The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Psychopathology of Human Leadership

All American Presidents in my lifetime have acted like psychopaths. Not one of them did not do things that killed people they had no true need to kill. (The only ones I think come close are Ford & Carter.) Noam Chomsky, back in 1990, looked at which post-war Presidents hadn’t done something that would have gotten them hanged at Nuremburg.

The weird thing is that most of these actions hurt the US more than they helped. Blowback is a bitch, and the US keeps interfering where they have no business, and it rarely works out well in the long run.

If the US mostly minded its own business, Americans would be better off. More countries would be democratic (America supports anti-democratic coups regularly), and more countries would have secular or enlightened religious views.

There was also no need for the US to immisserate its own working class so some rich people could make more money by helping China. China would have still industrialized, it would have taken a bit longer and we wouldn’t be cruising for Cold War 2.0.

A US that minded its own domestic affairs better (ie., hadn’t crushed the middle and working class) and managed every other nation’s affairs less, would be a better US in a better world.

Of course, what this really suggests is that the main problem in the US is the ruling class and the Americans who are foolish enough to support it.

The US ruling class kills and impoverishes people to make money, and since 1980 at least (really, about a decade earlier) that has included American people.

The US needs to be better — for its own sake and for the sake of others.

I’ll tell you a secret: In the not-very-long run (a generation), making other people richer and healthier is better for you than taking their stuff, hurting them, or killing them.

That’s a TRUTH.

For much of history, the standard mode was to kill people and take their land and stuff where possible and, where not, to conquer them and take their stuff.

But people with a boot on their neck don’t contribute as much as free people.

It’s time for us all to grow up.

Now this doesn’t just apply to the US, of course. I live in a colonial country based on genocide — just one that isn’t powerful.

Nor is this a “white” only thing, as the slightest perusal of history (including recent history) will show.

Europeans got a big advantage and used it. When the Mongols did, they did.

China is built on the Han exploiting an advantage for over 2k years. The Japanese industrialized first in their area of the world and went on a rampage. Etc…

This is a human problem.

That said, Americans and Europeans are descended from the most recent group to get a huge military advantage over a long period (about 500 years) and use it for mass conquest, and that has had effects on our culture, including on how we pick leaders.

Warlike leaders seem “good,” because for a long time it seemed like conquest and raiding was the easiest way to get rich, and people who were bad at fighting had real bad things happen to them.

But our current problems cannot be solved by war, raiding, and armed theft.

There are some who think otherwise; they want to reduce the world’s population to about a billion people.

Not only is that monstrous, the sort of war that would do would cause so much environmental and climate damage that it would cancel out, and then some.

If we want out of this we need to find a primary mode of being that isn’t “hurt or threaten other people so they do what you want.”

If we try to solve our problems with violence, and the threat of violence, this time, or with the deliberate immiseration of billions of people, the world at the other end (assuming humans survive at all) will be apocalyptically bad — even for the ruling class.

A good society is one in which everyone is prosperous. Healthy, happy people with enough stuff create good societies and good economies. Immiserating entire classes or countries may make a few people rich, but it is a negative sum game. We need to stop playing negative sum games, both with ourselves, and with the rest of life on Earth. Everyone: Plant, animal, human, and other life forms need to win on aggregate.

If they don’t, we are either going to drive ourselves and lot of other species to extinction, or create a world that is is much, much worse for everyone, though, alas, some of the second possibility is already locked in.

As humans we must change how we pick our leaders and how and why we make collective decisions. Nothing we have tried so far has worked, so we must be open to radical change.

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  1. Plague Species

    Europeans got a big advantage and used it. When the Mongols did, they did.

    When the American slaves that expatriated to Liberia got that big advantage over the indigenous native Liberians, they capitalized too. Just as the Zionists learned from the Nazis and emulated them, so too did the ex-slaves that repatriated to Liberia learn from their former masters and emulated them.

    It’s a contagion for which there is no vaccine. Or, not yet at least. On second thought, I guess nuclear holocaust is a vaccine of sorts for this contagion. Talk about vaccine side effects.

