Why is it that we are led by sociopaths?

If we’re honest about our milieu it’s apparent that the commanding heights of business, politics and media are filled with sociopaths. It’s really not that hard to see and understand; there’s more than enough evidence to make it abundantly clear to anyone with the time and willingness to look. Especially after the sordidness of the Epstein saga where we learned that powerful intelligence agencies have been using child sex slaves to manipulate our society via blackmail.

I’ve been exploring this phenomenon with my focus on our feral elite and was hoping for improvement after the disaster of the Trump years. But watching the Biden crew lurch towards nuclear war with Russia and, or China it’s clear that this remains a major, if largely undiscussed, problem.

The corollary is why are there so few in power with a conscience?

Maybe it’s the way in which we organize our economy via neoliberal capitalism and the way in which we reward leaders of the dominant corporate actors? Though it’s more than just perverse incentives.

For example, it’s illegal for corporate executives to do the right thing, even if they wanted to: “The law forbids any motivation for their actions, whether to assist workers, improve the environment, or help consumers save money. They can do these things with their own money, as private citizens. As corporate officials, however, stewards of other people’s money, they have no legal authority to pursue such goals as ends in themselves – only as means to serve the corporations own interests, which generally means to maximise the wealth of its shareholders. Corporate social responsibility is thus illegal – at least when it’s genuine.”

Or, maybe it’s that instead of a peace-loving democracy the US is a violent world-wide empire who requires sociopaths to manage its affairs the same way in which McDonalds requires fry cooks?

Let’s look at one of the most egregious examples. Former National Security Advisor and literal psychopath John Bolton has a new opinion piece out in Foreign Policy titled “‘Bring the Troops Home’ Is a Dream, Not a Strategy“.

The fact that after all of the disastrously wrong policies he’s been responsible for Bolton still is afforded a platform to spew more of his foreign-policy “wisdom” says a lot about our true values. Rogue journalist, Caitlin Johnstone notes, “In an even remotely sane civilization, such a creature would be driven from every town he entered until he is forced to crawl into a cave for the rest of his miserable life eating bats alone in the darkness.” 

Unfortunately, Bolton is hardly an exception. Our country is led by a series of monsters. It’s not a bug but a feature. We are ruled by bad people. Simply replacing “bad people” with “good people” does not have a record of success, since the “good” quickly become “bad”.

If genuine social responsibility is illegal, it makes perfect sense that conscience is a threat to be stifled at every turn. In the 1930s, political analyst Rudolf Rocker wrote: ‘It is certainly dangerous for a state when its citizens have a conscience; what it needs is men without conscience… men in whom the feeling of personal responsibility has been replaced by the automatic impulse to act in the interests of the state.”

Rocker was writing about the Nazi’s, of course, but the same dynamic applies here.

Even those with a conscience have to continue to tolerate an increasingly dysfunctional, stagnant, yet predatory society. “Insecure people are much more willing to engage in desperate and crooked behavior than those who think they have less to lose. Increasingly, if you want to get and hang on to a middle class job, that job will involve dishonesty or exploitation of others in some way. It means tolerating or turning a blind eye to the deaths of despair of fellow Americans, even as they hustle desperately to try to ensure that they are not their deaths, or their children’s. Even for its current beneficiaries, the present system is a game of musical chairs. As time goes on, with each round, yet more chairs are yanked from the game.”

Meanwhile, because of the loss of unionized jobs, the real decline of wages, de-industrialization, chronic underemployment and unemployment, and punishing austerity programs, the country is plagued by a plethora of diseases of despair including opioid addictions, alcoholism, suicides, gambling, depression, morbid obesity and mass shootings.

For those of us who are increasingly appalled by the moral decay exhibited by some of our most powerful private sector operators which, naturally, lack any sort of democratic oversight, we quickly learn that attempting to effect change from within is usually a futile gesture.

It’s a sure bet that much of the mental illness in this country is borne by the the people who discovered, to their horror, that they work in the belly of the beast. I’ll bet there’s a lot of alcohol and substance abuse.

Anything to quiet or, better yet, disappear that pesky conscience.

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