Does the Pursuit of Wealth Corrupt Your Soul?
If you are rich – or would like to be – listen up.
There is a growing movement in the U.S. that believes you and your way of thinking are the enemy.
They see the economy not as voluntary transactions for mutual benefit but as a zero-sum game where one person’s economic success comes only at someone else’s expense.
They argue that wealth makes us miserable, corrupt individuals who are more likely to take our own lives… and even steal candy from babies.
Think I’m exaggerating?
Then you probably don’t read The Washington Post, also known as Pravda on the Potomac.
Consider, for example, a recent piece by professor Charles Mathewes and Ph.D. student Evan Sandsmark of the University of Virginia:
Wealth, it turns out, leads to behavioral and psychological maladies. The rich act and think in misdirected ways… They are much more likely than the rest of humanity to shoplift and cheat, for example, and they are more apt to be adulterers and to drink a great deal. They are even more likely to take candy that is meant for children…
They also give proportionally less to charity – not surprising, since they exhibit significantly less compassion and empathy toward suffering people…
Some studies go even further, suggesting that rich people… are more competitive, impulsive and reckless than medically diagnosed psychopaths…
They seem to have a hard time enjoying simple things, savoring the everyday experiences that make so much of life worthwhile. Because they have lower levels of empathy, they have fewer opportunities to practice acts of compassion…
They believe that they deserve their wealth, thus dampening their capacity for gratitude, a quality that has been shown to significantly increase our sense of well-being. All of this seems to make the rich more susceptible to loneliness; they may even be more prone to suicide, as well.
I don’t know how much time Mathewes and Sandsmark have spent hanging out with rich folks. (I’m tempted to say “none.”) But when I think of the affluent men and women I know, words like “shoplifter” or “psychopath” don’t spring immediately to mind.
It’s hard to understand their hostility.
After all, money matters. Sure. But it doesn’t buy genuine love or friendship. It won’t solve your problems, end your worries, fix your marriage, make you “a success” or even make you more charitable.
People without money often imagine it will do all these things. It won’t.
That’s because money doesn’t change you. It magnifies you, making it clear to everyone who you really are.
You are who you are because of the choices you make, not the size of your bank account.
That’s not to say that wealth doesn’t confer clear benefits.
Money is independence. It liberates you from want, from work that is drudgery, from relationships that confine you. No one is truly free who is a slave to his job, his creditors, his circumstances or his overhead.
Money determines the kind of house you live in and the neighborhood your kids grow up in.
If you’re sick, it can mean the difference between a good doctor and an amazing doctor. If you need an attorney, it’s the difference between using an ambulance chaser and getting the best legal representation money can buy.
Wealth is the great equalizer. It allows you to do what you want, where you want, with whom you want.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, handsome or homely, educated or not. If you have money, you have power – in the best sense.
Wealth is freedom, security and peace of mind. It allows you to do and be what you want, to support worthy causes and to help those closest to you. It enables you to follow your dreams, to spend your life the way you choose.
Money gives you dignity. It gives you choices.
That’s why every man and woman has the right – perhaps even the obligation – to pursue some level of financial independence.
Maybe someday Mr. Mathewes and Mr. Sandmark will recognize this essential truth. And discover that what really corrupts your soul is not wealth but envy.
Something, regrettably, they seem to hold in abundance.
About Alexander Green
An expert on momentum investing, value investing and investing based on insider activity, Alex worked as an investment advisor, research analyst and portfolio manager on Wall Street for 16 years. He now runs the wildly successful Oxford Communiqué, ranked as one of the top investment newsletters by Hulbert Digest for more than a decade. He is also the author of four national best-sellers: The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio, The Secret of Shelter Island, Beyond Wealth and An Embarrassment of Riches. He shares his wisdom in his free daily e-letter, Liberty Through Wealth.