By Jillian Berman
That difference has been on uncomfortable display lately, with billionaires declaring themselves an oppressed but superheroic minority “being pummeled” and “picked on,” despite their incomes having grown exponentially over the past few decades, leaving the rest of us far behind.
Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at the University of California-Berkeley, is not surprised by these rich-guy outbursts, which have included offensive comparisons to Nazi persecution. His research shows that large gobs of money often make people drift away from the reality the rest of us know. So if some of those millionaires and billionaires seem to be completely out-of-touch rich guys lacking sympathy for their fellow man, that's because they are.
“Extreme wealth in our lab makes people less compassionate, they care less about the suffering of others, they’re less empathetic,” he told the Huffington Post in an interview. “They tend to think that they have their tons of money because they have a stronger genetic profile. You put that together, and you get jackasses.”
In their warped view of society, only the individual exists--with no social relations, shared history and culture
By Paul Rosenberg
As Paul Krugman correctly noted, “Mr. Perkins isn’t that much of an outlier” among the 1 percent. Krugman scored them for their “paranoia” and “megalomania,” both of which are obviously present to some degree, but it was one of their own who zeroed in much closer to the mark. Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer—who has advocated a $15 minimum wage and for raising taxes on people like him “to reward the true job creators,” ordinary middle-class consumers—rightly called them sociopaths when he recently appeared on “All In with Chris Hayes.”
“These are the people who did not go to their kid’s soccer games. These are borderline sociopathic people and they don’t care about other people,” Hanauer said, to which Hayes responded, “I don’t want to diagnose anyone from afar, I just want to stipulate.” That’s an honorable, well-meaning liberal sentiment. But it’s a bit misplaced, particularly since it meant a missed opportunity for deeper understanding. The point isn’t to stigmatize any one particular individual, but to identify and arm ourselves against a pervasive, corrosive mindset. It’s a mindset devoid of empathy or conscience, for whom other people simply are not real, a mindset that has gripped us collectively, ever more tightly, over the past 30 to 40 years, regardless of how much mayhem it creates, as the richest 1 percent has roughly tripled its share of income, while the rest of us, collectively, have seen our incomes stagnate, despite rising productivity, year after year after year.
Remember Margaret Thatcher’s remark, “There is no such thing as society, only individuals”? That’s the sociopathic mindset in a nutshell. Of course, Thatcher added, “and their families,” an obligatory conservative feel-good trope. But as Hanauer told Chris Hayes, “These are the people who did not go to their kid’s soccer games.” In short, Thatcher was lying when she tacked on “families.” Sociopaths are like that—they lie a lot.
For more on the subject, see Conservative Christian Persecution Fantasies and Mascot Love = Lack of Empathy.