  2. Joan

    This is waxing metaphysical and therefore not necessarily helpful, but I wonder whether this is the big question at the human stage of evolution. This could be the challenge that we’re here to experience and learn.

  3. Jan Wiklund

    It’s certainly not only about electing people. When Mr So-and-so is elected he will probably behave just as his predecessor did, because the organization is made that way.

    When Scandinavia for a while (ca 1920-1980) became a relatively good place to live in, it wasn’t because we elected “good” people, it was because a very big lot of us took part in politics.

    In Sweden, which I know best, it began in the late phase of WW1, when the food businesses thought it was more profitable to sell to the armies in Europe than to poor Swedes. So the por Swedes – about 250.000 out of ca 6M – took part in bread and potato seizures and forced through sales to the people for traditional prices. Everything went on very peacefully, because the actors were so numerous that the police dared not interfere. So the government had to legislate about sales for the people to the traditional prices, and furthermore legislate about 8 hours working day.

    All this boosted peoples’ self-confidence, and trade union membership approached 100%. In the 20s Sweden was the most strike-prone country in the world. Meanwhile, lots of organizational initiative were made about everything – cooperatives, activist schools, magazines, and what not – so that Swedish civil society in the 30s was more or less dominated by workers in the towns and by family farmers in the countryside.

    The ruling classes had to make a compromise to get the economy going, and agreed on an ambitious social security system if only the strikes would cease – which they almost did.

    The force of this 1920s mobilization was felt for fifty years. However, the price people hat to pay was that they had to let elected politicians and civil servants do the business for them, and demobilize. In due time this led to the loss of force, and the same politicians and civil servants began to dismantle the system or make it more adjusted to the needs of the (upper) middle class.

    That is what happens when you think it’s enough to vote for the right people.

  4. Trump’s psychopathology might be seen as lessening due to his ‘evolution’ on vaccines.

    However, the CEO of Gab has taken notice, and would probably beg to differ.

    Hey, is it possible, just possible, that Trump didn’t want to encourage the development of a formidable alternative to Twitter not just so that he could get a piece of the action, when he was out of office, but because he may want to suppress criticism of himself, by people who are more authentically conservative, populist, and/or patriotic than Trump can even imagine?

    Bannon’s War Room Pandemic show is about the only nexus of political reform targeting plutocratic control that I can see making a big difference in the next couple of years. Bannon will host segments like “Expert Says Fauci Responsible for Hundreds of Thousands of American Deaths by Blocking Hydroxychloroquine”, yet still shy away from condemning Trump for giving Fauci credibility, instead of going to war against him.

    Trump gave Bannon a pardon, so it’s understandable he’d go easy on Trump. But there really needs to be a corrective for any future political ambitions of Trump, coming from patriotic, “America First” citizenry that Trump pretends to champion.

    A right wing Jimmy Dore would be a wonderful start. Dore gave AOC a savage (verbal) beatdown, more savage than anything I can remember, well, ever in American politics. But being a comedian, he can also poke less painful fun at her, as he did in “AOC Delivers Hilarious Word Salad on Foreign Policy”.

  5. nihil obstet

    As FDR’s vp, Henry Wallace talked about the 20th c. as the century of the common man. FDR himself worked on the assumption that New Deal aims were necessary throughout the world. To Churchill’s distress, he was pretty clear that the U.S. had not fought WWII to reimpose British colonialism. FDR also dealt with Stalin as a foreign head of government, not as an enemy.

    And therefore, the business interests put Truman on the ticket. The propaganda state went into high gear to demonize labor unions, to see commies in every corner, to make the military big, to end the continuation of the New Deal. And so the brief period of American leadership that wasn’t psychotic bled away.

    The problem is always to keep people’s interest with ongoing concerns. Here we are on a blog that deals often with politics, and the actual discussions have crashed since the end of the elections. We have our opinions on elections, but are scattered on real politics.

  6. Ché Pasa

    Oh, FDR’s government was pretty psychotic too. Refusal to support anti-lynching laws, internment of Japanese Americans on the West Coast, racial discrimination for benefits and jobs during the Depression and in war work, not to forget the development of atomic weapons and their deployment in Japan shortly after FDR’s death. There is no sign he wouldn’t have done so had he lived.

