Although sociopaths should be kept out of power because of the danger they present to society, their peculiar combination of manipulation and ruthlessness ironically favours them to succeed in business and politics. What can be done to counter this? Normal social checks on destructive behaviours do not restrain people who lack the ability to experience shame and remorse. We need more widespread understanding of how to assess capacities for compassion, heedfulness, and shame, and we need formal requirements so that a propensity to anti-social behaviour disqualifies a leader in society…
I do not think that we should punish people for their psychological disorders and limitations, and people should certainly be given every opportunity to heal and grow. But a society has the right to keep its members from harming themselves and others. Every citizen should understand the dangers of anger and manipulation, but, unfortunately, knowing about it does not stop the cycle. A more certain intervention would be a constitutional requirement that persons who stand for elective office undergo a formal psychological examination. Governments define psychological competency for witnesses and can require mental health screenings for military service and many specific jobs (pilots, for instance). Why not for candidates, as a check on voters’ susceptibility to demagoguery?
Roger Waters, frontman for Pink Floyd, once proposed “The Fletcher Memorial Home for Incurable Tyrants and Kings”, where “wasters of life and limb” could be taken away. He envisioned them playing their games of life and death without harming the rest of us, having fancy parties and performing for one another on closed circuit television. If there is a future, perhaps our descendants will look back with incredulity on times when anti-social behaviour was systematically rewarded….
— Jonathan Gold
We elevate the people who are most dangerous to us. We trust them and cede our power to them. We vote for them and then suffer the consequences. And we don’t have a system for identifying and excluding them from positions of authority. The ultimate decision on these matters is up to us but we let it slip from our hands because we just want an all-knowing father to make the decisions. We want to live as coddled children and we end up being sacrificial pigs.