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Snakes in Suits - The Leaven of the Pharisees

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Published : May 23rd, 2024
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Category : GoldWire
"Psychopaths can be found in legislatures, hospitals, and used-car lots. Because they have no conscience, they're natural predators.   Psychopaths love chaos and hate rules, so they're comfortable in the fast-moving modern corporation.  Dr. Paul Babiak, an industrial-organizational psychologist based near New York City, is in the process of writing a book with Bob Hare called When Psychopaths Go to Work: Cons, Bullies and the Puppetmaster.  The subtitle refers to the three broad classes of psychopaths Babiak has encountered in the workplace.

"The con man works one-on-one," says Babiak. "They'll go after a woman, marry her, take her money, then move on and marry someone else.  The puppet master would manipulate somebody to get at someone else.  This type is more powerful because they're hidden."  Babiak says psychopaths have three motivations: thrill-seeking, the pathological desire to win, and the inclination to hurt people.

"A lot of white-collar criminals are psychopaths," says Bob Hare. "But they flourish because the characteristics that define the disorder are actually valued.  When they get caught, what happens?  A slap on the wrist, a six-month ban from trading, and don't give us the $100 million back.  I've always looked at white-collar crime as being as bad or worse than some of the physically violent crimes that are committed."

The best way to protect the workplace is not to hire psychopaths in the first place.  That means training interviewers so they're less likely to be manipulated and conned.  It means checking resumés for lies and distortions, and it means following up references.

Paul Babiak says he's "not comfortable" with one researcher's estimate that one in ten executives is a psychopath, but he has noticed that they are attracted to positions of power.  When he describes employees such as John to other executives, they know exactly whom he's talking about. "I was talking to a group of human-resources executives yesterday," says Babiak, "and every one of them said, you know, I think I've got somebody like that."

Robert Hercz, Psychopaths Among Us, 2001

“They often make use of the fact that for many people the content of the message is less important than the way it is delivered. A confident, aggressive delivery style - often larded with jargon, clichés, and flowery phrases - makes up for the lack of substance and sincerity in their interactions with others ... they are masters of impression management; their insight into the psyche of others combined with a superficial - but convincing - verbal fluency allows them to change their personas skillfully as it suits the situation and their game plan.

They are known for their ability to don many masks, change 'who they are' depending upon the person with whom they are interacting, and make themselves appear likable to their intended victim. Psychopathic workers very often were identified as the source of departmental conflicts, in many cases, purposely setting people up in conflict with each other. The most debilitating characteristic of even the most well-behaved psychopath is the inability to form a workable team."

Paul Babiak and Robert Hare, Snakes in Suits

"What is good? All that enhances the feeling of power, the Will to Power, and the power itself in man. What is bad? All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is increasing— that resistance has been overcome. Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but competence. The first principle of our humanism is that the weak and the failures shall perish. And they ought to be helped to perish. What is more harmful than any vice? Active pity for all failure and weakness — Christianity."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 1886


It seems likely that the relativistic 1970s spawned the 'greed is good' meme of the 1990's, and provided a Petri dish for the development of abnormalities by rewarding even latent tendencies to antisocial behaviour.   What was once frowned upon is now encouraged and rewarded. 

I think you may have already heard that in the modern era certain Wall Street firms screen for sociopathic tendencies in prospective new hires.  Not to screen them out, however.  On the contrary, like organized crime families, such shameless and conscienceless drive towards personal greed is highly desirable and rewarded by the modern financial corporation.  The white collar criminal and the street criminal are both criminals, using different tools but similar means and mores.

I think this may also be applicable for other organizations that are focused primarily on money and power as their primary objectives without a strong commitment to moral responsibility and the public good, such as some of our corporate behemoths, and perhaps even other self-aggrandizing monopolies like the major political parties.  

'Greed is good' is not just for the traditional white collar criminals anymore.  

Do you think that the situation we have today is somehow different, exceptional? Are traditional sources of moral guidance like the good news of scripture silent on the subject, unfamiliar with it?

Or is the depth of this fault primarily in us, and in our deluded and hardened hearts?

Whom do we reward and admire the most?  The humble saint, or the clever and successful sinner?

And so we are where we are.  

Religion used to be the opium of the people. To those suffering humiliation, pain, illness, and serfdom, religion promised the reward of an after life. But now, we are witnessing a transformation: a true opium of the people is the belief in nothingness after death, the huge solace, the huge comfort of thinking that for our betrayals, our greed, our cowardice, our murders, we are not going to be judged.     Czeslaw Milosz

We don't want to hear it.  We who murder the prophets and abuses the messengers that God sends to us.

But sooner or later we will sit down to a banquet of consequences.

Stocks were wobbly today after the reading of the Fed minutes, but ahead of the oh so important reveal of Nvidia's financial results, in what Bloomberg termed 'the final hurdle for Mega Tech's earnings victory.'

Gold and silver were off.  As a reminder there will be a futures options expiration next Tuesday on the Comex.

The Dollar strengthened.

VIX continues to wallow.

History will not absolve us.

Have a pleasant evening.



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