Social Question

birdland33's avatar

Why do 'liberals' seem to scorn wealth and treat it as if it is unethical to be wealthy?

Asked by birdland33 (1567points) November 12th, 2010

Wealth is a word that is scorned by liberals, yet in the same breath they say money is something to be ashamed of they say you need to stay in school so you can get a better job.

What is the reason for the disdain of wealth? why is it acceptable for the likes of John Kerry and Michael Moore, both of whom have bank accounts of tens of millions of dollars, to make people who disagree with their political ideologies out to be anything less than just as righteous as they?

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28 Answers

syz's avatar

I consider myself a liberal, and I don’t scorn wealth. I scorn those who build and maintain their wealth at the expense of all others, who break the rules, who have dubious morals, and who seem to have little or no redeeming value outside of their literal value.

rts486's avatar

The liberals I know only scorn wealth when it’s not theirs. When they can get their hands on money, they love it. Look at the liberal leaders in the U.S. They are stinking rich while talking about wanting to redistribute wealth. Notice how none of them have redistributed their own wealth.

iamthemob's avatar

Liberals don’t scorn wealth any more than conservatives. It’s difficult, objectively, for anyone to justify why someone shouldn’t feel wrong being mega-wealthy and spending on super-luxuries when, you know…money they would never miss could save hundreds of lives.

birdland33's avatar

And there are plenty of liberals and conservatives that have built their wealth and maintain it at the expense of others. Somehow, only conservatives are stigmatized with that notion, or so it seems.

I am conservative with my money and work long days for the salary I earn. I want to keep what I earn. I should not be viewed as a medieval land baron for wanting that, nor should anyone else that does the same. This is not to say that I am wealthy by any means.

If you earn your keep legally and ethically you ought to keep it and not have to defend your station in life, yet somehow it seems that there is a lot of justifying that has to be done by people whose views are right of center, while people whose views are left of center get a pass.

iamthemob's avatar

@birdland33 – where have you seen evidence of this imbalance.

janbb's avatar

Questions like this are so loaded with false assumptions that they don’t deserve serious debate.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Your writing is usually a lot better than “t’s difficult, objectively, for anyone to justify why someone shouldn’t feel wrong being mega-wealthy and spending on super-luxuries”, @iamthemob.

Why should people feel wrong for spending money? It really does “make the world go ‘round”. I guess I have a problem (philosophically) with wasting money in a waste of resources. But after all, those ‘resources’ were gotten (from wherever they were gotten) by people who worked for a living to get them, so it’s not all ‘waste’.

I can see the objection that people have to vast concentrations of wealth being used to obtain more wealth, and political power and control over large populations. But I fail to see why anyone should feel guilty spending money just because “that money could be used by ‘x’ to do ‘y’ or ‘z’.” Sure it could, but the money doesn’t belong to ‘x’. Should I feel guilty for buying a boat this summer (it’s a really small boat), when I could have donated the money to the 90% of the world that is less well off than I am? Should I feel bad about buying groceries this weekend?

Yeah, and what @janbb just said.

iamthemob's avatar


I never said that anyone should feel wrong. I do think that we should recognize that some of the things that we consider necessities are really nice-ities, but that’s not what I was talking about above.

I said that it’s difficult to think of a valid argument to support why someone should feel completely fine being mega-wealthy (here, again, I’m talking about the mega-wealthy) and spend the money on 20 of these cars, 15 of these $2000 pairs of shoes, etc. – the super-luxuries. These people misplace more money than much of the world will ever see. As much as I support, objectively, people’s right to do as they please with their money, I can’t formulate an argument myself that would sound reasonable if someone were to ask such a person, “Why are you buying that? You know that you could save thousands of people, right now, with that money right?”

