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SigmaDarkTriad

Are the vast majority of successful people crooks?

43 posts in this topic

I was shopping for clothes today and I came across the clothing brand Crooks & Castles. According to the brand, the basic premise of it is the following:

"After years of learning the in’s and out’s of the business by starting a brand without knowledge of how to start or run a clothing company, we’ve finally come to this…”Crooks & Castles”! The concept was easy. “Crooks”, criminals, pimps, hustlers, thieves, etc. And “Castles” those who got rich by becoming a crook. From the robber barons of the early times like the Vanderbilts, the Rockerfellers, the Carnegies, to the modern day billionaires-Bill Gates & Microsoft. Those who stopped at nothing to get their “Castle”. We too hope one day to be the next rich crook."

Do you think this is a succinct summarization of life? Or do you think it is a bit cynical? Or do you think it is a combination of both?

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Andrew Carnegie was a huge philanthropist and left all his wealth to charity when he died, as he believed his children should build their own wealth. Although I'm ignorant to his business practices and wouldn't be surprised if they didn't hold up to today's standards.

One of my favorite authors, J.K. Rowling was a billionaire, until she gave away too much to charity to still be a billionaire, and her success is completely due to her own mind. Not crookedness.

I'm sure there are dozens upon dozens of examples of people who came by vast fortunes from talents or inventions or ideas that didn't screw people. And they deserve every penny.

And I'm also sure there are way more people who achieved it by crooked ends. I don't think they deserve their wealth and am dissatisfied with the system that allowed them to achieve success.

 

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No, but it seems to be a good way to get quick payouts, which probably draws a lot of people to it. The problem is that sustaining success through crooked means is quite rare. The mess that is made, and effort it takes, trying to conceal crookedness grows exponentially and eventually crooks tend to hang themselves on their own ropes. There are prominent exceptions of course (hola, el presidente!), but those tend to be outliers.  I'm not saying that being an angel promises success, but building up a reputation based on respect and ethics seems to be a better means of making sure that, once you are riding high, you continue to do so. Also, for people in very high positions which are commonly associated with "success" end up having to make a lot of tough decisions that may carry a lot of unintended consequences even with the best intentions in mind, so I don't think many escape without some blood on their hands.  

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Write the law and one will never be a crook. :p 

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Posted (edited)

I think the most important thing to know is that "being a good person" will not make you economically successful... being useful will. 

Theres no cosmic force out there making sure that nice people get nice things. Being a good person or a bad person can sometimes have its benefits and whatnot... but in most cases it's just being useful. And wether you are good or not, if you have a lot of money then many people will still hold you in high regard.

Edited by Muse

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It depends on your definition of 'crooked' since the higher you rise, the more you have to compromise. In that process, many lose sight of their morals since business is focused on results/production.

But I will throw in something that's certain to piss people off. The vast majority of people behave in self-interested ways, regardless of wealth or not. It's that the wealthy can do more damage since they have more power so they're skewered for behaving in similar fashion to the less wealthy. Analogous would be pit bulls vs chihuahuas. The latter can be vicious and yappy but no one takes them seriously since they can't do much damage.  And yet pit bulls are skewered for doing less, often banned from municipalities for being vicious animals. There are so many double standards in this SJ world.

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5 hours ago, Distance said:

It depends on your definition of 'crooked' since the higher you rise, the more you have to compromise. In that process, many lose sight of their morals since business is focused on results/production.

But I will throw in something that's certain to piss people off. The vast majority of people behave in self-interested ways, regardless of wealth or not. It's that the wealthy can do more damage since they have more power so they're skewered for behaving in similar fashion to the less wealthy. Analogous would be pit bulls vs chihuahuas. The latter can be vicious and yappy but no one takes them seriously since they can't do much damage.  And yet pit bulls are skewered for doing less, often banned from municipalities for being vicious animals. There are so many double standards in this SJ world.

I think this a great view on the matter. Really put things into perspective for me.

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6 hours ago, Distance said:

The vast majority of people behave in self-interested ways, regardless of wealth or not.

Hm, I do wonder about this statement, though it might be truer in cities such as New York, than it is in towns such as Malacca.

Since this thread takes wealthiness as the main indicator of success- 

Rich people and psychopaths tend to have 7 distinct traits in common

New Study: The Wealthy are more Unethical

I have the slightly unpopular view that particularly in places that aren't suffering economically (meaning little to no poverty or war), it takes a certain amount of thirst after grandeur, power and wealth, to compete to accumulate wealth and power (so not just to 'have' but to 'accumulate') and write the law of such a place, since the issue of having to choose between survival and ethics is less critical. 

In the end, the fundamental driver for each specific individual may be his/ her unique set of priorities, for instance, wealth vs. ethics. For instance, not all poor people will be willing to steal even if they are starving, while a person earning $1 million a year off selling essential goods will be trying to make the next million by raising prices, as long as people are still willing or still able to pay. 

 
 
...... added to this post 5 minutes later:
 
16 hours ago, EchoFlame said:

I'm sure there are dozens upon dozens of examples of people who came by vast fortunes from talents or inventions or ideas that didn't screw people.

