Researchers devised a set of experiments to test the age-old thesis that money is corollary, power, corrupt. Per the Washington Post:
“In one experiment, the researchers stationed themselves at a busy intersection with four-way stop signs and tracked the model of every car whose driver cut off others instead of waiting their turn. People driving expensive cars — like a brand-new Mercedes — were four times more likely to ignore right-of-way laws than those in cheap cars like an old beat-up Honda.”
In another experiment, a research posed as a pedestrian using a crosswalk. The researchers noted which cars stopped, as the law demands, and which blew past him. “Every one of the cheapest cars stopped,” the Post reports, “while half of the expensive cars ignored the pedestrian in the crosswalk—many even after making eye contact.”
The power money imbues seems to make people feel themselves above the law and entitled to act on their baser whims and desires. The Post reports that additional research has shown that the rich cheat more on taxes, and cheat more in love. In fact, a Chinese study found that men who were “primed to feel they had more money” were less satisfied with their partners’ looks than those who had not been so primed. “Interestingly,” the study states, “the difference was not significant for women.”
This might seem like a ‘so what’ scenario—rich people may be more likely to lie, steal and cheat, but it doesn’t affect normal people like me, does it.’ Not so fast. The rich and powerful influence world finance, sway governments, and have the clout to push for legislation that touches our lives in myriad ways. If the wealthy are more likely to be motivated by their baser instincts, we are more likely to suffer for it.
Wealth and power’s tendency to corrupt the individual is the stuff of legend. Now, research is backing up the bromides with evidence. Today, wealth alone is seen as qualification for everything from the presidency of the United States to the ability to rescue people from underwater caves. If we continue to venerate wealth for its own sake, we risk putting ourselves at the mercy of corruption that we don’t even recognize as such anymore.
–Leonce Gaiter, Vice President, Content and Strategy