Mikewlf337's avatar

It’s called hypocrisy.Bleeding heart Liberals tend to contradict themselves. Average liberals tend to hold to their beliefs much like conservatives do and don’t piss off 90% of the population with their whining. Bleeding heart Liberals can get very annoying when they start spilling their bleeding hearts and telling everyone how to do things and telling everyone that they need to change who they are and how they live. Wealth is something they tend to want for themselves. I have seen this. One bleeding heart Liberal I know and wish I never met tends to spill her heart and shove her views down everyones throat. She gets very angry at people who disagrees with her and tries to find ways to get back at them. She is very wealthy or at least her husband is. She is spoiled by him. She paid $80 for a tank top! It look like something that would cost $5 at walmart! She always tries to find ways to get money from people. She acts as if wealth for others is a big problem but she herself is wealthy.

filmfann's avatar

I have never heard a liberal say this. Can you site examples?
Famous rich Liberals:
John Kerry
John Edwards
Katherine Hepburn
The Kennedys
Gavin Newsom
Jerry Brown

ducky_dnl's avatar

Do you mean why do some people complain about the wealth of others, or why do some people think wealth should be redistributed? Liberals and conservatives both complain about wealth, it may come more from liberals, but some conservatives do it nonetheless. I am a conservative, btw. I don’t care what people do with their money because it’s their money. I don’t believe people should have the right to take someones hard earned money because they can’t afford the things they need. It isn’t fair, but some people think the Robin Hood act is what’s best. I don’t. People complain mostly because of jealousy. Some people were brought up to think “well if he has $10,000,000… I should have $10,000,000” That’s not true for all people though. Some people just want people to pay for their lifestyle. Again, this isn’t true for everyone. Also, liberalism has a few communist foundations. Everyone is equal is one of those foundations. People need to suck it up and accept the truth, that not everyone is equal. Do you think I am as smart or as talented as Leonardo da Vinci? Nope. Therefore that proves I’m not equal. In life, I will always have a person who beats me in the eyes of others. Same for everyone. Liberals don’t want to hear this. They, just like some conservatives, want to believe other wise. But, anyway, I gave you your answer. Jealousy and the every is equal method of thinking.

iamthemob's avatar

@ducky_dnl – The more drastic the increase in the gap between the rich and poor, the more regressive the effect of the income tax is if it is spread evenly. An increase in 1% of one class’s income is completely different in effect than 1% of someone who makes twice as much. The percentages, however, at this point are pretty evenly matched: in 2007, the top 5% of income earners paid over half of the federal income tax revenue – however, as of 2004, the top 5% hold 59.2% of wealth; the top 1% of income earners paid 25% of the total income tax revenue – gain however, the top 1% hold 23.5% of wealth.

So here’s the thing – if you have 5% of the population with 60% of the revenue, and they’re paying 60% of the taxes, and lets say taxes eat up 30% of the total revenue, then the top 5% is taking home 40% of the revenue in the country. The other 95% of the population has the rest of the 40% of the gross revenue, and after the tax is taken out, they take home 30% of the money.

Therefore, in the end, 5% shares 40% of the annual revenue, and 95% share 30% of the annual revenue. Looking at it this way, we see that tax increases for the most wealthy affect the smallest part of the population that can handle it the most. If you spread the tax out across the population, then the wealthy are relieved of a burden they barely notice, but the rest of the country has to reevaluate their budget.

Put some cash on it. There are 100 people, and $100 for them. 5 of the people pay $20, and take $40 to split between them…so each person gets $8. the other 95 pay $10, and take the remaining $30 to split…and get 32 cents a piece. If we need to take $10 more dollars out for taxes, and we spread it evenly, the rich 5 pay $6 of it, and therefore split $34, and now have just under $7 ($6.80) a piece. The poor 95 pay $4, split $26…and now have only 27 cents a piece.

Now, if that entire burden is shifted to the top five, there’s a big drop in their take home, and it works out that they take home $6, and the 95 keep the 32 cents. If we assume that the 32 cents is enough to live on…then each of the top five, even in this situation, is making 19 times what they need to live. If we spread the cost, the 95 lose about 15% of their income and the 5 are making 21 times what they need to live.

Looking at it solely from the tax side, therefore, it’s difficult from a cost-spreading perspective to justify burdening 95% of the population with a 15% drop in their pay to something potentially below a living wage when they can shift the whole burden to the top 5% and those 5% would still be making enough to feed, cloth, and provide health care for themselves 19 times over.

AstroChuck's avatar

I smell troll farts.

marinelife's avatar

This is a vast generalization and untrue to boot.

iamthemob's avatar

Wait – what who?

