Why Is "Rich" Often Equated With "Evil"?

I was born in China and it was a place where wealthy people were the public enemy for many decades. The sentiment was spread by the propaganda of the Communist government and resulted in the execution and imprisonment of many families who were considered to be rich. I still remember the songs about overthrowing landlords and the greatness of the working class, but are the wealthy really evil?

Even though I live in America now, I feel that the idea that rich people are evil is also very prevalent here. A popular phrase that is often thrown around is "money is root of all evil". This is a misquoted version of 1 Timothy 6:10 in which the Apostle Paul states, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." It can be inferred that those who love money would strive to become rich, but it does not mean that those who are poor do not love money. Basically, I do not believe that those who are rich are inherently more or less evil than those who have less money.

For the most part, the wealthy people in America are entrepreneurs and business owners. My mother worked for a small business in California for ten years and her boss was extremely generous to all of his employees. Once she said to me, "Now I realize that American capitalists are not evil slave drivers as the Communists say they are. They take on tremendous risk and work very hard to provide jobs for others." Of course, I am sure evil slave driving corporations exist , but there are countless American business owners who treat their employees extremely well and give their all to their businesses. So why are rich business owners typically portrayed as evil by the media and politicians?

As to China, it has changed quite a bit in the last couple decades. Capitalism is now everywhere and entrepreneurship is being embraced. One of my childhood neighbors became an architect and opened his own firm in Shanghai. My dad visited him last year and he said to my dad, "You have no idea what it is like to be a business owner until you become one. When you are the owner you are really working for your employees." This mirrors what my mother said about American business owners. He is respected as an architect and an entrepreneur. This is rather funny to me because the official party line in China is still that they are a Communist country, but having money is no longer looked down upon as the ultimate sin.

Ultimately, I think the idea that rich people are evil still comes down to the jealousy people harbor towards those who have more. Several people in China expressed to me that life was easier when everyone was poor and under a tight Communist rule. There was no "keeping up with the Joneses" because everyone had the bare necessities. They also did not have to fight for job opportunities because nearly everyone was assigned a job. That kind of tight state control made nearly everyone financially equal, but obviously there was no freedom. Life was easier because people did not have to make choices on their own volition. With free enterprise, the gap in wealth between the rich and poor is now widening in both China and America, and that inevitably increases the resentment towards the rich, but I think it is a good thing that people at least have the opportunity to become rich.

So in conclusion, I do not think we can assess a person's morality just by his or her networth, and I think there is no shame in being wealthy or poor. It is always dangerous to single out any one group of people as the culprits for all of our problems, because the last thing we want is a society where everyone is forced at gunpoint to be equal on every level. In that case we would lose our individuality, and with it we would lose a part of our humanity.

Were you ever taught that being rich is evil? Do you think rich people are evil? Feel free to comment!

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Guest's picture

Thank you for a wonderful post. I couldn't possibly agree with your statement more. I see a lot of class warfare going on, not only in the public at large, but especially online and even within personal financial blogs.
Your perspective as someone with a broader view of the world is deeply appreciated. I work for a very small dental practice, and I can say that the two dentists I work for look out for the patients and us employees before themselves, each and every day; I've never been treated so well in my life, and would do anything to see that they are successful. The fact that they make a respectable (not obscene) wage for their hard work and ENORMOUS risk is simple justice.
Thanks again.

Guest's picture

It depends. I completely agree that it's not the fact that you have money that makes you "evil." I work in an architectural firm for some really great people who do exactly as you describe and are doing pretty well for themselves, though not obscene (interesting, this qualifier) and I definitely see the sacrifices they make to be business owners. However, our clients are higher up on the scale (just for demographics, not for stereotyping) and I find in my day to day duties that I am often dealing with people (the clients) who really have strange priorities simply because they can, because they can afford to. They will pay our significant hourly fees in order to "fix" some inane aesthetic "problem" that anyone with a budget more like mine would decide isn't worth either the time or the effort, much less the cost. It is from witnessing this that I can then understand how people in positions of power can make decisions that seem crazy and irresponsible (evil?) to me. They've lost perspective, or any kind of perspective that I can relate to, and what to me would be a devastating financial blow is inconsequential to them. That's the essence of class warfare in my mind.