    And there were plenty of uses of force against striking workers, uppity Central American and Caribbean peasants, and assorted others.

    Sorry to say, presidenting is nasty and too often bloody business, and anyone in the job is going to be “forced” to behave badly toward someone sometime.

  7. Z

    When and if Harris becomes president she will be, by far, the best human we’ve had as president since Carter.


  8. Ian Welsh


    No. Sometimes it’s necessary, but rarely. The fact that people think that leadership requires psychopathic behaviour is why you get psychopathic behaviour. You want it.

  9. Hugh

    I don’t know of many in our ruling classes who want to reduce world population to a billion. I don’t think they think that far ahead. Whatever happens, they think they are rich enough and will be OK.

    The screwed up world wide response to covid and instances of mass starvation, such as Yemen and probably upcoming in North Korea, show that our rich and powerful, our leaders, don’t care. We could manage human population down gradually to a sustainable 3 billion or so. But we won’t. And if we don’t, nature along with starvation, disease and war will decrease world population down to that level or even the one billion ian is talking about.

    China, India, East Asia, and the West are incapable of coordinating any action. And much of the developing world would dismiss any attempt at population control as genocide. So the odds are there will be an avoidable holocaust that will kill billions.

  10. Z

    I’d about guarantee that she is the primary driving force behind the better than expected aspects of the Biden Administration’s economic policies. She was way to the left of Fourteen Hundred Dollar and Zero Sense Joe in the democratic primary, though she did pull back considerably on supporting some of her most leftist economic policies almost immediately after announcing she was for them.

    Biden is now looking into using executive action to waive $50K in student debt when he explicitly said he wouldn’t do that a few months ago in response to a woman’s question about it during the first town hall of his presidency. Where’s that turnabout coming from? That’s got to be Harris.


  11. Z

    U.S. domestic economic policy is at the brain stem of our society’s psychopathy. It forces its subjects to fight each other for survival which stunts our society’s emotional maturity because we aren’t economically secure enough, and hence happy enough with our lives, to develop empathy.


  12. Z

    It’s not surprising that the U.S. game of who-gets-to-sleep-in-a-mansion-and-who-gets-to-sleep-on-a-park-bench leads to a vicious society. It certainly gets the competitive juices flowing …


  13. Ché Pasa

    Not so much that we want psychopaths to rule us as it is that we collectively don’t want to do what’s necessary to keep psychopaths from ruling us.

  14. Eric Anderson

    “This could be the challenge that we’re here to experience and learn.”
    Learning is defined as relatively permanent behavioural modifications that occur as a result of positive and negative reinforcement. Obviously, the eradication of a significant portion of the worlds population has in the past produced learning through negative reinforcement. I think WWII accomplished that, for a time. “Relatively permanent” being the operative term.
    I struggle to point at historical examples of positive reinforcement achieving the same end on a significant scale.

    Ian? How’s that work into your thinking here?

  15. Eric Anderson


    That’s spot on. And, quite a dilemma.

    Jan: Your example above reinforces mine and that is precisely the historical pattern. Under extremely negative stimulus we will band together to defeat the psychopathic minority and confront the dilemma Che identified. This is a mob effect — well researched. When personal responsibility is diffused, we will take on the psychopaths because we don’t individually share as much of the moral strain (which is common among those w/o personality disorders). It seriously fucks a sane person up to seriously hurt another human being.

    But, relieve the negative stimulus and the “relatively permanent” changes in behavior revert back to the mean and we are again stuck with Che’s dilemma.

    This, is the “meaning of life.”

  16. Eric Anderson


    Yeah, I think any of the elite that are of the decrease population persuasion are outliers.

    Decreasing population increases wages.

    That’s why you see the orthodox economists in first world countries setting their head on fire over the natural depopulation that comes with affluence.

