Psychopaths are drawn to and uniquely capable within politics. They are charismatic, show no remorse, crave power and rise to the top. Leading psychologists have built the literature on the corporate form, but statist psychopathy bears investigation
Pathocracy – “A system of government where a small pathological minority takes over a society of normal people.” – Andrew M. Lobaczewski in Political Ponerology
Kyriarchy – A social hierarchy based on domination rather than spontaneous, voluntary order. All states are necessarily kyriarchical because the government is a monopoly on violence. Psychopaths rise to the top of coercive hierarchies like helium balloons rise to the ceilings of rooms.
“Psychopaths are social predators and like all predators they are looking for feeding grounds. Wherever you get power, prestige and money you will find them.”
–Robert Hare, Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, leading psychopathy researcher
It requires a certain mindset to want to rule others. This person believes they are qualified to and morally justified in making life-changing decisions for millions at the point of a gun (state law).
Desire to rule is one thing, but the qualities that enable one to rise in the political hierarchy are perhaps rarer and more pernicious. Psychopaths are manipulative, charming, narcissistic and excellent liars. Most importantly, they score low on the empathy scale — showing little or no remorse for inflicting suffering (and readily violate the non-aggression principle). As children, many psychopaths torture animals and bully peers. They learn to mimic the normal outward display of emotionality, but it is purely an act.
It is easy to compromise your morals if you don’t have any. Being a politician means lying. The job description includes making back room deals and compromising on campaign promises. People often joke about politicians being heartless, deceitful, untrustworthy, self-aggrandizing and vindictive. But perhaps they must be to become politicians.
We all know some genuinely good people (perhaps a bit egotistical) who serve as state functionaries. Local politicians, even many Congresspeople appear genuinely motivated to do what they think is right (by force, naturally). But the lower eschelon of power is not where the psychopaths aggregate. Some leading psychologists hypothesize that the higher one looks up the hierarchy, the lower the empathy. From John Ronson’s The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry:
“Sociopaths love power. They love winning. If you take loving kindness out of the human brain, there’s not much left except the will to win.” [Said Martha Stout, psychologist of psychopathy].
“Which means you’ll find a preponderance of them at the top of the tree?”
“Yes,” she said. The higher you go up the ladder, the greater the number sociopaths you’ll find there.”
There is a physiologically conserved brain abnormality among psychopaths. Also see this study. The possibility of genetically fixed psychopathy will not sit well with those that wish to believe in environmental rather than biological determinism. The leading psychologists of psychopathy believe it is fixed. Psychopathy and sociopathy are not “mental illnesses,” which come and go and can be treated pharmacologically. The utter absence of empathy is permanent.
Furthermore, psychopaths and sociopaths make up about 1% of the population, according to the FBI.
From an interview with Robert Hare:
Bob said it’s always a nice surprise when a psychopath speaks openly about their inability to feel emotions. Most of them pretend to feel. When they see us non-psychopaths crying or scared or moved by human suffering, or whatever, they think it’s fascinating. They study us and learn how to ape us, like space creatures trying to blend in, but if we keep our eyes open, we can spot the fakery. (p. 100-101)
“I should never have done all my research in prisons. I should have spent my time inside the Stock Exchange as well.”
I looked at Bob. “Really?” I said.
“But surely stock-market psychopaths can’t be as bad as serial-killer psychopaths,” I said.
“Serial killers ruin families.” Bob shrugged. “Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies.”
This– Bob was saying –was the straightforward solution to the greatest mystery of all: Why is the world so unfair? Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty? The answer: psychopaths. That part of the brain that doesn’t function right. You’re standing on an escalator and you watch the people going past on the opposite escalator. If you could climb inside their brains, you would see we aren’t all the same.
We aren’t all good people just trying to do good. Some of us are psychopaths. And psychopaths are to blame for this brutal, misshapen society. They’re the jagged rocks thrown into the still pond. (p. 112)
“If some political or business leader had a psychopathically hoodlum childhood, wouldn’t it come out in the press and ruin them?” I said.
“They find ways to bury it,” Bob replied. “Anyway, Early Behavior Problems don’t necessarily mean ending up in Juvenile Hall. It could mean, say, secretly torturing animals.” He paused. “But getting access to people like that can be difficult. Prisoners are easy. They like meeting researchers. It breaks up the monotony of their day. But CEOs, politicians …” Bob looked at me. “It’s a really big story,” he said. “It’s a story that could change forever the way people see the world.” (p. 118)
There has been a surge in theories about “corporate psychopaths,”   (see Hare and Babiak’s Snakes in Suits and Paul Lawrence’s Driven to Lead ) but inquiry into the more obvious form, political psychopathy, despite some coverage (“The Startling Accuracy of Referring to Politicians as Psychopaths.” The Atlantic), has not really entered the public consciousness.
One pioneering researcher, named Andrew M. Lobaczewski, has established the prevailing framework for statist psychopathy in his monumental work “Political Ponerology: A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes,” (PDF) which itself scarcely made it out of Communist Poland with its researchers hunted down, tortured and killed by the local state authorities.
Lobaczewski’s book is actually the synthesis of the work of several Polish thinkers who formed a theoretical school of psychology that was borne from the Nazi and Communist occupations — naturally, the researchers focused on the psychology of evil, which is derived from poneros, the New Testament Greek for “innate evil.” His harrowing story can be read here.
