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Intro: "The findings are a reminder of why now - more than ever - we must refuse to succumb to political apathy and laissez-faire demagoguery."

An unarmed demonstrator taking part in the 'Occupy Wall Street' Protests is set upon by the New York police. (photo: Zack Sheppard)
An unarmed demonstrator taking part in the 'Occupy Wall Street' Protests is set upon by the New York police. (photo: Zack Sheppard)



Study: Wealthy Stockbrokers More Dangerous Than Psychopaths

By David Sirota, AlterNet

08 October 11

 

Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns


The findings are a reminder of why now - more than ever - we must refuse to succumb to political apathy and laissez-faire demagoguery.

ike most people living through this jarring age of economic turbulence and political dysfunction, you can probably recall a moment in the last few months when you thought to yourself that our lawmakers and corporate leaders are all crazy. And not just run-of-the-mill crazy, a la George Costanza's parents, but the kind of crazy that makes films like "Silence of the Lambs" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" so frightening.

The good news for you is that you aren't insane for thinking this. The bad news for all of us, though, is that according to two new scientific analyses, you are more correct in your assessment than you may know.

The first revelation came from Dr. Nassir Ghaemi of Tufts University. In his recent book, "A First-Rate Madness," he went beyond merely restating the old adage that anyone crazy enough to run for public office probably shouldn't occupy that office. Instead, the book sheds light on what Ghaemi calls an "inverse law of sanity," whereby tumultuous times like these actually reward and promote political figures who are "mentally abnormal (or) even ill."

Now comes a new study from Switzerland's University of St. Gallen showing that the most successful of the global financial elite probably pose more of a menace to society than known psychopaths.

As the website Newser reported, the researchers "pitted a group of stockbrokers against a group of actual psychopaths in various computer simulations and intelligence tests and found that the money men were significantly more reckless, competitive, and manipulative." Even more striking, the researchers note that achieving overall success was less important to the stock speculators than the sadistic drive "to damage their opponents."

The findings build on similar research in the recent past. In 1996, investigators at Glasgow Caledonian University discovered connections between psychopathy and successful financial speculation, concluding that "with the right parenting, (psychopaths) can become successful stockbrokers instead of serial killers." Likewise, in 2004, researchers at the University of British Columbia reacted to similar findings and created a test to help firms detect "corporate psychopaths" within their ranks. That same year, the award winning-documentary "The Corporation" used World Health Organization metrics to show that if companies really are "people," as our Supreme Court insists, then many of them are mentally ill.

Obviously, these results reflect the not-so-surprising fact that the extreme nature of the modern political process and of today's casino economy inherently self-select for certain kinds of traits. And no doubt, wholly changing that dynamic may be impossible or undesirable - or both.

However, the findings are a reminder of why now - more than ever - we must refuse to succumb to political apathy and laissez-faire demagoguery. Indeed, it’s time to redouble our commitment to strengthening checks on political and corporate power because that power is often being wielded by the most unstable among us.

So what does that mean in practice? It means that when we see a wild-eyed White House ignore the constitution and claim the despotic right to assassinate American citizens without criminal charge, we demand that Congress stop the madness - rather than quietly acquiesce. It means that when we see a spontaneous grassroots movement physically occupy Lower Manhattan and challenge banks' deranged rapaciousness, we applaud the effort as long overdue - rather than scoff at it as unrealistic. It means, in short, that we refuse to stay silent in the face of insanity.

And frankly, if we have scientific proof that the inmates are running the Wall Street and Washington asylums, this is the least we should do - and we really should do a whole lot more.


David Sirota is best-selling author of the new book "Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now." He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. Email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at DavidSirota.com.

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+22 # Vardette 2011-10-08 21:52
It's literally murder by cuts and evryone in govt seems to be in on the game.
 
 
+47 # giraffee2012 2011-10-08 23:12
http://www.getmoneyout.com/

Sign the petition to get it into law to overturn the Supremes' 2010 "person hood" decision . . . and get our democracy back.
 
 
+25 # racetoinfinity 2011-10-08 23:20
Ayn Rand > Milton Friedman > psychopathy
 
 
+3 # Capn Canard 2011-10-10 09:12
racetointinity, EXACTLY! IMO, Friedman was no more than a average thinker on his good days. And if you have ever read some Ayn Rand it does look like she seemed to exhibit some deep psycopathy. Twisted, inhuman behavior. I've worked with people who were disturbed and the books of Ayn Rand is not encouraging.
 
