Jedrek Stepien

mentals.pl

This conversation is closed.

Does growing wealth change human behavior?

The question is really straightforward, no strings attatched.

Of course I don't mean behavior as consumers. This is naturally different when one's purchase power increases. Rather, I ask about human soul and interrelations.

For inspiration: "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy (book and/or movie)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbLgszfXTAY

And yes, let this be our reflection for Easter!


09-04-2012:

Also consider a new idea: when wealth is deserved - people's characters dont change. They are corrupted only when they receive sth. undeserved.

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    Apr 6 2012: surely. for one, wealth greatly reduces violence and aggression.
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      Apr 7 2012: The facts are on your side Krisztian, but this could be only until a certain moment. If people feel too comfortable they lose their spirit. I am sure many modern, wealthy men would sooner approve cannibalism than renouncing their wealth.

      Whaddaya think? :)
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        Apr 7 2012: ah, but now you are talking about shrinking wealth.
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          Apr 7 2012: I love twitter for its brevity but come on.

          I give you a choice - keep your Porshe and Crib, but vote yes for cannibalism. Otherwise, I take your possesions. Since cannibalism is rare you can think - what the heck.
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        Apr 7 2012: why can't i keep it? btw i see nothing wrong with cannibalism.
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          Apr 7 2012: Then humanity and human dignity have no value to you? Eating human flesh? You are better than this.
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        Apr 7 2012: no i'm not. i think this taboo is outdated. for example you would not eat lab-grown human muscle tissue? how is that different than lab-grown chicken muscle tissue?
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        Apr 7 2012: welcome to twitter :)
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          Apr 7 2012: Not that I started it :)

          But seriously, if you can't see the difference it is a myopia. For all the economic freedom you so ardently fight for (and I am your soldier there) means nothing if it is legally possible to grow/kill humans. Think about who will decide whether you are to be a consumer or someone's dinner? It is central planning in its more macabre form.

          The sad fact is that wealth has an assuaging impact on human perception of dignity and freedom. They will trade virtually everything for the (fake) feeling of security that comes with wealth. That is how relativism is born.

          Mises, otherwise fantastic economist, was wrong on this one. The majority can not decide about the moral principles. It is a trap which will ultimately lead to the same point where totalitarianism goes - serfdom. Only this time in the most fundamental matter - to be or not to be.

          I am sure sooner or later you will understand my point, as I know you are heck of a good guy and brilliant thinker*.


          * please note that my intention is not to kiss your a**
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        Apr 7 2012: jedrek, you got lost somewhere. lab-grown human tissue can not be killed. it is not alive.

        you have to show me how wealth creates those things you have mentioned. i believe need and uncertainty creates them. wealth reduces need and uncertainty.
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          Apr 7 2012: How far is from lab-grown flesh to real mccoy? How do you veryfy?

          Need and uncertainty creates what? ask direct question, what "those things"?
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        Apr 7 2012: "They will trade virtually everything for the (fake) feeling of security that comes with wealth"

        this urge goes down with more and more wealth at hand. diminishing marginal utility.
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          Apr 7 2012: That is what the theory says about it.

          In practice, however, it applies only to certain kind of people who remain the same whether they are poor or morbidly rich (very rare species).

          The masses, which are of my concern, are far from feeling secure and, let it be clear, they will never be. Turning to gold in order to secure themselves they become its slaves, and their souls get mineralized just as gold itself - it looks warm and appealing but cold when you touch it.

