Psychopath Economics: Part 1 – The Bull & The Bewildered Herd
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Economics is the ultimate expression of human power. But today's economic system is increasingly controlled by a psychopathic elite that is unconcerned with its impact on people or planet. Unless we challenge the system, it will lead us to our destruction. More
More than politics, economics is the art of the possible; a discipline that goes to the heart of how we live our lives. It can deliver riches beyond dreams, as well as the famine of nightmares. Its exercise exceeds even war as the ultimate expression of human power. Indeed, economics is usually the war itself.
The 2008 financial crash and its aftermath has exposed many of our comfortable beliefs about how our societies work. Criminals in suits are showered with riches, while people who actually make things of use increasingly struggle to make ends meet.
We see that hard work doesn't necessarily pay; that we don't live in a meritocracy; that the avenues to progression are increasingly blocked; that the system just isn't fair. Growing inequality has created a widespread sense of injustice.
But human societies are very rarely egalitarian. And in this respect, today's elite – the so-called '1%' – is treading a well-worn path. Most, if not all, civilisations of the last 5,000 years were hierarchical and distributed their wealth according to power and status. History suggests that populations grow and are sustained by their ability to exploit the natural resources available to them, as well as their own people.
As civilisations rise from the land, a social pyramid inflates and elites emerge at the summit. Once at the top, elites maintain, increase and extend their power by relentlessly reinforcing the hierarchy and consumption patterns that gave them their dominance. An elite might have everything, but it's never enough. It's a dynamic that steadily undermines the pyramid's whole social and environmental foundations.
Psychopath Economics is about legitimacy and the logic of power. In it, journalist Peter Batt argues that power is ultimately psychopathic because, in its purest and most effective form, it applies a cold, calculating focus on achieving its aims to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.
Psychopaths tend to be charismatic, effective and fearless. They are attracted to power, just as they are attractive in power. They are results-driven and dynamism, and have an unshakable focus on goals. But they lack any emotional connection or concern about consequences.
From this flows a number of conclusions. To start with, psychopathic power is destructive; it seeks to exploit human and natural capital to breaking point. It exhausts the land and targets those within society least able to resist. This is ultimately self-destructive and today's societies have all the hallmarks of a civilisation careering towards collapse.
Secondly, an elite is not terribly interested in reasoned arguments for change, because that, by definition, would suggest that it will concede some power. Inequality is a self-reinforcing process, and psychopathic power makes no concession without a threat.
So, thirdly, any change of direction is dependant on the herd actively disrupting the system.
Psychopath Economics looks at the interaction of three dynamics: belief systems, consumption and the logic of power. Written in four parts, the first gives an overview of the whole book before looking at today's mainstream economic narrative as a belief system designed to legitimise and hide the unequal exercise of power, and the true motivations of those who wield it. Peter Batt uses the market imagery of the bull, the faceless power of capital, and Walter Lippmann's concept of the 'bewildered herd'. It argues that neoliberal economics is a belief system created by the psychopath, for the psychopath.
Part 2 looks at how belief systems and the logic of power drive societal development and collapse. Part 3 takes these themes and looks at how they are playing out today. The fourth and final instalment looks at why and how the 'herd' can repatriate power and potentially break the cycle by disrupting the system, most likely via debt denial, anti-branding and direct action.
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