  17. different clue

    It is incorrect to talk about what ” America” wants or does. Just as it is incorrect to think that America ” has” a “democracy”. America has been under Social Upper ClassNazi rule for several decades. When America sees a non-psychopathic leader and tries to elevate him/her to a position of leadership, the Upper ClassNazi governing elite has him assassinated. Kennedy, X, King, Kennedy, etc. And more recently the deletions and sidelinings are smoother. . . . vis the engineered removal of Sanders from the primary process.

    If Americans decide to understand themselves as a ClassNazi Occupied people at the national level , then they might look for different things to do in different ways.

    There may still be functioning democracies at the level of some states, cities, other sub-national regions. Politics, electoral and otherwise, may still be usefully pursued at that sub-national level.

    But the only reason to pretend to be engaged in politics at the national/federal level is to trick the ClassNazi Occupation Regime into thinking we don’t understand its existence and nature. This “keeping them complacent” about us might give us some time and lack-of-supervision-based freedom to find and figure out “something else” to do.

  18. Tim Willwerth

    Henry T Laurency’s books about Pythagorean Hylozoics (Greek for esoterics) clearly state there will be no peace on Earth until a significant amount of humanity’s mental elite ask the planetary hierarchy to return. His books are available for free on his website, covering everything from the origin of the cosmos, to the meaning and goal of existence. Humans are here to have experiences and learn from them so we can develop the essential qualities required for life in higher kingdoms. However, a planetary hierarchy, subordinate to a planetary government, connected to the solar systemic government, was foolishly banned from the planet by the Satanists who follow the left hand path of power instead of the right hand path of unity. The planetary hierarchy consists of members of superhuman kingdoms, qualifying them to lead us. However, they will only return when we demonstrate our awareness of their existence and ask them to resume their rightful role as our leaders on Earth.
    The entire Zeitgeist trilogy makes no mention of the existence of our planetary government or planetary hierarchy, which I cannot begin to fathom, since the futuristic technological design detailed in the third movie can be constructed pretty much overnight if this was something the planetary government and hierarchy had in mind. If they don’t then they must have something better in the works, since they only have our best interests in mind. They are our true leaders, therefore any discussion about peace on Earth must begin with how there will be no peace on Earth until we call the planetary hierarchy back.

  19. Trinity

    I think Joan also asks a good question, although I would rephrase the question a little.

    My question is will we learn anything at all? It’s possible to say the problems are systemic, baked into the cake, which is also true. But given the extensive, multi-cultural histories available to everyone, we still don’t learn, collectively. Why is this?

    And Ian, I would argue that the Chinese and the Japanese and perhaps others have learned the lesson, at least in part. They still have to find a way to operate in a world dominated by European narcissism and “individualism” (which has been true for thousands of years). It’s still about war and tribute and invading countries to steal their resources.

    I had a short discussion with my boss this morning in part about the countries that have politicized COVID and the ones that didn’t, and to my mind it boils down to “my wearing a mask benefits me and others” instead of “I ain’t wearing no stinking mask because I have ‘rights’ and no one else matters but me.” I prefer the former. It shouldn’t be any harder than that, but it is because of thousands of years teaching, in a way.

  20. Eric Anderson


    Rights are marketable. Duties are not.
    This why American’s have no clue about the rights v. duties dialectic. We’re TeeVee educated.
    But, rights do not exist w/o a citizenry prepared to carry out their duties with gratitude.

  21. bruce wilder

    Not so much that we want psychopaths to rule us as it is that we collectively don’t want to do what’s necessary to keep psychopaths from ruling us.

    We are easily fooled, because we rather like to be fooled. Most of us (I claim no exemption) are passive and would like magic rather than mechanics to rule the world. We feel comfortable with meaning, and uncomfortable with implacable necessity.

    I follow a sleight-of-hand magician on TikTok and it is amazing to me how easily we are fooled by simple suggestion and the illusion of a shuffling a deck of cards. Millions watch, say, Rachel Maddow or Tucker Carlson and will not admit they might as well watch pro wrestling for its moral sincerity.

    I like the metaphysics of human (cultural?) evolution inventing something new — it is bloody metaphysics I expect. It is the challenge of finding a way for the bottom in a hierarchical society to hold the top to account. Tricky business that.

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