Posts Tagged ‘Greed’

Money really is a root of evil

July 29, 2013

My mother always thought that in an election, all other things being equal, you should vote for the richest candidate.  Her idea was that if somebody already was rich, they would have less reason to steal.

But studies by Paul Piff, a social psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, contradict this.  He found that people in upper economic classes were more likely that ordinary people to cheat, lie and break the law.

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals.  Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

via Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior.

 Just feeling wealthy, even with Monopoly money, gives people a greater sense of entitlement and lessens consideration for others, Piff found.

The old Stoics believed that wealth and good fortune were as at least as great a test of character as poverty and misfortune.  They were right.

Click on Rich More Likely to Behave Unethically and Yes, Virginia, Rich People Are Not the Same as You and Me for more.

Is greed good?

July 14, 2010

Our free market system is supposed to be a way to reconcile self-interest with the public interest.  As Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations –

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

Smith patronized the butcher, the brewer and the baker that gave him the best meat, beer and bread for the best price.  So it was in their interest to give him the best product for the best price that was compatible with making a profit.  You didn’t need some mastermind, according to his theory, trying to figure out what was a just price.

Most human beings act in their own self-interest.  Certainly I do.  As a newspaper reporter, I was fortunate in being able to do work that I liked, and that I thought at the time served a public purpose, but I expected to be paid, and I would not have worked if I had not been paid. Nor did I ever turn down a pay raise because of the possibility I was being overpaid compared to some more-deserving fellow reporter.

At the same time, there are things I would not have done for money.  As a newspaper reporter, I would not have written something I thought untrue to keep in the good graces of an editor or publisher.  I felt a certain loyalty to my employer and to professional standards that was over and above my paycheck.

People who create value deserve to be rewarded.  People who create things of great value deserve to be richly rewarded.  At the same time our capitalistic free-enterprise system doesn’t have a good way to distinguish between people who create value and people who milk the system.