The Huffington Post reports, “Rich people are more likely to take candy from children, lie, cheat, endorse unethical behavior at work, and cut off pedestrians while driving, a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found.” Are you surprised? Or do you expect the wealthy and well-to-do to behave in more entitled, selfish ways?
HuffPo notes that the study’s most important achievement is that it “contradicts the notion that poor people are more likely to act unethically out of financial necessity.” Rather, it’s actually the “relative independence” and “increased privacy” that wealth affords which allows rich people to act unethically. So, which came first, the rich person or the sense of entitlement? Does a “me first” attitude lead individuals to behave in unscrupulous ways?
Paul Pitt, lead author of the study, suggests that “Elevated wealth status seems to make you want even more, and that increased want leads you to bend the rules or break the rules to serve your self-interest.” So the more wealthy selfish individuals become the more selfish they become. “We’re not saying you should distrust the rich, or the rich are corrupt,” Piff says. As CNN put it, “The researchers found that unethical behavior was closely related to positive feelings about greed …. even lower-status individuals were more prone to ethical lapses if they felt that greed was good.”
Study participants, for instance, were more likely to cheat on a dice game or mislead a hypothetical job candidate about an available position if they agreed strongly with a series of greed-related statements, such as “To be a successful person in this society, it is important to make use of every opportunity” and “It is not morally bad to think first of one’s own benefit and not other people’s.”
Does this mean that Republicans, who tend to advocate “personal responsibility and accountability” are less ethical than socially liberal Democrats? According to Piff, no. He says “the pattern held after the researchers took into account factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, and religious and political affiliations, all of which are associated with ethics and values.”
It’s understandable to a certain extent why rich people of all stripes fall victim to endless want. After all, rich people are so doted upon, they’re used to getting the best of everything – for free. Of course it’s ironic that celebrities and other wealthy folks are lavished with expensive gifts at marquis events when they’re the very people who can actually afford them. Treating the wealthy in this way spoils them, not unlike a child who is placated with sweets or some other treat every time he/she throws a tantrum. Just hold tight to that candy if you get it, kids, because some rich person might come by and take it!