"Ultra-Rich in finance are meaner than rest of us"

by: Paul Rosenberg

Wed Sep 08, 2010 at 09:00


That's not me speaking.  That's Gerard Aquilina, the head of Barclays Wealth Management's private-banking unit, at a conference in Zurich last week, as reported by Bloomberg News columnist Matthew Lynn in his column of the same title.

"Beware of the complexities of dealing with ultra high net worths," Aquilina told his audience. "Demanding and often unreasonable" requests from them may create "impossible demands on the organization."

Such as? Help with getting children into the right school, securing credit to buy property, or obtaining last-minute concert tickets, for example. Even worse, the richest of the rich turn out to be pretty stingy as well. They don't even want to pay the full fee for all the services they demand.

It was strong stuff. But it was also an insight into the way the rich have changed over the past decade. They are, it turns out, a nasty bunch of people who are only getting nastier. And the banking industry only has itself to blame....

There is an increasing amount of evidence that the rich are a vicious tribe of people. One study last year from the University of California, Berkeley, found that the rich are ruder than others. Another piece of research, conducted at the same institution, concluded they were less likely to give to charity than poorer people were. A third study, carried out at the Humboldt University in Berlin, concluded they were "nastier," in the sense of being keener to punish others....

Some of this may be new, but some certainly is not.  For example, wealthy Jews have always contributed heavily to charity.  It's a cultural imperative.  Protestants, not so much. When Jewa, excluded from elite WASP social clubs, formed their own such organizations, one of the criteria for membership was a strong philanthropic record--something no WASP club ever considered.

OTOH, I have no reason to doubt annecdotal reports that these folks are getting nastier.  The longer they keep getting richer and richer the more "normal" such nastiness becomes.  It's certainly happened many times before in human history.

There's also the added dimension of social disconnect between the finance sector elite and those who work hard to help generate their wealth:

The investment bankers and hedge-fund managers who make up most of the new rich elite don't have much contact with ordinary people. They assume their wealth is entirely the result of their own brilliance. And they cut themselves off from normal life.

It is an industry that mints billionaires and also breeds arrogance, selfishness and snobbishness.

Aquilina has put a spotlight on an industry that only has itself to blame. Maybe that's why he's warning others.

None of this is really news.  Except for the fact that it's become such a commonplace that someone like Aquilina would speak about it so frankly.

Now, would someone please tell President Obama?  I know it's a bit late.

But better late than never.

Paul Rosenberg :: "Ultra-Rich in finance are meaner than rest of us"

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why do (2.00 / 2)
we continue to focus on other peoples money?  so they are mean, vicious, cheap, but its still their money. I don't care what other people do with their money.  I donate when and where I can based on my philiosophical, political, and religious views.  I donate because I want to not because I have to.  Rich cheap people dont have to donate....we just expect them too.  are they stingy and vicous as said, perhaps...but its their money.

Yeah! And What's So Wrong With Slavery, Anyway? They PAY For Their Slaves! (3.00 / 4)
It's so unfair to criticize them!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
That was way over the top (0.00 / 0)
I'd tend to agree that the post you were responding to was from someone who is kind of missing the plot, but your reply was just juvenile. Troll rated (though I gotta say that I've been loving some of your diaries)...because it deserves it.

[ Parent ]
It's So Nice To Have Someone Here Who Would Have Troll-Rated Jonathan Swift! (0.00 / 0)
I'm sure you would have amused him every bit as much as you amuse me.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Not if they are stealing it by (4.00 / 4)
cheating and manipulation.
Just because one has won the DNA lottery does not mean their ancestors earned that money fairly.  
And when rules are written to make the rich richer at the expense of the poor and the middle class, it's not their money.   It stolen.

If someone steals thousands and gets away with it, the money is not theirs, nor does it belong to their progeny.  
Years and years of unfair labor practices, of cheating the system is not the same as earning.


[ Parent ]
Where did they get it? (4.00 / 1)
Does that matter to you?



"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Much of it is not their money (4.00 / 9)
Wealth does not exist without massive taxpayer investment in courts, police, fire, roads, bridges, school, water systems, sewage systems, transportation, research, and dozens of other areas. Private industry did not create the internet, for example. The basic investment that makes wealth creation even possible has to come from taxpayers. But you can't tax the secretaries and union workers and come up with enough. And they hardly generate wealth (although they do generate significantly more economic activity than the wealthy, which is important). Instead, you have to tax the wealthiest to make the infrastructure investments that make wealth possible for anyone.

Since Reagan, the wealthiest have been dramatically de-taxed. So in 2008 when several hedge fund managers made a billion dollars they cleared around $800 million after taxes. That's not only cheating (they hired lobbyists to, among other things, get legislation passed to designate hedge fund management salaries as capital gains which is taxed at 15%). It removes critical funds our society needs to keep the economy and the wealth engine going. These folks have not only created their ladder to excessive wealth. They are pulling up the ladder behind them.

