Corporate psychopathy – Blog No. 46.

Corporate psychopathy

The blogosphere often displays articles relating to the perceived dangers accompanying the rapid development of artificial intelligence. One of the commonly expressed fears is that intelligent, self-replicating robots will decide that they have no further use of irrational humanity and decide to divest themselves of its presence. Click: Stephen Hawking

Should such a situation come to pass, it would be a corporate entity, possibly contracted to a government department, that initiated the process. However, it could perhaps be corporatism itself, rather than any technical development that it might come up with, which poses the most immediate threat to our civilisation – and possibly, even to our survival as a species. The corporate model that the current form of ‘advanced’ capitalism has developed is fast destroying the societies that created it.

free trade

It has no emotions and no instinctive concern for its environment. It is a feeding machine, designed and motivated only to expand its hunting territory and give nourishment to the shareholders at its distant extremity, while increasing the ration entitlement of its controlling brain. Out of control of the democracies (and often the shareholders) that created it, the brute needs to be brought back into line.

This being the forty-sixth in the series, it must be almost a year since I started writing this weekly blog. I set out on this journey of discovery from a starting point of considering myself extremely well-informed as far as certain aspects of the Middle East were concerned. Indeed, it was the glaring ignorance and callousness of the West’s interference in that region, which first politicised me and inspired me to attempt to spread a greater awareness of the crimes being committed in the name of largely innocent, but misinformed and uninformed Western publics.

One thing leads to another. On the chess-board of geopolitics, all pieces seem within striking range of mutual relevance and influence to each other.

As I delved further into the causes of the adverse events impacting on the unfortunate Middle Eastern populace, I found myself on a rapid learning curve. My investigative journey led me to the NATO/Russia conflict: the politics of climate change: nuclear proliferation: the USA’s pivot towards Asia and the Chinese blocking moves. The disproportionate and baleful influence of Israel: the mal-functions of the USA’s democracy, the EU’s bureaucracy, of the Bretton Woods institutions, the global banking system and, most importantly, the impotence of the UN, were other, constantly recurring, themes.

How the citizenry of democratic nations, contrary to their best interests and to the ethical considerations professed by their greater part, could be persuaded to tolerate such crimes and follies from their elected leaders, filled me with wonder. Consequently, the significance of the exercise of public thought control by self-interested elites loomed ever more importantly as being a key factor in the dire circumstances in which humanity now finds itself.

Repeatedly, during my search for a road through the fog, I have found that the road I was travelling led to the same excessive influence gained by corporate entities over democratic political institutions. It seems to be that a key factor in this is the indebtedness of governments and their resultant prioritisation of economic success over all other social values. (Indebtedness of both governments and citizens, and its consequences, is a subject to which I will return in another blog.)

Mr Hyde

A key weapon in a government’s armoury in its pursuit of a growth economy, is how attractive it can make itself in the eyes of the multi-national corporate entities, which increasingly dominate the global economy. Questions such as ‘How little tax will be imposed?’; ‘How low the wages that need be paid?’; ‘How rigourous the environmental controls?’ and ‘How flexible the hiring and firing regime?’ lead to a race to the bottom for the citizens of national governments trying to hook client corporates off the global pavement. It is a seller’s market in which the buyers are so desperate for the favours offered by the sellers that the latter can exercise their power, unbridled by any consideration other than that of corporate profit.

The Wikipedia, defines a key characteristic of the psychopathic personality as “Meanness. Lacking empathy and close attachments with others, disdain of close attachments, use of cruelty to gain empowerment, exploitative tendencies, defiance of authority, and destructive excitement seeking.” I read somewhere, Click: CEO Psychopaths that although less than 1% of the general population exhibit psychopathic tendencies, around 4% of CEO’s of multi-national companies could be certified as psychopaths.

Here is a quote from the article from the UK’s The Independent, which is hyperlinked below “…Cut to a pleasantly warm evening in Bahrain. My companion, a senior UK investment banker and I, are discussing the most successful banking types we know and what makes them tick. I argue that they often conform to the characteristics displayed by social psychopaths. To my surprise, my friend agrees. He then makes an astonishing confession: “At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.” Here was one of the biggest investment banks in the world seeking psychopaths as recruits.” Click: The Independent

In an organisation headed by a psychopath and which is generally appreciative of psychopathic traits, it is not difficult to imagine that those managers exhibiting such traits rise to the top and that success in others’ careers within that organisation tend also to depend on their ‘meanness, lacking empathy…exploitative tendencies, defiance of (political) authority… etc.

In an attempt to demonstrate that it was not just the individuals within the corporates, who were psychopathic but the organisations themselves, I Googled “corporations as psychopaths.” There is no shortage of items on the subject – this book review in the Guardian is just one such. Click: The Guardian

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes in effect Collective Social Impunity. What brought me to the point of blogging on this subject was the current negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) (as mentioned in my previous blog): its drafting and its being pushed through with bribes.

