NY Times: Other People’s Suffering; Greed is a robust determinant of unethical behavior

Will the presidential election be decided by how compassionate voters feel this year? The publication last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior” provided fresh fodder for the liberal critique of the Republican Party and the corporate ethic.

 

A third scholarly essay, “Power, Distress, and Compassion: Turning a Blind Eye to the Suffering of Others,” produced similarly striking findings. In a test measuring empathy, each participant was assigned to listen, face to face, from two feet away, to someone else describing real personal experiences of suffering and distress…

 

Republicans recognize the political usefulness of objectification, capitalizing on “compassion fatigue,” or the exhaustion of empathy, among large swathes of the electorate who are already stressed by the economic collapse of 2008, high levels of unemployment, an epidemic of foreclosures, stagnant wages and a hyper-competitive business arena.

 

By THOMAS B. EDSALL