Where wealth and unselfishness meet

Consider this: According to recent studies, people in pricier cars are likelier than people in cheaper cars to cut off other drivers. They are also less likely to wait for pedestrians. Additionally, the wealthy are likelier to pocket excessive change mistakenly given them. Add these together, along with results from other studies, and researchers see “proof” that the rich are selfish (see “Wealth breeds selfishness,” The Week, March 16, 2012).

But before anyone starts clucking, “I knew it,” we’d like to shout, “Wait a minute!” To us, the data is far from conclusive. We don’t think it is really about who has the least or most money, but rather who is the least or most obsessed with it. In other words, it has to do with one’s thought and how one chooses to think of himself or herself—regardless of the state of one’s bank account or whether multiple new cars crowd one’s garage.

We experience a daily avalanche of unselfish acts from people across the income spectrum—and you probably do, too. Strangers volunteering change for the parking meter. Passersby loaning a cellphone for a quick call. Recent college graduates traveling halfway around the planet, for little or no salary, to teach permaculture to the locals.

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June 11, 2012

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