Our Galtian superiors

An interesting piece by Tom Edsall:

The publication last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior” provided fresh fodder for the liberal critique of the Republican Party and the corporate ethic.

The paper, by Paul K. Piff of the University of California, Berkeley, and four colleagues, reports that members of the upper class are more likely than others to behave unethically, to lie during negotiations, to drive illegally and to cheat when competing for a prize.

“Greed is a robust determinant of unethical behavior,” the authors conclude. “Relative to lower-class individuals, individuals from upper-class backgrounds behaved more unethically in both naturalistic and laboratory settings.”

The Piff paper is part of an extensive academic critique of the right.

One quibble: there are a great many in the sociopathic suck-on-this, bomb-them-all austerity crowd who are not generally considered members of “the right”. In fact, among white Americans, conservatism does not correlate with wealth that closely. (For example, college-educated white Americans earn more than non-college educated white Americans and are also more likely to vote Democrat than non-college-educated white Americans). I don’t like the 27 percenters. But the sociopathic behavior that dominates elite American discourse is in no way limited to the far right. It goes a lot deeper than that. I’m sure Charlie Rose and Tom Friedman voted for Obama. That doesn’t mean they’re not sociopaths.

But there is an important point here: the right’s central myth is that rich people are awesome moral specimens (unless they give money to liberal causes, in which case they are scumbags) while working-class people are mostly shiftless moocher and looters.

80 replies
  1. 1
    eemom says:

    so did YOU hear the thrilling news about your lady McArdle??

  2. 2
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @eemom:

    I hate to think.

  3. 3
    Steeplejack (phone) says:

    Headline typo: “Gatlian.”

  4. 4
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @eemom:

    They gave her a time-out for pimping the Koch stuff too hard?

    She really shouldn’t have done that, it was very unprofessional.

  5. 5
    Mike G says:

    while working-class people are mostly shiftless moocher and looters.

    But not the Heartland(TM) salt-of-the-earth Xtian working class Palinite dupes Real Murkans(TM) who vote Republican. We’re only talking about “those” people (dogwhistle).

  6. 6
    flukebucket says:

    The fact that people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter act as moral compasses for the right gives new meaning to John Chapter 11 verse 35.

  7. 7
    eemom says:

    it is a sad sign of my devotion to this blog that I am so thrilled to be the breaker of news about a woman I never read and don’t care about who from all accounts is stupider than a box of bricks.

    Help. I needz it.

  8. 8
    MosesZD says:

    I’ve made that point for years. It’s the same thing with college work, too. There is a strong corellation between high GPA and cheating, as well. With something on the order of 2/3rds of high-gpa students admitting to cheating on at least one ocassion.

  9. 9
    Mark S. says:

    This flies in the face of everything Bobo’s intern told him was in Charles Murray’s new book. But I’m not sure Bobo thinks lying and cheating are unethical. It’s just Burkean ingenuity.

  10. 10
    cathyx says:

    This concept is applicable to the right and the left. It doesn’t matter your politics. It’s a matter of being rich.

  11. 11
    BGinCHI says:

    None of this is news to people who grew up watching a lot of shows like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

    Top level predators and dicks are pretty much the same thing. At least the predators can blame instinct and claim with good reason that they aren’t breaking a moral code that they otherwise preach to others. The dicks make hypocrisy into a way of life.

  12. 12
    MosesZD says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis:

    It’s good news. She’s on hiatus while working on a ‘new project.’

  13. 13
    beltane says:

    Some of this may be due to the fact that wealthy people are far more likely to get away with criminal and/or immoral behavior than less wealthy people are, which creates a powerful disincentive to behave well.

  14. 14
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @Steeplejack (phone):

    Thanks.

  15. 15
    Tom says:

    In the wingnut mindset, where it is always 1968, the fact that the guy is a Berkeley professor will instantly discredit the paper without any further consideration.

    Related fun-fact: Ed Crane of Cato is a Berkeley grad.

  16. 16
    beltane says:

    I must be late to the game here. When did it become official that McMegan was leaving The Atlantic to spend more time with her kitchen bric-a-brac?

  17. 17
    cathyx says:

    @beltane: I think there is also something to benefiting from the criminal/immoral behavior. When you steal and cheat, you can attain more stuff.

  18. 18
  19. 19
    Chris says:

    @Mike G:

    But not the Heartland™ salt-of-the-earth Xtian working class Palinite dupes Real Murkans™ who vote Republican. We’re only talking about “those” people (dogwhistle).

    It’s nicely vague and ambiguous. No matter what his level of income, the average conservative voter gets to look down on people either as “elitists” (if they’re richer than him) or “parasites” (if they’re poorer).

  20. 20
    BGinCHI says:

    This just in.

    Megan McArdle hired by KitchenAide not to mention or use any of their products.

