Monday, May 21, 2012

Capitalists and Other Psychopaths

That's the title of a recent NYTimes article.  Here are a couple of excerpts:
THERE is an ongoing debate in this country about the rich: who they are, what their social role may be, whether they are good or bad. Well, consider the following. A 2010 study found that 4 percent of a sample of corporate managers met a clinical threshold for being labeled psychopaths, compared with 1 percent for the population at large. (However, the sample was not representative, as the study’s authors have noted.) Another study concluded that the rich are more likely to lie, cheat and break the law. . .
The only thing that puzzles me about these claims is that anyone would find them surprising. Wall Street is capitalism in its purest form, and capitalism is predicated on bad behavior. This should hardly be news.  . . .

In other words, Enron, BP, Goldman, Philip Morris, G.E., Merck, etc., etc. Accounting fraud, tax evasion, toxic dumping, product safety violations, bid rigging, overbilling, perjury. The Walmart bribery scandal, the News Corp. hacking scandal — just open up the business section on an average day. Shafting your workers, hurting your customers, destroying the land. Leaving the public to pick up the tab. These aren’t anomalies; this is how the system works: you get away with what you can and try to weasel out when you get caught.

Read the rest of William Deresiewicz piece,  "Capitalists and Other Psychopaths" at the New York Times.

It's not either/or; not  either complete capitalism or complete socialism.  There are useful aspects of the individualism and competition of capitalism and the altruistic community impulses of the more communal systems.  Each benefits different members of society differently.  Though I would guess there are certain folks who will find their way to privileged positions no matter where they lived.  The psychopaths probably.  And surely we see prime examples in both systems. 

And today is a great time for psychopaths - people who knowingly and with no remorse lie and bully the weak and underprivileged (whether it's talk show hosts or Fox "News" casters) and who champion people people who kill and maim (American military, football players). 

Click here to see common traits for diagnosing psychopaths (also called sociopaths)

A key question for humans in the world today is how to create a system which blends the best of various systems (I don't want to assume that capitalism and socialism are the only possibilities) and minimize the negative aspects of them.

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