The “right” wing’s threats to democracy

American Theocracy’ – Clear and Present Dangers by Alan Brinkley

Apocalyptic Christian Theology’s Role in Gov Shutdown

Reconstructionists Celebrate “Ruling Over the Earth” Day

Ted Cruz’s Father Suggested His Son Is ‘Anointed’ to Bring About ‘End Time Transfer of Wealth’

The Delu­sional Is No Longer Mar­ginal

The Pundits and the Dominionists

The Theology of Government Shutdown: Christian Dominionism

Why the Christian Right Believes It Has Once-in-a-Decade Chance to Impose Its Radical Worldview on America 

American Theocracy’ – Clear and Present Dangers by Alan Brinkley

Fascist America: Have We Finally Turned The Corner? By Sara Robinson  

The “right” is wrong about economics

Biblical capitalism and prosperity gospel

Biblical Capitalism — The Religious Right’s War on Progressive Economic Policy 

Capitalism and Christianity 

Does God Want You To Be Rich?

God Favors Supply-Side Economics

Paul Crouch, Architect of Prosperity Gospel Televangelism, Dead at 79

Jesus Hates Taxes: Biblical Capitalism Created Fertile Anti-Union Soil

The Debt Ceiling Crisis and Biblical Economics 

Myth of “free market” capitalism

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism: Item #1 — There’s No Such Thing as a Free Market

5 Ways That Raw, Unregulated Capitalism Is Acting Like a Cancer on American Society

How Corporations Are Subverting Attempts to Rein in Their Power

Mankind: Death by Corporation

Millennials to business: Social responsibility isn’t optional

New Report Reveals Relationship Between Rapid Growth of the Financial Sector and the Weak Real Economy

The Dumbest Idea in the World”: Corporate America’s False — and Dangerous — Ideology of Shareholder Value

The “right” is WRONG about the environment and climate change

Climate Skeptics” More Likely to Embrace “Free Market” Ideology, Conspiracy Theories

How the Religious Right Is Fueling Climate Change Denial

97% Global Warming Consensus Meets Resistance from Scientific Denialism

Do End-Time Believers Care About Climate Change?

The Privilege of Being Human: Ecological Crisis and the Need to Challenge the Twenty Percent

Debate Over Mother Earth’s ‘Rights’ Stirs Fears of Pagan Socialism

The “right” wing’s message machine

The Fascinating Story of How Shameless Right-Wing Lies Came to Rule Our Politics

The Powell Memo and the Teaching Machines of Right-Wing Extremists by Henry A. Giroux

US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions by John Atcheson

The Self-Made Myth: Debunking Conservatives’ Favorite — And Most Dangerous — Fiction

Why America’s Meritocracy Is Just a Myth By Joshua Holland

12 Biggest Right-Wing Lies About America

Shameless GOP Lies: Is There Any Limit to What Republicans Will Say — And What People Will Believe?

Mocking the Right’s ‘Free Market’ Agenda Is Almost Too Easy — A Real Problem Is That the Dems Don’t Challenge

The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

Will Republican Voters Believe Anything? The Right’s Hyperbolic, Dysfunctional World

The “right” is WRONG about reason and truth

The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

How the Right-Wing Brain Works and What That Means for Progressives

The Conservative Psyche: How Ordinary People Come to Embrace the Cruelty of Paul Ryan and Other Right-Wingers

Why Is the Conservative Brain More Fearful? The Alternate Reality Right-Wingers Inhabit Is Terrifying 

Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment by John Atcheson

How Religion’s Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages  

How the Conservative Worldview Quashes Critical Thinking — and What That Means For Our Kids’ Future

The Evangelical Rejection of Reason  

Why Teaching People to Think for Themselves Is Repugnant to Religious Zealots

 

The “right” is WRONG about religion

Chris Hedges on Christian Heretics

Cuz the Bible Tells Me So

Is the Bible infallible? The Southern Baptist theologian who said no, and why

The Bible is a Good Book, But God Didn’t Write It — Bishop John Shelby Spong

The Bible Paradox 

The Right-Wing Is Filled with Biblical Illiterates

Why We Must Reclaim The Bible From Fundamentalists

Christians in Denial Over Evolution of Faith

Holy Book Learning — Americans are shockingly illiterate when it comes to religions — including their own by Christoper Shea

Pope Francis called right-wing Christian fundamentalism a sickness

The Distortion And Decline Of Christianity 

What Jesus Wouldn’t Do By Jim Wallis

Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? 

