(R)ich 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.

“I will quote from the Tea Party hero Ayn Rand: “‘It is the morality of altruism that men have to reject,’” he said.  (source)

Are rich people heartless because they are rich or does being rich make them heartless. What do YOU think?

Tags: heartlessness, wealth

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I heard a reply once that I'll never forget. I save it for situations where someone lords it over me. I let them say their piece, staring at them. I continue staring at them with an expression exhibiting increasing contempt for a few seconds, and then say, "That was a cheap and vulgar display."

I'm not as nice as you are Matthew, I would have said, in all sincerity (and you should ALWAYS be sincere, whether you mean it or not!), "I can't begin to tell you how very honored I feel at this moment!"

I wish I could have been a smart ass but since the place I work is on the richer side of town, people expect a higher quality of service. I can't really be smart asses to these people. When they shit on me, I have to smile and ask for more shit.

That's my point, Matthew, if said in the most sincere of voices, there is absolutely nothing about my suggested response that could be construed as disrespectful.

That's a very leading question resting on the assumptions that all rich people are heartless, and that selfishness equals heartlessness. The only thing you can conclude from the article is that they are, on average, "more likely to think about themselves" compared to the average for non-rich people. So even if you wish to ask a leading question, it should be more correctly stated:

Are rich people selfish because they are rich or does being rich make them selfish. What do YOU think?

Becoming or staying rich is a processes of continually making correct decisions, which would include trusting oneself more than others when it comes to decision making. That's pretty close to what a selfish person is, and selfish people who are good at making decisions would therefore tend to be overrepresented. I also think it may be because "degree of selfishness" would be a positive skewed normal distribution, making the mode, or even median, more informative than the mean.

On the other side, a lot of rich people also commit and condone a fallacy. Becoming rich takes a good work ethic. But that is not the same as saying that everyone with a good work ethic becomes rich. Non rich people usually have a good work ethic, but have been less fortunate in their decision making. 

The answer to the question is either yes or no, so I don't see how one is led to the yes or the no by the framing of the question.

You write "Becoming or staying rich is a processes of continually making correct decisions, which would include trusting oneself more than others when it comes to decision making." However, isn't it really also a matter of making correct decisions aligning with self-interest while blocking any interests of others which might interfere.

In other words, anti-altruism.

Now, before anyone points out the altruism of some rich people, let's note that, first, philanthropy is the exception, not the rule. Also, even surface altruism can serve subsurface self-interests (such as grooming one's public image).

"The answer to the question is either yes or no, so I don't see how one is led to the yes or the no by the framing of the question."

It isn't a binary situation, therefore it isn't yes/no paradigm. It's about distribution, therefore framing it as a yes/no is leading. A simile would be "Are rich people intelligent because they are rich, or rich because they are intelligent" if the assumption is that rich people are, on average, more intelligent than non-rich (an assumption I suspect holds true).

"However, isn't it really also a matter of making correct decisions aligning with self-interest while blocking any interests of others which might interfere."

I will agree that it might, but excess rewards are not necessarily linked to self-interest, it is linked to success in risk taking. Selfishness is probably a driver in successful risk taking, but certainly not the only cause. Plain luck probably plays the largest part (and is wholly unappreciated).

I also agree that philanthropy is often nothing more than façade building, though with notable exceptions such as Gates and Buffett. Like the Church used to say "give until it hurts". 

Okay, I see what you're saying. There are other possibilities not captured by the question (e.g., Does being atheist make you heartless, Does being short make you heartless, Does being a debt collector make you heartless).

Bear in mind, though, the purpose of a subject line or headline is to get people interested.

"I will agree that it might, but excess rewards are not necessarily linked to self-interest, it is linked to success in risk taking." Nobody ever became rich by giving the benefits of risks successfully taken away to a competitor.

As we would say in the corporate world: I believe our perceptions are aligned.

"Nobody ever became rich by giving the benefits of risks successfully taken away to a competitor."

The only problem with that statement is that true risk and reward is only known ex post. You don't really know if you have given away the benefits or disadvantages of risk at the point where the decision is made. It's the difference between betting on football, where the variables are numerous and information provides an edge, versus the lottery, where the variables are well known and follow a strict probability distribution in the long run. 

Before philanthropy can be called altruism, a ratio of donation to income must also be considered - it may seem altruistic to donate a million dollars, until it's realized that the donor makes a hundred million per year. The guy pulling down 100K per doesn't seem nearly so altruistic when donating a thousand, yet the ratio is the same. Sometimes we let big numbers overly impress us.

Arcus - RE: "Non rich people usually have a good work ethic, but have been less fortunate in their decision making."

I believe that that's an incomplete sentence that requires the ending, ",...or in the opportunities they chance to encounter."

Indeed. One thing to note is that 'chance' would be meant as random, not arbitrary. Those who get truly rich appear to be better at seeing and seizing opportunities.

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