Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Psycopath's Favorite Playground: Business Relationships

Dr. Ken Magid and Carole McKelvey

...Not so long ago in Japan a man's word in business or government was his bond to society. If he was caught lying or if he "lost face" he might lose his life, and often by his own hand (hari-kiri). Even in this country, not too long ago, a man's word and firm handshake seemed to mean something. Certainly, there have always been shysters and crooks, but past concern was focused on ferreting out incompetents rather than psychopaths. As Owen Young put it, "It is not the crook in modern business that we fear, but the honest man who doesn't know what he is doing." (l980, p.38)

Unfortunately, all that has changed. We now need to fear the super-sophisticated modern crook who does know what he is doing ... and does it so well that no one else knows. Yes, psychopaths love the business world.

"Uninvolved with others, he coolly saw into their fears and desires, and maneuvered them as he wished. Such a man might not, after all, be doomed to a life of scrapes and escapades ending ignominiously in the jailhouse. Instead of murdering others, he might become a corporate raider and murder companies, firing people instead of killing them, and chopping up their functions rather than their bodies." (Harrington, 1972, p.18)

Up until the early 1987 Wall Street woes involving insider trading, white-collar crime was largely not something we focused upon. Certainly, the "penalties" administered in the business world are far less severe than those for "blue-collar" crimes." As Houston Police Chief Lee Brown reports in the book Crimewarps, "Police do not devote their efforts to get the white-collar criminal. The crimes we devote our efforts to are the ones the public is more concerned about -- street crimes. I don't foresee that changing." (1987, p.105)

Of course, the consequences to the average citizen from business crimes are staggering. As criminologist Georgette Bennett says, "They account for nearly 30% of case filings in U.S. District Courts -- more than any other category of crime. The combined burglary, mugging and other property losses induced by the country's street punks come to about $4 billion a year.

However, the seemingly upstanding citizens in our corporate board rooms and the humble clerks in our retail stores bilk us out of between $40 and $200 billion a year." (1987, p.104)

Concern here is that the costume for the new masked sanity of a psychopath is just as likely to be a three-piece suit as a ski mask and a gun. As Harrington says, "We also have the psychopath in respectable circles, no longer assumed to be a loser." (1972, p.20) He quotes William Krasner as saying, "They -- psychopath and part psychopath -- do well in the more unscrupulous types of sales work, because they take such delight in 'putting it over on them', getting away with it -- and have so little conscience about defrauding their customers." (p.20)

Our society is fast becoming more materialistic, and success at any cost is the credo of many businessmen. The typical psychopath thrives in this kind of environment and is seen as a business "hero". Authors Norman Mailer and Michael Glenn recognized the increasing presence of this type of individual in society and have warned that this Trust Bandit may be better adapted to meet the goals we have now set for ourselves in defining "success". (Sanchez, 1986, p.89)...

Excerpted from the book HIGH RISK: Children Without a Conscience, by Dr. Ken Magid and Carole A. McKelvey. Copyright © 1987 Ken Magid and Carole McKelvey. ISBN 0-553-05290-X Reprinted with permission of Bantam Books, a division of BANTAM, DOUBLEDAY, DELL PUBLISHING GROUP, INC.