The Myth of Noblesse Oblige

Dov Michaeli

Posted 3/4/12 on the Doctor Weighs In

In this season of hateful rhetoric and screams of “class warfare”, one cannot be blamed for perceiving people on the lower socioeconomic rungs as unprincipled, predatory, entitlements-moochers, and welfare cheats. President Reagan rode into office on the back of the “welfare queen” who, it turned out later, was invented out of whole cloth. But perceptions persist, and in politics perception trumps fact. Some social theorists even invoke Darwinism to describe the social environment of the lower classes as a Hobbsian, dog-eat-dog world. Except that in Darwin’s world dogs don’t eat dogs -they actually cooperate, which makes them extraordinarily successful hunters.

Recently, a raft of studies took a close look at the question of lower vs. upper socioeconomic behavioral patterns. And the results are truly amazing, albeit not surprising.

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