Centralization And Sociopathology


Centralization And Sociopathology
[Tyler Durden's picture]<http://www.zerohedge.com/users/tyler-durden>
Submitted by Tyler Durden<http://www.zerohedge.com/users/tyler-durden> on 05/21/2013 12:31 -0400

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog<http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2013/05/centralization-and-sociopathology.html>,

Concentrated power and wealth are intrinsically sociopathological by their very nature.

I have long spoken of the dangers inherent to centralization of power and the extreme concentrations of wealth centralization inevitably creates.

The Master Narrative Nobody Dares Admit: Centralization Has Failed<http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjune12/centralization-failed6-12.html> (June 21, 2012)
The Solution to Concentrated Power: Decentralize, Diffuse and Devolve Power<http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjune12/solution-decentralization6-12.html> (June 22, 2012)
To Fix Healthcare, Let 100 Solutions Bloom<http://www.oftwominds.com/blogfeb13/100-solutions2-13.html> (February 26, 2013)

Longtime contributor C.D. recently highlighted another danger of centralization: sociopaths/psychopaths excel in organizations that centralize power, and their ability to flatter, browbeat and manipulate others greases their climb to the top.

In effect, centralization is tailor-made for sociopaths gaining power. Sociopaths seek power over others, and centralization gives them the perfect avenue to control over millions or even entire nations.

Even worse (from the view of non-sociopaths), their perverse abilities are tailor-made for excelling in office and national politics via ruthless elimination of rivals and enemies and grandiose appeals to national greatness, ideological purity, etc.

As C.D. points out, the ultimate protection against sociopathology is to minimize the power held in any one agency, organization or institution:

After you watch these films on psychopaths, I think you'll have an even greater understanding of why your premise of centralization is a key problem of our society. The first film points out that psychopaths generally thrive in the corporate/government top-down organization (I have seen it happen in my agency, unfortunately) and that when they come to power, their values (or lack thereof) tend to pervade the organization to varying degrees. In some cases, they end up creating secondary psychopaths which is kind of like a spiritual/moral disease that infects people.

If we are to believe the premise in the film that there are always psychopaths among us in small numbers, it follows then that we must limit the power of any one institution, whether it's private or public, so that the damage created by psychopaths is limited.

It is very difficult for many people to fathom that there are people in our society that are that evil, for lack of a better term, and it is even harder for many people in society to accept that people in the higher strata of our society can exhibit these dangerous traits.

The same goes for criminal behavior. From my studies, it's pretty clear that criminality is fairly constant throughout the different levels of our society and yet, it is the lower classes that are subjected to more scrutiny by law enforcement. The disparity between blue collar and white collar crime is pretty evident when one looks at arrests and sentencing. The total lack of effective enforcement against politically connected banks over the last few years is astounding to me and it sets a dangerous precedent. Corruption and psychopathy go hand in hand.

A less dark reason for avoiding over centralization is that we have to be aware of normal human fallibility. Nobody possesses enough information, experience, ability, lack of bias, etc. to always make the right decisions.
Defense Against the Psychopath<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gd6P1Ue2aGg> (video, 37 minutes; the many photos of political, religious and secular leaders will likely offend many/most; if you look past these outrages, there is useful information here)

The Sociopath Next Door<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFVrvoYTGu0> (video, 37 minutes)

As C.D. observes, once sociopaths rule an organization or nation, they create a zombie army of secondary sociopaths beneath them as those who resist are undermined, banished, fired or exterminated. If there is any lesson to be drawn from Iraq, it is how a single sociopath can completely undermine and destroy civil society by empowering secondary sociopaths and eliminating or marginalizing anyone who dares to cling to their humanity, conscience and independence.

"Going along to get along" breeds passive acceptance of sociopathology as "the new normal" and mimicry of the values and techniques of sociopathology as the ambitious and fearful (i.e. almost everyone) scramble to emulate the "successful" leadership.

Organizations can be perverted into institutionalizing sociopathology via sociopathological goals and rules of conduct. Make the metric of success in war a body count of dead "enemy combatants" and you'll soon have dead civilians stacked like cordwood as proof of every units' outstanding success.

Make lowering unemployment the acme of policy success and soon every agency will be gaming and manipulating data to reach that metric of success. Make higher grades the metric of academic success and soon every kid is getting a gold star and an A or B.

Centralization has another dark side: those ensconced in highly concentrated centers of power (for example, The White House) are in another world, and they find it increasingly easy to become isolated from the larger context and to slip into reliance on sycophants, toadies (i.e. budding secondary sociopaths) and "experts" (i.e. apparatchiks and factotums) who are equally influenced by the intense "high" of concentrated power/wealth.

Increasingly out of touch with those outside the circle of power, those within the circle slide into a belief in the superiority of their knowledge, skills and awareness--the very definition of sociopathology.

