In his latest TCS Daily essay, Arnold Kling writes, “As we get wealthier, we also become enhanced physically, cognitively, and morally, leading to a virtuous cycle of improvements to the standard of living.” Does affluence leads to moral progress?
I don’t think there’s any necessary connection, and there’s plenty of counter-evidence, not least of which are the moral atrocities of the 20th century. But what about more mundane examples? In today’s WSJ, Kay S. Horowitz writes about the exploits of female celebrities, who model and exemplify “the first rule of contemporary American girlhood: to show that you are liberated, take it off.”
Indeed, in examining the link between wealth and morality (if there is any link), one need perhaps look no further than Paris Hilton, the wealthy heiress who exercises minimal moral reasoning and personifies the phrase “idle rich.”
Horowitz observes, “Why men have become more discreet than women, assuming they have, is one of those cultural mysteries that is yet to be solved.”
The sixth-century monastic John Climacus, reflecting the moral insights of his time, wrote this: “The great concern of the good Lord for us is shown by the fact that shyness acts as a curb on the shamelessness of women. For if the woman chased the man, no flesh would be saved.”
In the words of Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of the current Speaker of the House, “if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I’ll take Jesus.”