Charming, materialistic, aggressive, self-centred, Machiavellian, thrill-seeking alpha males with little respect for rules who eat stress for breakfast - sound like a banker you know? If so, think again: it is a summary of the traits of psychopaths. Financial Times

There is a class of individuals who have been around forever and who are found in every race, culture, society and walk of life. Everybody has met these people, been deceived and manipulated by them, and forced to live with or repair the damage they have wrought. These often charming - but always deadly - individuals have a clinical name: psychopaths. Their hallmark is a stunning lack of conscience; their game is self-gratification at the other person's expense. Many spend time in prison, but many do not. All take far more than they give. Robert Hare (the acknowledged authority on psychopathy)

There is a quite plausible theory that the world is run by psychopaths: empathy-deficient, glib, manipulative, reckless swine... with apologies to our brother pig, who gives so much and gets so little in return.

I am very skeptical of pop psychology and psychobabble in general and totally against putting a creature as complex as the human one into neat little boxes, however, the autistic and unrepentant behavior of the lords of finance in provoking so much pain on so many millions; the reckless, Harpo-Marxian rutting of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Rupert Murdoch's looting the telephones of the dead, has me wondering if there might be some truth in the idea that our destiny has been delivered unto the hands of the clinically insane.

The best, the most sensitive, video I have found on the subject features Frank Ochberg MD one of the founding fathers of modern psychotraumatology who has helped to define and research Post-traumatic stress disorder. Doctor Ochberg's interest in psychopaths is directed toward helping their victims, which as far as the News Corporation, politicians or the financial sector is concerned, includes most of us.

Perhaps the deregulated environment of the post-Cold War world is to blame for all of this. For example, basketball is a recent invention and the NBA as a huge business, very, very recent. Before basketball, if you had a son who was 7ft tall, he was simply a freak: you had to buy him a special bed and try to find huge shoes for his enormous feet.... Now, you are thinking that he is going to play for the Lakers and guarantee your old age.... Maybe the same thing has happened to psychopaths... maybe deregulation has created an "NBA" for psychopaths.

Maybe this explains the strangeness of the period we live in.

If it does, God help us all.