I'd like to support the above point. I've met people whose families own listed MNC's who still opt to take home slightly below average income (of the city they're in) because they reinvest earnings to provide better services/ lower prices. 

 
 
...... added to this post 17 minutes later:
 

As with most social science research findings, the answer to the OP might change over time and it's likely that conflicting results already exist. Our own stance is probably heavily dependent on the types of people we encounter, our upbringing, our disposition and news that we're filtering for.

Personally, I'm inclined to think that money (and power) can be used for good or for bad-

Yes, Power Corrupts, But Power Also Reveals

Edited by zonsop

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I have known, and know, many millionaires.  I have also known more than my share of crooks (even a couple of New York Mob guys). 

The intersection of these groups is a tiny percentage of the whole.  Most rich people are honest, and most crooks are not rich.

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2 hours ago, zonsop said:

As with most social science research findings, the answer to the OP might change over time and it's likely that conflicting results already exist. Our own stance is probably heavily dependent on the types of people we encounter, our upbringing, our disposition and news that we're filtering for.

Personally, I'm inclined to think that money (and power) can be used for good or for bad-

Yes, Power Corrupts, But Power Also Reveals

It seems that there's evidence that power doesn't corrupt, but rather gives people the freedom to express what they're really like:

"Power frees us from the chains of conformity. As a team of psychologists led by Adam Galinsky finds, “power psychologically protects people from influence.” Because powerful people have plenty of resources, they don’t need to worry as much about the negative consequences of expressing their values. For givers, power is associated with responsibility to others. This means that power often grants givers the latitude to help others without worrying about exploitation by takers or sheer exhaustion. For takers, on the other hand, power is a license to advance their own interests."

Interesting link.

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Crooks are like athletes: most athletes are working in the service industry, and most crooks are in prison...yet everyone focuses on Lebron James and Jeff Immelt.

If you'll note: the richest all provide a critical service: trains, automobiles, oil, software, electronics, medications, food. Wealth is created by providing what people demand.

---

You can get rich by thievery...but your life will be that of the Mexican druglords: continual strife. And even those guys provide a demanded product (narcotics).

 

 

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3 hours ago, zonsop said:

Hm, I do wonder about this statement, though it might be truer in cities such as New York, than it is in towns such as Malacca.

Since this thread takes wealthiness as the main indicator of success- 

Rich people and psychopaths tend to have 7 distinct traits in common

New Study: The Wealthy are more Unethical

I have the slightly unpopular view that particularly in places that aren't suffering economically (meaning little to no poverty or war), it takes a certain amount of thirst after grandeur, power and wealth, to compete to accumulate wealth and power (so not just to 'have' but to 'accumulate') and write the law of such a place, since the issue of having to choose between survival and ethics is less critical. 

In the end, the fundamental driver for each specific individual may be his/ her unique set of priorities, for instance, wealth vs. ethics. For instance, not all poor people will be willing to steal even if they are starving, while a person earning $1 million a year off selling essential goods will be trying to make the next million by raising prices, as long as people are still willing or still able to pay. 

At a quick glance, did you notice these?

Quote

This is not to say all wealthy and successful people are psychopaths — after all, the four-times-higher rate of psychopathy among CEOs was still just 4%. But there is a correlation between wealth and psychopathic behavior. Here are some of the most common psychopathic traits exhibited by the rich.

Quote

Nobel economics prize winner and psychologist Daniel Kahneman tracked the achievements of 25 wealth advisers over eight years and found that that their success was a total illusion, reports The Guardian. The consistency of their performance was zero.

Quote

A study published by Psychology, Crime and Law tested the psychological traits of 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses and compared these results to those of convicted criminals. 

Notice how small the sample sizes and results?

Also, this:

Quote

Forbes: The Top 10 Jobs That Attract Psychopaths - 1. CEO, 2. Lawyer, 3. Media (Television/Radio), 4. Salesperson, 5. Surgeon, 6. Journalist, 7. Police officer, 8. Clergy person 9. Chef and 10. Civil servant

Why don't people kick up shit storms and do copious numbers of studies on civil servants, chefs, journalists and salespeople? Rhetorical question of course....because they're not wealthy. The pit bull bias strikes again!

The double standards just annoy the fuck out of me since most often, the wealth shamers want policies and legislation that benefit themselves aka, behaving in self-interest.

But...I do agree that the wealthy should put more back into the community in higher taxes, be forced to adhere to ethical business practices, provide living wages to employees and contribute more towards charitable causes.  

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Most successful people I know are workaholics, and not crooks. 

Some of these successful people don't even have a social life because of work. I think many INTJs can relate.  You have to sacrifice something in order to gain something else.  

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Hi @Distance, thank you for pointing out the details. I'm not making an assertion though, just questioning yours (and providing a little justification for doing so, that isn't purely anecdotal)... :p 

 
 
...... added to this post 1 minute later:
 

The premise of "since everyone is acting in their own self-interest" is what I'm questioning, this is before considering whether or not the rich and powerful act more in their own self-interest than those who are not. 

