Capitalism and pathocracy: Rule of, by, and for the morally insane.

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In its pure, unregulated sense and form, capitalism is the creed and practice of psychopaths, nothing more than a vehicle for the uninhibited expression of psychopathological freedom.  Capitalists, once called “captains of industry,” and more recently known as “masters of the universe” due to malignant effects of their outsized egos on the global population at large, often pretend to adhere to some marginally plausible ethos purely for public relations value, e.g., “bringing cheap energy to market,” or “creating market efficiencies,” to mask and continue their depredations unmolested by the indignant outcries of normal people, in the end, the psychopath simply takes what he wants without any standard feeling of remorse for horrific outcomes.

Sociopaths are “outstanding” members of society in two senses: politically, they command attention because of the inordinate amount of crime they commit, and psychologically, they elicit fascination because most of us cannot fathom the cold, detached way they repeatedly harm and manipulate others.… (1 of 63) [04/01/2008 16:28:32]


Whether criminal or not, sociopaths typically exhibit what is generally considered to be irresponsible and unreliable behavior; their attributes include egocentrism, an inability to form lasting personal commitments and a marked degree of impulsivity. Underlying a superficial veneer of sociability and charm, sociopaths are characterized by a deficit of the social emotions (love, shame, guilt, empathy, and remorse). On the other hand, they are not intellectually handicapped, and are often able to deceive and manipulate others through elaborate scams and ruses including fraud, bigamy, embezzlement, and other crimes which rely on the trust and cooperation of others.  The sociopath is “aware of the discrepancy between his behavior and societal expectations, but he seems to be neither guided by the possibility of such a discrepancy, nor disturbed by its occurrence” (Widom 1976a, p 614). This cold- hearted and selfish approach to human interaction at one time garnered for sociopathy the moniker “moral insanity” (McCord 1983, Davison & Neale


What makes capitalism an ideal vehicle for the expression of psychopathology is its inclination toward pure profit regardless of external costs, hence its hypertrophic emphasis on unregulated, laissez faire, “let do” behavior.

Insofar as psychopaths and their creed of unfettered capitalism have infested and subverted the very government both regulating them and giving them license to operate, the United States has turned into what some have called a “pathocracy,” the rule of, by, and for the morally insane.

Dick Cheney is the quintessential psychopathocrat, a textbook war criminal and profiteer, murderer, torturer, and deceiver who has incessantly used both public and private offices to surreptitiously commit crimes to advance himself and his agenda of subverting government control over psychopaths by further deregulating psychopathic behavior, and who by any reasonable definitions and standards of clinical or popular evidence is morally insane.  These days, most politicians and business leaders, if not full-blown psychopaths like Cheney, emit significant behavior within the spectrum of anti-social disorders, thus skewing the system to further psychopathic excesses, thus normalizing, or at least rendering dominant moral insanity.    

In any society in this world, psychopathic individuals and some of the other deviants create a ponerogenically [evil-generating] active network of common collusions, partially estranged from the community of normal people. Some inspirational role of the essential psychopathy in this network also appears to be a common phenomenon.

   They are aware of being different as they obtain their life experience and become familiar with different ways of fighting for their goals. Their world is forever divided into “us and them” – their world with its own laws and customs and that other foreign world full of presumptuous ideas and customs in light of which they are condemned morally.

   Their “sense of honor” bids them cheat and revile that other human world and its values. In contradiction to the customs of normal people, they feel non-fulfillment of their promises or obligations is customary behavior.

   They also learn how their personalities can have traumatizing effects on the personalities of those normal people, and how to take advantage of this root of terror for purposes of reaching their goals.

   This dichotomy of worlds is permanent and does not disappear even if they succeed in realizing their dreams of gaining power over the society of normal people. This proves that the separation is biologically conditioned.

   In such people a dream emerges like some youthful Utopia of a “happy” world and a social system which would not reject them or force them to submit to laws and customs whose meaning is incomprehensible to them. They dream of a world in which their simple and radical way of experiencing and perceiving reality [i.e. lying, cheating, destroying, using others, etc] would dominate, where they would, of course, be assured safety and prosperity. Those “others” – different, but also more technically skillful – should be put to work to achieve this goal. “We,” after all, will create a new government, one of justice [for psychopaths]. They are prepared to fight and suffer for the sake of such a brave new world, and also of course, to inflict suffering upon others. Such a vision justifies killing people whose suffering does not move them to compassion because “they” are not quite conspecific.

