The authors conducted 5 studies to test the idea that both thinking about and having power affects the way in which people resolve moral dilemmas. It is shown that high power increases the use of rule-based (deontological) moral thinking styles, whereas low power increases reliance on outcome-based (consequentialist) moral thinking. Stated differently, in determining whether an act is right or wrong, the powerful focus on whether rules and principles are violated, whereas the powerless focus on the consequences. For this reason, the powerful are also more inclined to stick to the rules, irrespective of whether this has positive or negative effects, whereas the powerless are more inclined to make exceptions.Now these are the sort of studies I usually don't take very seriously, that is, perform a little game with a hundred American undergraduates and draw profound conclusions about the whole of humanity. But these studies so closely match my reading of history and my experience of power in our own time that I think there is something to this. Just look at the Senate, where a bunch of very powerful people seem to think that following the rules of their little club matters more than whether poor people die of treatable diseases.
People with power think differently about questions of fairness, justice, and right than people without power. As yet we have no perfect answer to this problem, but a democratic, open system seems to do more to shift things toward the view of ordinary folks than anything else we have tried.