Through most of human history, you got rich stealing from your neighbor; through plunder, taking something that belonged to somebody else by knocking him over the head and grabbing his stuff. But it's only recently that you can get rich by serving your fellow man.I would be interested in hearing arguments concerning how far this goes in explaining the human evolutionary predisposition toward despising those who have more than one has himself. In pre-agricultural societies, which were far more egalitarian than anything in the contemporary developed world, could this go hand-in-hand with desire to censure cheaters and hoarders? Is there even a difference before agrarian existence begins?
Or might the evolutionary basis for disdain of those who have more have arisen with the onset of settled societies capable of producing and storing excess wealth, and thus allowing for social stratification to occur? Once settled, agricultural societies began coming into existence in the Fertile Crescent 10,000 years ago, those who didn't directly produce began living off the fruits of those who did, often (though not always) against the latters' will, as in the cases of military conquest or taxation. Following the onset of the Industrial Revolution, it is easy to see how Henry Ford's acquisition of wealth improved the lives of the vast majority of the people touched by the cars his company manufactured in the process. It is more difficult to see how ancient and medieval rulers (or any other persons of high social status and great affluence at during this time range) could be perceived in the same glowing light by the commoners of their societies.
For some (especially among those on the political left), acquirers of wealth are presumed to have gained such vast affluence through immoral (or at least ammoral) exploitation or downright theft. I hear Dave Matthews singing:
Caught for stealing somebody's riches? Oh no, no, no, no. But wouldn't you like to retire, with a million bucks? Um, yeah.Stories that fit this narrative (ie Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff) garner enormous public attention, and the tabloid market thrives off the public's desire to see those at the top fall from grace.
Are these inclinations instinctive due to general mammalian competitiveness, or can they be defined more narrowly as an evolutionary vestiges (at least in the developed world) of a functional disdain for those of great wealth at a time when such was wealth was almost exclusively acquired through value transfer rather than value creation?
If memory serves (although I'm having trouble finding where, specifically), Razib has asserted that humanity is in some ways swinging back toward the dispositions of hunter and gatherer societies. Those of sedentary societies gained after the onset of agriculture but have since peaked and are now in decline, to be replaced by those existing previously. Is this a potential illustration of that phenomenon, or merely an example of someone with no scientific training spinning evolutionary theories to explain why humans act the way they do?