That particular passage reminded me of the most respected purveyor of “Objectivist” psychopathology in America, Ayn Rand, who currently remains ascendant especially in right wing politics and laissez faire capitalism.  Mark Ames wrote and excellent article for that really captures the essence of Rand’s fantastical radicalism, from which I quote somewhat extensively:

The best way to get to the bottom of Ayn Rand’s beliefs is to take a look at how she developed the superhero of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation — Danny Renahan, the protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street — on him.

What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: “Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should,” she wrote, gushing that Hickman had “no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel ‘other people.'”

This echoes almost word for word Rand’s later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: “He was born without the ability to consider others.” (The Fountainhead is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ favorite book — he even requires his clerks to read it.)

I’ll get to where Rand picked up her silly superman blather later — but first, let’s meet William Hickman, the “genuinely beautiful soul” and inspiration to Ayn Rand. What you will read below — the real story, details included, of what made Hickman a “superman” in Ayn Rand’s eyes — is extremely gory and upsetting, even if you’re well acquainted with true crime stories — so prepare yourself. But it’s necessary to read this to understand Rand, and to repeat this over and over until all of America understands what made her tick, because Rand’s influence over the very people leading the fight to kill social programs, and her ideological influence on so many powerful bankers, regulators and businessmen who brought the financial markets crashing down, means her ideas are affecting all of our lives in the worst way imaginable.

Rand fell for William Edward Hickman in the late 1920s, as the shocking story of Hickman’s crime started to grip the nation. He was the OJ Simpson of his day; his crime, trial and case were nonstop headline grabbers for months.

Hickman, who was only 19 when he was arrested for murder, was the son of a paranoid-schizophrenic mother and grandmother. His schoolmates said that as a kid Hickman liked to strangle cats and snap the necks of chickens for fun — most of the kids thought he was a budding manic, though the adults gave him good marks for behavior, a typical sign of sociopathic cunning. He enrolled in college but quickly dropped out, and turned to violent crime largely driven by the thrill and arrogance typical of sociopaths: in a brief and wild crime spree that grew increasingly violent, Hickman knocked over dozens of gas stations and drug stores across the Midwest and west to California. Along the way it’s believed he strangled a girl in Milwaukee and killed his crime partner’s grandfather in Pasadena, tossing his body over a bridge after taking his money. Hickman’s partner later told police that Hickman told him how much he’d like to kill and dismember a victim someday — and that day did come for Hickman.

One afternoon, Hickman drove up to Mount Vernon Junior High school in Los Angeles, telling administrators he’d come to pick up “the Parker girl” — her father, Perry Parker, was a prominent banker. Hickman didn’t know the girl’s first name, so when he was asked which of the two Parker twins, he answered, “the younger daughter.” Then he corrected himself: “The smaller one.”

No one suspected his motives. The school administrator fetched young Marion, and brought her out to Hickman. Marion obediently followed Hickman to his car as she was told, where he promptly kidnapped her. He wrote a ransom note to Marion’s father, demanding $1,500 for her return, promising the girl would be left unharmed. Marion was terrified into passivity — she even waited in the car for Hickman when he went to mail his letter to her father. Hickman’s extreme narcissism comes through in his ransom letters, as he refers to himself as a “master mind [sic]” and “not a common crook.” Hickman signed his letters “The Fox” because he admired his own cunning: “Fox is my name, very sly you know.” And then he threatened: “Get this straight. Your daughter’s life hangs by a thread.”

Hickman and the girl’s father exchanged letters over the next few days as they arranged the terms of the ransom, while Marion obediently followed her captor’s demands. She never tried to escape the hotel where he kept her; Hickman even took her to a movie, and she never screamed for help. She remained quiet and still as told when Hickman tied her to the chair — he didn’t even bother gagging her because there was no need to, right up to the gruesome end.