Qingu's avatar

I don’t necessarily scorn wealth; I dispute that wealthy people must somehow objectively “deserve” their fortune.

So, for example, traders who make millions of dollars by essentially gambling with other people’s money, with no personal risk to themselves. I understand this is a very stressful job that requires long hours and intelligence. Millions of dollars? Bullshit. The don’t “deserve” that much money; they are reaping a windfall based on the structure of a broken and corrupt industry.

Do Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg “deserve” their billions and billions of dollars? They are both incredibly intelligent and hardworking. They were also lucky, and their fortunes are huge because they exploited a windfall in the market of tech evolution.

I do have scorn for conservatives worship the market as this all-knowing godlike entity that fairly and objectively divides up wealth. As it happens, many people with a lot of wealth conveniently have this ideology.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Most of the wealthy people I know are liberal, so I’m confused by this question.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

how many times are we going to get this q in different forms thrown at us
please link to me evidence that liberals are poor and conservatives are rich.

iamthemob's avatar

All this talk about what the right and the left do…it made me think of this thread about the near identical goals and moral beliefs of both sides.

wundayatta's avatar

Liberals believe that government should extend a helping hand to those who need help. They are willing to pay their fair share for that to happen. Wealthy people often seem to be anti-government, which sounds like they are against helping people, in the liberal eye. Therefore, wealthy people, however flawed the logic, are unethical in the sense that they don’t seem to care about the poor.

I leave it to you to track down the data showing whether the rich care or don’t. The most important part of that job is figuring out the criteria for “caring.”

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Qingu I don’t know of anyone, conservative, liberal, libertarian or other, who believes that “the market” is any kind of “entity”, godlike or otherwise. Most of us who appreciate “markets” look at them as a nominally free meeting place for nominally free exchange. No one has to be there, no one has to buy, and no one has to sell.

Do you believe in some kind of godlike entity who can redistribute wealth (and goods and services, since that’s the purpose of the exchanges in the first place) fairly, equitably, and to those who most need, want—and will pay for—all of them?

And by the way, the traders who make the most millions are very definitely risking their own money. If you want to argue against professional fund managers who receive millions in salary regardless of performance, that’s another matter. (But they’re sort of like weak-hitting shortstops with poor range in baseball’s Major Leagues: they may not be terribly effective, but they’re the best we could get, and they still cost millions.)

iamthemob's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – economists have, in fact, for years touted the glory of the efficient and rational market, attributing to it it’s own behavior separate and apart from those who interacted within and with it. It was the single greatest assumption that Greenspan and the Fed, as well as the Chicago School of Business, were working under when the market, quite irrationally, exploded. A large part of the reason why we’re here is because economists based their predictive formulas on the assumption that, although some people in the market behave irrationally, there would still be perfect enough information within it for the market on average to consume the damage.

Thew were very, very wrong.

ratboy's avatar

Paris Hilton, for example, earned every cent of her wealth. It’s not easy being a public floozy.

filmfann's avatar

ACK!!! Cite, not site!

ETpro's avatar

This liberal doesn’t. I own a small business and am steadily working to get wealthy. I will not feel the leaast bit of guilt when I manage to do so. I would say that Bill and Melinda Gates are pretty liberal, and they certainly can’t be accused of disdaining wealth. Warren Buffet is another who has certainly done well for himself. And of course there is the billionaire that all con men love to demonize, the man who with t only a billion dollars can somehow outspend the $37 trillion a year Fossil Fuel Industry, and all of Big Banks and Wall Street, and the Defense Contractors and Big Pharma and Big Agribusiness. The man who steals all elections Democrats win with his fortune—George Soros. Nobody would accuse him of being a right winger, nor does he seem ashamed of having done well for himself.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well-meaning liberals don’t scorn wealth. They think that wealth is both a right and a responsibility.

incendiary_dan's avatar

I’ve never heard a liberal scorn wealth. Hell, I barely ever even hear them have believable and substantive critiques of systems that create drastic income disparity and effectively funnel wealth to a corporate ruling class (but hey, I have high standards).

mattbrowne's avatar

The issue is how wealth is being used. I think it’s okay to scorn the purchase of a third yacht when someone wealthy already got two.

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