Can you inherit a tendency to be greedy, to work your proverbial arse off to get ahead financially, or is it something else? You never got enough atta-kids when you were young so you maintain your self-worth through accumulation of valuable stuff? I wondered about it recently when I read a column by economist, Paul Krugman. He argued the recent tax reform proposal, which benefits the super wealthy, wouldn’t make them any happier, I’ve heard the argument before. After some people have so much money they don’t know what to do with, they continue to seek more and more not because they need another yacht, but because it’s a way to keep score.
If you’re the CEO of Snicky Snacks and make 10 million per annum, you’re not happy since the average CEO earns 12.2 million per year. Everyone thinks they are above average so believe their salaries should reflect that. Krugman argues Scrooge McDuck won’t be happier because all wealthy get the same advantage.
Many personalities are genetic as every parent knows and behavioral science agrees. I was aware that traits like optimism vs. pessimism, outgoing vs shy, and fearful vs. courageous, were well-studied. But, I thought who would do a study on greediness?
I was wrong..A gene has been identified that correlates with selfishness. I found a book by Richard Dawkins called The Selfish Gene. He explores genes for selfishness and altruism, written in 1972 and updated twice. I ordered it as it sounds interesting.
In fact, scientists search for genetic evidence for all kinds of traits. As an example economists are interested in spending habits. If it’s true that money is a way of keeping score for the wealthy, then perhaps it’s due to a competitive gene.
In the past the study of separated identical twins dominated the research, and in fact, income is more closely correlated with identical twins vs fraternal twins than IQ. I’m not sure income disparity is due to greed, but there’s likely a correlation. However, with more information about our DNA, we may one day be able to predict all kinds of behavior.
I recall one savvy saying , “it doesn’t matter whether it’s nature or nurture, either way the parents are to blame.”