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Post No.: 1001wealth

 

Furrywisepuppy says:

 

So your House has 3 dragons? Well mine has 7 or 8!

 

Power is always relative. Even if you’re a millionaire, you’re not going to have as much lobbying power as a billionaire. ‘In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’.

 

Therefore inequality is precisely the problem. Don’t be fooled by those who claim that it’s all fine because the wealth of the poor has risen in absolute terms. We need to reduce power differentials and reverse how easily the already-rich can get richer when the poor get left behind.

 

Wealth is power, hence concentrated wealth is concentrated power. In any context, concentrated power and control is adverse for everyone else. Some of us would like to overpower and exploit others. So with greater equality, there’d be less ability to abuse power and less corruption because there’d be smaller differentials of power. In Post No.: 0995, Fluffystealthkitten talked about ‘following the money’ regarding corruption. Monopolies and totalitarianism are the extreme expressions of concentrated power hence we must ensure that no individual, group, company, cartel, government or military becomes too large, rich and powerful that it dominates in any way.

 

Power and freedom are related – they influence the ability to do or get what we want. The rich and powerful are more free than the poor because they have more options. Whoever has the better options has the most power in negotiations. They can give the credible threats and ultimatums. The rich bully or exploit the poor (e.g. clothing brands exploiting cheap labour in the world). Money gives us leverage over others, just as money leverages us.

 

There are negative psychosocial effects associated with inequality like extreme feelings of self-superiority or insecurity, being ignored versus valued, disenfranchised versus respected. Status insecurity leads to status competition, which leads to greater consumerism and (superficial) social evaluative judgements (buying stuff, often on credit, to try to ‘look like one of the wealthy’). The vast majority of ‘developed’ world stress or ‘First World problems’ are due to real or perceived relative social status evaluations between others and us.

 

One way to decrease the effects of social comparisons is to not treat the wealthier as special for just being wealthier, or therefore the poorer as lowly for just being poorer. Don’t apply the ‘halo effect’ and assume wealthy people are automatically smarter, wiser, more honest or whatever than others just because they’re wealthy, or assume the poor (or physically disabled, obese…) are automatically the opposite just because they’re poor. These are innate assumptions we must challenge.

 

Ingratiating oneself with one’s clan leader in ancestral times used to help one’s survival. But you’re hardly going to get close to the celebrities of today, never mind become real friends with them. The rich typically hang around other rich. Yet the instinct to want to show that one is ‘their biggest fan’ to curry favour still expresses. Stop kissing their butts!

 

You’d think that tackling inequality would be simple in a democracy where the poorest 98% should be able to take down the richest 2%. But humans aren’t rational, aren’t clued-up enough, and are being fed propaganda by the rich that favours the rich – like claiming that policies that are best for them are best for everyone else, or by scapegoating and redirecting our grievances at easy and vulnerable targets like immigrants, refugees or ‘poor scroungers’ even though, in the UK alone, a ‘nanny state’ bailed out and supported a few huge banks to the tune of ~£137 billion in the aftermath of the 2007/2008 Financial Crisis, despite financial institutions causing that crisis. (This was ~66 years of unemployment benefits at the 2015/16 rate according to Office for National Statistics figures!) Or it could be because the richest 2% own more than the combined wealth, and thus power, of the poorest 98%, and still rising! We can therefore see that democracy itself falters wherever there are gross levels of inequality.

 

Perhaps the middle classes wish to (pretentiously) be affiliated more with the (august) rich than the (unwashed) poor? But the middle classes are far closer to the poorest in society than the richest, and so should be siding with the poor, not the rich.

 

Public spending cuts and austerity measures principally hurt the poor. Public spending of course costs money, and this should come from taxing the rich more heavily rather than through borrowing. Instead, we get deceptive tax cuts with frozen tax thresholds that produce a fiscal drag that favours the rich and hurt the poor and young. There’s more than enough wealth in this world but it’s just diabolically distributed and utilised.

 

As long as GDP is the primary metric of success for governments – governments will always be at the mercy of giant corporations. It’s also bizarre to attack wealthy politicians for their wealth and not wealthy businesspeople too – how do you think these people or families had or inherited enough money in the first place to mount strong political campaigns? And it’s bizarre to propose that if we all acted upon our own individual rational self-interests then the world will operate optimally – aren’t lying, manipulative politicians with ambitions to ruthlessly seize power merely acting on their own individual rational self-interests?!

 

The rich can become out of touch with ordinary folk. Especially if one has never known any differently because one was born into wealth, one may think that one’s expensive car is more important than letting an elderly person cross the road. (Drivers in expensive cars are more likely to cut people off and avoid pedestrians’ right of way than drivers in cheaper cars.)

 

The most narcissistic of the super-rich exhibit self-entitlement, self-superiority, megalomania, a belief in their own invincibility, or if they lose then a belief that it must’ve been rigged. They support capitalism and anti-coercion… but only if it suits them (e.g. a billionaire property developer with a golf course threatening a local resident to sell their legally-owned private property and dumping tons of soil in front of that property to make the billionaire’s intentions known).