Hickman’s last ransom note to Marion’s father is where this story reaches its disturbing end. Hickman fills the letter with hurt anger over her father’s suggestion that Hickman might deceive him, and “ask you for your $1500 for a lifeless mass of flesh I am base and low but won’t stoop to that depth.” What Hickman didn’t say was that as he wrote the letter, Marion had already been chopped up into several lifeless masses of flesh. Why taunt the father? Why feign outrage? This sort of bizarre taunting was all part of the serial killer’s thrill, maximizing his sadistic pleasure. But this was nothing compared to the thrill Hickman got from murdering the helpless 12-year-old Marion Parker. Here is an old newspaper description of the murder, taken from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on December 27, 1927:

“It was while I was fixing the blindfold that the urge to murder came upon me,” he continued, “and I just couldn’t help myself. I got a towel and stepped up behind Marion. Then before she could move, I put it around her neck and twisted it tightly. I held on and she made no outcry except to gurgle. I held on for about two minutes, I guess, and then I let go. When I cut loose the fastenings, she fell to the floor. I knew she was dead. Well, after she was dead I carried her body into the bathroom and undressed her, all but the underwear, and cut a hole in her throat with a pocket knife to let the blood out.”

Another newspaper account explained what Hickman did next:

Then he took a pocket knife and cut a hole in her throat. Then he cut off each arm to the elbow. Then he cut her legs off at the knees. He put the limbs in a cabinet. He cut up the body in his room at the Bellevue Arms Apartments. Then he removed the clothing and cut the body through at the waist. He put it on a shelf in the dressing room. He placed a towel in the body to drain the blood. He wrapped up the exposed ends of the arms and waist with paper. He combed back her hair, powdered her face and then with a needle fixed her eyelids. He did this because he realized that he would lose the reward if he did not have the body to produce to her father.

Hickman packed her body, limbs and entrails into a car, and drove to the drop-off point to pick up his ransom; along his way he tossed out wrapped-up limbs and innards scattering them around Los Angeles.

When he arrived at the meeting point, Hickman pulled Miriam’s [sic] head and torso out of a suitcase and propped her up, her torso wrapped tightly, to look like she was alive–he sewed wires into her eyelids to keep them open, so that she’d appear to be awake and alive. When Miriam’s father arrived, Hickman pointed a sawed-off shotgun at him, showed Miriam’s head with the eyes sewn open (it would have been hard to see for certain that she was dead), and then took the ransom money and sped away. As he sped away, he threw Miriam’s head and torso out of the car, and that’s when the father ran up and saw his daughter–and screamed.

This is the “amazing picture” Ayn Rand — guru to the Republican/Tea Party right-wing — admired when she wrote in her notebook that Hickman represented “the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should.”

Now, whether Ayn Rand was a fully presenting psycho like Hickman or Dick Cheney, or merely some less overtly virulent strain of anti-social demonism, she was undeniably a fantasist, a messianic spell-binder, and ideological proponent of the heroic supremacy of “psychopathic freedom,” the Manson-esque idea of which sent a big thrill up Alan Greenspan’s leg.

Greenspan himself showed strains of his psychopathic uber-mensch, “us versus them” thinking in his defense of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged:

Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.

Where “perishing parasites” refers to average people, whom the uber-menschen always consider a burden to truly deserving, ultra-liberated psychopaths “doing God’s work.”

Or, as JR Boyd puts it, speaking of the true mega-fauna of parasites:

As an inversion, capitalism might be called the greatest philanthropic endeavor ever undertaken by humankind. Never before have so many contributed so much to so few.

It would be funny, if the Gulf wasn’t hemorrhaging oil, the economy wasn’t collapsing, last month wasn’t the deadliest month in Afghanistan, the Blow-Out-Preventer-in-Chief (BOPIC, Mr. Obama) wasn’t listing 15 degrees and 450 tons south, and the boomtown rats weren’t hunkered in the bunker with nary a bite to eat.

Amid that backdrop, the Senate pathocrats completed their financial “reform” package, to provide the illusion of caring to the public prior to November.  The most important thing to know about financial reform is:

The negotiations were not public.

Would it be ungenerous of me to slam the Teleprompter-and-Pathocrat-in-Chief for the least transparent government ever, since he and his morally insane lackeys opposed real reform?  Here’s former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt:

No matter the results of these final points, the bill is a huge failure and a major missed opportunity, according to former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt. “The bill, already weakened by deal-making as it emerged from the Senate, has been bled dry of nearly every meaningful protection of investors,”

That was hardly the first critical moment that has been worse than utterly wasted.

Failing to break up the biggest banks was a policy mistake for the ages.  Senators Brown and Kaufman handed this opportunity to Treasury on a platter – but they knocked it over, trampled it into the ground, and now brag about their feat to the press.

