Many of us were raised in a culture of personal responsibility. Watching a failed CEO rake in tens of millions of dollars is distasteful even if we feel no pain from it. I think most of us would be ashamed to do so, as it would appear selfish and diminish us in the eyes of our friends and family.
As always, Adam Smith said it better: “The man of the most perfect virtue ... is he who joins, to the most perfect command of his own original and selfish feelings, the most exquisite sensibility ... [to the] feelings of others.”
Perhaps resentment towards some rich people is not because they are rich, but because their wealth appears undeserved through effort or talent. This brings us back to the basics on the income inequality debate. It is human nature to dislike selfish choices, whether it is an executive pilfering his failing company or a teenager fathering a child he cannot afford to nurture.
Michael J. Hicks, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research and a professor of economics at Ball State University. Contact him at email@example.com.