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Must excessive wealth change who one is?

Some studies have shown that power or perceived power – including excess wealth – changes the way people think and make decisions, especially in the ethical realm.

Guy Kawasaki said that being a mensch (a good person) is an important part of developing business skills, and yet: "This doesn’t mean that a mensch has to be wealthy. In fact, money usually renders a person unmenschionable. (If you ever want to understand what God thinks of money, look at who He gives it to.)"

In David Vann's novel Aquarium, a character says: "I’ve never believed the rich are unhappy. I think they close their doors on us and then can’t stop laughing."

Apart from how people behave when they are rich, some perceive it as immodest to be significantly richer than others. R. H. Tawney, who taught at the London School of Economics, wrote in 1920: “The manager of a great enterprise who is paid $400,000 a year, might similarly be described as a hundred-family man, since he receives the income of a hundred families....the truth is that these hundred-family salaries are ungentlemanly.”

But others argue that none of these things need be the case. Money is a thing convenient to have, and as long as it does not warp our values and priorities, it can be a force for good. Self-improvement guru Anthony Robbins said: "When I first started to make money, I started to catch hell for it. My friends disowned me. They said, 'You're into money. What's your problem?' I said, 'I'm not into money. I just have some.'"


Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. New York: Penguin, 2004. p. 213.

R. H. Tawney. The Acquisitive Society. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1920.

Anthony Robbins. Unlimited Power. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1986. p. 377.


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