Corporate Persons Are Diagnosably Sociopathic

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United States law has long declared that corporations are “persons,” not “natural persons,” like you and me, but “legal persons”, with many of the same rights as natural persons, including, thanks to the Supreme Court in 2010, the right to contribute unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.

So, since we probably have more dealings with corporations in more aspects of our live than with friends or family, wouldn’t you like to know what kind of “person” we are dealing with?

One of the saints of free market capitalism, Milton Friedman, described the corporate person succinctly:

“The sole purpose of business is to provide a financial return for their owners.” 

This code of behavior, followed by many corporate persons, creates a self-centered entity, driven by profits, not part of society, without relationships to other members of society, and not bound by the moral code of society.

Morals and laws are not the same; Friedman does say that corporations should “follow applicable laws and regulations,” but how many times has that statement been used by corporate persons when justifying their immoral antisocial behavior?

The profit-driven corporate person, in other words, acts just like a natural person with Antisocial Personality Disorder, commonly called a sociopath or psychopath.

“The profit-driven corporate person, in other words, acts just like a natural person with Antisocial Personality Disorder, commonly called a sociopath or psychopath. “

Sociopaths have numerous unpleasant traits, including not feeling responsible for their behavior, no sense of guilt, treating people like objects and using and manipulating them to gain whatever they desire while feeling justified in their desires because they see them as their rights, a lack of empathy with their victims, and pathological lying.

The most extreme manifestation of the sociopathic behavior of corporate persons, as in the activities of the financial institutions causing the Great Recession, is similar to “crimes against humanity,” as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum; in particular “Other inhumane acts… intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.”

The precise cause of sociopathy is unknown, although some think it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as a genetic susceptibility which is triggered by the social environment while growing up.

The precise cause of sociopathy is unknown, although some think it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as a genetic susceptibility which is triggered by the social environment while growing up.

The precise cause of sociopathy is unknown, although some think it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as a genetic susceptibility which is triggered by the social environment while growing up.

In the case of a corporate person, sociopathy may also be caused by a combination of “genetics” (corporate culture), and “environmental” factors such as a belief in free market capitalism, pressures from the stock market’s emphasis on profits, and the behavior of other corporate persons.

Sociopathy is very difficult to treat, and even worse, sociopaths may not want treatment or think they need it.  The usual way in which sociopaths submit to treatment is through some form of legal pressure, and often they need to be treated in a controlled environment, such as supervised housing.

Treating a sociopathic corporate person also requires compulsion and supervision, but is far more complex since the “genetic” component, the corporate culture which creates sociopathy, must be changed, and changing culture is one of the most difficult processes in groups, and is rarely successful.

Even that media icon of free market capitalism, Forbes magazine, admits that changing corporate culture is difficult.

Some evidence for the difficulty in changing corporate culture is the way in which financial institutions quickly went back to their risky behavior following the Great Recession, as well as spending huge amounts to lobby against regulations which might force them to change their behavior.

Like human sociopaths, the financial institution corporate sociopaths feel no guilt, are convinced of the rightness of their actions, and freely continue to take advantage of their customers and of the society which bailed them out.

We don’t have to search hard to find innumerable other examples of sociopathic behavior.

There is Wal-Mart, which pays so many of its employees so little that they need government assistance (that’s you and me through our taxes), while the Walton family is worth $155.7 billion, as of March 2013.

There are the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) run by giant agribusinesses which pollute water supplies and surrounding communities, creating horrible smells.

There are the for-profit universities which encourage people to take on huge amounts of debt regardless of their chances for completing a certificate or degree.

pt_1233_6425_oThere are the pay day lenders, charging Mafia-like amounts of interest, and the credit card companies, handing out cards like Christmas presents and then saddling people with interest debt so huge that it would take decades or centuries to pay off (read the “consumer protection” fine print on your credit card bill).

There are the banks that charge you to take your money in and to give it back.

There are the mining companies that despoil the environment, release immense quantities of pollution, and support despotic governments.

There is big pharma which keeps drug prices high in the US, even while governments elsewhere have forced them down.

There are all the corporate persons doing “rent seeking,” a term from economics which means “manipulating the social or political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by creating new wealth.”

So they outsource jobs and facilities to low-cost, non-union states and/or to other countries, and in so doing often find the lowest-cost producer, as the clothing industry did in Bangladesh, where over a thousand people died when the building where they worked collapsed.  They seek tax breaks by promising jobs, jobs which never compensate for the money lost which might have provided much more social good.

And if this list wasn’t depressing enough, there are also many illegal activities, which is another way that sociopathic corporate persons resemble human sociopaths.

…Such as the big banks which manipulated the LIBOR, a compilation of bank interest rates, to make money from trades or to disguise their credit status.

…Such as helping rich people hide income, like the Swiss bank UBS.

…Such as medical device makers concealing information about product defects despite their life-threatening consequences. They also went to law and got the Supreme Court to absolve them from liability for those product defects, dumping the costs, amounting to billions, onto the rest of us.

So, which sociopathic corporate persons are you dealing with? Perhaps you should seek other companies with a true moral sense.