Guest's picture

It's not the wealth. It's what people do with their wealth once they get it. Although I agree with your neighbor; once you're a boss, you DO worry about your employees more than money - IF THEY'RE GOOD EMPLOYEES.
My father in law is a very rich man in SE Asia. he uses his money to finance a church in his neighborhood and to supply free, nutritious food to the prisoners in the local jail. That's the right way to do it. Using your money to convince the poor that being poor is good isn't right. Please look over What's The Matter With Kansas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What%27s_the_Matter_with_Kansas) by Thomas Frank- and yes, I'll read a book and take a test on it if you do...

Guest's picture

I think it depends on your experience with "the rich". If you're working a minimum wage job for some "entrepreneur" who breaks the law. Now, suppose you don't know these laws, because you don't have any "rich" lawyers as friends, and no "rich" union buddies. Then, yeah, you might start to think of all people with any level of affluence as fundamentally bad.

My experience wasn't that, but, as a micro-business operator. I've noticed this shitty trend of rich guys who don't pay their bills. Now, there are some who do, but, by and large, it's the ones who have a fairly large pile of cash who are the cheapskates and check-bouncers. The ones who are good at paying are the more "middle class" folks who work at their relatively nice jobs or do contract work. When I made appeals to their "good sides" to pay for services rendered, it was the trust funders who didn't pay.

Now, that, to me, is bad behavior. It borders on "evil".

So, lesson learned: don't trust rich people to pay on their debts. Some of them are thieves. They got rich by being thieves, and that's clearly how they stay rich. :-)

Guest's picture

Wow, great post. I'm overwhelmed with different thoughts and opinions on this matter, but let's just say I recognize that this is a growing societal problem and I agree with you.

And to make things worse here in the US, we're in the midst of a presidential campaign where the candidates are both using this very issue of "wealth envy" as political ammunition.

I'm thankful for all the great entrepreneurial risk-takers out there, most of whom never achieve financial wealth, for they are the engine driving our economy and all it's dependents, myself included.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Guest's picture

I wrote about this in "Greed v. Desire" at http://shanelyang.com/2007/11/23/greed-v-desire/ Basically, being greedy is wanting something for nothing or by cheating someone, while being desirous of wealth or riches is wanting whatever rewards are fairly deserved for hard work and risks born by the entrepreneur. This distinction is critical to not feel guilty about wanting to be rich. I went to all public schools here in the U.S. and most of my teachers at 3 different elementary schools (our family moved around a lot) in and around L.A. taught that just about everything is more important than money -- helping family, friends, and community -- but neglected to teach us that we do a lot more help if we had more money. They certainly didn't know how to make a lot of money and they obviously believed in giving back to the community (teaching in public schools in poor neighborhoods is no cake walk), so they just taught us what they believed.

On the other hand, my parents were absolutely crazy about money. Fighting all the time about it and treating it like it was more important than life itself. Ironically, that also turned me off to money. I did believe for many years that money itself was evil. So, it took a very long time for me to figure out the difference between greed and a desire for legitimate wealth. Now, I am pursuing it with all the hard work that every entrepreneur deservedly creates wealth. And, I won't worship it like my parents did, but help the community with it as my teachers always taught. That's the good of money!

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

HAHA, Shanel your parents sound like my parents. Every time I talk to my mom all she could talk about is that her portfolio is going down.

I just find it interesting that what I witnessed in Communist China is becoming somewhat mainstream in America. There are tons of incentives to tax the rich and help the poor and the general message is that rich people are bad and the poor are helpless victims. I don't think it would come down to a bloody revolution and slaughter of the rich people in America, but it is still troubling and a little ironic how class warfare is so universal.

Guest's picture

I don't think money is inherently evil at all. It's simply a tool, a very powerful tool that can be used for good or for bad. Rich people are not inherently self-interested and self-serving.

There are greedy and self-serving rich people just like how there are greedy and self-serving poor people. Similarity, there are selfless and generous rich people just like how there are selfless and generous poor people.

Financial wealth can be acquired through numerous ways. It can be acquired through inheritance, or through hard work, or through criminal and dishonest acts! Being rich is not the ultimate end goal in life, but I would say that it is fairly admirable as long as it was achieved through hard work and is used to benefit the greater community.