The manuscript, having been burned in Poland, survived only in Lobaczewski’s mind as he immigrated to the U.S. Ironically, unable to get it published
he enlisted the help of his compatriot, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had just previously served as President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser and who initially praised the book and promised to help get the book published. Unfortunately, after some time spent corresponding Brzezinski became silent, responding only to the effect that it was a pity it hadn’t worked out. In Łobaczewski’s words, “he strangled the matter, treacherously”.
Not surprising behavior for a tactical genius and probable psychopath, himself.
Bob Altermeyer, like Lobaczewski, has come to similar conclusions in his description of the “Authoritarians” (PDF).
Some notable individuals I suspect of being “authoritarian” at the very least: Henry Kissinger, George H.W. Bush, Zbiginiew Brzezinski, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Hank Paulson and yes, the statist messiah, Lord Obama.
Let’s briefly remind ourselves of some of the recent, U.S. perpetrated atrocities (that we know of — there are still a lot of classified files):
The Burning of Samar, Philippine-American War, September-October 1901: “This was one of the worst single atrocities of the Philippine-American War, which was itself one of the worst colonial wars fought by the U.S. government. The U.S. government claims and military sources generally claim about 34,000 Filipino combatant deaths and perhaps 200,000 civilian deaths; estimates based on before- and after-war population counts indicate that as many as a million Filipinos may have been killed in the war and the epidemic cholera outbreak toward its end. U.S. tactics included scorched-earth destruction of villages, mass reprisals and massacres like in Samar, the widespread use of concentration camps (reconcentrados or “protected zones”) for counter-insurgency (one of the major factors in the outbreaks of disease) and the widespread use of torture tactics such as the revival of the medieval/early modern “water cure” torture.” – Charles W. Johnson
Japanese Internment under FDR (1944): Over 100,000 innocent Japanese people put in concentration camps
Nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki under Truman (1945): At least 200,000 killed and wounded, mostly civilians
Firebombing of Tokyo (esp. Operation Meetinghouse, in the middle of the night March 9-10 1945). “The Tokyo raid has been widely overshadowed because of the later atomic bombings, and because the talk about terror-bombing with incendiary bombs mostly focused on Dresden in the European theater, but the March 9-10 raid is widely considered the most destructive non-nuclear air raid in the history of the earth, burned over 100,000 people to death and left over 1,000,000 people homeless in a single night of firebombing. It was also the inaugural raid of the low-altitude napalm firebombing campaign of 67 cities on the Japanese home islands, between March and August of 1945, which taken as a whole is one of the greatest wartime atrocities in human history.” -CWJ
Bombing of Dresden, also under FDR (1945): Over 20,000 civilians fire bombed
Tuskeegee and Guatemala Syphilis Experiments: Civilians who thought they were getting “free” government healthcare were infected with syphilis. Governments on both sides of the Atlantic were also deeply involved in the Eugenics movement, which involved forced sterilization through prisons, juvenile detention facilities, asylums, and state welfare and medical “aid” programs between 1907-1979. Some state-by-state data compiled here.
Spraying agent orange and seeding landmines throughout Southeast Asia
Operation Northwoods (1962) (Declassified original document): A false flag terror campaign which included blowing up military and civilian machinery to justify an invasion of Cuba. JFK turned down the offer from the Joint Chiefs of Staff — perhaps he wasn’t a psychopath, or was and merely thought this tactic unwise.
MK ULTRA (195?-73): 80 institutions, including 44 colleges and universities, colluded with the CIA in administering drugs without the consent of the subjects and engaging in psychological torture.
Kent State and Jackson State massacres, May 1970: Peaceful student protestors murdered by police and national guard.
Madeleine Albright‘s famous statement that the U.S. imposed 1990s Iraqi economic sanction which led to the death of over 500,000 children was “worth it.” Video. History is repeating in Iran right now.
Illegal drone killings: Over 300 children killed in Pakistan alone. Obama appeared to cry for the Sandy Hook children (N=20), but none for the hundreds or thousands he’s ultimately responsible for killing. Illegal operations are also ongoing in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and likely elsewhere. Also see the widely acclaimed report, Living Under Drones.
Note: The CIA killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim propagandist and U.S. native living abroad in Yemen. Then, two weeks later, they drone struck his 16 year old son, Denver-native Abdulrahman, on his way to a barbecue. Neither the father nor the son were provided due process — Bush tortured, Obama just kills.
When prompted for an explanation, former White House Press Secretary and MSNBC contributor Robert Gibbs simply stated that Abdulmahman “should [have] had a more responsible father.” (Seriously, here’s the video).
You can bet if the kid’s name had been Timmy Johnson things would be different.
Hopefully I have convinced you that our rulers are psychopaths and that the lack of empathy and aptitude for manipulation are advantageous for ambitious politicians. Psychopaths are drawn to power and rise to the top in hierarchies.
That being said, it’s not even necessary that our rulers actually be psychopaths. Supposedly “normal” individuals commit hideous atrocities when given orders by an authority figure, propagandized, or put in a position of power. Abu Grahib, the Stanford Prison Experiment, Stanley Milgram’s Shock Experiment, and any of the myriad wartime slaughter of innocents is sufficient to bolster this case:
Power is not to be conquered, it is to be destroyed. It is tyrannical by nature, whether exercised by a king, a dictator or an elected president. The only difference with the parliamentarian “democracy” is that the modern slave has the illusion of choosing the master he will obey. The vote has made him an accomplice to the tyranny that oppresses him. He is not a slave because masters exist; masters exist because he elects to remain a slave. -Jean Francois Brient