The extremely rich have “psychiatric issues” and it affects day-to-day Americans, populist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said recently. Research shows that he’s on to something.
“We all know people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. These people are addicted to money,” Sanders said earlier this year, according to MSNBC. The result? A “philosophical war being waged against the middle-class and working families.”
Sanders wants to revive a time in American history where “one person could work 40 hours a week and make enough to take care for the entire family.”
That will take a political revolution, he said, and again he could be right.
Last August, Maria Fernandes became the poster child for the new American economy, in which the cost of living has far surpassed the minimum wage and political inaction has let it fester.
Fernandes, a 32-year-old from New Jersey, worked four part-time, low wage jobs to make a living. She died in her car while she was napping between shifts, accidentally inhaling carbon monoxide, according to the New York Daily News.
According to the Pacific Standard, we tend to look at the lifestyles and patterns of average and low-income people with critical detail, even though it’s the elite class that has the most power and incentive to influence government policies that impact our day-to-day lives.
Research cited by the magazine shows ultra-rich people are happier — but only because wealth affords stability and allows them to have more control over their own lives. They’re more likely to say winning respect and appreciation from others and reaching their personal potential is a key to happiness. And while average people are more likely to identify with their own communities, the very rich instead identify with a global elite class.
Interestingly, the research shows wealthy people are less empathetic and tend to think of themselves and others in terms of fixed traits, instead of attributing a person’s emotional state to context and surroundings. And the rich tend to think of income inequality — from which they benefit — as the just result of meritocracy rather than a system rigged in their favor.
In addition, research by University of California at Irvine psychologist Paul Piff suggests the ultra-rich and the influence they wield, along with certain psychological traits that stem from extreme wealth, pose a problem. The extremely wealthy are more likely to behave selfishly with little regard for others, according to study results published in Scientific American.
Very wealthy people are also more likely to behave unethically, less likely to give to charities and displayed higher levels of narcissism and entitlement than average, according to Matrix, a UC Berkeley social science publication.
The problem isn’t just limited to the bubble of wealth. It’s effects are far reaching and we may feel them even if we don’t realize the source. Matrix concludes:
These psychological factors may have the dangerous effect of compounding the growth of economic inequality. The rate at which economic inequality accelerates over time depends deeply on the very institutions and policies over which the upper class has a disproportionate level of control. Thus, if increasing economic inequality gives rise to an upper class with an even greater sense of entitlement, leading them, as Piff’s research would suggest, to support policies that favor the growth of economic inequality, this may exacerbate a vicious cycle of stratification.
Watch Sanders discuss wealth and income inequality via The Daily Conversation’s YouTube page here: