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Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Economy, Law, Society | 21 comments

The (Psycho)path to wealth and power

Thom Hartmann observed that CEO’s of large corporations are sociopaths.  They get the big salaries because they are a rare breed.  About five percent of the human population are sociopaths.  To be a successful CEO you must be both a sociopath and have the smarts and knowledge to run a business.  Nick Hodges at Energy and Capitol takes it a step further – he thinks they are actually psychopaths.

Why some people are more successful than others has been a topic of debate from Plato right through to Malcolm Gladwell.

There’s even been research showing the most successful among us — those running billion-dollar companies or worse, countries — are psychopaths… those with “an abnormal lack of empathy masked by an ability to appear outwardly normal.”

One percent of the population are psychopaths. But not all are violent criminals; many of them are white-collar.

Psychologists Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, who invented the B-Scan, which identifies developmental needs in management and supervisory staff, say white-collar psychopaths “are prone to being ‘subcriminal’ psychopaths: smooth-talking, energetic individuals who easily charm their way into jobs and promotions but who are also exceedingly manipulative, narcissistic and ruthless.”


Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the guy who runs the intergovernmental organization that oversees the global financial system (the IMF), probably is, too.

Is Bernanke? Geithner? Madoff? Mozilo?

That would explain why only 1.5% of Americans make more than a quarter million dollars each year.

And why the Fed and heads of Wall Street banks have no qualms about separating the middle and lower classes from their hard-earned dollars — just as they pushed unsustainable mortgages on people who couldn’t afford them and raked in billions from the risky investment vehicles they invented to bet on them while the nation spun into recession, as just one example.

As the Financial Times recently noted, “the annual incomes of the bottom 90% of U.S. families have been essentially flat since 1973.”

That isn’t an accident. It’s the result of the top 1% engineering the system so that it only benefits them.

From the lending of credit to entice you to spend to selling you the American dream wrapped up in a white picket fence (any billionaires you know have a quaint little house in the suburbs?), every meticulously planned move was designed to take money out of your pocket and put it into theirs.

And their system has worked well… extremely well.

Today in America, the richest 1% own 35% of the wealth. The richest 20% control 80% of the wealth.

They won’t stop until they control 100%.

Of course this is nothing new.  Even in man’s early tribal days the chief had to make tough decisions and empathy towards individuals might have negative impacts for the tribe as a whole.  A tribal chief that was a sociopath was probably a feature not a bug.  But this is different – a lack of empathy for personal power a wealth that has a negative impact on society – the tribe.

Cross posted at Newshoggers