Networth & Respect Ladders

When we know that a person has earned a lot of money and is a high networth individual, naturally our respect for him shoots up. We seat him in the front rows, we ensure he is comfortable and well taken care of in our parties, etc. Oftentimes, he gets precedence over other high networth individuals who are a fraction of his net worth. I have seen this happen umpteen times. In this post I dive into this intriguing bias.

Why do we respect high net worth individuals?

This is deep, and to understand this. I am going to answer this by negation. Is it because

They work harder than us? Hell no! A deep cleaning labourer works harder than most of us.

They work smarter than us? Doctors, musicians are smart in their own fields. It's not that we have higher respect for them. Smartness is within context, to the field.

They have a higher quality of life? People live in their minds. There are rich who suffer, and the middle class who are blissed.

Their work is of higher quality? Quality is subjective. Profits are a collective democratic measure. Democratic judgements are not necessarily right. (remember when majority said earth was flat or 2007 housing market crash and everyone said house prices never go down)

They have a secure future? This is true for inherited wealth too. Most rich inheritors don't get the same respect their ancestors got.

Their work is better? Value created != Value captured (i.e Work done != Money earned). It is possible to create value without capturing it (eg. non profits or a great musician who is affected by piracy (pre iTunes) versus the landlord whose land appreciated a 100x because the government decided to build a highway near his land). It is possible to capture more value than you have created.

None of the above, we don’t respect them because they necessarily worked harder or smarter. It comes down to how respecting them can help us achieve our goals. Like may be some favours in the future, trading respect for favours. Or how by respecting them you are signalling your kids to become like them, high earners. In some way respecting them is purely because it helps a goal of yours.

So what does a high networth signal?

Your net worth is your score in the game of capitalism. And it signifies the value of goods and services which society owes you. People easily see this score, via your properties, jewels etc. And this is the most accessible part about you which stands for the effectiveness of your skills.

A musician or a sportsman is respected by his work and not his net worth because people are able to see and feel his work firsthand. But many professions are abstract now. A common man does not interact with the product of most professions or businesses today. To name a few, a business analyst, data engineer, a contract staffing firm, a CRM company. So people resort to net worth. Which as I mentioned above does not serve as a good metric for a value created or the quality of the work.

And it surely is a poor indicator for life as a whole. Capitalistic trade is only a part of life. Many acts of kindness are not a part of the GDP and don’t capture any currency value but create a tonne of value. Like grandparents taking care of kids when you are at work (as opposed to a nanny). Therefore how much wealth one has gathered does not reflect how good a father or friend he was. And it might not make sense to respect someone more based on only one portion of their life. And if you do so, then maybe you are signalling that wealth is all that matters to you.

Respect Ladders vs Love

Respect work, love people. Try to use people's work first hand. If it's a software they have created, sign up for a free trial. If they started a business, try to be a customer. Judge the quality of the work first hand for yourself and take a call.

Trade is only a portion of their life. Placing one person above another does not make sense (based on a portion of their life). Unless the person is really close to you, you will not know the other portions of their life (their values etc).

Everyone is unique, a different person by themselves. Placing people on ladders one above the other is a fool's errand .People are to be loved, and love is unconditional.

Written by
Anand Narayan
Posted in
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