Here is an extract from ‘Laissez Faire,’ an American investment newsletter. After describing how only selected members of the US congress, having surrendered their cell-phones and signed a secrecy agreement, are allowed into the basement room where the draft document is kept, the article continues: “We only know about this because of a leak from WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing website…

…But while they’re keeping us in the dark, a small group of lobbyists have gained full access. They represent 605 private corporations. And they have a special password that allows them to access digital copies of this agreement… at any time, from anywhere in the world.”

As the point that this particular newsletter is trying to make is that this agreement is designed, among much else, to enable free range for genetically modified foods in the signatory countries, it then quotes, extracted from the list, the names of some food corporates’ trade association CEO’s, who are allowed full access to the document in its drafting stage. TPPA CEOs

It continues “…I got a hold of the complete list of insiders. Take a look at just a snapshot…

Notice these are all people representing associations and companies in the food industry. In fact, they’re helping write the rules of the deal. Now, let me ask you… With all this secrecy, do you really think these people are negotiating this deal in the best interest of the American public?…”

The above seventeen names are allegedly from a list of 605 such players of the corporate game. If true, one can assume that similar such lists could be extracted for representatives of the banking corporates; media corporates; utilities; oil and mining; energy; military industrial complex, IT; education; etc.

These corporates are being allowed to input there ideas on a whole range of subjects – not merely their right to force GMOs down the throats of a reluctant international public. For instance, Intellectual Property rights are another heavy chapter of regulatory moves designed specifically to enhance American corporate interests. Click: WikiLeaks

Here is another article, this time by Nobel Prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz former Chief Economist of the World Bank and …. Detailing how the corporates, with their dream agreement, are planning to usurp the national sovereignty of the democracies whose leaders are fool enough, or venal enough, to sell out to them. Click: Joseph Stiglitz

To get an idea of how one-sided this agreement is likely to be, whereas so many key representatives of the American economic interest are allowed access, according to the leaks, the trade partners invited to the negotiation are, at the outside, allowed just four of their most senior politician/negotiators to see the draft document in full. (And that, only under heavy vows that the contents will be disseminated no further.)

So important to the USA is the TPPA and its sister agreement the TTIP, which is being negotiated with European countries, that Obama has been trying to force the pace. My guess is that from the White House point of view, the urgency is not so much the need for increased profits for American based multi-nationals, rather it is the agreements’ potential to curb the relentless growth of a China, which has most pointedly been excluded from the negotiations.

Over the past month or so, it has looked as though Obama’s ambition for a clear run at the agreements was in danger of being thwarted by a group of Senators, who realised that the agreements, while being good for corporates, were likely to have adverse effects on the American public. Not a problem: the corporates simply and blatantly bribed the senators to change their voting intentions Click: Bribing the Senate In the advanced form of democratic capitalism (neo-liberalism) now reached in the USA, money can not only buy political power during the election process Click: Buying elections but it can subsequently buy the votes of those representatives after they have entered office. In effect, American Congressmen and Senators have become corporate delegates, rather than public representatives.

Neo-liberalism has uncaged the corporate crocodiles and left them to roam free in the corridors of power. The crocodiles are busily re-writing the political rules of the money-making game to suit their own best interests. Already, the American democracy would appear to have been gobbled up in the feeding frenzy that has resulted. Even without these two all-embracing agreements on trade and other matters, currently nearing finalisation, the sovereignty of many smaller countries would already be in danger of being sacrificed to triumphant corporate psychopathy as their political leaders follow in America’s footsteps and allow the corporate lobbyists increasing access to the reins of power.

The current shenanigans over the TPPA provide an egregious demonstration of western democracy’s seeming inability to protect itself from the corporate take-over of its civilisation. Though this take-over is now reaching an advanced stage, it is still helpful to review some of the previous defeats suffered along the way by the citizens of those countries whose politicians have lost control.

It was the Coalition of the Willing’s invasion of Iraq that first alerted me to the problem of undue corporate influence in global affairs. This is not the place to go into all the causes of this act of western criminality, but this is a fairly recent summary of the ability of Big Oil’s corporate lobbyists to contribute to the destruction of lesser nations. Click: Oil and Iraq War

This is a sober assessment of the mechanism by which corporatism has seized control of the American democracy Click: US lobbies take-over here are the biggest players and Click: 10 biggest lobbies. and here is who spends the dosh Click: Who spends what It doesn’t have to cost a lot to buy a whole heap of policy. As we saw above, the price of the votes to get Obama’s fast track for the TPPA through the Senate was only just over $1 million. (see hyperlink “bribing the Senate” above.)

The rampant abuse of lobbying powers is one mechanism by which corporates are coming to control western democracy, but it is one which does have one major limitation. The ideas lobbied and bribed for cannot be so outrageous that Congressmen’s or Senators’ support for them is going to make them an object of public ridicule, or loathing. Some corporate goals are so anti-social that the corporates have to travel other routes to achieve them.

For each of the following articles, a simple Google search will find you several or many articles along similar lines in any area of corporate endeavour that interests you.

· The fossil fuel industry conceals the effects of greenhouses gases from the public.

