When American are asked “do you see yourself reaching the top 20% in income of all Americans?, ” something like 50% of people say yes. You see the problem, don’t you? Only 20% of Americans will ever reach the top 20% of Americans, and 50% think they will. That means a whole lot of people will be genuinely disappointed.
I thought of this as I did my first skim through What Americans Really Want…Really by Frank Luntz. It is his newest book. He surveyed 6400 people for the book. The actual results of the survey are in the back of the book. Here are a couple of findings that are really provocative, and just about enough to make your head explode.
Here is one of his questions:
“Which do you think is the worst vice affecting Americans as a whole. You can only choose one?”
64%, Greed (the top answer by far, by far – the second answer was 8%, Gluttony)
So Luntz discovered that greed was believed to be the worst vice affecting Americans.
Now for the “my head wants to explode” part.
“If you had to choose, which of the following would you rather be?”
46%, Rich (the top answer, well above the second top answer, 27%, Physically Strong).
So, let’s get this straight. Americans want to be rich more than anything else. And Americans believe Greed is the worst vice affecting America as a whole.
I don’t know if Luntz deals with this contast/dilemma in the book. If he does, I will write a later post about it. But there seems to be a problem. People recognize greed as a problem, they condemn it as a vice (“the worst vice affecting Americans as a whole”) – and yet, they mostly want to be rich.
If you read the definitions of “rich” and “greed,” they pretty much say this (my paraphrase):
Greed – wanting more money than you need.
Rich – having a whole lot of money.
So I guess Americans want to be rich without being greedy. So I guess the desire to be rich is noble, while the desire of that other person over there wanting to be rich is — well, that person is just being greedy.
I’m not greedy — I just want to be rich. That person over there is greedy — he/she wants to be too rich.
I think my head is about to explode.
One thought on “To be Rich without Being Greedy — What Americans Really Want…Really by Frank Luntz”
I just read your post. And I’m amazed at how greedy Americans really are. Almost every aspect of life is about getting more money than you need. The landlord is greedy, the car dealer is greedy, the convenient store owner is greedy, everyone is so greedy. I think people should be ambitious, but greed brings them to a level where they’ll do anything for money. They will lie, kill etc. Is that the way life is supposed to be? Whatever happened to living modestly?