But why? Lower-income Americans are presumably no more intrinsically generous (or "prosocial," as the sociologists say) than anyone else. However, some experts have speculated that the wealthy may be less generous—that the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support. Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: "While having money doesn't necessarily make anybody anything," Piff later told New York magazine, "the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people." They are, he continued, "more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes."Sounds roughly right.
That's the Rentier Agenda, then — low tax rates on unearned income flowing to passive investors, replacing public utilities with private toll-charging monopolies, and pursuing policies that deter inflation, even at the risk of prolonged, mass unemployment and idle factories. It is no exaggeration to say that the private sector rentiers are not only the real "moochers" and the real "takers" but also are the greatest threat to productive industrial capitalism, in the United States and the world.
What we need is an Anti-Rentier alliance. Such a coalition would scramble the usual patterns of politics. Progressives and conservatives alike would have to distinguish between productive businesses, which we should encourage, and rent-extracting parasites that need to be dealt with. Pro-manufacturing liberals and Main Street conservative populists should unite against what the progressive economist Michael Hudson calls "the tollbooth economy" in alliance with what James K. Galbraith calls "the predator state."