Even worse (if that is possible), the incestuous nature of the tight circle of power breeds a uniformity of opinion and ideology that creates a feedback loop that marginalizes dissenters and those with open minds. Dissenters are soon dismissed--"not a team player"-- or trotted out for PR purposes, i.e. as evidence the administration maintains ties to the outside world.

Those few dissenters who resist the siren song of power soon face a choice: either quietly quit "to pursue other opportunities" (the easy way out) or quit in a blast of public refutation of the administration's policies.

Public dissenters are quickly crucified by those in power, and knowing this fate awaits any dissenter places a powerful disincentive on "going public" about the sociopathology of the inner circle of power.

On rare occasions, an insider has the courage and talent to secure documentation that details the sociopathology of a policy, agency or administration (for example, Daniel Ellsberg and The Pentagon Papers<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagon_Papers>).

Nothing infuriates a sociopath or a sociopathological organization more than the exposure of their sociopathology, and so those in power will stop at nothing to silence, discredit, criminalize or eliminate the heroic whistleblower.

In these ways, centralized power is itself is a sociopathologizing force. We cannot understand the present devolution of our civil society, economy and ethics unless we understand that concentrated power and wealth are intrinsically sociopathological by their very nature.

The solution: a culture of decentralization, transparency and open competition, what I call the DATA model (Decentralized, Adaptive, Transparent and Accountable) in my book Why Things Are Falling Apart and What We Can Do About It<http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1480219886/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1480219886&linkCode=as2&tag=charleshughsm-20>.




  I haven't yet watched the films or read the articles linked below, but it all looks quite interesting. What I immediately see tends to accord with my own evolving thinking, which is largely based on though not totally in synch with conventional Rothbardian libertarianism.

  Take for instance the statement below that, "Concentrated power and wealth are intrinsically sociopathological by their very nature." Note that it doesn't refer to concentrated power and wealth only in government. I believe that concentrated power (and in our world, wealth is de facto power) is a problem that extends beyond formal government but one which is made immeasurably worse by the State, which is beyond a doubt the institution that has historically given us the worst examples of the horrible consequences that can result from centralized power and wealth.

  Can't one have great power/wealth without it being a problem? It is theoretically possible -- in fact it has no doubt happened on occasion -- that an individual or NGO (non-governmental organization) has possessed great wealth and/or power without using it to commit or abet aggression. But even in such cases, once a large amount of power or wealth is accumulated, what happens to it after the person or persons responsible for the benevolent exercise of such power/wealth are out of the picture? To expand on George Washington's metaphor about government as fire ("a dangerous servant and a fearful master"), it is like building a large bonfire and then leaving it untended, or poorly tended.

  I think the problem is far greater with institutions than with individuals, because institutions can outlive any human being, and have characteristics of their own that often make them ready vehicles for the abuse of power. As the author below (not clear if Tyler Durden or Charles Hugh-Smith) observes:

The first film points out that psychopaths generally thrive in the corporate/government top-down organization (I have seen it happen in my agency, unfortunately) and that when they come to power, their values (or lack thereof) tend to pervade the organization to varying degrees. In some cases, they end up creating secondary psychopaths which is kind of like a spiritual/moral disease that infects people.

  We know that power corrupts, and it does not seem like much of a stretch to assume that some people are more at risk of being corrupted by it than others, and that some people are also presumably predisposed to abuse power even prior to encountering its corrupting influences. Nevertheless, I feel that casual reference to "sociopaths" and "psychopaths" such as the author makes often fall short of contributing to our understanding of what's going on. I recently listened to a book "The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty" by Simon Baron-Cohen. The author diagnoses the problem of "evil" in terms of lack of empathy, defining sociopaths as people with "zero degrees of empathy". Such extreme lack of ability to see things from the perspective of others, he believes, can have either hereditary and/or environmental causes. He also notes that people who are autistic or have similar conditions can be similarly lacking in empathy, and distinguishes these people from those who are more consciously evil.

  I confess I don't have a good handle on what it means to be a sociopath or psychopath, including whether those categories are even valid, and if they are valid, whether Simon Baron-Cohen is correct to see the problem as essentially one of some people lacking sufficient empathy for others (he does present a good deal of technical brain-analysis to support his conclusions, but I can't say with certainty they are correct). By contrast, the author below defines sociopathology as "a belief in the superiority of [the sociopath's] knowledge, skills and awareness". The fact that this is a totally different (and, imho, less convincing) definition from that offered by Baron-Cohen seems to illustrate how far society is from any consensus on what role mental illness or pathology may play in the abuse of power.

