‘Greed plunged current economy into global crisis’

January 12th, 2009 - 11:28 am ICT by IANS  

Washington , Jan 12 (IANS) Greed may have plunged the current economy into global crisis, for which both individual and increasingly materialistic culture are to blame.”America has an economic system set up to create the kind of mess we’ve seen recently,” said social psychologist Tim Kasser, Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.

“Our form of capitalism encourages materialistic values, and the research shows that people high on materialism are more likely to engage in unethical business behaviours and manipulate people,” he added.

American corporate capitalism, a highly competitive economic system embraced by Britain, Australia and Canada as well, encourages materialism more than other forms of capitalism, shown in a study by Hebrew University psychologist Shalom Schwartz, said an online report written by Beth Azar.

He compared the values held by people in countries with more competitive forms of capitalism with the values of folks in countries that have a more cooperative style of capitalism, including Austria, Germany and Norway.

These countries rely more on strategic cooperation among the various players in the economy and society to solve their economic problems, such as unemployment, labour and trade issues, rather than relying mostly on free-market competition as the US does.

Research also supports the notion that the more people care about money and power, the less they care about community and relationships.

A study by Kasser, University of Victoria psychologist Fred Grouzet, and colleagues, for example, asked students in 15 countries about the goals they value most, including community feeling, financial success and physical health.

They found they could chart those values onto a kind of pie with some values - money versus community and relationships, for example - in direct competition with one another.

“Of course we can care about community and money,” Kasser. “But as money becomes important - the bigger its slice of the pie - the desire to help other people tends to become less important.”

University of Minnesota psychologist Katherine Vohs, demonstrated this idea in a series of studies in which she primed participants to think about having large amounts of money.

Compared with a group of students who were primed to think about neutral concepts or insufficient funds, participants with wealth on their minds were less helpful at, for example, picking up spilled pencils, and were less generous, for instance, donating less to charity.

These participants were also more insular, choosing to sit farther away from a colleague or work independently rather than in a team.

Money and community are inherently incompatible because they tap into two fundamentally different motivational systems, said Kasser.

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