Moral Outrage
Whew! God help us!

Wealth and the ideology of self interest

Psychologist and social scientist Dacher Keltner says the life experience of the rich makes them less empathetic, less altruistic, and generally more selfish.

In fact, he says, the philosophical battle over economics, taxes, debt ceilings and defaults that are now roiling the stock market is partly rooted in an upper class “ideology of self-interest.”

Keltner and co-authors of an article called “Social Class as Culture: The Convergence of Resources and Rank in the Social Realm,” argue that rich people are more likely to think about themselves. There is another interesting piece of evidence showing that many rich people may not be selfish as much as willfully clueless, and therefore unable to make the cognitive link between need and resources.

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.

Meanwhile, the gap between the wealthiest and the rest of us continues to grow wider, with over 80 percent of the nation’s financial wealth controlled by about 20 percent of the people.

[Excerpts of a MSNBC article by Brian Alexander]

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2 Responses to “Wealth and the ideology of self interest”

  1. The article reverses the relation between the cause (egoism) and the effect (wealth). It also very much disregards several issues in our current economy:
    1. Many of the very wealthy in this country support altruistic government policies – the liberal dominance of Hollywood is a good example.
    2. The most vigorous opposition to increases in the size of government, at the moment, are coming from the Tea Party – a largely middle class movement – rather than the upper classes of American society.
    3. Our current mixed economy allows for wealth to be obtained through favors rather than legitimately higher levels of productivity – Washington dominates industry, and it picks its favorites through lobbying. This is more the cause for the wealth gap than anything else, and this should be the cause for concern – simply because one individual has more (even massively more) than another does not mean government intrusion is warranted to steal from the wealthier individual on behalf of the poorer one.
    4. Wealth can be inherited, this is true, but that does not mean that inheriting it is either a sin or a security that one will never lose that wealth (“shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves” was commonly used to describe wealthy families in the 2nd Industrial Revolution that produced unworthy heirs).
    5. Rational egoism does not equate to a lack of concern for others – many times, concern for others can be very egotistical, such as through charity which is done out of a legitimate desire to assist another rather than compulsion through government force.


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