Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
April 25, 2017 Disclaimer: Please read.

Statements and opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors, not Truthdig. Truthdig takes no responsibility for such statements or opinions.

Truthdig Bazaar
Gambit: Newer African Writing

Gambit: Newer African Writing

Shaun Randol

more items

Ear to the Ground
Email this item Print this item

Psychopaths Are Loose on Wall Street (Updated)

Posted on May 14, 2012
smoothdude (CC BY 2.0)

One percent of the adult human population qualifies as clinically psychopathic, exhibiting a lack of empathy and a knack for telling lies and getting away with it. That compares with 10 percent of wheeler-dealers on Wall Street, according to a recent study. American critic William Deresiewicz is not surprised. Update: The 1-in-10 figure is unsupported. See here. —ARK

William Deresiewicz at The New York Times:

Wall Street is capitalism in its purest form, and capitalism is predicated on bad behavior. This should hardly be news. The English writer Bernard Mandeville asserted as much nearly three centuries ago in a satirical-poem-cum-philosophical-treatise called “The Fable of the Bees.”

… 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.

I always found the notion of a business school amusing. What kinds of courses do they offer? Robbing Widows and Orphans? Grinding the Faces of the Poor? Having It Both Ways? Feeding at the Public Trough? There was a documentary several years ago called “The Corporation” that accepted the premise that corporations are persons and then asked what kind of people they are. The answer was, precisely, psychopaths: indifferent to others, incapable of guilt, exclusively devoted to their own interests.

Read more

Lockerdome Below Article
Get a book from one of our contributors in the Truthdig Bazaar.

Related Entries

Get truth delivered to
your inbox every day.

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

Join the conversation

Load Comments
Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, May 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

Decades ago when I was a public school teacher, I taught the seventh
grade.  I concluded after about 4 years of them, out of a much longer
career in public education from high school to graduate school, thus
I had a good observation platform of a broad range of students, that
the 7th grade age group of students have no conscience, lie, never
take responsibility for bad behavior even when caught red-handed,
then proceed to blame others for their own bad behavior. They tend
to be thugs and think it fun to pound on another student.  There really
is no emotion called empathy in these students, who only derisively
laugh at others’ mistakes or mishaps always looking for the comedic
value in things that go even the slightest wrong or making it up if there
isn’t any.  They are defiant, rude, and try to get away with shirking doing
their school work and impatiently and fidgetly wait for the 3:45 bell to
ring then they are outtathere.  Strangely enough these young human
beings’ behavior sound terribly like the shabby Wall Streeters’.

So the US Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons.  It seems
logical then that corporations would also be eligible for the death penalty
wherever they commit grievous crimes, of course in those states where
the death penalty is still part of their penal code.  It is possible that this
line of reasoning is enough to outlaw the death penalty altogether at the
SCOTUS level.

The article above at the NYTimes edition noted that “There was a
documentary several years ago called “The Corporation” that accepted
the premise that corporations are persons and then asked what kind of
people they are. The answer was, precisely, psychopaths: indifferent to
others, incapable of guilt, exclusively devoted to their own interests.” 
ERGO! My comparison is made!

Not unlike Henry Giroux’s recent astonishingly articulate and mind-
boggling articles on Zombie Politics, this article by William Deresiewicz
is in the same genre and he sharply observed “Capitalist values are also
antithetical to democratic ones.”  This article is worth reading the entire
thing as is the Giroux’s two parter.  Both of these outrageously logical
political thinkers will bring anyone lacking knowledge about the psycho-
pathically voracious appetite of Wall Streeters up to speed.  The best part
of the NYT article is in the last two paragraphs.:  Here Deresiewicz refers
to Adam Smith, social philosopher and political economist and Bernard
Mandeville,16th-17th c. also a philosopher and poltiical economist
giving the critical distinctions between their views:

Enormous matters of policy depend on these perceptions:
what we’re going to tax, and how much; what we’re going to
spend, and on whom. But while “job creators” may be a new
term, the adulation it expresses — and the contempt that it so
clearly signals — are not. “Poor Americans are urged to hate
themselves,” Kurt Vonnegut wrote in “Slaughterhouse-Five.”
And so, “they mock themselves and glorify their betters.” Our
most destructive lie, he added, “is that it is very easy for any
American to make money.” The lie goes on. The poor are lazy,
stupid and evil. The rich are brilliant, courageous and good.
They shower their beneficence upon the rest of us.