This was pure hubris on the part of the administration…

Well, Mr. Johnson, there is over-weening pride, and then there is…pure psychopathology.

These mutilating efforts at financial reform, saving the economy, “cleaning-up the Gulf,” and surging into Afghanistan are no different from the serial murderer sewing the dead girl’s eyes open so she would appear “alive” to her father while Hinkman collected the ransom.  Ayn Rand would have swooned with delight and fucked her boyfriend in front of her husband at such a lack of regard for moral reasoning.


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  1. We had the worst new homes sales ever last month, and existing homes took a heavy-footed, ungainly stumble.  Record low interest rates, mortgage modifications, buyer’s credit, stimulus, and quantitative easing did not help that critical lynch-pin of…America as we know it.  Nor did the kitchen sink.  

    I heard Bernanke is pathologizing thinking about $5 trillion more in QE!  As if the first several trillion had zero salutary effects!  

    Freddie and Fannie are de-listing from the NYSE because their $5 trillion is quickly turning into half of that, and will predictably cause exponential turbulence in derivatives, and another, worse banking crisis.  Bankruptcy won’t prevent GSEs from threatening the “common thugs” who choose to walk away “strategically,”  after all, “transitioning away from home ownership” and other fiduciary obligations is parasitic, don’t’cha think?

    The American ruling elite (“pathocrats”) have amassed a significant, manifest, consequential, super-colossal heaping pile of failure (smaller than a planet, but bigger than an Earth-killing asteroid) in a rapidly decaying orbit.

    The gravitational pull of failure is now self-sustaining, even without the incineration of sea turtles, and yet we cannot stop things from deteriorating at the hands of the psychos.


  2. Dick Cheney hospitalized after experiencing “discomfort”

    Bobby Jindal orders June 27 as a day of prayer and religious perseverance

  3. her, and when they sleep, laws and armies are made to defend her. And people come to fear that their beloved will be stolen by their enemies and thus voluntarily submit to any hardship to preserve her.

    Yes, the children of the Susan Constant built their homes, slayed the infidels and erected their altars. But they grew fat and stupid, and lost the ability to think for themselves.

  4. pretty much the worst back story I could imagine.

    i am speechless.

  5. excellent essay

    I have to applaud loudly here – clap clap clap stomp stomp stomp, etc.

    I couldn’t bring myself to write an essay like this, even if I had the talent with words that you do Compound F.

    But truer words were never written.

    However, it is one thing to describe the problem – a very important thing, indeed – and another to propose means by which to deal with it.

    I have spent long hours studying the problem of psychopathy/sociopathy/bullying and I’m trying very hard to write an essay on the constructive confrontation of its manifestations. But I find no source material that has any validity or ‘ring of truth’ about it or that seems effective at all…

    What say you?

  6. i’m not sure they are insane. those of us who think differently keep making that mistake, in my view.

    they are survivors out of their time. they are misfits in time. they are smart and cunning, but have veered off in evolving as some of the rest of us have.

    in the modern world, with weekends off, the ability to have grand ideas and think about world peace, many of us have grown in our empathetic abilities.

    BushCo types never have. they think our ideas are wrong. dangerous. and threaten survival (in their hyper narrow definition). I’m sure they think we are nuts . . .

    We need to stop fighting them. Really. And start living past them. They need to become obsolete. We can not win against them. They have no bargaining table. We need to come up with a better strategy. We need to let them crumble and become meaningless like the greek gods.

    they don’t need to be labeled “insane” or “wrong”… we just need to declare that we do not choose their way. better, worse. who cares? perhaps it’s time to let things become self evident. people have to get that to THINKING on their own. and when they do, we need to be ready with a doable clear strategy for moving on.

    you’ve always struck me as the kind of thinker who could push us forward. Ayn Rand was a writer. She wrote some books.

    Hey. You’re a writer. Some others here and there too.

    We can stop the decay. Not every earthling will make it, but we have choices. We can fashion the world in a milder, more empathetic way.

    hugs & kissess… pf8

  7. What, Lite beer and blue jeans

    Jake Sully, Avatar

  8. done this already four times before.  Is there anything to the pyramids, the lost contient of Atlantis, the galactic alignments of the Giza plateau, the face on Mars and Micheal Tellinger’s Adam’s Calendar.  Have we already achieved advanced civilizations only to be wiped out entirely either from natural causes or our own predatory nature.  My bet is mostly upon our own deficiencies.

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