Sociopaths Among Us

anmemedictatorNot all sociopaths become the violent murderers of horror movies, or sadistic creatures trolling the night for victims. Most sociopaths convince everyone around them that they are not a sociopath. You know and interact with sociopaths, probably every day. According to some estimates, about 4% of the population could be considered sociopathic, meaning they feel no guilt or remorse, and do not care about others’ suffering. You could say what makes a sociopath is lack of conscience.

And worse, sociopaths are generally charismatic, and naturally seek positions of power. While reading up on the sociopaths, I came across what looks like an interesting book on the subject by Martha Stout called The Sociopath Next Door. It is not that these people wouldn’t murder, or don’t want to rape, they simply do not see that as an expedient way to get what they want. But, if you are in the proper position of power, you can get away with murder, rape, and any other number of things which might appeal to a sociopath.

So 1 in 25, at least 12 million Americans, are sociopaths, just waiting to gain the advantage over you or me, so that they can do whatever they want, no matter how much it hurts others, as long as it serves their interests or desires.

The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know—someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for—is a sociopath. But what do we do with that knowledge? To arm us against the sociopath, Dr. Stout teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game.

More easily said than done. How can I not join the game of the IRS agent auditing me, or the cop who has pulled me over, or the bureaucrat who has denied my permits and licenses? In a world of free association, we could simply avoid sociopathic people, or protect ourselves when we come into contact with them. But when sociopaths attain extra rights and privileges, and not only protection for, but endorsement of their crimes, what are we to do?

Elect the right people? Chances are, many of these races for office are one sociopath running against another. And then these people appoint the bureaucrats, and hire the police. They approve and promote people that are like them, that will similarly serve their interests, and that will turn a blind eye to sociopathic behavior.

Question authority, or better yet, reject authority when possible. If everyone were actually considered equal, instead of some with government backing having more right and protections, then we would be able to simply react to a sociopath properly when they initiate force against us. So if authority in general is rejected, if we refuse to submit to force, that would make it easy to react to sociopaths. No you may not take my money because you claim you will do better things with it than I could. Oh but the poor, elderly, sick….

Beware the pity play. Do you honestly think they care? Does anyone honestly believe the politicians when they say they want to or have helped the poor? Is that what Obamacare is about, helping sick people? Or is it about controlling people, casting minions down into their rightful place beneath the boot of sociopathic rulers? If politicians cared about solving poverty, it would be solved. I know this because the tax dollars spent on welfare per household in poverty dwarf the median income of Americans.

You could say it is simple inefficiency, but I say it is deliberate theft. But what do we expect from a system that allows sociopaths the benefit of the doubt, while us peasants must explain why we want privacy, we must seek permits to build, protect ourselves, open a business, and seek permission to move about, drive, travel, and we must pay our rulers for them graciously allowing us to work. How bout we all keep what is ours, and anyone that tries to take it can be assumed to be a sociopath, instead of assumed to be a philanthropist?

I just so happen to be reading A Clockwork Orange at the moment. The sociopathic narrator Alex gets out of jail after multiple rapes and murders to find his sociopathic former friends and cohorts have become police officers. These friends in fact engaged in the same rape and murder for which Alex was punished, but they were not caught. Now they have been given the badge and the gun, and set loose upon society to keep order. Alex runs into them, and even though he was being beaten up (albeit by a man he had once attacked) the police find it more enjoyable to teach Alex a lesson. They drive him out to the country side where they beat him, possibly worse, and leave him in the cold to his own devices.

Yes, it is only a book. But the point is that sociopaths are naturally drawn to positions of power. If a sociopath has no conscience, and wants to kill someone, he may not do it simply for fear of his own harm or death, or confinement if he is caught. But the disturbing trend of late is that police do not receive the same punishment for their crimes that the general public receives. The case that comes to mind is a former prison guard who received only probation and no jail time after being found guilty of 25 counts of sexual assault against female inmates, and trafficking drugs into the prison. He did not care about the injuries he caused to others. He found the proper channel to express his sociopathic desires. This channel served him well, as he will not have to answer for his crimes.

So if we stop giving some people power over others, we don’t have to worry about being at the mercy of a sociopath. What a novel concept, self ownership, and freedom of association. But as it stands now, any sociopath can well position himself with power, and be free to carry out his sadistic desires with impunity, all in the name of authority, or charity.