There's also a fairness issue here. At what point do the larger needs of society to help the poor, the elderly, and those who cannot help themselves (e.g. the mentally ill) equal or exceed the needs of an individual to create wealth? I would say taking home $800 million is a case where the social needs far outweigh the individual need. That $800 million, invested at 5% return, generates $40 million a year ($3.3 million a month) for breathing; meanwhile the median income is $50,000 a year or $4,000 a month for working. That's excessive when states are laying off teachers and talking about gutting Social Security.

Taxing the wealthiest is merely taxpayers getting a return on investment for infrastructure, the same as any private investor.


[ Parent ]
Look at what the Republican says (4.00 / 3)
Someone troll rated RR's post.  Personally, I'd rather everyone be able to see what Republicans actually think, so I recommended it to keep it visible.  

Conservatives have no clue they live in a society and actually think that what they have somehow happens outside of any context.  Hard to believe, but true.


[ Parent ]
Wealthy vs rich (4.00 / 1)
While the sorrow we proles feel for these banksters is prodigious, the shame we feel for their obsequiousness is beyond measure.  

Many of us are also tired of the servility we all are expected to show toward those to the manor born and for the fawning respect given that class by media types who become tongue-tied whenever their names are spoken and their pronouncements made known.  

   

"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country".   Kurt Vonnegut


Alas! (0.00 / 0)
Too much tweaked that those to the manor born aren't to the manners born.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I blame their socialization. (4.00 / 3)
Or lack thereof.

The rich don't raise their own children. Instead, they rely on a system of nannies, private schools and rehab programs. Being raised by mercenaries, the young rich naturally grow up believing everyone is mercenary.

Montani semper liberi


Old Money vs New Money (0.00 / 0)
Having grown up in extremely wealthy areas, and lived in them, there is often a vast difference between old money and new. The latter tend to be crass and boorish. The former tend to be more restrained. I'm intrigued, though, that the financiers who have new money are so, well, Ayn Rand-ish in their outlook and behavior. They sound like sociopaths.

I don't believe wealth should be passed down beyond children and only then some small amount for sentimental reasons. You shouldn't be allowed to have money you did not earn and had nothing to do with the creation of an idea and the risks involved. If it's bad to give money to poor people, surely it's bad to give it to wealthy people, too.


[ Parent ]
No one who inherited their money (0.00 / 0)
can reasonably be referred to as "Rand-ish". She had absolutely no tolerance for those that expected their wealth to be handed to them on a platter. Bankers were not high on her list of productive human beings, either. Making money by manipulating other people's money is not Randian. Inventing better motors, designing better homes - and working with everyone to get those things accomplished - that's what Rand was describing. I suspect these folks have never even read Ayn Rand.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Nice Try (4.00 / 3)
She used a psychopathic murderer as her model of self-sufficiency.  He didn't build anything.  The building fetish was ancillary, a fashion accessory.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Which psychopathic murderer? (0.00 / 0)
Not that I don't believe you - I just want more details.

The main character in Atlas Shrugged was an electrical engineer and a metallurgist as I recall.

But, we were discussing the views on inherited wealth and bankers - neither of which were much loved by Rand. This does not imply that her "code hero" was a wonderful example of humanity - just that even such a demonic figure of the libertarian right as Ayn Rand would not stomach the fat-cats on Wall Street.



"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
William Hickman (4.00 / 1)
See "The Cultural Contradictions of Conservatism: Part 1" from last September.  I got the tip-off from a Tim Wise diary at DKos, Sociopathy on the Right: Ayn Rand and the Triumph of Conservative Cultism.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
No defense of her personal life or choices (0.00 / 0)
None of the characters in her book dismember children, so the connection is tenuous at best. From what I understand, Rand had a pretty messed up personal life. Reading the "Romantic Manifesto" and seeing the terrible female characters in her novels suggests that she had some serious interpersonal problems. But, she's certainly not alone in that regard.

Atlas Shrugged is a complex work. Many, I think, mis-read her stance on charity. It is true, as Tim Wise points out, that she was vehemently anti-charity. But I have always focused on her reason for that position, rather than simply attacking her conclusion. She believes that she had no self-interest in providing for those less fortunate. I disagree. I think it is very much in my interest to provide as stable and safe a public space as possible - for everyone. Helping my society to become stronger, more just and more respectful of human diversity is in my self-interest. No "selflessness" required. Taxes are not theft of my earnings because (theoretically) they go toward building the cultural context and infrastructure within which I pursue my personal interests. Yes, paying taxes IS patriotic - perhaps the ultimate patriotism in a capitalist society.  


