Are rich people more unethical?

Hey team,

Saw this article on CNN. It’s an interesting read that tangentially connects to our discussion about class and morality.

“In addition, Gore says, experiments that test people’s willingness to behave unethically only say so much about their day-to-day behavior. “This study really shows that people who identify as higher social class are more likely to admit unethical behavior,” he says. “It’s not clear whether they actually behave worse or just claim to.”


2 thoughts on “Are rich people more unethical?

  1. Very interesting article, Michael. In terms of what we’ve been discussing with Pamela, I think that Mr. B – especially early on in the novel – views his money as power. He feels justified in his actions to pursue Pamela because of the money and status he owns. In his mind, he views his wealth and power as a means to woo Pamela, completely disregarding her virtuous nature.

    As the article states, “Elevated wealth status seems to make you want even more, and that increased want leads you to bend the rules or break the rules to serve your self-interest…”

    sounds familiar

  2. After our discussion in class on Monday, I took another look at this article. Gardner writes, “Piff and his colleagues used a variety of measures to gauge the participants’ socioeconomic status, such as education levels, annual income (which ranged from about $16,000 to $150,000), and the participants’ own perception of their social standing.” I thought that the last part of that statement was especially interesting, and that it related well to our discussion in class. The study took into account the participants’ own perception of their social standing, and this reminded me of our discussion about Pamela and how she perceives her status. Pamela is aware of her class situation, yet she somewhat unrealistically seems to completely lack any motivation to move upwards in class. It seems that Richardson links virtue and goodness with a lack of motivation to move upwards and gain wealth, yet Pamela is rewarded for her virtue with these very things. Gardner also writes, “The independence offered by financial security may foster a sense of entitlement and a lack of concern for others.” Pamela lacks this sense of “entitlement” that comes naturally to those in higher classes. Mr. B for example doesn’t need to prove his class position, but Pamela does. It seems that Richardson is reinforcing the “naturalness” of the social structures, in that Mr. B and Lady Davers don’t need to act a certain way because they were born into money, yet he is also undermining them by presenting this rags to riches tale in which Pamela is accepted into the upper classes.

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