If Only Right-Wing Christians Knew Where Their Ideas  Came From

Indoctrinating Religious Warriors

How Christian Delusions Are Driving the GOP Insane

The “right” is WRONG about values

The Sick Social Darwinism Driving Modern Republicans by Robert Reich

The False Equation: Religion Equals Morality

The Sociopathic 1 Percent: The Driving Force at the Heart of the Tea Party

Are Republicans Social Darwinists?

A Recent History of Violent Right-Wing Extremism 

Antigovernment ‘Patriot’ Movement Expands for the Fourth Year in a Row, 

The politics of hatred

Is This Election A War For America’s Soul?

Pundits and politicians contend for the soul of the Republican party

The “right” wing’s unholy alliance

How the Unholy Alliance Between the Christian Right and Wall Street Is ‘Crucifying America’ By CJ Werleman, Dangerous Little Books, published by Alternet.org, November 8, 2013

‘Republicanity’—The GOP Trans­for­ma­tion is Nearly Com­plete By Gary Lader­man, ReligionDispatches.com, July 17, 2011

Meet the Elite Business and Think-Tank Community That’s Doing Its Best to Control the World

Norquist still calling cadence in GOP ranks

Who Are You Going To Believe: Karl Rove Or Your Lying Eyes? by Paul Blumenthal

How Sleazy Christian Con Artists Took Over the GOP

The Relationship between Libertarians, the Tea Party and the Christian Right 

With Millions in Assets And Hundreds of Attorneys, Christian Right Is Waging War on the Church-State Wall

How Christianity Became a Lucrative Brand

Conservative Christianity’s Marketing Gimmick to Keep Its Old-Time, Heaven-and-Hell Religion Afloat

How Propagandists for the 1% Are Manipulating Christian Teachings to Rob the Middle Class

God and His Demons — Taking on the Religious Right

The Christian Right

Meet the Evangelical Cabal Orchestrating the Shutdown

How the Unholy Alliance Between the Christian Right and Wall Street Is ‘Crucifying America’ By CJ Werleman, Dangerous Little Books, published by Alternet.org, November 8, 2013  Atheist groups, associations, and networks have literally sprung up in every town and city in America…The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over zealousness of the Christian Right…atheists are the fastest growing minority in the U.S. today. More significantly, we make for being one of the most powerful voting blocs in the country, at least potentially. We now have the required critical mass to shape elections, laws, and leaders…We [free thinkers] are winning the cultural war, but the Christian Right is winning in the race to control the levers of power…atheists are wasting far too much intellectual and emotional energy on battles that lack real political gain or consequence…While we are busy playing the role of the nation’s police force for political correctness, they are gerrymandering voting districts to ensure they regain and maintain control of the levers of congressional and gubernatorial power…Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans favor liberal policies, but our courts and legislatures are increasingly becoming controlled and driven by the Christian Right…on January 21, 2010… the Supreme Court … ruled that money equals free speech, and corporations equal people. That was the moment that whatever chance we had of righting the wrongs that have led to growing social inequalities in this country was lost. That was the moment that all but guarantees a continuation of the shrinking of the middle class. That was the moment that presented billionaires and the wealthiest corporations an opportunity to partner with the Christian Right, so that a new era of pro-business and anti-government policies could be enacted in this country.

Quotations about religion and politics

work in progress 3/18/14

Citizens  electorate – Rights, Responsibilities, Creativity, Inspiration, Courage,

  • “We must move forward with audacious faith. The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. J. Krishnamurti
  •  It takes real spiritual courage to step forward and take responsibility for where we are all going. Andrew Cohen
  •  Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin
  •  ”Unleash radical thought” Harry Belafonte
  • We must love one another or die.” W. H. Auden in September 1, 1939

Nature’s God – natural law – enlightenment – morals/values – spirituality – human condition – Conscience, Philosophy, truth, Soul/Creed, Tolerance