15 thoughts on “Sociopaths Among Us

  1. This Essay does not consider important points:
    1. Political development is not about “giving” a potential sociopath power – it is about the political
    p r o c e s s e s inside society (see Le Bon, Mancur Olson, Durkheim, Mannheimer, etc., etc.)
    2. Successful leaders, not only the commonly reviled ones, who empower their societies all share common traits of sociopathy.
    3. It is not a simple case of identifying those and then keep them from power.
    4. In this respect I do not count i.e. Mao tse-tung as a sociopath; at least not from his beginnings. The excesses – in his case the ones of the “red brigades” – were orchestrated by his wife and deputies.
    What about the ancient tyrants? What about Ho Chi-minh, Sukarno, Ne Win, etc? Most rose from a position of national desperation. The sociopath leaders will always have their disciples – as well as their opponents and martyrs – together they are mankind.

  2. Joe excellent post, you said it all.I have nothing more to add, except that I totally agree with you as usual. I also want to let you know that I’m on Twitter now, and I’m following you.

      • I really like Twitter, I like to have fun on it, but I’m also using it as a libertarian platform.I like to go to the celebrity websites, especially the lefty lefty liberal sites.I’m not mean or anything like that, but I say what I need to say.I took some heat yesterday, on Alec Baldwins site.i’m just trying to stir the pot, to try to get people to think outside of the box.

  3. Great post! I’m so glad you brought up this subject because I too, have brought it up in outside discussions. I’ve read a lot about it. Most people would be surprised that certain people in power or that people that they know, would be classified as sociopaths. They walk amongst us!

    It also brings up an issue I have with starting completely over again with anarcho-capitalism. The solution in our current system always seems to be, run these maniacs out of power! I think there’s also a deeper conundrum.

    Not all sociopaths in power are elected but may gain the trust of their following and rule “outside” of the law. Whitey Bulger comes to mind. He had many people in South Boston convinced he was their savior, trying to keep the streets clean from drugs (while we all know he was the main supplier). He used a system of capitalism and theft to obtain his goals. The only “help” he got from the government was the ability to stay under the radar from the authorities and the info they gave him about his “competitors”. (the very authority that wouldn’t exist in anarcho-capitalism so would not be a factor). He is a businessman and would naturally set up his own police force or security system in a world without a government (primarily made up of other sociopaths I’m surmising).
    A Classic sociopath will create or capitalize on chaos and then insert himself into a position of power to “fix” the problem. (We see this going on with many of the politicians today, primarily this group of Democrats). Whitey was The Master.
    People loved him. Or feared him. Either way, he ruled.

    Now at this point I’m guessing you’d say, but all that nasty stuff is going on now WITH A GOVERNMENT! I agree. But the part that is left out of the equation in your Utopia (from your previous post) is that most people (roughly 66% of us, if you believe the conclusions of the Milgram experiment) will follow others they view as having authority over them, WHETHER THEY ARE ELECTED OR SELF IMPOSED ON US! ( the explanation of why they follow, either they are inherently evil or to please the authority are points that have been brought up to debunk the study, but are irrelevant to this discussion. The basic point of 66% of people going along is not hugely debated).
    The other roughly 33% will always exist outside, trying to get their fellow man to see the error of their ways, trying to explain that they are being duped. But a majority of the population will go along, as misguided as it seems. (In reality it is a very productive trait for a society, the tendency to get along with others. But alas, its always abused by a few).
    I brought up rule of law (in my comments in your prior post ) as important. Also, the suggestion of not reinventing the wheel. We will always end up back at this point anyway because of human nature! The reason it’s great to discuss the sociopathic tendency of a few is that the “go along to get along” tendency of the majority has to be brought up in an anarcho-capitalism discussion. I see these people eventually “ruining” it right along with the sociopaths in charge. Is it possible to “educate-out” such a strong trait of humankind? You can start with a group of like minded folks just like the Plymouth Pilgrims did but what happens 100 years later, when by birth or immigration, there’s 66% again? I believe the minority has to stand up endlessly for human rights. It’s their “job”. My opinion is to not start all the way back at the beginning. The fight needs to continue from this point in the history of the USA

    • You bring up some good points, as usual. There are certainly power positions available to sociopaths even without the government, but I think it would be harder to get and keep those positions without the government. In the Whitey Bulger example, I think he only had the monopoly on Boston organized crime because the government allowed him too. And you pointed that out saying that all the nasty stuff happens with government. So without government, what would happen to Whitey? (And I’ll even suppose he would still be a murderer, even though without government prohibition of drugs and such his incentives may never have led him there).

      Obviously any number of things could happen, but he would certainly want to keep a good amount of thugs in order to keep his position of power. However he could not choose from a pool of 300,000,000 people for his thugs, as the government can. So there would not be quite as endless a supply of backup if he were to attack someone unjustly.

