Asta Charles

Asta Charles
Los Angeles, California, USA
December 12
Myth Maker
A foul-mouthed commentator on life, society, politics, pop culture, and economics. I spend a lot of time in bars. I wrote a manuscript about the perils of online dating and its ultimate cost to society. It's not published. Meh.


AUGUST 2, 2010 11:21PM

Finally! Scientific Proof that the Rich are Selfish

Rate: 7 Flag

robin460Bill and Melinda Gates have made the most of their relative retirement by launching the Gates Foundation. Their mission is to help the neediest of needy with what most shapes their world: health and education. They've also famously allocated a mere $10 million per head inheritance to each of their children. This isn't much for the (once) richest man in the world.

If all rich folk were like Bill and Melinda, the world would be a much different place. And most likely, much better. And I am equating the word "better" with socioeconomic fairness. This doesn't even nudge the realm of racism, classism, sexism, and religious bigotry. Or the plight of much wealthier nations: discrimination based upon social groups or Ivy League schools. 

The Gates' have chosen to give to assist in the improvement of the bare necessities of the needy, the base of Maslow's Hierarchy. 

Why is it that they have become famous for this? Of course, because they want to be. They want to attract donors beyond themselves. They've also become famous for this because its rather rare.

A study recently conducted at UC Berkeley has concluded that the rich are indeed more selfish than the poorer amongst us. One can easily state that this is likely due to empathy and not much more than that. 

The Economist, always the bringer of great news, has published an article on the study.

The study gathered participants from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, the rich were both born into their prodigal lives and self made. The study paired participants anonymously and gave them each 10 "credits". They had to then give a portion of their credits to their partner. Those at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum gave away, on average, 44% more credits than the wealthy.

This study would be hugely helpful in the fight for a national healthcare system. Unfortunately, it will preach to the choir, and fall on the wealthiest and most deaf ears. 

It's hard to believe that you're selfish. Especially when everything in your life looks so damned good.


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I guess you're not selfish because everything you've got was due to your own efforts and merit. Those with less ergo must deserve it.
Everybody's a little bit selfish. Everybody's got to look out for number one for some extent. However, the need to be selfish lessens with the amount of wealth accumulated.
I got almost accused (insinuation really) in a comment on someone's blog this week. It was the most fun I've had since, well the last time that I got well you know.
I did used to go by the sobriquet "Rich Good-looking Guy!" on E-Harmony years ago, but I was kidding about the rich part.
(R)ated for a fabulous avatar.
@Fred Hallman:
I launched my blog based on online dating. Smart choice on your part to include the word "rich" because I'm pretty sure that's what 90% of people are actually looking for by screening dating profiles' income data. :) Anyway, so you're saying you got accused of being rich? Who cares if you are, as long as you remember what it was like to be poor. I think that's the important part.
Survey of Economist on it is poor people not rich who are inclines to charity is a big fraud.How can anybody draw a conclusion from statistical survey ?If every man is unique and everybody behaved differently. Are not rich human being?This conclusion draw from crudious Christan teaching. Bible teach again and again that rich people are selfish and poor are innocent.Has you have any proof that every rich man is selfish and poor are generous?How can anybody blindly believed this kind of nonsense statement
it's interesting in the study that the selfishness wasn't different, whether the money was inherited or earned.

in other words self made wealthy and people with a silver spoon were equally likely to lack empathy.

it's not really surprising. what will be interesting is whether or not the hard economic times in the country will allow more of the empathy/unselfishness to be born in those who were formerly quite economically comfortable...

I wish the study could have addressed individuals who have gone through economic changes in status, upwardly or downwardly....
I am consistently amazed my how much "fluffing" has to take place to get the rich to donate the same proportion of their wealth as the poor. Half of non-profit fundraising classes are about making sure you adequately thank up oneside and down the other the highly affluent who their $1000 donation would have been spent on half a handbag, to thank them 5x for every $1000 in 5 different ways, compared to a struggling family who gives your cause $100 because they believe and are thrilled to get a handwritten note in appreciation.

I failed to "properly acknowledge" a $5000 donation from a woman for whom it was pocket change. It arrived after the wall of donor names had been engraved for the grand opening, in fact she had the check sent over the morning of the Gala so that her name would be on the wall. Our museum put up a nice thank you card which I thought would suffice. I did not contact the busy director who had her hands full. I figured a sucessful business woman who had launched a chain of stores would understand the basic logistics of getting a name engraved into granite is both difficult and expensive with only 4 hours notice. I sincerely thought it was a non-issue.

Apparently the expectation was that we hire someone immediately and spare no expense to acknowledge her contribution. I was fired. I needed that job more than she needed to be fluffed.

Ten years later she still does not donate to the museum for this "slight" and wrote to the board of directors that it was hurtful to have her contribution taken for granted. The organization spent thousands of dollars trying to repair her damn ego beyond her pithy bit. It was hurtful to hear from co-workers that despite my letter of apology the museum directors called me all kinds of nasty things and unsulted my work ethic to make her happy. When this happened I was just a 21 year old kid.

I hate it that charity work is often derided down to butt kissing for hire.
writeNOWmom...that story is alarming! good grief. In my workplace the bigwigs who attend charity events are now required to make excel spreadsheets that include the contact information of all their networking efforts at said charity event.

their secretaries are also required to record their attendance on their official calendars so that at their yearly reviews they receive compensation appropriate for their networking/charitable efforts.

they also do not refer to the networking/charitable events as anything other than "charitable events." the charitable event might be to raise money for disabled children or people in developing nations or natal care for farm need bother being too specific.

an odd world...
That's absolutely heartbreaking. I surely didn't think at the beginning of your story that by the end you'd be fired. That's the kind of thing that changes your view of the world forever. I'm fortunate to know at least one exceedingly wealthy person who has standing and rather large donations to charities and schools. Though I'm still not prepared to call him an exception, because he could give much much more.
My workplace is the same way. Except that the rule is that we don't "do" charity, because it doesn't result in a positive ROI. But we do "do" it when it's the CEO's kid's school. Funny thing.
The top half already pay 96% of taxes. Someone paying a lot of tax probably doesn't want to add to it with huge charitable donations as well. And does someone near broke or homeless think people should spend more on the poor and homeless? That's certainly not vested in self interest, is it? I do believe the top tax rates should rise. But percentage of incomes can never be measured fairly. 5% of $300 a week is $15. Of course it is easy to say. I am nowhere near rich, nor a fan of them. But I try not to generalize about them or think the Economist makes objective studies.