We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ultra-Rich in Finance Are Meaner Than Rest of Us

by Matthew Lynn from Bloomberg.

The author supplies evidence to support his headline:
There is an increasing amount of evidence that the rich are a vicious tribe of people. One study last year from the University of California, Berkeley, found that the rich are ruder than others. Another piece of research, conducted at the same institution, concluded they were less likely to give to charity than poorer people were. A third study, carried out at the Humboldt University in Berlin, concluded they were “nastier,” in the sense of being keener to punish others.
And suggests an interesting thesis to explain this phenomenon:
The investment bankers and hedge-fund managers who make up most of the new rich elite don’t have much contact with ordinary people. They assume their wealth is entirely the result of their own brilliance. And they cut themselves off from normal life. 
I think that this can be expanded into a more general thesis: that the more distance (not only geographical, but social and political) that a person has from others, the more sociopathic a person can become. I think that this explains the development of ruling classes and their sociopathic behaviors in this period of civilization (about 2% of human existence) who often engage in criminal acts, acts of war, and exploitation of working people.

If this is correct, and I think it is, then the solution is to design, or choose, a social system where such "distancing" cannot exist. The systems I have listed in the above right-hand corner are, I believe, such systems.