  Nevertheless, the essay below does have plenty to recommend it. Another sentence that caught my attention:

"Going along to get along" breeds passive acceptance of sociopathology as "the new normal" and mimicry of the values and techniques of sociopathology as the ambitious and fearful (i.e. almost everyone) scramble to emulate the "successful" leadership.

  I was struck here by the author's use of quotes around the term "successful", because this is a theme I have often remarked on in my Libertarian Party communications -- namely, the importance of distinguishing *real* success (in libertarian terms, advancing the cause of freedom) from *conventional* "success" (simply accruing money, power, or fame, or otherwise achieving goals that are generally validated by society but which don't necessarily contribute to the greater good or reflect true human excellence). Too many Libertarians, imho, fail to draw any distinction between these two disparate meanings, and thus end up pursuing "success" in conventional political terms rather than success in libertarian terms. Barack Obama, Mitch McConnell, and many other household names are "successful" politicians in conventional terms, but they are *not* successful in libertarian terms, and so we as libertarians should not describe them as successful! They have been abject *failures* when it comes to fulfilling the proper purpose of their chosen profession of politics, namely ensuring that public policy serves to protect life, liberty, and justly acquired property, and I submit that this failure is related to and cannot be readily separated from the way in which they went about achieving their "success", i.e. the system that nurtured them in their path to power. Therefore we should not make the mistake of thinking that we can emulate their methods without acquiring their disease. (As Marshall McLuhan observed in a quote that has deep and widely applicable meaning, "The medium is the message." )

  This lack of discernment among many (L)ibertarians about the nature of "success" leaves us much more vulnerable as a political party and as a movement to being co-opted by those who are more interested in money/power than in freeing the world, by making such individuals harder to spot in our ranks. Because such individuals have a greater desire than others for money/power -- whether due to some intrinsic, classifiable mental condition or not -- they are more likely on average than others to seek out and occupy leadership positions. Unfortunately it is not necessarily obvious who is embracing conventional success merely because they think that is way to achieve real success, and who is embracing conventional success because that is his or her true goal. This makes it easy for those who are primarily motivated by money/power to achieve leadership positions in our party/movement without attracting any particular notice. Especially because the effect is a gradual one that is only truly felt over time, as subtle differences in priorities, ways of thinking, and so on, gradually change the culture and structure of an organization. The only antidote I can see is to be aware of the phenomenon, and to consciously create cultures and structures within our organizations that inoculate against it as much as possible.

  I've copied Colorado LP chair Jeff Orrok on this email because he and I had some great conversations about the LP, strategy, philosophy, and so on while I enjoyed his hospitality after their state convention, and I think he might find the thread interesting. In any case, thanks for posting!

Love & Liberty,
                                ((( starchild )))


Well, I've given this stuff a chance to ruminate (fulminate?) and what's
come out is essentially the same determination I made regarding conspiracy
theory, which is: it doesn't do me any good to live my life under such a
mindset. There's no point in debating whether or not it is correct; it is
simply unhealthy to be so cynical (and, I might even say, paranoid). When
I am designing a system (I am a software engineer by trade), I have a
repertory of design patterns and data structures to draw upon, and I select
those which seem most appropriate to the task at hand. Sometimes it's a
state machine. Sometimes it's a circular queue. Sometimes it's a
relational database. Sometimes it's a hierarchical one. My point is that
sometimes centralization is appropriate and sometimes it is not, but it is
absurd to demonize a pattern or structure (centralization), just as it is
absurd to blame guns for human violence.

If this were just an Athenian discussion as Mr. Bechtol seems to think,
then heck, I'd even chip in with comparison and contrast with M. Scott
Peck's *People of the
*, but what I fear this line of thought is actually going to be used for is
more motivation for infighting within the party. If you want to see a
bottom-up structure, then hey, here's an idea, go work with the people at
the "bottom" instead of trying to justify an attack on the people at the
"top" -- or, I suppose since centralization is the scapegoat, people on the
edge rather than in the center. If you can train them to be
consensus-driven and that makes them productive and effective, then there
will be no need for the attack on the center/top because all of the real
power (ie accomplishment) will have already been vested out on the
edge/bottom. Furthermore, since the LP has no real money or power, the
center/top is not really a fearsome nexus of evil that needs overthrowing.

The trouble is, it takes an *extraordinary* degree of consciousness and
self-discipline for a group of people to be powerful, productive, and
effective in a consensus-driven organization, and quite frankly, the
preponderance of humanity is just not up for it, especially in a culture
whose favorite pastimes are watching YouTube and liking "memes" (in quotes,
since they aren't *really* memes because they aren't *really* changing
people's thoughts) on Facebook. Your only hope is to figure out how to
make the aforementioned training fun -- and cool.

Well, speaking of software, I've got to get back to mine, so here's hoping
my words were not in vain and that I'll be hearing about some good
wholesome ground being taken by the grassroots.