Wealth is correlated with greed, dishonesty and cheating -- are these effects or a causes?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/05/30/atlas-shoved.html


something something corrupts, something something else corrupts absolutely…or something like that.




Rule of Acquisition #10:
Greed is eternal.


Yeeeeeeeesssssss! I have wondered about this for quite some time. Does driving an Audi make you a dick or does being a dick make you like to drive an Audi?

Definitely going to read the article and find out!


It probably doesn’t help that the penalties for shitty behavior seem to decrease as a person’s income level rises. It disinhibits, like anonymity on the internet.

Once a person realizes at any level of consciousness that the cost of hitting some schmuck with a car can be wiped away with a bit of money – and not enough money to make a dent in the driver’s wealth – then the schmucks are in trouble.

Off to read the article.

(edit) This…

Were rich people more willing to take sweets meant for children? Of course, they were. Rich people took twice as many sweets as the people from the lower income groups.

The place I used to work was owned by a millionaire. I heard stories about how he would go to lunch with upper management, and he would fill his pockets with sugar packets, jellies, anything not nailed down, pretty much. Maybe it was just him, or maybe it’s a common personality trait among the wealthy? Don’t pay for something if you don’t have to, and take everything you can.




That’s one “moral hazard” you’ll never hear a Libertarian discuss, especially if the person is a corporate one. Talk about poor and “undeserving” humans, though, and they’ll talk your ear off about moral hazard.


I think there’s a definite selection criterion, too. I prefer wealth to poverty, but if I had enough to be able to spend my time as I saw fit—reading and doing research without having to go 'round hat-in-hand to grant committees or to private investors—I’d go do that and stop caring about wealth. I guess most people here would act in precisely the same way: wealth is a means to an end.

But that means that none of us could become billionaires because we’d stop before we got to that point because, well, if you have five hundred million dollars what Earthly use could more money have for you? It’s not even altruism (though you could do a hell of a lot of good with that kind of money)—you just don’t need any more.

But if you have some sort of issue where nothing’s ever enough, the same sort of issue that makes you take triple helpings of anything offered to you out of a desperate need to have more… yeah. You are going to keep accumulating wealth, especially since having a ton of money is a great way to get more money 'cos capitalism.

So, in short, I don’t think money makes people greedy. I think those people who aren’t sated at some wealth level are the greedy ones. Almost by definition, in fact.


This reminds me of articles I’ve read about micro expressions, and how the one for “contempt” generally means a marriage will end in divorce if one or both of the spouses wear it while interacting with the other. Once you’ve seen yourself as superior to other people, it’s extremely hard to adjust your perception so that you see them as no longer being beneath you. I can certainly see that some people who become rich through circumstance or some other means might begin to feel superior to others. And if you feel superior to people poorer than you, then why should you worry about hitting them if they’re walking, or smashing into them if their car is crappy?

Another way of thinking about it, if the people you’re dealing with aren’t worthy of you, what’s to stop you from cheating? From stealing? If you’re the landlord and everyone in your building is poorer than you and therefore beneath you, why would you ever take the time to treat them fairly?


This is not how people become wealthy:

Greed drives the accumulation of wealth. Some greedy people are just really unlucky or not too bright so then they’re just regular jerks. There are also stories of winners of lotteries who end up broke in a year because they threw too many parties for their friends.


So maybe the causation goes the other way: maybe getting rich is mostly a matter of dumb luck, which we justify for ourselves by convincing ourselves of our superiority, which leads to us treating others as inferiors.

Interesting. The peoples of the Byzantine Empire viewed “luck” as a great virtue. And when I visit my folks back east and am literally forced to socially engage with their friends at the local casino, I see winners applauded, high-fived, and treated as if they had made some amazing medical discovery.


Basic human decency? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


Hah. No, really. What’s to stop them? Because if human decency is basic, why do so many people seem to lack it?


Some greedy people are just really unlucky or not too bright so then they’re just regular jerks.

I feel attacked.


I’d say the vast majority have it, just that those who don’t and are also wealthy tend to become much more noticeable.

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There is also the possibility that if you had five hundred million dollars you’d change as a person. Get more expensive habits, feel more entitled, hang out with people who had more money than you did and decide that you wanted that billion, after all. It doesn’t affect everyone, but money or power can corrupt a lot of initially decent people.


You just reminded me of Bill Gates. He’s an exceptionally less acquisitive billionaire than most, and he’s stated a number of times that his whole plan is to get rid of all his money by the time he dies.

Considering he has enough money to ghost in the shell himself that may be a very long time. But he’s a good example of what the ultra wealthy could do with their fortunes if they weren’t so fixated on getting more money than they could possibly spend on themselves


I’ve known and worked with some very wealthy people and some very, very poor people. Over the years I’ve developed what I like to call the Universal Money Principle:

Money just accentuates a person’s character.

If they’re a generous, giving person, then having lots of money allows them to be more generous - sometimes to a fault. If they’re a greedy, miserly asshole in general, then more money just makes them a bigger asshole.

I can’t argue the cause/effect aspects other than anecdotally: I’ve known one person who was a genuinely super nice guy who came into a large inheritance at a fairly young age. Fortunately he stayed that super nice guy and was able to afford to be incredibly generous with his new found wealth with which he ended up doing a lot of good in his community.

That was actually Warren Buffet’s original idea and he got Bill to come aboard to found the Giving Pledge. In fact, MacKensie Bezos just agreed to participate as well.

Note that one particularly Orange President is currently not on the list.


Many years ago I was reading research into academic integrity-- cheating-- at the college level. It turns out that it’s the students getting mostly A’s already that mainly cheat. If you’re accustomed to getting good grades, you apparently start to believe you deserve them, and that cheating is excusable because your classes are so hard or the professor is unfair or that this ‘shortcut’ is OK because you are only getting what you ought to get in the gradebook. It seems akin to the thinking of rich people who take more than their share.