    Her career as a reverse-endorser has begun.

  21. 21
    MTiffany says:

    I’m sure Charlie Rose and Tom Friedman voted for Obama. That doesn’t mean they’re not sociopaths.

    Before now I never took Rose for a sociopath, but now that you mention it…

  22. 22
    beltane says:

    @Mark S.: Meh, even her farewell address is insufferable. Nice to see she has roster to substitute wankers to take her place, one of whom is famous for her goat cheese stuffed dates.

  23. 23
    Mark S. says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis:

    I love how Doug tries to pretend he doesn’t have McMegan in his google feed.

    Next post he’ll be claiming he just happened to follow a link to this provocative Sully post.

  24. 24
    Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937 says:

    Are rich people unethical or do unethical people become rich? It could be either.

  25. 25
    KG says:

    @MosesZD: it doesn’t matter what standard we judge “success” by, if you’ve been successful, you have been praised, and you want to remain successful. There’s a lot of stress in that. And that’s when the rationalization starts: it’s only this one time; everyone else is doing it; I’ve got to keep my edge; it’s not really that bad.

    A friend of mine and I were talking recently that our culture/economy has devolved to the point where it’s no longer about getting ahead, but it’s just about getting over on the next guy. It’s frustrating as all hell, but as long as the standard is “success” rather than “happiness” or whatever, I can’t see how it comes about.

  26. 26
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @Mark S.:

    I don’t have either in my RSS feed. I do check Sully about once a day.

  27. 27
    Anne Laurie says:

    @MosesZD:

    She’s on hiatus while working on a ‘new project.’

    Murphy-God-of-Chaos save us, she and the Reason boytoy are spawning!

  28. 28
    Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937 says:

    The Economics Editor is being replaced by three generic wingnut welfare recipients and somebody who “has taught me most of what I know about the drug discovery process”.

    That’s what the hipsters in Washington are calling it these days.

  29. 29
    Amir Khalid says:

    @beltane:
    When she posted this, with the time stamp Mar 5 2012, 8:01 AM ET.

    She ends the post with a line from a song: “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.” If she’s serious about the wiedersehen bit, this is only a temporary reprieve. I know a lot of folks here never want to see her posts again.

  30. 30
    BGinCHI says:

    @Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937: It takes a Village to raise replace a McMegan.

  31. 31
    dmsilev says:

    @Anne Laurie: Do you think she’ll charge the hypothetical offspring room & board for the time spent gestating? I hope so, because otherwise she’d just be enabling a moocher.

  32. 32
    scav says:

    Speaking of a different set of Galtian overlords, here’s as far as I’ve gotten into today’s Leveson. Met chief dined with ex-NoW deputy after meeting Guardian editor

    The then commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir Paul Stephenson, had dinner with the former deputy editor of the News of the World [Neil Wallis] hours after trying to persuade the Guardian to drop its investigation into phone hacking, it has emerged. [event Dec 10 2009]

    Asked whether he had been trying to persuade Rusbridger to drop the Guardian’s coverage, Stephenson told Leveson: “No, I don’t think I was.” But he agreed: “There was very much a backcloth that this was about politics over substance.”
    __
    He said: “I was being briefed that there was no good value in expending additional police resources in opening this up.” Stephenson, who conceded he had not read the original Guardian articles, told Leveson: “I was only as good as the briefings I got.”

    I love the little Baby Murdoch echo in that he didn’t read the article while Baby M doesn’t read all the e-mail before signing off on large chunks of change.

    off to the weeds. I need a change in target.

  33. 33
    Martin says:

    @MosesZD:

    It’s good news. She’s on hiatus while working on a ‘new project.’

    ‘New project’? Is that newspeak for ‘resume’?

  34. 34
    Zifnab says:

    @Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937:

    Are rich people unethical or do unethical people become rich? It could be either.

    It could be that rich unethical people just stick out like sore thumbs. That said, I can’t help but notice that cities can reduce their crime rates by putting more cops on the street. And that rich people are that much less likely to have a cop looking over their shoulder than standing guard at their door.

  35. 35
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Martin:
    My wild guess is, she’s remodeling her kitchen again.

  36. 36
    trollhattan says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Yet another reason for free contraceptives for EVERYBODY.

    I’m betting she doesn’t come back to The Atlantic. Who’s in?

  37. 37
    beltane says:

    @Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937: It is a cycle of degeneracy. Unethical behavior is more conducive to the acquisition of wealth, while the possession of wealth an status provide a certain license to engage in even more unethical behavior. I spent some of my elementary school years at a Manhattan private school, and was always shocked at the degree to which shoplifting was rampant among the offspring of NYC’s elite. Indeed, these brats were both completely indifferent to the wrongness of stealing, and completely confident that even if caught, they would be protected by their parents.

