Cheating, stealing, lying, and environmental disrespect are habits shared most exclusively to the wealthiest social groups, according to new research.
As “self-made” millionaires are taking the upper echelons of political power, it’s important to understand how they got there and what impact hard and fast money is having on the world around us.
As Washington continues to stay awash with stories of tax fraud, conspiracy, embezzlement and more, the Washington Post has tried to uncover the psychology behind how the rich get rich, and why it’s so often devoid of ethical checks and balances. In the piece, science and news correspondent William Wan asks what it is about money that makes people do bad things.
There’s a reasonable expectation that the decision-making process that underlines greed doesn’t always put ethics first, but scientists rarely have the right evidence to make that assertion. What the Post’s piece does is bring together new research to join the dots between power, wealth and how we treat other people: “In the past few decades, a growing body of psychology research has tried to capture and measure the exact effects of wealth on behavior and morality. That research has shown the rich cheat more on their taxes. They cheat more on their romantic partners. The wealthy and better-educated are more likely to shoplift. They are more likely to cheat at games of chance. They are often less empathetic. In studies of charitable giving, it is often the lower-income households that donate higher proportions of their income than middle-class and many upper-income folk.”
The study, which is entitled “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior” details just how class can be a predictor of ethics. The paper details how upper-class individuals are more disengaged during social interactions—when compared with their lower-class peers, they were more likely to check their cell phones or doodle on a questionnaire. They were also less cognizant of others, and worse at identifying other people’s emotions.
It seems to be at exact odds with the winning narrative that got Trump in the place he’s in today. On the one hand, he’s a traditional outsider pulling himself up by the bootstraps to make his way in a dog eat dog world—but it’s been shown time and time again that the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
That ability to rack up assets and banks balances alike isn’t just harmful to politics, it’s detrimental to the planet as a whole. A new piece of research published in Nature, entitled Tax havens, and global environmental degradation uses quantitative analysis to expose the connections between tax havens and the environment, focusing on global fisheries and the Brazilian Amazon.
Illegal fishing is a huge reason for decreasing fish stocks, especially in developing countries’ coastal waters. The new paper says the vast majority of the boats involved are, or have, been flagged under a tax haven jurisdiction, particularly in Belize and Panama which are some of the world’s most notorious tax havens. In addition to harboring the industries, they often funded by tax avoidance schemes, and governments in these countries do not prosecute if the ships on their register are involved in illegal activities.
“The global nature of fisheries value chains, complex ownership structures and limited governance capacities of many coastal nations, make the sector susceptible to the use of tax havens,” co-author Henrik Österblom, from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, told the BBC.
Between 2000 and 2011, $27 billion worth of foreign capital that was transferred to key companies involved in beef and soy production in the Amazon, 68 percent of all investigated foreign capital to nine companies in the soy and beef sectors were transferred through known tax havens. And it’s hardly a sideline for these businesses—for some, it amounted to 90 – 100 percent of foreign capital.
Just as the link between class and blurring the ethical boundaries can be linked to politics, it’s also bolstering industries that are actively destroying the planet. The next step is calling it out and figuring out a game plan to stop it.