On the immorality of the wealthy and how to account for the nouvelle riche

This article has been getting alot of coverage: Cheat, lie, break the law? Chances are, you’re rich – The Globe and Mail. It is not surprising, in that it confirms the prejudice that people have of the wealthy and well off. As the article states:

Testing people for ethics based on class might seem like a challenge, but the researchers for the science journal paper devised a series of ingenious tests to investigate behaviours.

There were two tests that were mentioned. this one…

In one case, they monitored a busy San Francisco four-way stop, and had observers hidden from sight check which drivers obeyed the law stipulating that vehicles approaching the intersection yield to a car already making the crossing. The observers tracked the make, age, and conditions of cars, using them as a proxy for class. High-status vehicles such as Mercedes were considered the provenance of the rich, and those driving them were about three times more likely to cut in than those in less flashy cars.

…is something I have experienced myself! I find the people that drive most aggressively in my neighborhood are BMW drivers. The more I thought of it, the more I concluded that people who are most likely to drive in this aggressive way are the type of people trying to get ahead. They are in a rush, overworked, and frankly likely to be pushy as a way of getting what they want.They are also the same type of people drawn to BMW because of how it is a status symbol. What I have noted is that I see this behavoir mostly in BMW drivers who drive the lower 3 class. I also see wealthy people that drive the high end 7 series and even 5 series in my area and I noted that they don’t drive as aggressively. I attributed this to them already having arrived. I think a study just of drivers of high end cars would be fascinating.

Car ownership aside, I found this test also very interesting.

In one test involving throws of an electronic dice, the researchers rigged computers to allow only low scores. Participants were told that those getting higher scores would have more chances to win $50 cash. They then tracked who lied about the results, and found that people in a higher social class displayed higher levels of cheating and more positive attitudes toward greed.

Again, I would like to see further tests and see if the very wealthy are different from the nouvelle riche. I would suspect they are. I suspect the rich people that are secure with their wealth would behave differently than the wealthy that have just achieved it or are striving to achieve it.


One response to “On the immorality of the wealthy and how to account for the nouvelle riche

  1. I don’t think that the conclusions are necessarily correct; the 3-series attracts drivers who are very much into performance and speed; it’s known as the ultimate driving machine. Also. driving a 5-series and 7-series does not mean you’ve arrived. I’ve lived in L.A and here people drive Aston Martin’s and Bentley’s… 5-series and 7-series can easily be leased and they are not signs of wealth at any means…

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