Mandeville believed the individual pursuit of self-interest could
redound to public benefit, but unlike Adam Smith, he didn’t think
it did so on its own. Smith’s “hand” was “invisible” — the automatic
operation of the market. Mandeville’s involved “the dextrous Manage-
ment of a skilful Politician” — in modern terms, legislation, regulation
and taxation. Or as he versified it, “Vice is beneficial found, / When
it’s by Justice lopt, and bound.”

Report this

By diamond, May 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment

Calling these people psychopaths is a cop out. Of course they are reckless and lack empathy and conscience to an astounding degree but they could never do what they do if the system didn’t enable them. The corporate culture has been out of control for many decades but the cure is not the psychiatrist’s office or a futile concentration on the psyches of the criminals: the answer is regulation. If nothing is done about that, the next group of psychos will do exactly the same, because the Wild West mentality and contempt for the law that is the hallmark of global capitalism will naturally attract psychopaths to do its bidding.

The finger of blame goes back again and again to the reign of Reagan and the eighties:

“In 1980 it was estimated that the chief executives of the biggest 500 American companies had incomes some thirty times as great as those of average manufacturing workers. In the 1990s the figure was ninety three times as big…(a) survey undertaken by Graef Crystal concluded that there was no relationship between company size and the performance of the company and that the top five bosses in Britain were overpaid by seven million pounds sterling between them’.

That assessment was made in 1995. Since then it has become so much worse it’s hard to take it in. The CEO of Merrill Lynch was paid $900,000,000 over a period of years and when the company went down the gurgler this same CEO was paid $151,000,000 to go away. The pattern continues with J.P. Morgan: the woman responsible for the London division that created the $2 billion black hole by speculating on derivatives (which remain unregulated and unrepentant even though they were the main cause of the global financial crisis) is now ‘retiring’ with a $32,000,000 golden parachute. The old saying ‘Opportunity makes thieves’ applies. Take away the opportunity and the thieving will end or at least return to manageable levels. As Robert Harvey points out in ‘The Return of the Strong: the Drift to Global Disorder’: ‘The modern big corporation is not responsible to anyone but itself’. As long as that continues, psychopaths will line up to work for global capital and the anarchy and irresponsibility that they think is standard operating procedure will also continue.

Report this

By balkas, May 15, 2012 at 7:36 am Link to this comment

alas, wall street being purest form of capitalism is only a symptom and
as such also a cause or effect of further effects/causes; all stemming
from the FIRST CAUSE of capitalism and lack of
education/healthcare/peace in america.
and capitalism—if taken to mean financing a project and/or making
profits or excessive profits or generates unequal financial gain for all
people from it—exist everywhere.
it is also regulated, observed, supervised, scrutinized, legislated, etc.,
in all lands.
we can see from this that even in capitalism, u.s is neither unique nor
exceptional. it may be unique only in probability that it can be rated an
A while in some other lands just a B, C, or D.

Report this
Mairead's avatar

By Mairead, May 15, 2012 at 6:33 am Link to this comment

I’ll add something more taken from that discussion.  This is the final paragraph in a comment made by Robert Hare PhD, generally considered the principal scholar of psychopathy today, in which he summarises part of the findings of a study in which he was one of the investigators:

Finally, I note that while the study by Babiak, Neumann, & Hare (Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 2010, 28, 174-193) found that close to 4% of the corporate professionals in the study had a PCL-R score of 30 or higher, some 80% had scores from 0 to 3, similar to the pattern of scores found in the general population.

4% would merit a diagnosis.
80% would definitely not merit a diagnosis.

What of the other 16%?  Those who fall into the sub-clinical range of 4-29?

Report this
Mairead's avatar

By Mairead, May 15, 2012 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

The 1-in-10 claim is unsupported. 