    At the risk of overgeneralizing, I can say that my public school classmates were much nicer people than their so-called betters.

  38. 38
    Ken says:

    @cathyx: It’s a matter of being greedy.

  39. 39
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Test
    ETA: I have not been able to post comments all day. Did I do anything wrong? I promise not to make any jokes about Tunch or his size.

  40. 40
    barath says:

    I’m reminded of Jon Ronson’s excellent This American Life episode on the psychopath test, and his learning that while only 1% of the general population meets the standard of sociopathy, 3-5% of business executives do.

  41. 41
    Martin says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    My wild guess is, she’s remodeling her kitchen again.

    Given how shitty the last remodel was, that should only take about a day.

  42. 42
    beltane says:

    @trollhattan: Maybe she is taking a leave of absence to work as Mitt Romney’s economics adviser. That means she will be returning to The Atlantic in early November.

  43. 43
    Ken says:

    All of this misses the point. Just as rich people are famously “eccentric” rather than “barking mad”, you don’t judge rich people by the same ethical standards as the poor. Otherwise what would be the point in being rich!

  44. 44
    Democratic Nihilist, Keeper Of Party Purity says:

    I’m betting she doesn’t come back to The Atlantic. Who’s in?

    @trollhattan: Seconded. She’s done.

  45. 45
    Face says:

    by Paul K. Piff of the University of California, Berkeley

    Well, there’s your answer.

  46. 46
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Martin: That kitchen sure was messy. Was the before better than the after?

  47. 47
    Poopyman says:

    @BGinCHI:

    @Commenting at Balloon Juice Since 1937: It takes a Village idiot to -raise- replace a McMegan.

    You’re welcome.

  48. 48
    lamh35 says:

    OT, so a Hawaii station has dropped Limbaugh…anymore stations to come?

    Or how soon before Limbaugh slams Hawaii for being Obama’s home state.

    http://thinkprogress.org/media.....-limbaugh/

  49. 49
    barath says:

    @lamh35:

    Or how soon before Limbaugh slams Hawaii for being Obama’s home state foreign country.

    Fixt.

  50. 50
    eemom says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    She ends the post with a line from a song: “So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye.”

    good heavens, the next thing we know she’ll be climbing every mountain, fording every stream, following every rainbow across the Alps with Nazis on her trail.

  51. 51
    Poopyman says:

    @trollhattan:

    I’m betting she doesn’t come back to The Atlantic. Who’s in?

    If she doesn’t, she’ll probably end up with a FT CNN gig. So which would you rather it be?

  52. 52
    BGinCHI says:

    @Poopyman: I thought that went without saying. But you can’t be too careful.

    Thought experiment: what if DC was hit by the same kind of hurricane that hit New Orleans with the same level of damage?

    Country better or worse off afterwards?

    /in this experiment, no art or national treasures are harmed, especially those in the Folger Shakespeare library

  53. 53
    BGinCHI says:

    @eemom: No. She’s the daughter who marries the Nazi, because at least he has an ethos.

  54. 54
    Mark S. says:

    @DougJarvus Green-Ellis:

    “I can stop anytime. Really.”

  55. 55
    Egg Berry says:

    McArdle is apparently going to try to finish her new book: “How to fail your way into a wingnut welfare gig.”

  56. 56
    Zifnab says:

    @Poopyman: CNN. I occasionally read the Atlantic.

  57. 57
    Chris says:

    @Ken:

    This.

    It’s right there in the Creed: “Greed is good.” Once you’ve internalized that as the guiding ethic for becoming successful, you can hardly be surprised that the most immoral, unethical, conscienceless bastards in society are the ones who make it to the top.

  58. 58
    schrodinger's cat says:

    DougJ@top
    Something you (and any math geek) will like.

  59. 59
    slag says:

    @beltane: Sad. Reading just a small portion of that comment section made me feel like Frodo must have felt when he put on the ring. Hollow–almost empty, even–and impotent against the forces of evil.

    Damn. I need to get out less.

  60. 60
    Mike Goetz says:

    “Paul K. Piff” is the perfect name for an academic.

  61. 61
    Egg Berry says:

    Via Roy Edroso:

    The Atlantic’s libertarian entrepreneur-turned-business writer and blogger Megan McArdle’s PERMISSION TO SUCK, a look at how risk aversion is sapping America of its core strengths and how we have to embrace the possibility of failure

  62. 62
    Anne Laurie says:

    @dmsilev:

    Do you think she’ll charge the hypothetical offspring room & board for the time spent gestating? I hope so, because otherwise she’d just be enabling a moocher.

    Nah, she’ll just deduct all pregnancy-related costs as “business expenses” because she’ll be using the results in her writing career…

  63. 63
    trollhattan says:

    @Poopyman:

    Only last week I wondered whether she’s reached the ladder rung from which one only falls upward. I’m game for an experimental shove…for science!

