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Monday, February 12, 2018

Would we be better off with a sociopath as President?

Gethin recently commented that he was starting to wonder whether it really matters whether a political leader is a sociopath or narcissist, since narcissism is ubiquitous amongst bullies, and that most wars could probably have been averted had world leaders been less narcissistic.

The answer is probably yes and no.

You can make the case that at a certain level -- mostly the PR level -- we'd be better off with a sociopath than just a narcissist at the helm. A sociopath of similar intelligence wouldn't make all the faux pas that Trump does. He'd be more skilled at hiding his ego behind a cloak of false nobility. And he wouldn't be in the habit of blurting out his real thoughts in such an impolitic manner.

The downside of having a sociopath is that he wouldn't really care about helping America, or Americans. He'd be focused instead on doing what made him look good, especially in the short run. (Think about how some sociopaths will bask in the glory of falsely claimed accomplishments even as they realize they will be exposed eventually; this is just their nature.) 

A narcissist would be more concerned about how he'll look in the long run. 

And, going back to Gethin's original point about war: sociopaths are, by nature, less concerned about loss of life, more aggressive, and sometimes even more bloodthirsty than narcissists.

We're better off with a narcissist. 


taylor said...

I don't know if there exists any evidence to back this up, but someone told me that a high percentage of surgeons are sociopaths. It makes some sense, intuitively. I imagine that it's a tough job for people with a conscience, and not having one might actually be an advantage. Which made me wonder if I might want a sociopath surgeon. Sociopaths tend to be greedy, and good surgeons tend to be paid well, so I think I actually might. When it comes to world leaders, I think it at least could work similarly. If the incentives were right, they could be effective. I don't think they usually are, though.

John Craig said...

Taylor --
I've heard the same about surgeons, although, likewise, I've never seen any hard evidence to back that up. I don't think it's exactly their "conscience" that would bother most people, I think it's their nerves. But sociopaths are notoriously nerveless creatures, and being a surgeon is certainly a high status job, and it pays well, so yes, it makes sense that it would attract sociopaths.

I'd guess "world leader" is a job category that has had more than its share of sociopaths, who'd be particularly well suited to rising to that position, but would also be likely to screw up once they're there, either through carelessness, corruption, dishonesty, and just the usual sociopathic feeling that they're successfully fooling people even when they're not.