          And so they don't see what's wrong with eating humans.
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      Apr 7 2012: Not sure if wealth reduces or eliminates violence and aggression or just moves it to a new level or a different area. Example poor fight with fists and weapons. Wealthy fight with lawyers and bank accounts. I think that at the base of each of these is the insecurity you talk about and the insecurity may be based on a couple of deeper fears. ie fear of dying, fear of not being known, fear of being alone. I have known some wealthy people and they seem happy and do a lot of good. The wealth of the Hollywood types is the wealth that can be disgusting as they struggle for that additional 15 minutes of fame and the supposed adoration of the fans which we know lasts until only the next movie, commercial or other hype. They make silly statements and the wealth they have some have wasted in so many ways.
      The key I think may be that we are who we are regardless of the money we have and we follow our own moral compass regardless of our wealth
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        Apr 8 2012: i wonder how can one fight with a bank account.

        but it is hard to argue that if lack of money creates fears and aggression, abundance of money does the same.
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          Apr 8 2012: Maybe as money is injected into the equation the fighting becomes more mental, one ups manship, and less physical. The larger the back account the larger the perceived power one has. An anecdote might explain this more clearly. When my wife and I started both teaching and we got money in the bank people started treating us different. We were approached more for money and less for friendship. Teachers salaries are not huge by any stretch but being able to save money seems to give a perception of power. J. Paul Getty's Book on his life is a great book to learn about money and power from.
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        Apr 8 2012: and where is the fighting involved in this? treated differently, perceived power ... none of these sound like fight for me.
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          Apr 8 2012: The fight moves away from the physical level to one of perception. People then think of you not as a person but as a money bag, not as a human with feelings but as a bank with cash to give away. The fight become that of trying to stay a person and not become a charity. The more money you are perceived to have the more you have to fight the stereotypes of the rich that people place on you, the expectations they have, and the disappointment they blame on you when you cannot fulfill their desires. It become a fight for survival of the individual and their humanity. Some what like Doctors who can rarely have a conversation with a person about anything but that persons illnesses. Not sue this makes it any clearer but is the best I can come up with on short notice
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        Apr 8 2012: james, i'm having hard time following it. can we simplify it a little? suppose i have a million bucks in the bank. how do i do aggression with it?
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    Apr 9 2012: Ladies and Gentelman!

    How about this: when you get richer but you deserve it you don't change; but when somebody gives you something for free your soul gets corrupted.

    I think it makes sense. And you?
    • Apr 9 2012: Who is to judge what you deserve, and what you don't ?

      And what you need the most you are given for free : air, water, sunlight...
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      Apr 10 2012: Maybe you are more justified in some pride if you worked for it rather than inherited it.

      Hubris probably depends on the individual. Although circumstances may be a factor. If you are born into wealth there may be more risk than if you worked hard for it.

      Once you get to a certain level of wealth, it compounds and grows, with the increment more than you reasonably need. It is not really deserved. It is just math.

      You probably can guess I doubt the existence of a soul, but believe there is a risk to a persons psyche from high wealth. But some individuals manage to stay reasonably grounded. Others don't.

      The second or third etc generations born into wealth have their own issues. You can get caught in a culture of elitism. Private schools. Privilege etc.
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        Apr 10 2012: You know, I am always thinking about all kind of government subsidies and their effect. I don't know the statistics but probably the majority of it is misused and only weakens people's ambitions.

        In Brazil the 'bolsa familia' package had to be based on some kind of conditions like attendance of children in schools etc.

        Normally people take it and spend it carelessly, easy come easy go.

        Effort is crucial, I think, in order to respect yourself.
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    Apr 9 2012: On the positive side, having a good education, a bit of money, opportunity to work and holiday overseas, to see a show, or buy a book, visit that expensive exhibition - money does free you up to broaden your horizons.

    Even a college education takes money, even if you get a scholarship, money helps.
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    Apr 9 2012: Yes. We are heirachical and competitive. We naturally compare ourselfves to others
    When you feel successful there is a rest of feeling superior or entitled.

    You also risk forgeting the value of money to those not so well off.
    When your old friends don't want to go to expensive restaurants, when you are talking about the last overseas holiday etc you can alienate others.I get sick of the women taling about hand bags and shoes - Chanel this LV that.

    I range from feeling lucky, proud of my hard work and ability, scared of losing what I have, a bit guilty, through to slightly superior.