See this site for a discussion

Report this

By rtb61, May 14, 2012 at 7:06 pm Link to this comment

Even worse they are corrupting politics to it’s core. Darth Cheney earned his nickname and the whole globe is fully aware of his willingness to see hundreds of thousands die to his company could make billions in a war based on lies.
We have the ability to infallibly test for the condition and this can be done at an early age, not only freeing tomorrows generation of the majority of sadistic school bullies, allow many people to avoid lethal relationships, prevent deep and perverse corruption of democracy but also clean up the majority of corporations.
Eliminating the destructive influence of psychopaths upon human society has the potential to substantially reduce the worst crimes. A new era in human society could be achieved by limiting those who are never a part of human society they only prey upon it.

Report this

By CanDoJack, May 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm Link to this comment

I do enjoy realizing that, although my really great
book of 2010 did not sell well, many have confirmed the
authenticity of my SWAG because as I piece together
confirming articles like a jigsaw puzzle, I find joy
that I did really well with PSYCHO PATHS AND CON

If you write, write for the joy of writing and the
right only recognized by your individual constitution
to know when you did well.

Report this

By steve, May 14, 2012 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would venture to guess that at a large corporation
there is something of a mob rules mentality. Even if
most everyone is or isn’t malfeasant when there is no
singular responsibility.You’ll have Go along to get
along. Even if there is no malignant intent; it’s a
slippery slope to bad eventual outcomes especially if
the consequences are suffered by others. Just for the
record rich people don’t have a monopoly on sociopathic
behavior. I’ve met plenty of poor and working class
people without a shred of decency in them.

Report this

By Michael Elias, May 14, 2012 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amazing to find this in The New York Times.  I thought I was reading New Masses. 

It’s that bad.

Report this
prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, May 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm Link to this comment

“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 “

Don’t forget, poisoning millions with toxic drugs, murdering children with toxic
herbicides that cause cancer, diverting pharmaceutical drugs to the sheet causing
hundreds of thousands of over doses, killing 500,000 American’s every year with
medical mistakes. 

Then there are the millions killed by largely preventable degenerative diseases
caused by food filled with chemicals additives and GMO’s.

The constant military interventions in other countries, that subsidizes the products
of large military contractors, many of them who outsource bullet manufacture to
the country Turkey. Then there are black budget military programs, to develop
exotic weapons systems with sealed no bid contacts, unscrutinized by congress,
that is larger than the non black budget.

The Nuclear power industry that poisons the air with the release of Tritium that
causes bone cancer in those living near nuclear power plants. Children are
especially prone to that.

There also PCB’s, also TCD’s, Solvents, Herbacides, psychotropic medications,
heavy metals, and estrogens released from plastic in every drop of tap water you
drink. Barium, and solvents, again, in every breath you take in California, from the
Chem Trails, and 80,000 other chemicals released into the environment, by the
petro chemical industry that has virtually no regulation….

Yes America is the land of Free Enterprise, where everyone must pay for the
freedom that corporate America enjoys. To kill with impunity.

Report this

By gerard, May 14, 2012 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

The assumption behind this article is silly. Systems are built on ideas or assumptions that people believe because they don’t know what questions to ask. As soon as enough people discover the right questions and the best way to get them answered, the systems get changed. Usually the first step is finding alternatives to what is. The second, proving the value of change to enough people. Third, figuring out together the best way to make the change. Fourth, working together to achieve the desired change.  Occupy is only just starting the process. Are you aware of all the different things they are working on, trying to figure out, actually accomplishing?  You won’t find it in daily news reports, so Google Occupy sources and read up. You’ll find something near you to support.  Pick up thy questionmark, thy fear, thy suspicion, thy queeziness, and go for it!

Report this
Samson's avatar

By Samson, May 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment

A death penalty for corporations makes more sense than
a death penalty for individuals.

When an entity is revealed to be harmful to society as
a whole, then why on earth should society as a whole
continue to let it exist?

Report this
Right Top, Site wide - Care2
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right Internal Skyscraper, Site wide

Like Truthdig on Facebook