Guest's picture

Money is not the root of all evil, the lack of money is the root of all evil. I really believe most of the people we consider "rich" are outstanding people. I believe most of them fund charities. They just don't go out and try to get the attention for their "giving"

Guest's picture

I struggle with my desire to make money and my desire to be a good person. While I know that they are not, by any means, opposing poles they seem to be equated as such among most of my friends and family. I do worry about succeeding at making money and whether it will drive away friends and family. Thanks for the wonderful post about where these feelings come from, they do help me to understand.


Guest's picture

I believe that evilness or goodness is an inherent thing, not based on possession of money, however:

I have read in the newspapers about people who die because they were denied health coverage or treatments.

The wide extent of foreclosures in this credit crisis lends credibility to the concept of Predatory Lending. On a case by case basis, the individual is at fault but the banks were willing to suck customers dry with interest payments.

The search company that "does no evil", along with other American technology companies are helping to build the "great firewall of China."

Punitive damages for the Exxon Valdiz oil spill in Alaska were finally reduced from $2.5 billion to $507 million, and now Exxon is trying to weasel out of paying interest on this fine from the 1989 incident. By the way, while we are struggling at the pump, Exxon set a new record for quarterly profits of $11.5 billion.

No-bid contracts in Iraq are making billions producing either substandard or completely unusable construction. Halliburton even got away with serving our troops contaminated water in Iraq.

Tax breaks for the wealthy are widening gap between wealthy and poor individuals. And how about UBS, the Swiss bank under investigation for helping hide its clients money from the IRS. One way or another, the middle class is going to pay for this unsustainable deficit our government is running, not the wealthy.

Even Bill Gates, with his new charitable foundation, was head of Microsoft at the time the company was convicted of monopolistic practices that put others out of business. Personally, I think he's just trying to buy his way into heaven. Good luck, Bill.

I won't attack individuals just because their wealthy, but I won't defend them either.

Guest's picture

Great post Sarah. In America, we put wealthy corporations above people. Just look at Enron.Anther example is how we measure GDP; for profit prisons, hospitals, and wars, the list goes on. For there to be less "evil" we must have more balance, somthing is terribly wrong.

Guest's picture

I really dont agree with the idea that the middle class will pay for anything. America is great because of wealthy people (not the middle class or poor) The middle class and poor are not the innovators. The rich support everyone else. If america suffers they suffer more than anyone. Bill gates is fantastic. He innovated and created millions of jobs. There is no monopoly about it. I can go download any browser i want or buy any software i want. Microsofts is just better. Bill should get a tax break for this. The poor people that work for him should be taxed for not innovating like he did. I want more Bills in america not more middle class employees.

Guest's picture

If we define "evil" as against the societal norm, and we define a main tenet of society as the benefit of everyone in the societal group, then there is something inherently evil not about money itself, but the possession of wealth.
For in hoarding more than one needs to survive, one is placing himself above, as more important than, those members of society living in povery/starving, etc.
Or course, this may simply be the intersection of pro-growth capitalism with the relatively modern conception of civilization. However, I would say there's at least an implicit selfishness in choosing personal wealth (the amount of comfort you attain over survival) at the expense (given that the supply of currency, and hence wealth, at any given time is not unlimited and free) of many living in poverty. If there is an "evil," I believe it would come out of that fact.

In addition, Weber's protestant land ethic (especially the current, godless form) plays a decent part in this, especially in America. Supplemented with the relatively modern notion of "work" as having intrinsic value (instead of the means to an end), these two facts--both reactions to and products of American capitalism, a very peculiar brand of capitalism indeed--there is a hate that seems to seethe from both sides. From the top down, there's a "why should I pay for him not to work" sort of arguement, the one commonly used against welfare, etc. Coming from the bottom up, there's, firstly, a reaction to the prior point, which leads to a resentment of that upper class, and a feeling of constrained mobility, caused by the limitation of wealth enforced by the upper class (to say nothing of the fact that equal distribution would not avert this consequence).

Not trying to get all Marxist on everyone; I'm aware that probably has a little bit of a lean that way on it.
As for China, I don't know too much about the history of economic class conflict and such, but it would be an interesting project to contrast the American structure of "wealth hating" with the Chinese one, which I'm sure precedes Mao.