  •  Politics in America is the binding secular religion. Theodore H. White
  •  If you go deep enough into any faith tradition, you find the common ground with all faith traditions. Martin Marty
  •  For the religious the holy is truth, for the philosophic the truth is holy. Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach
  •  This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy…our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. The Dalai Lama
  •  My call for a spiritual revolution is not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow otherworldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather it is a call for a radical reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self. It is a call to turn toward the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.  The 14th Dalai Lama
  • Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on “I am not too sure.” -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)
  •  Some people consider the practice of love and compassion is only related to religious practice and if they are not interested in religion they neglect these inner values. But love and compassion are qualities that human beings require just to live together. Dalai Lama
  • The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all of these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved with another. Thomas Merton
  •  Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality.  Mohandas K. Gandhi
  •  Nothing is more contagious than genuine love and genuine care. Nothing is more exhilarating than authentic awe and wonder. Nothing is more exciting than to witness people having the courage to fight for their highest vision. Rabbi Michael Lerner
  • Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  •  Conscience – freedom of thought
  • When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. (Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President [1861-1865]. From Henry O. Dormann, compiler, The Speaker’s Book of Quotations, New York: Ballantine Books, 1987, p. 127.)
  • Let it be henceforth proclaimed to the world that man’s conscience was created free; that he is no longer accountable to his fellow man for his religious opinions, being responsible therefore only to his God. (John Tyler, 10th U. S. President [1841-1845], as quoted by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Treasury of Presidential Quotations [Follett, 1964], p. 38, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 94.)
  • This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is free to combat it. (Thomas Jefferson, to prospective teachers, University of Virginia; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 364.)
  • … Jefferson, who as a careful historian had made a study of the origin of the maxim [that the common law is inextricably linked with Christianity], challenged such an assertion. He noted that “the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or that such a character existed …. What a conspiracy this, between Church and State.” (Leo Pfeffer, Religion, State, and the Burger Court, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1984, p. 121.)
  • We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions … shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power … we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society. (John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, as quoted by Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 1.)
  • … Jefferson, who as a careful historian had made a study of the origin of the maxim [that the common law is inextricably linked with Christianity], challenged such an assertion. He noted that “the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or that such a character existed …. What a conspiracy this, between Church and State.” (Leo Pfeffer, Religion, State, and the Burger Court, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1984, p. 121.)
  • The lessons of religious toleration–a toleration which recognizes complete liberty of human thought, liberty of conscience–is one which, by precept and example, must be inculcated in the hearts and minds of all Americans if the institutions of our democracy are to be maintained and perpetuated. We must recognize the fundamental rights of man. There can be no true national life in our democracy unless we give unqualified recognition to freedom of religious worship and freedom of education. (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U. S. President [1933-1945], letter to the Calvert Associates, 1937, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 82.)
  • The fundamental precept of liberty is toleration. We cannot permit any inquisition either from within or from without the law or apply any religious test to the holding of office. The mind of America must be forever free. (Calvin Coolidge, 30th U. S. President [1923-1929], Inaugural Address on March 4, 1925, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 22.)
  • The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 494.)

Religion – Bible – doctrine

  • There are things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. Holy Bible, Zechariah 8:16-17
  • But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer [Jesus] of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, 1810; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)
  • If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it. Stephen Colbert

Constitution  – Official documents – Facts

First Amendment – Freedom of/from religion – separation of church and state

America is not a Christian nation

The Constitution of the United States (1787-1788; 1st Ten Amendments ["Bill of Rights"] ratified 1791; no reference to any god is to be found in the body or in the amendments to the Constitution)

The senators and representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (Article VI, Section 3, The Constitution of the United States.) – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the freedom of press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (Amendment 1,The Constitution of the United States.)

Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, 1796-1797 – As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion–as it has itself no character of enmity against the law, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims], … (“Article 11, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between The United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary,” 1796-1797. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Edited by Hunter Miller. Vol. 2, 1776-1818, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1931, p. 365. From George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 45. According to Paul F. Boller [George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, pp. 87-88] the treaty was written by Joel Barlow, negotiated during Washington’s administration, concluded on November 4, 1796, ratified by the Senate in June, 1797, and signed [see below] by John Adams [2nd U.S. President] on June 10, 1797. Boller concluded that “Very likely Washington shared Barlow’s view, though there is no record of his opinion about the treaty …” [p.88]. Jefferson was Secretary of State in Washington’s first administration but had resigned when the treaty was written. Jefferson was Vice-President when the treaty was ratified and signed. Barlow, identified in The American Heritage Dictionary as an American “poet and diplomat,” 1754-1812, knew and corresponded extensively with Jefferson. Among many letters Jefferson wrote Barlow was one written on March 14, 1801, just ten days after Jefferson’s first inauguration as President.)

Now be it known, that I, John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said treaty do, by and within the consent of the Senate, accept, ratify and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. (“Treaty of Peace and Friendship between The United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary,” 1796-1797. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Edited by Hunter Miller. Vol. 2. 1776-1818. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1931, p. 383; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 45.)

Democracy/Government – Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Justice, Threats to democracy

  • It is the poorest and most vulnerable who are always hurt the most in a crisis like thisthat is our job in politics — to talk about what happens to themThe biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good.…That vision of “common good” is what we have lost, and there is nothing more important in our public life than to find it again… Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, posted on Huffingtonpost.com, Oct 3, 2013
  • Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values. Barack Obama

Democracy/politics – Power – Campaigns and Elections

Politics [is] the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order. Barry Goldwater

Religion and politics

Conservatives/Republicans/Libertarians

Right wing religious extremists

Liberals/Democrats/Progressives

 

 

 

Separation of church and state – First Amendment

  • We believe in separation of church and state, that there should be no unwarranted influence on the church or religion by the state, and vice versa. (Jimmy Carter, 39th President [1977-1981], in a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, reported by New York Times, December 31, 1977 [p. 2], according to Alan F. Pater and Jason R. Pater, compilers and editors, What They Said in 1977: The Yearbook of Spoken Opinion, Beverly Hills, CA: Monitor Book Co., 1978, p. 479.)
  • Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives. (Barry Goldwater, 1909- , American politician, in a speech,1981. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 498.)
  • And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. (James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822; published in The Complete Madison: His Basic Writings, ed. by Saul K. Padover, New York: Harper & Bros., 1953.)
  • The only ultimate protection for religious liberty in a country like ours, Madison pointed out–echoing Jefferson;–is public opinion: a firm and pervading opinion that the First Amendment works. “Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance.” (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 56. Madison’s words, according to Gaustad, are from his letter of 10 July 1822 to Edward Livingston.)
  • I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute. John F. Kennedy
  • When fascism comes to America, it’ll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross. Sinclair Lewis
  • “All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution”: freedom for religion, but also freedom from religion. Thomas Jefferson (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 38. Jefferson proposed his language in 1776.)
  • I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 499.)
  • History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)
  • Civil liberty can be established on no foundation of human reason which will not at the same time demonstrate the right to religious freedom. (John Quincy Adams, 6th U.S. President [1825-1829], letter to Richard Anderson, May 27, 1823. From Daniel B. Baker, ed., Political Quotations, Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1990, p. 190.)
  • All religions united with government are more or less inimical to liberty. All separated from government, are compatible with liberty. (Henry Clay, 1777-1852, Speech in the House of Representatives, March 24, 1818. From Daniel B. Baker, ed., Political Quotations, Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1990, p. 190.)
  •  In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371)

Religion wars

  • Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives. Barry Goldwater, 1981.
  • Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” Barry M. Goldwater
  • ………….between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” The Rev. Billy Graham, Parade, 1981

Religion and politics

  • Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is. Mohandas Gandhi
  • Those who believe that politics and religion do not mix, understand neither. Albert Einstein