 

Rich people tend to buy stuff that increases their separation from others, such as larger houses and walled/fenced-off patches of land, larger cars with tinted windows, visiting exclusive hotels and holiday resorts, and using private jets – which is all antisocial; plus terrible for the environment. We buy and consume a lot of stuff to indicate our identity affiliations, which is often fine (e.g. to show that we like rock music or videogaming). But one of the more universal aspirations with the things we buy is to separate ourselves from those who have less (e.g. signalling the exclusivity of the cars or clothing we own). It’s not that antisocial and low-empathy people are better at getting rich – it’s that wealth, if it gets to one’s head or we fail to regularly ground ourselves, will make us more detached from and lower our empathy for others. Stress is a key predictor of selfishness and lower empathy too; and, for some, the responsibility of managing lots of other people’s money is stressful.

 

In an unequal society, the rich risk being less attuned to the suffering that the impoverished experience every day because they’re sheltered from it, and consequently risk being less likely to care about the unfortunate. They won’t even believe that the poor are unlucky because the rich believe that they deserve all the advantages they get in life thus believe that the poor deserve all the tribulations they get. So there’s little empathy for the poor (e.g. rough sleepers become ‘eyesores’).

 

But it’s fine as long as the most pampered aren’t put in charge of running the country(!) Poorer people are less likely to be raised with the notion they have a chance to run the country though. They’re far less likely to go to fee-charging prep schools or elite public schools like Eton or Harrow (in the UK, public schools are the most exclusive and prestigious private/independent schools) where students are essentially groomed from young with the ambition and belief they could end up as the next Prime Minister. Poorer people are less likely to have the right connections too.

 

Empathy is a necessary component for compassion, and we need leaders who are compassionate to our plights. Woof!

 

People might avoid voting for poorer political candidates though because of the aforementioned halo effect – the assumption that ‘rich equals smarter and more competent’, the rich know how to manage lots of money, and other positive traits; and vice-versa. But this intuition is palpably unreliable. Having a clean-shaven face and natty suit doesn’t make someone trustworthier either. (I’d look fureaky if I shaved my furry face! Yet at the same time I’d be exactly the same dog as before.) We’ve witnessed members of royalty disgracing themselves – thus wealth, fancy titles and other superficial or irrelevant factors don’t mean anything when it comes to trust. Yet we’re often persuaded by such factors, like when it comes to voting, because of the ‘substitution heuristic’ – we answer the question ‘does he/she look trustworthy?’ when we’re really trying to answer the question ‘is he/she trustworthy?’ because the former question is more facile. We then wonder why politicians care about their image so much(!) (Does that mean the electorate are to blame for the politicians we get – well, more than just logically so in a liberal democracy?)

 

Why is deception so common? Because it frequently works to serve a party’s self-interests. One’s reputation can govern everything that’s social in one’s life (e.g. friends, favours, receiving the benefit of the doubt) so it’s crucial to protect it. Good deeds that don’t get immediately rewarded will still build your reputation. Yet a reputation is just a perception – it’s about what others think of you. It’s more about appearances than how someone really is or behaves. (People intuitively understand this when they create their own social media videos (‘I only look good with a beauty filter on’) yet strangely don’t always seem to understand this whenever they look at other people’s social media videos (‘gosh they look naturally amazing’).) Some people act wickedly behind a reputation of good. People might lie to protect or boost their reputations because favourable reputations confer influence. We like people who are honest, but total honesty can harm those who practise it. How others perceive you affects your success amongst them. And the wealthy can afford good PR teams and lawyers!

 

Other animals employ the substitution heuristic too, like when a bird substitutes the question ‘are they fit and strong?’ or ‘will they be a devoted partner when helping to raise offspring?’ with the easier-to-answer question ‘are they a good singer?’ We might answer the question ‘are they clean?’ by really answering the question ‘do they look tidy or smell fresh?’ This is why deodorants sell when people don’t need them if they just actually wash themselves. What does it mean to say that someone ‘sounds kind’ according to their voice? Charm allures many voters too but many psychopaths employ superficial charm. Shallow questions are easier to answer, but they make us shallow too. We should really judge a person only by the evidence of their deeds. We ultimately do – but we can’t help but already prejudge someone based on shallow cues, which means we can fail to give some people a fair chance.

 

Biases like the halo effect and substitution are usually unconscious though hence we mightn’t realise we’re employing them.

 

Eradicating wealthism (discrimination based on wealth) will hopefully stop out-of-touch, self-serving politicians from wealthy backgrounds getting into power.

 

Woof. I must clarify that hardly all wealthy people are detached from, or lack empathy and compassion for, the less fortunate, but those who aren’t out of touch or uncaring consciously regularly ground themselves. Rich people who aren’t disconnected from reality or self-centred are those who control their own access to their own wealth and spread it around to those who need it.

 

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