Guest's picture
Liz K

...but corporations. In America, corporations are the true evil. Whereas a rich person may choose not to share their wealth, many corporations actively steal wealth from others with absolutely no conscience. Insurance companies lobby Congress to give them full power to deny claims at will, credit card companies fight for their right to fleece their customers, agribusiness kills the individual farmer and banks destroy our economy and their shareholder's retirement by pursuing greed.

And of course it is the people, desperate to protect their wealth, that allow these corporations free reign. Not just the people in Congress who pass the laws or the shysters who wage wars for profit, but every single one of us that votes to keep corporations running the nation because we're terrified of losing even our own small little slice of the pie.

And therein lies the real truth. The ultimate evil has never been rich people even though some people may focus their frustrations on them. The ultimate evil is greed, whether it is a single person, unwilling to share their bounty with the less fortunate or a corporation seeking profit regardless of the cost.

Guest's picture

@liz - corporations are just a form of ownership of a company.

Arguably, the corporation is more evil than an individual who owns a company, because the corporation is supposed to make a profit, within the parameters of the law. The law is pretty permissive, while an individual's morals are generally less permissive than the law. (That is, unless one is a Satanist - then "do what thou wilt" and do whatever it takes to make the money.)

But, the rich are not free of greed either. How else did most of them get rich? It's usually because they desired more money. In my experience, unless you're uniquely talented and controlled by a svengali, you're not going to get wealthy without making the effort.

I'm not saying I'm free of greed. I'm moderately greedy. You have to be, to have a reasonable retirement in this economy. If you don't learn to accumulate, you may end up a homeless street person. That's the American way, so, being in America and all, you have to be a little greedy.

And to get rich, I mean really rich, you need to hire people and make a profit off of them. Suppose that you do the "normal" thing and contract out janitorial services for your business, so instead of paying $12 an hour to the custodians, you can pay a subcontractor $12 an hour, and avoid payroll taxes. You know that their workers make minimum wage, and the business owner is skimming on your behalf. Is that evil?

Guest's picture

Oh I have so many thoughts about this post ranging from Communist China with its oppressive regime (which America keeps pumping money into), to the lower economic class in America with its "give me, the government owes me" attitude (not all are like that, but it's prevalent), to our illegal immigration issues.

So many thoughts but I'm not ambitious enough to type them all out. It would be a long read.

What is truly inside you comes out when you have excessive spendable income or when you don't have enough to pay the bills in spite of wise choices. One of the many reasons why you should be so picky about who you listen to regarding financial advice. Choose your mentors very carefully. Guard what you let your mind and heart take in. There are so many "gurus" out there, but many I can blast about because of their deeper beliefs/issues they may not talk directly about, but you can see in their writings and hear it in their chatter.

Guard your heart and mind and feed yourself properly.

Guest's picture
The Bum

"Money, pardon the expression, is like manure. It's not worth a thing unless it's spread around, encouraging young things to grow." -- Hello Dolly.

I think that pretty much sums it up. I would also add that if it doesn't get spread around, it starts to stink.

Guest's picture

I don't believe most people think that a working businessperson is among the "evil rich". The Evil Rich are people like Wall St. bankers, who buy up stocks on-the-cheap from the masses whenever there's a scare, then sell the stocks back to people at higher prices later on and pocket the difference; thereby sucking wealth out of the middle class and into their pockets. The Evil Rich are people running the multi-national corporations that send jobs to China where they can get the work cheaper, because China doesn't protect their people from externalities (like pollution), but do absorb many of the costs of health care with a nationalized system. These same Evil Rich run ads at home talking up their "environmental initiatives", and sit in Washington D.C. lobbying against universal health care because it would create a tax they can't legally dodge. The Evil Rich are the klatch of corporate executives and big shareholders that create wealth on paper just long enough to convert it into "real" money, and then walk away and leave everyone else to watch their investments collapse as the shady accounting breaks down (think Enron - but it's far more widespread than just that incident, and everyone knows it). No, the Evil Rich aren't the guys busting their butts running a plumbing business while they struggle to provide health insurance for their family, or the family trying to run a local grocery store up against a Wal-Mart. We know who the Evil Rich are. We may have a hard time defining them, but as Justice Potter Stewart wrote, "I know it when I see it."