    This conflicts with my old equality, lefty liberal youth.

    I lived in a developing country for several years with a driver and maid. You do feel a bit special. The local wealthy upper classes felt very entitled and this seemed alien and strange at first but you adapt, often for the worst.

    I do alright but have some challenges. I wonder how the truly wealthy feel, the 1%. Are we all muppets to them. I've had some interactions and tend to have a negative view.
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      Apr 9 2012: Obey, great seeing you here taking part in the discussion I started :)

      i think you have brought up a very importans aspect of "Old friends". They can sometimes be an acid test for your character (if you know what I mean) and how much you have changed since leaving your hometown.

      Still, there may be sometimes a wrong feeling of guilt. What if you - the successful one - have not changed but your old friends have simply deteriorated by staying in one place?

      I will repeat the great celtic adage (which Natasha here likes so much) which says that the more things change the more they stay the same. Those who believe that they can dispense with all changes in order to be safe often experience supreme instability.

      It's funny, but true.
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        Apr 9 2012: Thanks for starting an interesting conversation.
        We may disagree passionately in other areas, but if no one commented or started conversations TED would be pretty dull.

        Another test might be your own siblings or parents, cousins etc. Its okay if everyone is in a similar postion but envy or embarrasment can develop if the spread gets too big.
      • Apr 9 2012: Jedrek,
        Can 'acid test' serve as a metaphor for judgement ?
    • Apr 9 2012: "We are hierarchical and competitive. We naturally compare ourselves to others "

      Sorry, but i can't agree with the premise.
      It's what the society we were born to makes us to be and expects us to be.
      But it is not who we are.
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        Apr 9 2012: Agree there is a lot of nurture, but suggest nature as well

        Just look at sport. I believe we are a competitive species and there is lots of evidence for this.
        Wars etc.

        Some individuals more or less than others.

        Kids who can not afford may get teased. As we age will may try to moderate this behaviour.

        Other choose to reject it and become hippies. We have instinct but also reason.

        Having resources and wealth is still a factor for mating.

        Likewise the body langauge, the alpha males etc, hero worship, fashion or opinion leaders, the love for monarchies are indications of our hierachical group behaviour. I'm not a monarchist - the opposite in fact. I for as much fairness and equality as reasonable balanced against rewards for personal effort.
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    Apr 9 2012: One: You use that million bucks to start a small company that makes a successful product. Then you make even more money and challenge a larger company. If you are successful you buy 51% of the stock in the larger company and take it over. Then you can fire the execs and anyone else you do not like, restructure the board and buy off politicians. In buying off politicians you can change where you live to make it like you want it.

    Two: you use the million bucks to buy small time politicians and get kick backs from government contracts, or leads on stocks in companies the government is going to give contracts to. With that money you buy bigger and bigger politicians off and now you have more control and all this using the money in the bank. Suggest you read about George Soros as an example of what I am talking about. He owns lots of politicians through campaign donations etc. It is better than punching some one in the face and you can ruin lives, economies, and countries at your will if you have enough money and a great legal team.

    I know you know this goes on all over the world all the time. Bribes are efficient tools to controlling governments even if they are called campaign contributions, county fees, taxes, etc. Remember power corrupts and the greater the power the greater the corruption and the more money you have the greater the power you have to facilitate this corruption in a way that benefits you.
    These are all "illegal" means but they are used over and over. Just look at the bank bailouts, Car maker bailouts etc. The government here now owns enough stock to hire and fire corporate executives at will and if you gave a large enough campaign contribution you can make suggestions and fight that way.
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      Apr 9 2012: one: i see no aggression anywhere in your story. every participants either agreed to my actions, or had to comply as their previously signed contract made them to do so.

      two: same story here with the exception that the politician is indeed committing aggression. but he does not do that with a million bucks in bank, but with police, IRS and such stuff. in short, guns.

      you somehow look on one side of the bribe only. and the less important side. the dude committing aggression is the one with power. bribery does not give them power, just misdirects it.

      but to return to the original topic: today in the west, we deal with corrupt leaders handing out bailouts. 500 years ago the king could just order your head to be chopped off at his will, with no explanation whatsoever. so even in this, we advanced. what is the reason for that is debated. but i think getting richer is a part of it.
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    Apr 7 2012: In my experience wealthy people usually focus on giving back.

