I just opened a book and was hit with a passage that set me on my heels. The author reverses cause and effect, and sheds light on our society:
The real derangement is in the failures of our ideas and the success of our sociopathic society in undermining the very main gauge for critiquing it. In this book, I develop a concept of a sociopathic society that is structural, rooted in the political and economic system rather than in psychiatry. It shows that sociopathic individuals in the United States are often successful and well-adjusted, most of them sane and socially integrated. They are more likely to be conforming to the values and rules of conduct in our society than violating them. It is the rules and values that are at least metaphorically “sick.”
The book is Sociopathic Society: A People’s Sociology of the United States, by Charles Derber. In have gotten through the intro and am now on page two. Right away I see the author to be a bit deluded in that he unquestioningly buys into the nonsense of major violent events of our time, meaning he’s walking an unobservant and conformist walk. But it appears he has much to offer, so I’ll set that aside.
I do see his point: What is Milton Friedman saying, what does “Reaganomics” mean, if not that it is OK to be greedy, to crush other people in the marketplace? William Skink just wrote about this phenomenon wherein “Uber” is destroying business models and lives in the name of market efficiency. It’s a decidedly reckless venture that could cost the economic well-being of tens of thousands of people. It could well be destructive of our existing order without improvement, and all seen as normal. We need more caution, more genuine conservatives among us to put the kibosh on such careless people.
I read a delightful book a while back by John Cleese, So Anyway, which is just a ramble about his life. I was struck by his early impressions coming to the United States from England. Here it was seen as normal and admirable to be engaged in any slip-shoddy activity if it brought good economic results. Over there, he said (and at least in his youth), it was rare and not particularly admired to strike out on a business career as an “entrepreneur.” The overt pursuit of money for its own sake was not socially accepted.
Successful people often attain wealth as a side effect to other admirable and useful talents, music or inventions, for example. They are not after money for its own sake, and don’t behave like the people giving us Uber, which appears to be nothing more than a rent seeking enterprise.
In other words, all of these people looking to make a fast and big buck are not useful or productive citizens, and ought not to be rewarded or admired. Bill Gates, for instance, strikes me as autistic, lucky, and not terribly gifted in any sense other than being cold and ruthless and in the right place at the right time. That is true of most of our executive class, seeking only quarterly results at any cost. Waltons, Kochs and Kennedy’s alike are lucky aristocrats, never having earned a dime. Bushes and Clintons are parasites, devoid of conscience and willing to do anything to be successful.
Such people are always with us. We honor them. That is the problem.