Guest's picture

I completely agree with BrandonW. Greed drives those already with money to send jobs out of this country, to set up the average homeowner with a 'rug-pulling trick' mortgage that appeals to the homeowners own greed but then robs him of his property. Greed drives businesses to want cheaper and cheaper resources but to not care that they are cutting the economic heart out of their own country. Will the recent buyout of a private financial firm by the US government teach any of them a lesson? Not a chance. We will continue to watch as 'the evil rich' strip the life out of the United States, all in the name of 'capitalism', the meaning of which they have perverted to mean 'profit at any and all cost', even if it means the death of our country as we have known it. Thus are the 'rich' evil, unthinking, selfish monsters.

Guest's picture

Behind every great fortune there lies a great crime. It's impossible to get rich by being ethical. Jabber all you want; protest all you want; spit out anecdotes till your face turns blue. All wise people know that wealth is the product of crime.

Guest's picture

Great Post. Points out the irony of our time: as capitalism takes root in communist China, it's under attack here in the U.S.

Andrian's response (above) highlights the way a Liberal mind thinks. It comes from basic envy. Basic tenet of modern American Liberalism is wealth redistribution.

The majority of people do not care for capitalism because it means they have to strive to become more productive. It also leads to an unflattering comparison to those more productive. We can't have that - it makes people feel bad about themselves.

As people become used to living on the the governmental teat, they become less personally responsible. Unfortunately, the ones who benefit from government largess vastly outnumber the productive ones.

The rich are an easy target for the tyranny of the majority.

Guest's picture

Of course there is nothing inherently evil about wealth. The question is: How was it gotten?

- Was it inherited or did you work your tail off?
- Did you step on people or was it a race such that the best man won?
- Did you accumulate more wealth and power than you will ever need or did you show others the way, since there is more than enough to go around?

There is this false idea that was transplanted from England that the wealthy have an obligation to help those that are not as fortunate. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many people become quite wealthy providing needed and appreciated goods and services in an ethical and honest manner.

Guest's picture

Greed is greed. Many of the richest, like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros, and Ted Turner are humanitarians.

But there are many neocons who would like to destroy our way of life, because they resent paying taxes and supporting the disabled and elderly. To them, I say, "**** off.


Guest's picture

The wealthy have all invariably not earned their money. In other words they have stolen it from others. Certainly others are jealous that they haven't accomplished as much evil; but they also legitimately resent injustice.

At one time the aristocracy could at least boast that they fostered the arts and culture. In capitalism you have people like Walton or Bush or Gates who obstruct or reverse human progress.

Guest's picture

Yes, they have inherited it. Whether they worked for it or not, it is not possible to be rich without caring less and less about poverty. Why??? because if it broke your heart, than you would automatically commit most of your time and money to doing something about it. When you go to work, you are going to a dictatorship daily. when we could rearrange things so that everyone is a contributor and all get equal benefits. The earth has more than enough resources to house and feed and clothe everyone on it. Why we don't?? Because the rich don't want it.

Guest's picture

Dusty, I don't know anyone - anyone - that resents paying taxes to support those that are unable to support themselves. I would also hazard a guess that I know a great deal more wealthy people than you!

Dusty and Wilson are in the same class - losers, in the financial sense, that are envious of the productive class. They have no idea what it takes to run a business.

To those who wish taxes were higher, I have a simple plan - why don't you donate more?

Guest's picture

Wow, lots of people here with anger issues regarding "rich" people. I guess when they read the (mis)quote about money being the root of all evil, they stopped reading and missed the part in the same book about "thou shall not envy," or "thou shall not bear false witness" (like accusing the "rich" of getting acquiring their wealth through illegal or immoral means).
I have two questions in particular for those who think inheritance is an "illegitimate" means of acquiring wealth. I work hard for my money. I have a son who will probably never be able to provide for himself. If things work out as planned, I will be leaving him a sizable estate when I die. So my questions are 1. Who are you to tell me what to do with the money I earn or who to leave it to? And 2. Who are you to judge my son for inheriting the money I choose to leave to him?


Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

Obviously there is a lot of different opinions on what is "rich". Some say that those who are not "obscenely" rich are not evil, and those who are extremely wealth are absolutely evil. Let me tell you the extent of "rich" that were persecuted in China. My grandfather's family owned a small plot of farmland a couple generations before world war II. However, they were branded landlords anyway in the 1960s even though they no longer owned that land because the Communist party took back all land in 1949. So they threw my grandfather in jail and later labor reeducation camp. This is something that happened to a lot of families in China. They traced capitalism in each family's lineage for several generations and blacklisted people even though they were already poor.

