In stomping out brutal honesty and critical thought in favor of politeness and the fear of offending, and in valuing the collective over the individual, we too often fail to chastise and weed out the people who are screwing up our world.
Dr. Bob Hare of Vancouver, one of the world's foremost experts on psychopathology, defines the condition of psychopathy according to a multipoint checklist, but it can be summed up as a lack of conscience -- that tripwire in the human mind that kicks in because we're able to project the effects of our actions or behavior into the future and empathize with those we risk impacting.
Some parents don't bother investing any time in instilling a conscience in their kids. Some are congenitally incapable of ever having a conscience. And yet other people start out with one but end up selling it off along the way in exchange for something they find more valuable -- usually money.
When the psychopath meets and co-opts the weak-minded, the results are disastrous for society. I'm talking about those who find themselves colluding with the ruthlessly self-serving in fields like finance and politics. It's why Wall Street blames the government and regulation it sees as counter to its interests for the economic collapse rather than its own incessant demands for corporate welfare that runs counter to everyone else's best interests. It's why union leaders will lead their sheep down the path of relentless demands until their company tanks completely and is sold off to foreign interests. It's also why most politicians will find every excuse for the woes of the health-care system except for the fact that the lobbying costs to woo them are a major cost burden. In fact, any group of people who spend so much of their time willingly drinking each other's collective bathwater is susceptible.
Sadly, these systems are already too far gone, to the point where they operate as self-protecting collectives. Everyone within them is aware that their livelihood depends on protecting their meal tickets. If a conscience-burdened person happens to penetrate this world, they get chewed up and spit out by the enablers.
In the free market, only the true capitalist, the entrepreneur, is sufficiently independent to call out all the aforementioned players on their nonsense and obfuscation. To a fool who has traded his conscience for job security, there's nothing more terrifying than the thought of losing that job -- because then what would they be left with? But for the true capitalist, engagement is always entirely voluntary and can be dissolved at whim if it risks excessive compromise. The true capitalist may not be making the kind of dough often seen by those higher up the food chain in these racket-type industries, but he is certainly the freest human being on the planet.
The best possible outcome for America and the Western world would be the collapse of these dysfunctional nests through their inhabitants' own nefarious behavior, as exemplified in recent years by Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and various financial institutions and European governments pre-bailout. At some point they lose all sense of self-awareness and start fooling themselves. No one should bail them out. Let the swamp creatures devour each other. Those who are honest, intelligent and truly capable will create a new commerce built around the individual, who will stand or fall on his or her personal dealings, character and integrity.
Psychopaths are narcissistic aberrations who parasitize others, believe they're entitled to whatever they want, and exploit the fact that everyone with a conscience plays by the rules. That's how they tilt the playing field in their favor. The Western world must move away from the dysfunctional premise that one must join the psychopaths and be like them to succeed. Their playing field must be shredded by decent people -- namely the capitalist entrepreneurs -- who refuse to play their game and aren't afraid to create a new game with new rules that involve dealing only with like-minded people and "reframing" the behavior of the unsavory.
Genuinely intelligent people are the ones who can succeed without compromising their conscience at any price. Those are the leaders we desperately need going forward.