Freedom of/from religion – tolerance

  • The lessons of religious toleration–a toleration which recognizes complete liberty of human thought, liberty of conscience–is one which, by precept and example, must be inculcated in the hearts and minds of all Americans if the institutions of our democracy are to be maintained and perpetuated. We must recognize the fundamental rights of man. There can be no true national life in our democracy unless we give unqualified recognition to freedom of religious worship and freedom of education. (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U. S. President [1933-1945], letter to the Calvert Associates, 1937, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 82.)
  • Religious and racial persecution is moronic at all times, perhaps the most idiotic of human stupidities. (Harry S. Truman, 33rd U.S. President [1945-1953], Where the Buck Stops; The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman, ed. by Margaret Truman; New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1989, p. 126.)
  • The fundamental precept of liberty is toleration. We cannot permit any inquisition either from within or from without the law or apply any religious test to the holding of office. The mind of America must be forever free. (Calvin Coolidge, 30th U. S. President [1923-1929], Inaugural Address on March 4, 1925, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 22.)
  • Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize [sic], every expanded prospect. (James Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774, as quoted by Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 37.)
  • It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was by the indulgence of one class of the people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that those who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it, on all occasions, their effectual support. (George Washington, letter to the congregation of Touro Synagogue Jews, Newport, Rhode Island, August, 1790. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 500.)
  • Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society. (George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 726.)
  • In the Enlightened Age and in this Land of equal Liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States. (George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793. Quoted in Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, Harper & Row, 1973, p. 269.)
  • Washington’s religious belief was that of the enlightenment: deism. He practically never used the word “God,” preferring the more impersonal word “Providence.” How little he visualized Providence in personal form is shown by the fact that he interchangeably applied to that force all three possible pronouns: he, she, and it. (James Thomas Flexner, George Washington: Anguish and Farewell [1793-1799], Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972, p. 490.)
  • No citizens … were more sensitive to Washington’s role as an upholder of liberties than the religious minorities. These groups were less anxious to cultivate what they had in common with other Americans than to sustain what kept them apart. Washington recognized this, just as he recognized the tenacity of regional and economic interests, and he took pains to explain precisely what national unity meant to him. He carried to his countrymen a vision of “organic” rather than “mechanical” solidarity, a union based on difference and interdependence rather than uniformity of belief and conduct. Washington’s understanding of the kind of integration appropriate to a modern state was not shared by the most powerful Protestant establishments, the New England Congregationalists and Presbyterians; but other religious groups could not have been more pleased…. Acknowledging in each instance that respect for diversity was a fair price for commitment to the nation and its regime, Washington abolished deep-rooted fears that would have otherwise alienated a large part of the population from the nation-building process. For this large minority, he embodied not the ideal of union, nor even that of liberty, but rather the reconciliation of union and liberty. (Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol, New York: The Free Press, 1987, pp. 85-86.)
  • The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses…. (John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” [1787-1788]; from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 258.)
  • Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and Dogmatism cannot confine it. (John Adams, letter to John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816. From Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 88.)
  • [Benjamin] Franklin drank deep of the Protestant ethic and then, discomforted by church constraints, became a freethinker. All his life he kept Sundays free for reading, but would visit any church to hear a great speaker, no doubt recognizing a talent he himself did not possess. With typical honesty and humor he wrote out his creed in 1790, the year he died: “I believe in one God, Creator of the universe…. That the most acceptable service we can render Him is doing good to His other children…. As to Jesus … I have … some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.” (Alice J. Hall, “Philosopher of Dissent: Benj. Franklin,” National Geographic, Vol. 148, No. 1, July, 1975, p. 94.)
  • The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 494.)
  • Civil liberty can be established on no foundation of human reason which will not at the same time demonstrate the right to religious freedom. (John Quincy Adams, 6th U.S. President [1825-1829], letter to Richard Anderson, May 27, 1823. From Daniel B. Baker, ed., Political Quotations, Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1990, p. 190.)
  • When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. (Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President [1861-1865]. From Henry O. Dormann, compiler, The Speaker’s Book of Quotations, New York: Ballantine Books, 1987, p. 127.)
  • Let us labor to add all needful guarantees for the more perfect security of free thought, free speech, and free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion. (Ulysses S. Grant, 18th U.S. President [1869-1877], speech before the Army of the Tennessee, Des Moines, Iowa, 1875; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, pp. 287-288)
  • We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference. (Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th U. S. President [1877-1881], statement as Governor of Ohio, 1875, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 44.)
  • Religious and racial persecution is moronic at all times, perhaps the most idiotic of human stupidities. (Harry S. Truman, 33rd U.S. President [1945-1953], Where the Buck Stops; The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman, ed. by Margaret Truman; New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1989, p. 126.)

