dagNotes: The rich can afford, the poor are at fault
The responses to the study claiming the rich are more likely to steal candy from a baby have been varied. Certainly, the discussion isn’t going to provide a consensus view about such research. On the other hand, the responses do illustrate, no matter what research suggests, we are more willing to believe poor people are at fault for being poor. In my opinion, this is an axiom for common sense discourse about American social being.
I’m going to flesh out some thinking about this in this note. Your thoughts are, as always, appreciated.
It’s almost always assumed the rich occupy a status they have earned. And since we define class very much in opposition to other classes, the common sense response about the poor is that they have not earned poverty. What I’m getting at is there’s a good reason common sense discourse about poverty and wealth insists we should desire to be upwardly mobile citizens. After all, common sense will ask, Who would want to remain in an oppressive social position they haven’t earned? To remain poor seems irrational, unhealthy, undesirable. The problem with this sentiment is that being poor is not a failure of the will to not be poor, which is the same thing as saying being poor is not a failure of the will to be wealthier, any more than being wealthy represents a success of the will to succeed. We know that most wealth is simply not earned. It’s inherited. The same goes for poverty. At any rate, this common sense discourse about an imaginary continuum that connects the rich and the poor permits a sense of direction for both upward mobility and charity, to becoming wealthy and providing for the poor.
So, to remain poor becomes a problem. After all, as the responses to the research illustrate, there are what are considered good reasons rich people would be expected to cheat more than poor people at some things. See Tyler Cowen’s strained explanation below.
Study: Rich more likely to take candy from babies (Ezra Klein, The Washington Post)
Greed Isn’t Good: Wealth Could Make People Unethical (Brandon Keim, Wired)
“More on whether the rich are jerks” Ezra Klein’s follow up on The Wonkblog
Are the rich bigger pricks than the rest of us? (Kevin Drum, Mother Jones)
How Good are the Upper Classes? (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution [blog])