Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Superior Virtue Of The Upper Classes

I don’t know how accurate this study is, but it does coincide with one’s intuition:
Are rich folks more likely to zoom their costly cars through crosswalks, cut off drivers, cheat on games of dice and take candy from the children’s jar?

They sure are, says Paul Piff, a UC Berkeley researcher who spent nearly two years learning how prone America’s upper class is to unethical behavior.

Long before Occupy Wall Street railed against corporate greed, the doctoral student in psychology was scribbling notes on the affluent while hiding behind bushes near the Berkeley Marina.

He watched shiny Beamers and Benzes cut off clunkers at a four-way intersection.

Later, he planted pedestrians on a crosswalk near campus and observed which cars let them cross.

When pedestrians show up, drivers of expensive vehicles are “three times more likely to plow through the intersection without stopping,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

Maybe the rich are different than the rest of us, though not, as F. Scott Fitzgerald said, merely because “they have more money.” Their ethics, such as they are, are entirely different as well:
… Those with the most favorable attitudes toward greed are more likely to lie, cheat, cut corners and endorse unethical behavior in the workplace and elsewhere, according to the peer-reviewed studies published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An online dice game with a $50 prize revealed the richer players reported a higher score than the rules permitted more often than the poorer ones.

“I thought that would be a context where lower-class individuals would take advantage of the opportunity to better their lot, but that wasn’t the case,” Piff said.

He also found that when tempted, the less affluent paid attention to fairness while the wealthy were more likely to cheat.

The children’s candy jar was another temptation.

A group of undergraduates was told “‘Go ahead and take some if you want, but these are reserved for children,’” Piff said. Wealthier students were more likely to take the candy.

But don’t tell that to David Brooks or George Will, or Ross Douthat, or Charles Murray or the recently deceased James Q. Wilson. Everyone knows the rich are rich because they have superior virtue and the poor are poor because they lack moral restraint.

1 comment:

Grung_e_Gene said...

The claim is based on the Calvinist work ethic worldview that large fortune equals good moral high virtue (blessed by the lord) and that as they soak in the lauding and fawning of poorer persons, Rich people see themselves as superior and thus can do what they please.