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
But That's Sociopathy For You! (0.00 / 0)
It is true, as Tim Wise points out, that she was vehemently anti-charity. But I have always focused on her reason for that position, rather than simply attacking her conclusion. She believes that she had no self-interest in providing for those less fortunate. I disagree. I think it is very much in my interest to provide as stable and safe a public space as possible - for everyone.

Sociopaths have no empathy for others. They neither care for them, nor have any understanding that their interests are joined.  These are not separate issues for them.  They are separate aspect of the same issue:  They do not see themselves as part of the human race.  They lack the connection with the rest of us.  They are indifferent to us at best.  At worst, they are predators.

I should add that Rand's messed up personal life is part and parcel of her sociopathy as well.  While one can separate it out intellectually, doing so merely obscures what is going on with her, rather than illuminating it.  Do yourself a favor, and at least skim through the classic work on sociopathy, The Mask of Sanity. Google it in PDF format.  It's free.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Sociopathy (0.00 / 0)
Not caring about others. The balancing aspect of empathy. I think you have said as much. Am I wrong?

I come from a biological/chemical perspective. I see "morality" as a kind of homeostatic imperative operating at the cultural level in living beings. It is based on observation, not mathematics - that is not theory. Therefore, just as it is not really relevant that a given Metazoan believe in, or understand the mechanisms that provide blood glucose homeostasis, it is not necessary that "we" understand how social/cultural phenomena come to be. These exist outside of human understanding. (I'm uncertain as to whether this means they are "real", but I go with Jung and accept anything that is able to affect human psyche as "real enough".)

If study of biological systems has taught me anything, it is that regulation is a key. Unregulated pathways and mechanisms do not, generally, satisfy evolutionary selection criteria. One true value of Ayn Rand is that she represents a very clear depiction of a "diseased" state of potential American outcomes. Atlas Shrugged is an accurate description of our times, even if you disagree with the solution Rand offers. Her prophecies have rung true - by observation, not desire. She was an obsessive person (you can call it "sociopathic") and in that obsession she reveals the depth of the Objectivist' self-delusion. Another is that she truly and unabashedly honors the individual, the the basic unit of democracy and social justice. Biologically, this is not much different that individual cells participating in the function of a Metazoan entity. Each does not give up its individual cell-type, yet works in conjunction with others to manifest an organism that exists at a different level of biological scale.

The mechanisms the weave all of this together are regulatory, i.e, they orchestrate the interaction of the "parts" that comprise the "whole". A basic theme of regulatory biology is differential control of opposing pathways, i.e. balance. The impulses described by Rand are the opposing pathways to those described by you (and others on the "left"). This opposition is critical and therefore both sides must be maintained, else we'll end up in a pathological state.  

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


[ Parent ]
Not So Much (0.00 / 0)
she truly and unabashedly honors the individual, the the basic unit of democracy and social justice.

There's abundant testimony from those who knew her that she was utterly indifferent to others, and cared not a whit for their individuality.  She had "boundary issues" as they say in the trade.

A sociopath's concept of individuality is of necessity hollow and diseased.  So it was with Rand.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
The root of all evil (4.00 / 7)
A friend of mine, who used to tend bar in several upscale NY hotels, put it to me this way:

It's human nature to complain and to demand things. The rich have nothing serious to complain about, and no unfulfilled demands of any significance, so they tend to get hysterical over trifles. Slopping a little coffee into the saucer when serving them can cause a major scene, and can also get you fired. It's like working with explosives.


I found this little gem right here on OL: (4.00 / 6)
http://www.paulgraham.com/nerd...

Compliments of Paul, if I recall correctly. Anyway there's a lot of wisdom in it and one of my favorite observations is that the idle are crazy everywhere. Humans aren't meant to be idle, or cut off from one another, and whenever we are it's a recipe for psychosis.

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
Thanks For The Reminder! (4.00 / 1)
That really is wonderful gem we all should remember to contemplate from time to time.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Wow! (4.00 / 2)
So much good sense in so little space. I wonder what jeffbinnc would make of it. It seems to me that genuine educators may be mistaking the reason why they feel so depressed these days. Fixing education means fixing a lot of things, and teachers, God bless 'em, are in no real position to fix them; we need to help them out big time.

Thinking of schools as prisons might be a good way to start, even though saying so might be even more depressing to teachers who've spent their entire careers swimming upstream. What say, jeff?


[ Parent ]
Studies done show 'the rich are stingier'..... (4.00 / 4)
Any waitress/waiter in communities like Vail, Aspen, Nantucket, and Martha's Vinyard could have told researchers this,  a 'study' didn't need to be done~ LOL.

It has always been thus.


Boy Howdy! (4.00 / 3)
But that's the way it goes.  First the field research.  Then the lab.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
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