Click: Big Oil denies climate change.

· Big Tobacco denies its lethality Click: Big Tobacco

· Monsanto assures the public Roundup is mother’s milk Click: Drink Roundup

· Defence expenditure v. social welfare: Lockheed’s lobby success Click: F-35 blowout.

· One of Big Pharma’s tricks to exploit ill-health Click: Evergreening

· Wall Street – need I go into line and verse?


The USAAF drone pilot sitting in his or her caravan in the Californian desert, is so far removed from the Pakistani wedding party blown to hell, that a sense of empathy is hardly aroused. In fact, reportedly, the pilots describe their drone-kills as ‘bug-splats.” So too is it with investors on the New York Stock Exchange. They are so far removed from their chosen crocodiles’ destruction of third world lives and environment on distant continents that it is easy for their emotions and consciences to be disengaged from the crimes they commit by proxy.

How many New Zealanders lie awake at night wrestling with the knowledge that the National Fund on which their pension will depend, is invested in an Israeli company that manufactures White Phosphorous which is weaponised and used against the children of Gaza?

At one end of the crocodile you have the shareholders sifting through its droppings on the lookout for gold. At the business end, you have the executive brain. Should this brain be psychopathic, devoid of social conscience and empathy with those it comes into contact with, what are its likely goals? The psychopathic profile would indicate that it will be highly manipulative and willing to either circumvent regulations imposed by others or, as is happening now with the TPPA, to manoeuvre itself into a position from which it can write whatever regulations best suit it.

Imagine you head a big international oil company. What do you seek? Your government’s policies should win you access to new oil fields. You need to do all in your power to prevent a public demand for abandonment of fossil fuels and you wish to minimise expenditure on pollution counter-measures.

Imagine you are head of a large agri-chemical enterprise. What do you seek? The suppression of all adverse information about health issues of the use of herbicides, pesticides and GMOs and the minimisation of regulations affecting their use. If you are into genetic modification, you seek firstly to avoid letting the public know what they are eating and wherever possible, to establish monopolies, whereby farmers can no longer produce their own seeds but are forced each year to buy your patented seeds.

If you are head of an international pharmaceutical company, you need to establish patents that allow you to charge far more for medicines than they actually cost to produce, you need to find ways of prolonging those patents for as long as possible so as to prevent generic lookalikes coming onto the market at prices affordable to developing countries. If any adverse side-effects are discovered, the news of them needs to be suppressed for as long as possible.

If you are CEO of a defence contractor either hiring mercenaries in the form of privatised military units or manufacturing and selling weaponry to the state’s defence establishment, what are you looking for from the government? Huge contracts at inflated prices (prices achieved by hiring senior military officers on their retirement; benefiting from their old-boy networks and the promise to those still in service, should they sign off on the requisite contracts, of similar employ on their retirement.) More wars and threats of wars – the more destabilisation that can be achieved around the world, the greater the company’s sales (keep the pollies in a permanent state of alarm even should the situation on the ground not warrant it.) Click: Dunford speech

If you are running a privatised prison service company you have a vested interest in increasing rates of incarceration – longer average prison sentences and more crimes on the statute book and committed. The more prisons that are taken from public service into private ownership the better. All moves to privatise public services have to be encouraged.

A media mogul must welcome major news events and the worse the news: the greater its audience. At the same time the media seeks ever larger markets: the more readers: the more advertising revenue. An obvious route to this is through acquisitions and by persuading politicians to revoke regulations limiting the establishment of media monopolies. The media crocodiles benefit just as does any other corporate sector, from the weakening of the truly democratic element in government. Rule one is don’t rock the corporate boat: avoid needlessly expensive investigative journalism that might stir political activism and keep the public dumbed down and pre-occupied with trivial entertainments.

As can be seen from the above examples, the interests of a democratic electorate and those of the corporates, which draw their profits from it, differ – in some cases, radically.

The civilisation, in which we live, is founded on the capitalist system in which, like it or not, every member of society participates to a greater or lesser extent. The system has both vices and virtues. The fact that it has been modified so much in the past would indicate that it is still capable of further modification – for better or for worse.

Recent developments in corporate access to political power as described above, do not work towards the best interest of society as a whole. It is up to citizens to decide what is best for their society. What they do not require, is for the political institutions by which they make these decisions, to be usurped by psychopathic corporations, designed for no function other than to maximise their entirely selfish extraction of profit from the societies in which they gain a foothold.

Modification of a democratic constitution is never easy. Those in power have acquired it through the status quo and are thus unlikely to see any pressing need for it to be changed. However, the crocodiles need to be put back in their enclosure. There would seem to be urgent need of a firewall to be erected between the democratic political system and the financial resources of the corporate world. How this should be achieved might take some working out and almost certainly will involve financial sacrifices by both politicians and society at large. However, anything is better for a society than submission to the control of psychopathic corporations devoid of emotional engagement with the society about them and of any sense of personal or moral responsibility for their anti-social actions.

Bringing the beast under democratic control
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