Our social betters

imagesby Michael Roberts

In a great new book, Billionaires: reflections on the upper crust (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120092/billionaires-book-review-money-cant-buy-happiness), Darrel M West outlined various social surveys that show the richer a person is, the less likely they are to redistribute some of their wealth and earnings to those less lucky or ‘talented’.

A University of California study found that people driving expensive cars were four times more likely to cut in front of other drivers or ignore pedestrians right of way than those in cheap cars. They considered themselves kings of the highways. In another study, the richer the person, the more likely they were to take candy from a jar left outside a laboratory, despite a sign saying that it was for children only!

The New York State Psychiatric Institute surveyed 43,000 Americans and found that, by some wide margin, the rich were more likely to shoplift than the poor. Independent Sector found that people with incomes on an average of $25,000 a year gave away 4.2% of their income while those on over $150,000 a year gave away only 2.7%.

As a UCLA neuroscientist put it: “As you move up the class ladder, you are more likely to violate the rules of road, to lie, to cheat, to take candy from kids, to shoplift, and be tightfisted in giving to others”Apparently, the richer you get the more you want and the less you want to give. Mike Norton at the Harvard Business School found that, when asked, rich people still felt that they were two or three times short of the money they needed to be really happy!

The above is extracted from a longer article by Mike called “I’m a celebrity – get me out of here”, about rich Britons resenting paying tax, here.


  1. I think the behaviour exhibited may have a causal relationship to their attainment of riches and their desire to get more, rather than their being rich inducing this behaviour. Not all people that exhibit these behaviours will become rich, but this behaviour and the mentality that underlies it may well be part of what drives these people to grab more wealth.

  2. Good point.

    And, of course, not all rich people are personally awful; some of them are very pleasant as their wealth provides them a self-assuredness about their position and they are at ease, give to charity to satisfy their soul, and so on.

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