      Then there is the competition issue. Whitey grew as powerful as he was in the same spirit as Solyndra got a loan and GM got a bailout. The government got rid of his competition for him, with our money. Essentially our money fought Whitey’s battles. In that sense, Bulger is no different than the government, except that without them, he would have a smaller budget and more competition.

      That competition could turn violent. But how long will that last? Are there an endless supply of people willing to die for some gangster? What does he even have to offer his foot soldiers? I suppose you might say 66% of the population would have to die following Whitey’s orders before the problem subsides, but competition is why they wouldn’t. There’s another gangster to fight for with more reward and a slightly smaller chance of dying. Competition could even stem gangster violence since even followers don’t want to die.

      But the other possibility is that Whitey really did do good for some people in Boston, and without a government he would have used his position of power more legitimately to protect those people. Now this would put others that he did not protect at a disadvantage if there was still a government. Since there is not, others can simply find another gangster, or more legitimate group to protect them. In this sense gangster groups might form cartels, essentially a bunch of mini governments. And honestly, I think that would be an improvement, because then at least there would be more competition, where-as right now I can not get away from the thugs unless I move at least a thousand miles away, and even then I need permission of multiple groups of thugs, I will be extorted if I wish to renounce my citizenship, etc.

      And this is where alphachamber’s comment comes in. Yes, we may very well always have sociopaths drawn to positions of power. However, without an enormous country to fund them, and for them to hide behind, that sociopath can still not act in his antisocial way without more consequences then if he were in the government. Sooner or later, an underling would take Whitey out, or a rival gang that gained popular support by being more legit. Worst case scenario, Boston become a battleground for thugs and everyone moves away.

      Oh well, Whitey’s reach does not go past central mass. There, a group was formed based on rule of law, and 33% of people were drawn there (and even some of the 66% followed). This made them strong enough to fight off any gangsters and live in peace.

      And I agree, humanity will never be able to just sit back, call it a day and live in peace and harmony. There is always going to be some sociopath, or even non-sociopath who will try to take control, and force their will on others. And while it is up to us to stay vigilant to that, it does not necessitate a government to do so. In fact I have posted before about how we would have the proper time and energy to keep the private sector in check if we did not have to waste so much time attempting, and failing, to keep the government in check.

      The way I see it is that with government, the tools we have to keep sociopaths out of power is a stick with a sharpened rock, and the tools we have in the private sector are a fully auto M-16. You can protect yourself with either one, but which one is going to keep you alive longer?

      If we abandon government completely, I think there will be longer periods of peace and prosperity than if we keep the government model, and do the revolution thing every couple hundred years.

      • Ok. I’ll bite. No government. You think reigning in this government is not an option and starting anew is the way to go. Where would this happened in the world? And without living like a caveman? Obviously anyone could go start a little society and start from scratch. But who are these power hungry people to push us out and reap the benefits of all this hard work that has been put in and I’m out hunting and gathering somewhere? Not the fix I envision.

      • I think if it was a Galt’s Gulch type deal, we wouldn’t have to do away with technology and such. There are ideas for Seasteading, setting up mini-socieities in countries that don’t have a strong central government, or opting out, which is a more dangerous option likely to run you into some opposition, demands of taxation, visits from the EPA etc. But we did see that the Bundy Ranch guys managed to have their way, so if there are enough people, or if enough dif groups opt out simultaneously, we could throw off this government control.

        I don’t think in those scenarios we would leave technology behind. In fact in some scenarios, we may start the trend of better technology (without the gov to block it, or fund the competitors), possibly moving beyond fossil fuels in favor of wind, hydo, wave, geothermal, or safe nuclear power. And once power costs are reduced, there are so many possibilities. Add this to the fact that smart people will want to live in a society that does not take what they earn by force, thus attracting the best skills and minds to keep things at least as they are, but almost certainly improving.

        The government holds back a LOT of technology and innovation. Even if there were to be a short step backwards, I think without government control, we would quickly recover through competition, trade, and mutual benefit to build a more technologically advanced society.

        I guess maybe what I envision is the black market growing to such a degree that governments are powerless to stop it, and also cannot harness it for their extortion, and thus cannot continue to rule over a much larger group than themselves. So bitcoin and other alt currencies will help with the transition, and also getting people used to the idea of ignoring and resisting government. But not fighting government, just resisting their tyranny: the former will likely destroy enough modern tech to indeed throw us back to cavemen times.

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