstarter yet?