    I don't get the connection of the inspirational link?

    Regarding the soul since the most cathartic activity for life is life I would say yup it beats the hell out of the alternative...
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      Apr 7 2012: The link may have nothing in common with our discussion here unless someone has read the book by Cormac McCarthy (or seen the movie)

      In the postapocalyptic world shown in the movie, people were hunting other people; eating them, and if you follow my conversation with Krisztian down below, you will know why it is there.

      Yes, if you could join us there, Pat? please read my twitter-style conversation with Krisztian and say what you think?
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        Apr 7 2012: I will pass on the cannibalism thing.

        The fact is growing wealth changes behavior for the better almost all rich guys give back and that becomes their focus. Contrary to Socialist beliefs that are incessantly spewed by the media they just are not true.
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          Apr 7 2012: Don't give up, the story about cannibalism serves only as an intellectual tool.

          Giving back may have different motivations. The whole CSR is aimed at snatching even greater profits in the future, for example.

          But you made me think, anyway, I am driving at something but perhaps it is not the wealth I should blame...

          But then again, even when you earn decently, but 50 or more percent you give away in the form of taxes, something in you starts rebelling, and you become indifferent... yes, maybe it is taxes...
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        Apr 7 2012: I don't know anything about CSR. It appears to be irrelevant as the only accountability that is necessary is the free market.

        Screw the academic stuff the reality is that most rich guys become philanthropists this is just the way it is.

        It is inherent in humans to take care of their own on a world wide scale this is a spiritual dynamic that is part of who we are.
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          Apr 7 2012: The only problem is that the majority of people (a.k.a. masses) are overburdened with credits. They can hardly make ends meet and look at every opportunity to earn more. Forget about sharring.

          Still, it is a different story. Thanks Pat for your contribution.
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        Apr 7 2012: You do realize that cause of this is government?
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          Apr 8 2012: I have been suspecting them all along but it may be more complex than this. There is a cultural change happening as we speak, people become more preoccupied with the material than spiritual. I dont think it is fair to blame social security for all this.
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        Apr 8 2012: Any time you engage in more complexity you know you are going the wrong direction. The answers lie in simplicity. When did these changes start to occur? What correlates to this occurrence? The answer will get looking in the correct area.
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    Apr 7 2012: Growth=Change.
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      Apr 7 2012: The old celtic adage says: the more things change, the more things stay the same.
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        Apr 7 2012: I would say that both of your statements are true, in a way. While I believe that having a much higher level of wealth would change the action a person takes part in, I would also say that those are things that were in them to do prior to gaining the wealth, they just didn't have the opportunity.

        Essentially, a bad person is often a bad person whether wealthy or not and will continue to be such as they gain or lose wealth which will change their ability to do harm to others, care only for themselves, etc. I would only say this is true most of the time though as wealth (just like poverty) can manipulate the soul and make it easy to rationalize things a person would have formally been against.
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          Apr 7 2012: I feel the same. Wealth can spoil human beings just like poverty. I wonder what it takes to resist the negative influence. Culture?
      • Apr 7 2012: Thanks for the adage, Jedrek, it's perfect, simple and deep. Let me remind you about another one, that holds the answer to your question ,
        "What you own , owns you in equal measure.''
        Any thoughts ?
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          Apr 8 2012: Great, great wisdom is held here, Natasha.

          It is nevertheless possible to resist the "mineralization" of the soul as I call it. I have personally meet people, and I hope you as well, who were not glued to their positions whether in government or anywhere, who were not affraid to simply take their suitcase and leave at once the comfortable and successful life they had had.