 
+13 # angelfish 2011-10-09 01:08
Scary, isn't it? Hopefully, someone in the White House or Congress might read this article and take heed. Then again, I guess that most of them are part and parcel of the problem!
 
 
+18 # swissms 2011-10-09 06:50
Yay for U of St. Gallen! Would this have been too controversial a subject for an American university to take on? Most university students are unaware of the relationship between monied interests and university policy, course offerings, and research studies.
 
 
+19 # grindermonkey 2011-10-09 10:07
The absence of ethos, logos and pathos in particular (the capacity to recognize pain in others) began with Ronald Reagan and has run amok ever since. As we witness even further wars between banking personalities as they indifferently mutilate the remains of our country and the globe our individual pathos will eventually disappear following our presently absent ethos and logos. Those among us who are totally mad must be regulated or confined, rehabilitation is out of the question.
 
 
+6 # mangel 2011-10-09 11:31
There should be a commercial version of the Hippocratic oath - do no harm.
 
 
+3 # Capn Canard 2011-10-10 09:17
mangel, if only doctors follow the Hippocratic oath rather than the what big pharma demands.
 
 
+2 # Michael_K 2011-10-09 12:30
Bill Clinton was a seriously major criminal (he started "extraordinary rendition and other redolent activities), but lack of empathy for the "Wackos from Waco" might well have been the signal the psychopaths were waiting for (and really, they're more sociopaths)
 
 
+8 # KittatinyHawk 2011-10-09 14:54
Greed and Power is the new form of Meth, its legal and more deadly.
These people and their family History show they have always had Mental Issues. No less dangerous than a Junkie.
It is the new Nazi party that has been brewing over here since WWII when our own came back. It crawls into every seam and crack until if finds the likely suspect to digest its evil venom.
Naziism is alive and well in Industry, Banking, Wall StreetUSA.
Many would not call themselves such but they know they are not what the Creator meant for us to be. Churches that condone as those in Europe/World that condone dictators like Hitler, are the worst vile predators known to mankind.

We need to purge these Satanistic Horrors now. Steppenwolfs' Monster has grown and we have allowed it, some of us have fed it, now is the time to take its head off.
 
 
+11 # John Locke 2011-10-09 16:24
JP MOORGAN in 1934 attempted to take over the US Government, the bankers and large corporate interest wanted to change our form of government to a fascist police state, the plot was uncovered and it is in the congretional record but NO ONE was ever prosecuted...it was known as the business plot...
well they got what they wanted without a coup, now its time to take our country back occupy wall street is the first step, everyone should support this movement
 
 
+10 # soularddave 2011-10-09 20:57
Let's play a game, based on this article:

I'm thinking of a person who was first a CEO of a large oil related firm, and then appointed to public office. On 9/11 he was in a command post, apparently issuing orders. He chose to defame reputable people who contributed reputable facts to the public, and he shot one of his friends in the face. Most recently, he wrote a book that excuses himself from wrongdoing.

Name the psychopath...
 
 
+4 # CTPatriot 2011-10-10 04:50
Too damn easy. Darth Cheney :-)
 
 
+3 # Obwon 2011-10-10 07:02
Quoting soularddave:
Let's play a game, based on this article:

I'm thinking of a person who was first a CEO of a large oil related firm, and then appointed to public office. On 9/11 he was in a command post, apparently issuing orders. He chose to defame reputable people who contributed reputable facts to the public, and he shot one of his friends in the face. Most recently, he wrote a book that excuses himself from wrongdoing.

Name the psychopath...

I'd recognize ol' Darkside anywhere!
Back in those days my jaw dropped! I simply could not believe that neither the Congress nor the people, were able to see Feudal Law coming when it was proposed to them. That alone told me that something had gone profoundly wrong with the nation.
 
 
+4 # David Starr 2011-10-10 13:20
The article reminds me of what Marx once alluded to regarding excess profiteering: I think he used the term fetish. Also, I would add that the reckless speculation of wealthy stockbrokers can be equated to the jonesing of a drug addict: To get a monetary high, regardless of the consequences.
 

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