So could it get that bad in America? I don't believe so, but obviously there is a lot of anger towards even professionals who earn above average incomes and I find that resentment towards people who work hard for their wealth to be unjust and evil.

Guest's picture
poor and broke

I don't equate "rich" with "evil" but it's a fact that the rich have more ways to exploit the poor than the poor have to exploit the rich.

For example, the usual landlord-tenant relationship is a zero-sum game. My loss is the landlord's gain. Since rent (for a room in a house with eight other people) consumes more than half my income, this constitutes a major depletion of my meager resources.

My landlord owns the house and rents out bedrooms. His rental income is more than twice his mortgage payment. So he lives in his house for free and gets richer every month. (Where do I sign up for a money-making deal like this?) He's not evil but I feel like a cash cow being milked.

And I feel trapped - since so much money is going to rent, I cannot save up enough money to move to a cheaper place.

Guest's picture

@ken - the little stories I told in my post were not "bearing false witness". They both happened. One was to my friend, and the other was to me. These are what I'd call "evil" situations. What's most evil about the situations, though, is that the perpetrators are generally clueless about the harm they're doing. They worship so hard at the temple of Mammon that they're oblivious to the paupers at the door.

Also, if your son can't work for himself, it's fine to leave him money. In fact, I know someone who is in that very situation, and I'm glad that he's got his money, because, otherwise, his life would have been a lot more difficult if not impossible. I'd rather that he live than die, and it's the money that makes living possible.

On the other hand, inheritance is inherently undemocratic, and encourages sloth. Most of our Founding Fathers would have agreed - even capitalist favorite Ben Franklin suggested that we abolish inheritance. That's a 100% estate tax payable on death.

@xin - it's interesting that they railed against the rich, but not against the powerful. Then they used their power to strip peasants of their small land holdings, to consolidate capital in the name of "the people". Then, they needed a scapegoat for their failure to achieve their promises, and picked the bourgeoisie as their whipping boys.

The big difference between a communist country and a capitalist one is that the capitalists scapegoat the poor instead of the rich. The poor are blamed for so many of our problems. Drugs? Blame the poor. Crime? Blame the poor. Poverty? Blame the poor. In a recession? Blame government spending on welfare. Can't end this Iraq war? Blame those Shiites in Sadr City who are impoverished (because, somehow, the wealthier Sunni who are funding terrorism aren't mentioned much)

Meanwhile, the powerful are hiding their power, and consolidating their capital holdings. Sometimes, it's called invasion, other times, it's eminent domain, and other times, Manifest Destiny (aka, gentrification).

Guest's picture

Hi wildgift,
I wasn't referring to yours or others' relating their experiences, but to comments like...

"Behind every great fortune there lies a great crime. It's impossible to get rich by being ethical."


"The wealthy have all invariably not earned their money. In other words they have stolen it from others."


Guest's picture
Canadian girl

The tie in with religion is interesting, especially since the Pope took a lot of pot shots at the rich in the last set of "deadly sins."

I've been sitting here for half an hour trying to write a response to some of the comments. They stun me. It's so easy to judge people who have more money than we do or less money than we do. Easy to make generalizations without any evidence, and easy to stick with the attitudes that make us comfortable even if they aren't right. Easy to put down others because they don't have what we have, or know as many wealthy people as we do.

I agree with Ken. Pride and envy are just as harmful as the love of money, and it's interesting how closely these three things are related.

Guest's picture

Wonderful post! I really enjoyed it, particularly your first-hand insight regarding China and communist rule.

Guest's picture

............still comes down to the jealousy people harbor towards those who have more

That's the answer, people just cannot stand when someone have more than them, especially when the person is in the same age bracket as you

Guest's picture

Xin Lu, I would appreciate your opinion on this article about China and how it fared under Communism. Is it acurate, do you think?


Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

From the accounts of my parents, grandparents, and friends in the generation of Chinese baby boomers that essay seems quite accurate. Only recently have people in China started to talk about this period in history openly. When I was young my mom told me what happened but she warned me not to talk about it because telling the stories could be seen as dissent behavior.   A lot of crazy stuff happened and a lot of lives were ruined. Many of these things can't even be imagined by Americans.

