by Michael R. Honig (Originally written as a show commentary, August 9, 2010)
I’m actually surprised that I’ve never posted this on my blog before. It’s over a year old, but I still believe it’s true.
(Update, 4/4/2012): Some links added to article.)
I’ve never been an extremist. I’ve never been a conspiracy nut. I’ve never been one who has particularly believed in the “evil corporate executive” stereotype that is at the center of so many plots on TV and in film.
I do think that more often than not, anyone who rises to a position of great power or authority must have a certain element of narcissism and ruthlessness in their nature in order to get there. And yet, I’ve still believed that generally speaking, corporate executives have some degree of moral compass to guide them in what they do.
But the last few years have really strained my basically trusting nature.
Executive over-compensation is not metaphorically a victimless crime. It restrains wages and raises prices. But there’s no visible guilt. Financial industry shenanigans came close to driving us into another Great Depression, and the jury is still out on whether we’re really in any sort of a recovery. Yet the financial gurus who brought us to this point have been and still are extremely well compensated. But there’s no apparent feeling of responsibility.
The health care insurance industry seems totally obsessed with the dollars, with no real thought to the actual health of their customers. It’s all a big game to them, finding which loophole they can create or invoke to increase their bottom line. But they’re only being responsible to their stockholders.
The key trait in all the examples I’ve given is Remorselessness.
Remorselessness is the reason that a corporate CEO can collect tens of millions of dollars in compensation while firing thousands or tens of thousands of employees earning a great deal less.
Remorselessness is why a health insurance company can drop a very sick woman from their plan because she underpaid her premium by literally 4/10 of a cent.
And then there’s BP.
If there was a philosophical tipping point for me, it came a few weeks ago with BP and the oil spill in the Gulf.
I don’t think I’ve ever in my life seen a clearer example of corporate lying, disinformation, misinformation, concealment, obfuscation, disingenuousness, outright fictionalization, and endangerment of human health by a single company in such a short period of time.
Remorselessness explains how BP could take safety shortcuts resulting in 360 serious safety violations since 2005, while the total for the whole industry was 361!
I’m certainly no psychologist, so this is only a layman’s opinion. I do believe, though, that there’s actually a psychological term for executives who can do all these things and not feel any qualms or remorse: It’s Corporate Sociopathy.
And this isn’t my term. There’s actually quite of bit of discussion on the internet about corporate sociopaths. You can look for yourself.
Do you think it’s a bit strong to call these kinds of executives sociopaths? So did I, until a few weeks ago. So let’s examine it.
According to the “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, three or more of the following behavior patterns could define a sociopath:
A. Repeated acts that could lead to arrest.
B. Conning people for pleasure or profit, or repeated lying, or the use of aliases.
C. Failure to plan ahead or being impulsive.
D. Repeated assaults on others.
E. Recklessness when it comes to the safety of themselves or others.
F. Poor work behavior or failure to honor financial obligations.
G. Rationalizing the pain they inflict on others.
So consistently lying, neglecting the safety of others, and rationalizing the pain they cause … All without remorse. (1)
Does any of this sound familiar?
There is something to the idea that giving a corporation ‘personhood’ without any actual human obligations is almost an invitation to sociopathic behavior.
Do I believe that every executive is a closet sociopath? No.
Do I believe that every corporation engages in sociopathic behavior? No. I hope not.
But the BP Disaster and their subsequent behavior has shaken my faith in Big Business more than ever.
As I’ve said in a previous commentary, Businesses have one main purpose: Profit.
Government has one main obligation: Protection of the national welfare.
They must balance each other, or the inmates will literally be running the asylum.
The next time someone tells you to that our government has no business regulating corporate behavior, tell them to look up the term “Corporate Sociopath”. Then have the discussion.
(1) “Did you know, beginning in the late 19th century, corporations were granted all the rights of the individual, but none of the annoying responsibilities. They lack, almost by design, any kind of moral compass, conscience, or compassion. Basically, corporations are a way to enact sociopathic behavior on a grand scale. In short, they’re what makes this country so damn great.” ~ The Devil (played by Ray Wise), TV Series “REAPER”, Episode 30: “Business Casualty”, Aired May 19, 2009
ARTICLE: “Sometimes, the boss really is a psycho”, 25-JULY-2013