First we need to define the ‘rich’. Though there is indeed a rising level of evil as you go towards the top, the level of evil at each level differs.
There are 3 major classifications of ‘rich’:
Upper Middle and Lower Upper class professionals, businessmen etc. These people think they are ‘rich’ – compared to the overwhelming 80-90% of population, yeah, they are. Good house, maybe close to a million dollars, a few million dollars in savings, good high 6 figure income and whatnot. But actually they are not rich:
Upper class – people and families who have around billion dollars or more wealth, in easily liquefiable investments, stocks and whatnot. These people are rich. They don’t need to work to keep their lifestyle or pass it on to their children. They feel they are privileged, elite class, and they actually are. They constitute the lower base of the privileged class in US. Technically one and the same with the next class, minus the power. If massive wealth was aristocracy (it is), this is the general big body of aristocrats. These people staff the corporate boards, upper tier management positions, private institution chairs, ngos, whatever you imagine.
Then there is the top class. The dukes, if you will. These people have massive wealth which generally exists in the form of controlling shares of massive mega corporations. Imagine over tens of billions of dollars of wealth, existing in stock ownership in addition to whatever tangible assets (house, land etc) they have. For example Walton family is estimated to have more than $80 billion in wealth. Walton family is still a rather harmless group, despite their abhorrent exploitation of their employees and the damage they are doing to small businesses in US. Because there are those with similar or more wealth, in control of more influential economic entities – Oil corporations, Financial empires – Goldman Sachs comes to mind.
These kind of people are those who set the economic and foreign policy of US, and they are the reason why a lot of things in the past 3 decades happened as they did, and also the reason why everything is as it is now.
From Iraq War to Financial scam that crashed entire world economy in 2008, from pushing TTP/TTIP to NAFTA, domestic and foreign spying to crackdown on Occupy, from legalizing mercenary armies (Blackwater) to whatever you can imagine.
The ones with the gold make the rules.
No one needs to tell you that things which happened in the 30 years would mostly classify as evil. You know it. To influence policy and economy for your own benefit, which would end up harming many people home and abroad and do many unacceptable things, requires the stomach to be able to do those.
However it is indeed true that there is an increasing amount of evil which gets stronger and stronger starting from the upper middle class:
An upper middle class person can be a manager or a professional in a major corporation. He may work in implementing the programs/plans which these corporations or non governmental institutions create. Or even may be working in a high level government position which implements policies that were created by politicians who were put to power by the top class. Like torture program.
This requires a measure of evil – you can’t work in propagating stuff like Avandia drug scandal , selling lead painted toys to children, or wrecking mexico bay or implementing the torture program with a good conscience and a good heart. There has to be some evil in you.
But at this level, stuff is easier to justify/rationalize by the person telling himself/herself that s/he is ‘only following orders’.
Also it is easier to dodge doing evil at this level of wealth – you can be a small entrepreneur who makes his money ethically, a small bureaucrat who distributes social aid to impoverished regions, you can be a local doctor who worked ethically and charitably for half a century etc.
At Upper class level chances of dodging evil minimizes. In the end such people are in policy-making and implementing positions. Decision making positions. The decision makers who decided to immediately start to bribe around and try to suppress information about the danger Avandia posed the moment drug hit the market are such people. The execs who implemented the Wall Street financial scam in mega banks are such people. The bureaucrats, managers who planned and oversaw torture program are such people.
At this level there is no way of claiming not being aware of what’s being done. These are levels with decision making power. They knew what their own divisions, subsidiaries, overseas divisions are doing. Even if they are not doing something evil themselves per se, they know what their peers are doing. This is a club, in the end. And since a lot of the people in boards of corporations, top level executive positions etc are from this Upper class background, you can easily say that these people actively participate in implementing evil. A lot of them create evil as well – some smart guys came up with the idea to sell lead painted toys to cut costs, after all.
There may be very few in this level who can dodge taking part and responsibility in such affairs. These are very few, due to nature of concentration of wealth.
A name as a good example for this is Elon Musk. He is at a few billion dollars level, from their start up at PayPal and then his technological innovation enterprises. Founders of tech start ups generally can avoid evil if they want it. Some inevitably take part in it, like how various major tech companies collaborating with mass spying by directly cooperating with state agencies on their demand or handling their mass data for profit. (Big data services).
But those who can avoid entanglement with evil is a very tiny minority. Take Zuckerberg – ~$30 billion+ estimated net worth, and Wikileaks calls Facebook “The most appalling spying machine ever devised”. He says ‘NSA doesn’t have direct access to Facebook’, whereas White House admited it has ‘access’ to Facebook, Google. Since 2007 even. So whereas Musk escaped entanglement, Zuckerberg couldn’t or didn’t want to. Notice the major difference in their net worth as well.
At the Top level, evil is manufactured. Dick Cheney is a picture perfect example. Majority shareholders of Goldman Sachs are a good example. Koch Brothers, are a good example.
This segment doesn’t even require any explanation. What they are doing is evident. You can’t do these things without being evil.
There is some measure of self-deceit possible in Upper class level, by means of somehow (maybe) fooling himself/herself by telling oneself, especially by indoctrinating oneself to believing certain ideologies (elitism, holistic economics, belief in one’s superiority, hence privilege, belief that ‘things will work out’ through ‘the market’, whichever), but still hard.
But at the top level, there is no way of fooling or conditioning yourself.
What you are doing is evil and you know it. Moreover, you are doing it for your private profit, your own interest. At this point you don’t even give a rat’s ass about what other people are experiencing due to the policies you create and actions you take, anyway. Look at Cheney – he basically manufactured Iraq war, his (ex) company made $38 billion or so profit from it, and yet since last 2 years he was appearing on news shows everywhere and was trying to push a new war in Syria. Who cares about 1 million+ dead Iraqis…
It’s possible that your own life experience, your own research or historical chronology of last 30 years’ events and incidents are not as reliable as you’d like to reach a conclusion. In that case, science comes to the rescue:
A self-made millionaire who interviewed 1,200 wealthy people noticed one behavior they all have in common
The Rich Really are as Selfish as You Think
Study: The Rich Really Are More Selfish | TIME.com
Also realize the fact that, to be living in extravagant luxury while people outside are suffering and maybe even dying due to poverty, requires a good measure of selfishness and disregard for your fellow men.