Guest's picture
John Krumm

While there is some class resentment in this country, for the most part the opposite is true. People with money are presented as virtuous, without regard for how they earned their money (most really rich people inherit much of their money, for instance). People without money are presented as lacking various positive character traits (and that must be why they don't have money) again without regard for their personal circumstances.

There is, though, a kind of idealized middle class presented by Hollywood, usually with perfect houses and furniture that could only be afforded by much wealthier people. And these folks are presented as "very good" in contrast to certain evil super rich people who they must battle with (and who they always defeat). But that's Hollywood.

Guest's picture

I think it's not as much a matter of wealth as a lack of personal responsibility and the perceptions and motivations because of it. The "evil rich" feel entitled to act irresponsibly or harmfully because they feel entitled to do so, and/or they have the means to buy themselves out of any consequences that will occur, if any. Wealth and power will inevitably give some a certain level of leniency when it comes to punishment.

Does that mean money and wealth are evil? No. The individual is ultimately responsible for their actions, although many do not want to acknowledge this. Those who understand that their actions have consequences for others are the philanthropists and activists that use their means to help others.

And this attitude of not being personally responsible for one's actions is not singular to the wealthy. You can find people of all classes who have this belief or code of behavior. It's not about the grand gestures that makes a person "good" or "evil", but the daily actions that defines them.

Guest's picture

I really don't. I guess I'm just appalled at how we easily generalize both the rich and poor.

I think it's not about rich or poor making someone evil; it's a person's own actions and attitudes regardless of economic status that decide that.

I mean, I know lots of rich people who pay their bills. Yes, there are those who don't but that doesn't mean all rich people don't pay their bills. Even if those same rich people who didn't pay their bills were poor, they probably still wouldn't pay their bills. So their selfishness doesn't come from being rich.

And I disagree with the idea that every fortune was unethically gained. I concede that it is occasionally harder to gain money ethically, but it can be done. Someone I know well got rich because he worked an average of 20-hour days, seven days a week for almost twenty years. He saved the money, started and expanded a business, and paid his employees fairly. Now, he helps small entrepreneurs start up business ideas and supports local farmers and charities. With someone like that, how can every fortune be unethically gained?

I really hope that class warfare disappears altogether one day. It's painful to see how it affects so many good people --- whether rich, poor, or in between --- the wrong way.

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I think that if you have a closet, a bed and a refrigerator, you're richer than 75% of the world.

I think that our culture, which doesn't see a problem with spending money on breast implants, designer clothes and McMansions while others go hungry, have no health insurance or are taught in dilapidated classrooms is twisted.

I think that many of the wealthy came by that wealth through family connection, access to excellent schools or other advantages that the poorest in our country don't have.

I think that the playing field isn't as level as we Americans would like to imagine.

I think that if we all measured the humanitarian value of what our wealth could buy, we'd feel ashamed at what we've wasted our American wealth on.

This flash presentation makes one think.

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Just a singular case here: Well I've been among the self-made upper percentile of wealth, and working strenuously to improve the lot of the impoverished "Third World" for my long career. In this field, there have been other volunteers from very wealthy backgrounds. I would wager to say that most of genuine rich-philanthropy I've seen across Asia, Africa and Latin America have worked hard all their lives, had investment portfolios or trust funds, and now are taking tremendous personal risks and humility to go into unstable conditions, learn four or five local languages, and work insane hours for low pay in order to really be humanitarian.

On the contrary, the corruption and greed comes from mostly from locals. Even on a short-term, their martyr attitude is, "We're the poor victims, we've never had opportunities, the rich owe us something, we never had a good family, we live in conflict, take-take-take" They fight over petty sums, steal, and don't want anybody else in their community to succeed, and they don't want to know that other people have also had tremendous difficulties, so they backstab and gossip about those who demonstrate a will to do better.

Yes, generalizing, but this often is 90% of the frustration of really working with the "underprivileged." I can tell you that as the rich one, the presence of humanitarianism and what it represents has bothered the have-nots. The locals who derive some power trip of doing things poorly and making the "rich" volunteers pick up the slack to work 12 to 14+ hour days, and the underlying tension is that they assume the rich are automatically bad, even if they themselves wouldn't ever dream of working hard to help someone else from another culture. "It's that we don't know how..." but they really haven't wanted to learn either. Sometimes it's a combo of jealousy + resentment + lacking ambition + not having inherent talent or intelligence. I'm also speaking from the perspective that in good will I have helped bring in most of the increase in their funding revenue to be sustainable, and I am often their scape goat. There is no good deed that goes unpunished.