    As a preventive measure, we need to keep the NYT Douchehat Seat for a Very Special Vacuous Young Republican filled, at least until after McMegan reappears.

  64. 64
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I’ve always liked that one. I wish they’d worked transcendental into it, though, that’s the interesting part.

  65. 65
    lamh35 says:

    wow, is this new? Another one bites the dust? Allstate pulls ads too.

    http://livewire.talkingpointsm.....baugh-show

  66. 66
    trollhattan says:

    @Egg Berry:

    There are many bloggers whose power to destroy frighten me, but none more than Edroso.

  67. 67
    Martin says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: No, but the after wasn’t worth what she suggested she dumped into it. If you’re going to dump real money into a real remodel, at least get your money’s worth. She didn’t.

  68. 68
    DougJarvus Green-Ellis says:

    @eemom:

    Caught in our gold platted chains are we
    Lost in our wealthy domains are we
    Trapped by our capital gains are we

    EDIT: I don’t think that song is in the movie, but it’s in the play.

  69. 69
    Stooleo says:

    I’m not sure if this got mentioned earlier. Morgan Stanley executive got busted with a hate crime for stiffing (and stabbing) a brown taxi driver. The comments are the real trip, the sense of entitlement is off the charts.

  70. 70
    trollhattan says:

    @Stooleo:

    Mindboggling. Suppose this is the first and only time he’s ever done something like this?

  71. 71

    @lamh35:

    Last I heard, all Limbaugh has left for national advertisers is a gold futures seller and LifeLock, and I’m not sure which is a scummier outfit because at least the gold guys are selling something closer to having actual value.

    Rush is the ultimate wingnut welfare queen.

  72. 72
    slag says:

    @Egg Berry:

    a look at how risk aversion is sapping America of its core strengths and how we have to embrace the possibility of failure

    If there’s anyone who knows about failure, it’s the warmongering “free” market warriors on the right. They seem so utterly fascinated by it, they can’t seem to stop doing it. But I’m not entirely sure their endless episode of FAIL has done the country much good at all.

  73. 73
    MattR says:

    @Egg Berry: @slag: You know what makes people more likely to take chances and embrace the possibility of failure? A strong safety net.

  74. 74
    Tone In DC says:

    @Stooleo:

    Those comments are almost nauseating to read. If I lived in a $3 million home and made anywhere near that much $$$ (and I DO NOT), I’d pay the cabbie the fare while whistling a jaunty tune. I cannot take these people.

    Just cannot take ’em.

  75. 75
    Elizabelle says:

    Very strange news re McMegan.

    If any of the replacement bloggers are smart and good writers, how do they let her come back?

    Maybe she’s heading to a leadership position at Cato?

  76. 76
    Calouste says:

    @Elizabelle:

    If any of the replacement bloggers are smart and good writers,

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    You’re so funny.

  77. 77
    Mark S. says:

    @Elizabelle:

    Either that or becoming Romney’s economic advisor. Stupid people think she knows a lot about economics.

    Or maybe she’s working on a book and finds churning out two blog posts a day to be too taxing.

  78. 78
    TheF79 says:

    Based on my experience as Thane of Whiterun, the findings in this study do not surprise me.

  79. 79
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Elizabelle:

    If any of the replacement bloggers are smart and good writers, how do they let her come back?

    Genuine economics thinker C. Northcoate Parkinson, of “Parkinson’s Law”, also expanded at length on a concept he called injealosity (incompetence + jealousy). He said the real damage done by mid-level incompetents within an organization wasn’t how much they could spoil on their own, it was that incompetent people invariably (a) deliberately damage more competent peoples’ good work; and (b) hire/promote only those even less competent than they are, for fear of being shown up. He had a paragraph something like “A-level, and even B-level, managers try to hire people smarter than they are. C-Level people are determined to hire only D-level-or-below people.”

    Thus, to use examples from within the same company, when Ta-Nehisi Coates or James Fallows take a blogging break, they find subs who are renowned in their own fields. When Megan McArdle goes on break, she picks old friends & fellow Koch-suckers, most of them unknown outside the Wingnut Welfare Wurlitzer circuit. McArdle, dumb as she is about practically everything, is determined that those reading her substitutes will be saying “Chroist, and I thought McMegan was a horrible excuse for a business & economics blogger” and not “Wow, this new guy is great, maybe McArdle should take another couple months off.”

  80. 80
    noodler says:

    The “Pirates of Penzance” are more honest than “many a king on a first-class throne.” And DougJ I’m sure you know this also, too, but how ’bout Bob Dylan’s “Steal a little and they throw you in jail; steal a lot and they make you a king”

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