Psychopaths Rule our World
The agribusiness giant Monsanto has been found guilty in a San Francisco court of concealing its knowledge that its flagship herbicide Roundup can cause cancer. Lawyers for the prosecution showed the jury secret internal documents proving Monsanto executives had known for decades that glyphosate, the active ingredient, could cause cancer, despite steadfastly assuring the public that Roundup was safe.

The plaintiff was 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson, a former groundkeeper, who suffers from terminal lymphatic cancer after repeatedly using Roundup in his former job.

The jurors found that Monsanto must pay $US39 million in compensatory damages and $US250m in punitive damages, and said Monsanto had acted with "malice or oppression". Johnson's lawyer said the verdict sent a "message to Monsanto that its years of deception regarding Roundup are over and that they should put consumer safety first over profits". Over 5000 other cases are pending.

People who aggressively market a product in full knowledge that it could potentially cause the deaths of thousands worldwide have no conscience. Such individuals are psychopaths.

In the public mind the psychopath is a violent, often sadistic murderer like the fictional Hannibal Lecter. But most psychopaths are not criminal or violent; though there is a higher proportion in prisons, the vast majority blend in with the rest of society and are often highly successful professionally.

Moreover, they are surprisingly common. In all societies studied they constitute between 1 and 2 percent of adult males (most are males), so most of us will have known at least one. The key characteristic is a complete incapacity for empathy - the ability to identify with the suffering of others. The psychopath is also egocentric, deceitful, glib, shallow and prone to risk-taking.

To normal people there is an unspoken understanding that to receive, one must be prepared to give. This "golden rule" is learned in childhood, but the psychopath has no capacity for such learning. There is no such reciprocity; it's all take. The psychopath is like a predator, and we are all prey.

Psychopathy is not a mental illness but a personality disorder. Whilst psychopaths cognitively distinguish between right and wrong, they don't feel the difference emotionally. What makes them so dangerous is that they are often skilled at acting as if they feel the difference, which is why they are so adept at deception. This enables a psychopath to take decisions without the........