PS: Our idea of how destitute the world is, is grossly exaggerated by the philanthropy industry and media interests and the ignorance of North Americans and Europeans.

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Like the writer, I'm also against the popular belief that money is the root of all evils. But when money translates into greed, that is, when people run after money for money's sake, it can really prove demonic. That said, love for money equals love for life.

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The reason they are labeled evil is because so many rich in corporations are so greedy and want more and more money that they sacrifice jobs in the name of greed. For instance, they will get rid of hard workers in favor of workers they found overseas that can do the same work at a very very low wage. They will also get up and state that we are in a global market economy and must compete against the counterparts that are in these other low paid counties. The plain and simple truth is that one can't compete against others when it costs more to buy housing, food, etc. then it remotely does in these other countries. These items, all of which have been driven higher in price by the rich as well, make it impossible for us to take lower wages.

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I believe that without the rich hundreds of millions of people would be out of jobs.  The superstars of corporations built their company from the ground up with LOTS OF HARD WORK.  Then they provide jobs for the rest of the world.  They give money to charities and on their free time they volunteer.  Most lower- and middle-class people do not see the hard work that gets put in to big businesses.  They only see the success.  If only they could see how many times a rich person has failed.  The only difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich don't give up...not that they're evil.

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why is it that any criticism of the wealthy is always immediately followed by charges of jealousy and resentment? it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the immorality of greed, and the recklessness of unbridled materialism, could it? or perhaps the abuses of people who amass their fortunes on the backs of the working poor, without ever doing a hard days work themselves? greed is a destructive and immoral force, it's a disease, and it is doing more to ruin this world of ours than to benefit it with such transitory and rather dubious benefits as "jobs" for us ungrateful members of the working class. the earth provides our sustenance, not the wealthy, though they do love to take credit for it. all the wealthy do is siphon off the fruits of our labors to live in their own disgusting and self-absorbed worlds of luxury. but what they do affects everyone, no one acts out their lives within a bubble, so it is everyone's consequences what they choose to do with their wealth.

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Fantastic post!

I come from New Zealand and have only started thinking about this issue recently upon moving to a very liberal city full of left wing extremists who hate the government, money, power and anything to do with it. Furthermore I've enrolled in an Art institution where we actually have lectures that imply that money and anyone who has it is evil.

These views are a bit extreme for me, I know that there are some very misinformed people running this country and that a lot of big businesses here don't put their wealth to any good, but I think compared to other places we have an overwhelming amount of kind millionaires.
When I was a child my mother was a house wife and my Dad worked doing whatever he could on a small farm that was one of the many properties owned by one of the country's richest men. My father's boss gave us so much, anything we needed. He offered to send me to one of the most expensive girls schools in the country for all of my schooling years paid in full (which my parents greatfully declined, probably for the better), he sent us for holidays within the coutnry and overseas, he had us over for dinner often, and invited us to all of his family's important events even though we were just the poor workers.

He is just one example of many kind millionaires who treat working class people as his friends and nothing less. Yet still all around me my peers are crying out that all people who come from wealth are evil and that money is only imaginary etc!

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Great article! It's so true that rich are often equated with evil, but it's so not true. I do think it's jealousy that caused the propaganda in the first place. :)

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Wealth is vilified because socialists want to condition the non-wealthy to be jealous and resentful of those who are wealthy. Because if they can condition them to be resentful, they are more likely to be complicit when the socialists impose onerous and confiscatory taxes, or just out-and-out seize the assets of the wealthy. They will be more willing to stand by and do nothing when the government employs illegal and/or anti-democratic

There were no no-bid contracts in Iraq. The no-bid contract story is a lie made up by and perpetuated by the Antis. The contracts all were let in advance. The governmental contracting process moves at a glacial pace, and it is a bit unrealistic (read: stupid) to expect the Marines fighting for Fallujah to wait two years for the process to run its course before they are resupplied with beans and bullets. So those contracts are let in advance on a bid basis so the troops would not be kept waiting for the essentials.