 
 
...... added to this post 4 minutes later:
 

"Everyone acts in their own self-interest and this is for the best" is the alleged basis of many forms of modern economics and related studies. This can be problematic when the 'father' of modern economics, Adam Smith, in his "Theory of Moral Sentiments" describes (in his idealistic almost naive way), the ethics and morality of the society on which he imagines his economic theories apply to. 

Edited by zonsop

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I think she's correct - everyone is acting in their own self-interest, regardless of their levels of success, however defined. It's human to act in self-interest; it's when and how far this self-interest impacts negatively on others that needs to be examined, not self-interest itself, given that this is as basic a part of existence as breathing to stay alive.

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1 hour ago, Distance said:

The pit bull bias strikes again!

Is this a bad thing to you? Not so much the wealth aspect, but the aspect of power over people's lives.

 
 
...... added to this post 1 minute later:
 
38 minutes ago, Madden said:

everyone is acting in their own self-interest

I see your point Madden, I should have talked about maximization of self-interest as in, if a person wanted money, he wants billions, rather than enough to live comfortably and such. And also as you said, with or without consideration of other people. 

Edited by zonsop

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2 minutes ago, zonsop said:
 
 
 
 
...... added to this post 1 minute later:
 

I see your point Madden, I should have talked about maximization of self-interest as in, if a person wanted money, he wants billions, rather than enough to live comfortably and such. And also as you said, with or without consideration of other people. 

I'm thinking that even with the maximization of self-interest - by acquiring power via money or goods or whatever - what's bred in the bone comes out in the flesh, for the top- and under-dogs alike. Power brings influence, but it doesn't confer a basic personality change, at least according to that linked study of 'givers' and 'takers'.

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IMO, it would be very difficult to become successful in life, by being a crook.

Success in life is not a one-off event. It is more like a series of many repeated events. 

E.g. you do a good job and have one very satisfied customer. Then you do another good job and have another happy customer. Then you do a good job  again and have yet another satisfied customer.

Repeat 1,000 times over many years and in the end, you become successful because you have acquired a strong reputation, built up a reliable brand, and you have customers who trust you, return again and again, and who recommend you to other people.

That's how you become successful.

It is difficult for crooks to be successful because even if you manage to pull off a scam or two, you have to move on. You cannot remain in one place or else you will eventually be caught. Angry customers write nasty things about your goods or services on the Internet etc. Thus you have to move to another location, set up a new business under a different name etc.

But because you keep moving on, you cannot build a good reputation, nor customer loyalty nor brand recognition, nor an established network of  contacts.

It is similar if you keep job-hopping because you have been found out at each job for being a crook. In the end, getting a new job becomes difficult because prospective employers wonder why you can never stay too long at one place. They ask for character referees or run background checks - things will keep falling apart for you. You can bluff your way sometimes, but it is a lousy recipe for long-term success in  life.

I would say that one of the top ingredients for success in life is the desire to constantly keep improving and learning. Thus you will adapt with the times and stay relevant and continually be in demand. The important thing to understand is that what you offered in the year 2000 may be good enough for 2000, but won't be good enough in 2005 or 2010 or 2015.

Edited by Major Chord

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I would say that knowing what is in ones self-interest is the most important part of getting rich. Not that that is sufficient in itself, the opportunities must also be present. Thus Bill Gates just happened to be born at the right time and place (the west coast) to make a software fortune. Although the rich like to talk about hard work, they did not get rich from hard work in itself.

survivorship_bias.png

 


 

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Most people who are successful can point an accusatory finger at luck, hard work and intelligence. 'Crooks' is too risky a return strategy though like most risky strategies, it pays out on rare occasion. 

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14 hours ago, zonsop said:

Is this a bad thing to you? Not so much the wealth aspect, but the aspect of power over people's lives.

Only a small percentage of the wealthy have any real power over people's lives.  Analogous for judging an entire category of peoples, if 4% of the female population are prostitutes/gold diggers, should you personally be judged first as a prostitute/gold digger? After all, according to male movements on teh Internutz, they consider females holding greater power over males.

Edited by Distance

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5 hours ago, Distance said:

Analogous for judging an entire category of peoples,

After posting that reply, your quote above is the part that I couldn't come to a conclusion on, though perhaps I should. I still don't know frankly. 

On the one hand, as you've correctly pointed out, it can be wrong, insensitive and counterproductive to scrutinize (I wouldn't say judge personally) an entire category of people. 

On the other hand, to inject some lightheartedness but also since it's concise,' with great power comes great responsibility'. The moderately wealthy (so millionaires to me, are just moderately wealthy simply because of the price of property in most cities anyway) aren't the ones that could cause issues, but the very top 1% in the world with their conglomerates? Maybe the pit bull bias isn't all bad then? 

And in the case of the female population, females who consistently and solely park themselves around rich males may come under scrutiny?

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It largely depends on what you mean by crook and success.

In much of the third world, the mafia is the state. Something to consider.

Edited by GhenghisKhan

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