…wealth and happiness are not positively correlated, according to the Harvard Business Review. One reason, for instance, is that wealth appears to make people less generous. In a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, participants playing a game of Monopoly grew progressively meaner as their wealth grew, by talking down to their poorer competitors and assuming more dominant positions. Most egregiously, they also consumed a larger portion of a bowl of pretzels meant to be shared equally. Similarly, another study found that when participants were given $10 and told they could contribute some or all of it to another person, the wealthier subjects contributed about 44% less. In the real world, researchers have discovered that rich people give proportionally less of their income to philanthropic causes.
An obvious way people are made happier is when they have the trust to build connections and be more social (even misery enjoys company).
That nugget of wisdom is perhaps why it’s important to flag when a small group of people attempt to get rich by building deceptive and isolating social platforms. The Germans had a specific phrase for a small group promising freedom to others while locking them up instead: “Arbeit Macht Frei”.
Think about someone completely isolated, angry and miserable (due to wealth accumulation) using high-speed unregulated technology communications with others by convincing them to join a political movement to destroy the government. It’s like discussing a suicide cult, as they would be destroying the very thing that enables them to be happy in the first place (the stability to start and join a political movement).
“Giving” is said to be another route to happiness, but as I’ve written here before it doesn’t necessarily absolve a person of unethical enrichment schemes. Therefore…
While trusted social networks are the route to being happy, wealth feeds isolationism.
While trusted social networks can enable generosity and giving, an even bigger route to being happy, wealth feeds selfishness.
The selfish isolationism of wealth also has persistence over generations. For example the KKK platform of “America First” has manifested through American history as an implicit caste system of wealth generation, as described by the Journal of the National Archives in 1977.
The richest one percent owned forty-four percent of Milwaukee’s wealth and the poorest one-third owned nothing, while in Wisconsin as a whole almost one-half the adult males owned no property whatever… [due to] ‘extreme inequality in the distribution of wealth in 1860.'”
The Civil War started by the South was to build wealth by destroying social networks (a slaveocracy cruelly ripping apart families and friends) and being so selfish as to give nothing to society (an implicit caste system, such as tipping culture).
Is it any wonder Ronald Reagan’s racist “trickle” platform of wealth accumulation was so dangerously popular in the South where he started his presidential campaign.
The campaign tones of 1980 have been decidedly shrill. And today, Carter continued to perform in that voice. Referring to previous Reagan campaign comments, the president said: “You’ve seen in this campaign the stirrings of hate and the rebirth of code words like ‘states’ rights’ in a speech in Mississippi; in a campaign reference to the Ku Klux Klan relating to the South. That is a message that creates a cloud on the political horizon. Hatred has no place in this country.” In a recent appearance at the Nashoba County Fair in Mississippi — the country where three white civil rights workers from the North were murdered in the 1960s — Reagan indeed said he favored “states’ rights.” The phrase was a code word for resistance to desegregation in the 1960s.
Carter was right. Reagan employed racist code words to promote isolationism and selfishness where only white men rule — an unhappy “America First” slaveocracy. Does anyone still think highly of Reagan? It’s like asking who on earth likes General Lee.
Coming back to today, the NYT latest opinion piece again warns that “The Rich Are Not Who We Think They Are“.