Does wealth always make people less ethical?
Wealth And Ethics
Stereotypes usually tell us that necessitous people are prone to socially unacceptable behavior like pilfering or deceit, whereas wealthy people seem to be well-respected society members, with high degrees of respectability and morality. Money is traditionally blamed to be the root of all evil. Modern studies discovered that the growth a person’s income and status increases the likeliness of unethical conduct. However, the cornerstone of linking wealth and immorality is the circumstances of earning one’s capital and its further management.
Financial status usually defines personal social position, redesigning one’s attitude to oneself as well as towards others. “Occupying privileged positions in society has this natural psychological effect of insulating you from others,” as psychologist Paul Piff of the University of California, Berkeley, draws conclusion from a psychological experiment (Keim, 2012). Hence, the alienating feeling of division between “me” and “them” gives grounds to suggest that common rules (such as moral or ethical) are not applicable to a person.
Thinking within Weberian paradigm of ‘spirit of capitalism’ one may see the logic in unethical behavior of rich people. Weber (1958) names rational conduct as the fundamental element of modern capitalism. If the primary value of a person is wealth, rational decisions for profit-making will often dismantle ethical norms in order to gain more money. Ironically, the protestant high moral standards in fact produced ruthless capitalist society where it is frequently advantageous to break rules in order to achieve success.
One may assume that adherence to societal ethical code depends upon the number and strength of links of a wealthy person with people from lower classes. In certain cases these bonds are built through charity, familial or professional ties, softening the corrupting effect of wealth. Nevertheless, money disrupts egalitarian beliefs leading to questionable moral “independence”.
1. Keim, B. (2012, February 27). Greed Isn’t Good: Wealth Could Make People Unethical | WIRED. Retrieved April 7, 2015, from http://www.wired.com/2012/02/income-and-ethics/
2. Weber, M. (1958). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism (Student’s ed.). New York: Scribner.
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