Why do rich people make poor decisions?

March 05, 2020

kottke.org published an article called "Why Do Poor People Make Bad Decisions?", referencing an article by Rutger Bregman about "why poor people make low-quality decisions".

If that opening gambit wasn't bad enough, I forced myself to read the rest. Apparently the reason poor people make bad decisions is because "living in poverty overwhelms their brains, decreasing cognitive ability by a significant amount". But it got worse. Two studies were quoted, both taking place in India and the USA (the latter looking at Cherokee families).

What is this classist, ableist, and racist crap? And what about the rich people who make notably poor decisions?

Let's look at five of the richest men (in wealth and influence):

  • Jeff Bezos
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Jack Dorsey
  • Elon Musk
  • Bill Gates

They've all made some pretty awful decisions in their time. Especially heinous, you might say. Were they attributed to decreased cognitive ability? No. It was all risk-taking, followed by resilience and admiration for getting back on the horse and trying again. They also had a shitload of money and privilege behind them. Those five men have had the luxury to make bad choices - which have affected people's lives - and get away with them. Look at Elon Musk calling someone a "pedo guy", being taken to court for defamation, and getting off. Or Mark Zuckerberg starting Facebook as a "hot or not" comparison site and then not bothering to fact check political ads? Jack Dorsey allowing fascists to roam free on Twitter while allowing victims face bans for fighting back. Or Jeff Bezos being absolute scum. Etc. Etc.

The final paragraph talks about Bregman's advocacy for a universal basic income (UBI), a 15-hour work-week, and open borders. It comes from his book Utopia for Realists and that's all well and good but then I saw a quote from the NYT calling Bregman "a more politically radical Malcolm Gladwell". Yuck. That's all I need to know. You can keep the book and the ideology. What you can do instead is listen to people of colour who have spoken at length for decades about the struggles their respective people have faced and what needs to be done.