Skip to content

The wealthy are often sociopathic. Why?

Last updated on 27 Feb 2019

I have been encountering, in these days of political “incorrectness” (i.e., bastardry), more and more well-to-do folk who treat other folk as if they were lesser beings. Ranging from stepping over homeless people (literally) to failing to give way when you drive a Korean car and they a European one (or some varieties of Japanese).

I used to think this was down to a sense of entitlement. But then I started to notice that these same folk would accuse others of behaving the way they did (and who were not in fact doing so). For example, I have a rule of thumb: if a hard right “conservative” accuses “liberals” (or, as we say in Australia, progressives) of some heinous behaviour, you can take it for granted they are themselves doing that very thing, or wish they were. I call this Conservative Projection.

Why? Why are the well-off so sociopathic? Heredity, of the genetic variety, won’t account for it, as it fails to match the usual statistical proportions for such traits. Too may wealthy are sociopaths, no matter how long their family have been monied. So are they sociopaths because they are wealthy (does wealth dispose one towards sociopathy) or are they wealthy because they are sociopaths (are sociopathic tendencies preconditions for accruing wealth)? Probably both, but I think subsequent generations are unlikely to be as sociopathic as the founding generation of wealth, and so it is pretty clear to me that a state of wealth leads to a failure to empathise with others.

This also explains why the oligopolists (like Rupert Murdoch, Trump, the Kochs, etc.) are so racist, sexist and classist; their being wealthy means they have never been able to properly socialise.


  1. Is there any evidence that wealthier people are more sociopathic? Lots of poor people are sociopathic too, we just don’t take as much notice (mostly because there are less consequnences to society, per individual at least). Lots of wealthy people are not sociopathic, and actually contribute in a positive way. So maybe there is no correlation at all. Not saying there isn’t, I just dpn’t know.

  2. Alvis Alvis

    I offer the repeated experimental and observational case of
    people standing at a non controlled cross walk.
    the likelyhood of a car stopping to let a pedestrian pass, seems to show that the more expensive the car, the less likely to stop for a pedestrian.
    I Think this is a result, a side effect of priviledge. When new to priviledge, a person is surprised and pleased, but over time comes to expect those perks and more.

  3. Jim Harrison Jim Harrison

    We could turn this around and ask why non-wealthy people tend to act morally (to the extent they do). After all, if bad behavior requires an explanation (the effects of privilege or bad genes or a bad relationship with your parents, whatever), doesn’t good behavior call for an explanation too? One suggestion along these lines: people with modest levels of wealth and power can maintain their sense of control and self respect by following universal moral rules, especially if they can demonstrate their superiority to mere circumstance by paying some real-world price for doing the right thing. I know this idea sounds cynical, but I’m not suggesting that right isn’t right, just that the pure respect for the call of duty isn’t a very plausible motive.

    • Jeb Jeb

      I think people with greater levels of wealth and power also use a form of perceived universal moral rules to maintain a non-prejudiced self- image while viewing other social groups with extreme prejudice.

      Meritocracy a significant legitimizing myth.

      Because racism/ sexism, should not exist in a meritocracy, it therefore does not exist.

      Wealth and successes are open to all and are the result of greater intelligence, hard work etc. etc.

      A perfect world run by perfect people who through sheer merit reach positions of great authority and privilege.

      The existence of racism and sexism contradicts this worldview, individuals higher up the food chain are highly motivated to engage in denying the existence of such factors.

    • For some reason the second paragraph of my comment disappeared. I had written:

      In a more-or-less rational world without huge disparities in wealth and power, it might be reasonable to assume that doing the right thing is the default state for normal people. That’s not our situation. In our world, the benighted can’t afford to do the right thing while the rich don’t need to. Their selfishness is the real default. You might as well wonder why a dog licks his balls. It’s the persistence of decency that calls for a special explanation. I expect that an adequate explanation would be more sociological than psychological.

    • Jeb Jeb

      Using a subject for whom decency is an alien concept makes for a good vehicle of discovery.

      At some point its going to raise the question as you have done.

  4. John the Plumber John the Plumber

    The ‘thumbs up’ like button default is ‘0 likes’. It would be better set to ‘0 dislikes’. Its default has it that nobody likes any response. Whoever started the idea of ‘likes’ clearly was not an obsessive compulsive doubter – and poor with it – like me, He/she was sure that if he/she ever wrote a post, everyone would like it and click the like button immediately – because everyone is like him/her.

    The successful rich and right people tend to live without doubt. They do not worry as I do that the dear old lady, who’s leak I have just fixed, can or cannot afford the price I would like to charge. The rich just add 10% after doubling the figure they first thought of and fire in the bill without a care. (Actually most old ladies are cantankerous not dear)

    So the subject is the evolution of caring – against that of not caring. What was the default position when we came down from the trees – compared to the position after Herbert Spencer had coined the phrase The Survival of the Fittest, endorsing the idea of trample on the next man as the winning way to proceed?

  5. Jeb Jeb

    “Now we get a rude and a reckless
    We been seen lookin’ cool an’ speckless
    We been drinking brew for breakfast
    Rudie can’t fail”

  6. AC Harper AC Harper

    “The wealthy are often sociopathic. Why?”

    Because it works well enough for them? Does the title reverse cause and effect? Does the research find the answers it looked for in the metaphors it used?

    I have no idea. I am deeply suspicious of answers in social science that are phrased in terms of values.

  7. Oxyaena Oxyaena

    Hey, John, it’s Oxyaena from, wanted to say two things:

    Hello from! Long time no see.

    and 2) I’ve noticed a similar tendency towards sociopathy amongst the wealthy, and if I remember correctly there is a higher chance for the rich to be sociopaths than the poor, so if there were, say, 100 CEOs in a room 40 of them would be sociopaths.

Comments are closed.