Today it is not so much that people believe our CEOs and politicians act without empathy or compassion regarding the well-being of average citizens, especially towards those in dire poverty, but rather whether or not our entire system is psychologically deranged. Psychopathology has become fully institutionalized as a legitimate way of doing business and making policy decisions. The Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, which ruled that corporations and banks are "persons," was a further step infecting our entire politics and society with a serious mental disorder that has steadily contributed to the US's widening inequality gap, class struggle, and Americans' loss of democracy and freedom of speech.
Joel Bakan is an internationally recognized legal scholar at the University of British Columbia
specializing in Constitutional and economic law. The award-winning documentary film The Corporation
was based upon his bestseller The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power.
When I last spoke with Professor Bakan, I asked him about the kind of corporate personality the Supreme Court ruled in favor of. "The corporation," he said, "is legally programmed to always serve its own interests. Its directors and managers have a legal obligation always to put the financial interests of shareholders above all other interests. It breaks the law with impunity if it can get away with it."
The problem lies less in the fact that Wall Street and multinational presidents and CEOs are psychopaths.
Rather according to Bakan, "we've created an institution that attracts psychopaths and that incentivizes psychopathic behavior." If we can imagine putting JP Morgan or Monsanto on the shrink's couch, analyze the way these firms think and function, how they are programmed, they would be diagnosed as psychopathic. Bakan believes this is the current state of private industry. A bank's collective control and power is unfathomable to the average person. Executives believe they are untouchable and their astronomical wealth enables them to act with complete freedom and without regard for the consequences of their actions.
Dr. Bayer takes these firms' socio-political dominance further. "Corporations existentially are like feudal fiefdoms," he said. "They are countries with regulations and laws unto their selves. International corporations can commit crimes and do certain things, and then relocate their headquarters and be off the hook in terms of legality, extradition, and penalty."