          They were not possessed by the external. I wonder how do you develop an attitude like this. To me it is a tremendous courage, and a human quality incomparable to nothing else!

          To be able to give up power/wealth and just leave.
      • Apr 8 2012: Jedrek,
        To give up wealth/power and leave really needs courage, it's a big jump to make. Frankly I have never met such people, once you said 'Yes" and enter this game, you are bound to obey the rules and here 'miniralization' begins. But still it is only the surface...
        Why do people strive for wealth in the first place ?
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          Apr 8 2012: You know, at the end of the day the ultimate motivation is the desire for security. In earthly terms you can achieve it in two principal ways:

          1. Own property (all property in the world)
          2. Conquer everybody else

          I think Jesus found yet another way - believe in afterlife.
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          Apr 10 2012: I know some people who said enough is a enough. Got out of high paying jobs and pretty much retired from money focused work with more than enough money to support themselves and their projects.

          Others just can't seem to give it up. Their job or money making is so much a part of their identity.

          I guess some just have a melt down and want to escape the responsibility or pressure.

          If I had X million I'd quit what I'm doing and focus on doing something I really enjoy or am more passionate about.
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          Apr 10 2012: J, Not much of a consolation if there is no afterlife. But perhaps one of the consolations of religion. I lived in a predominantly Buddhist country for some years and their belief in reincarnation and karma almost seemed like to tool that made them accept their place. The poor accepted the monarchy and elites as entitled as they must have lived great lives to be born into power and wealth.
      • Apr 8 2012: Who needs security ? Who/what is threatened ?
        -Ego.
        For it is always insecure, always threatened, always need extension to rule to dominate to control.

        And I think, there is no need to believe in afterlife, for there is no 'after' , it's simply life.
        Jesus, Buddha are the guys who managed through their consciousness to tap directly into timeless continuity.( Forgive me my innocent blasphemy )
        This state of consciousness is called Christ Consciousness .
        You and me and anybody else can be there too, if we choose to.
        I don't claim for truth, it's simply the way how i see it... now :)
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          Apr 8 2012: And I agree wholeheartedly.

          You are absolutely right about Christ and Buddha. The concept of Christ Consciousness appeals to me as well. Mind you, it has very little to do with religion. I have never really liked preachers and kept myself away from church anyway.

          Thanks for helping me here with the concept of CC :) it's great!
      • Apr 8 2012: Welcome ! :)
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          Apr 9 2012: I can only invite you now to the thread I started here with Obey No1kinobey about 'Old Friends' and how they fit into our favourite celtic adage.
  • Apr 6 2012: Yes.
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      Apr 7 2012: I know I asked a yes/no question, but it would be appreciated if you elaborated on the direction of change, Rhona. Thanks!
      • Apr 7 2012: Jed, Okay. I believe that at every level of money income our consciousness changes. We observe different things. We make different plans. We feel different limits. For example, "Shall I take a bus or a subway?" "Shall I take the Rolls Royce or the Masserati?" You catch my drift. Walking along a city street, people with different amounts of income and assets would be observing different things. One person considers going to the country club to play golf or tennis. The other considers taking out the trash or watching tv, for example. One considers writing a check to a charity and thinks about whether he can use the tax deduction this year. The other considers whether he has $10.00 in his wallet that he can give or loan to a friend to buy diapers for their baby. Got it?
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          Apr 7 2012: You talk about different people and mostly their choices as consumers. I am asking about the same people who increase their purchase power. What happens to their characters? My supposition is that wealth softens it and they are willing to compromise on various issues only to protect the wealth.

          Issues which may ultimately deprive them of their wealth but it is another story. Please, read the twitter-style conversation I have had here with Krisztian if you like.
      • Apr 7 2012: When people have different amounts of money they think, feel, act, believe differently. Think of your own experience and behavior when you have had different amounts of money. It is natural to be different with different facts in your life.