Moral politics

  • It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life – the sick, the needy and the handicapped. (1977, at the dedication of the Humphrey Building)        Hubert H. Humphrey
  • A compassionate government keeps faith with the trust of the people and cherishes the future of their children. Lyndon B. Johnson
  • A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.  Albert Einstein
  • The central task of the religious community is to unveil the bonds that bind each to all. There is a connectedness, a relationship discovered amid the particulars of our own lives and the lives of others. Once felt, it inspires us to act for justice. It is the church that assures us that we are not struggling for justice on our own, but as members of a larger community. The religious community is essential, for alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen, and our strength too limited to do all that must be cone. Together, our vision widens and our strength is renewed. Mark Morrison-Reed
  • We want people to rule the nation who care more for and love better the nation’s welfare than gold and silver, fame and popularity.   Brigham Young
  • When we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, we come to what is proper for all conditions of society… Liberty, truth, probity, honor, are declared to be the four cardinal principles of society. I believe that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution; that there exists a right independent of force. Thomas Jefferson
  • It is hard to imagine a more stupid or dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of those who pay no price for being wrong. Thomas Sowell
  • We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations may have their great human needs satisfied, that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address
  • The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • I think it’s important that people know that for the country to get better it needs more than just politicians. Politicians aren’t enough and it needs resurgence through churches, through revivals through a spiritual cleansing of the people.”  -Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) on the future of America and faith in in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview.

Soul/Creed

  • There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a nation’s inner core. Caroline Myss, Crimes Against the Soul of America, Huffington Post 
  • As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious. There is no such thing as religion over-riding morality. Mohandas K. Gandhi
  • I think it’s important that people know that for the country to get better it needs more than just politicians. Politicians aren’t enough and it needs resurgence through churches, through revivals through a spiritual cleansing of the people.”  -Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) on the future of America and faith in in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview.
  • The word “creed” sounds forbidding and ecclesiastical. The American Creed is neither, but it is steadfast in its principles and enduring enough to redeem the nation’s history whenever we stray from their course. Capturing the essence of the American experiment, the American Creed affirms those truths our Founders held self-evident: justice for all, because we are all created equal; and liberty for all, because we are all endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights. America’s fidelity to this creed is judged by history. Living up to it remains a constant challenge. But it invests our nation with spiritual purpose and–if we honor its precepts–a moral destiny.” Forrest Church.

George Washington (1732-1799; “Father of His Country”; 1st U.S. President, 1789-1797)

John Adams(1735-1826; major leader at Constitutional Convention in 1787; 2nd U.S. President , 1797-1801)

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790; American statesman, diplomat, scientist, and printer)

Thomas Paine (1737-1809; author of Common Sense; key American patriotic writer)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826; author, Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom; 3rd U.S. President, 1801-1809)

James Madison (1751-1836; principal author, U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights; 4th U.S. President, 1809-1817)

Research/quotations from Presidents and founders, acknowledged with gratitude, from Ed Buckner, Atlanta Freethought Society, P.O. Box 1975, Smyrna, GA 30081-1975 – Copyright 1993, Ed and Michael E. Buckner and the Atlanta Freethought Society, P.O. Box 2385, Stone Mountain, GA 30086-2385. Version 7.2 (26 Mar 93). Compiled by Ed and Michael E. Buckner, P.O. Box 1975, Smyrna, GA 30081-1975. Permission to reproduce any or all pages freely is hereby granted, provided that this notice is retained. Acknowledgement of compilers for excerpts, especially lengthy ones, is appreciated but not required. posted by Clark Adams cdadams@whale.st.usm.edu

 

The Sociopathic 1 Percent: The Driving Force at the Heart of the Tea Party

 By Paul Rosenberg, Salon.com, March 8, 2014 

Excerpt

sociopaths are defined by their lack of empathy, conscience or any form of intuitive social awareness…Venture capitalist Nick Hanauerrecently appeared on “All In with Chris Hayes” – “…The point isn’t to stigmatize any one particular individual, but to identify and arm ourselves against a pervasive, corrosive mindset. It’s a mindset devoid of empathy or conscience, for whom other people simply are not real, a mindset that has gripped us collectively, ever more tightly, over the past 30 to 40 years…Remember Margaret Thatcher’s remark, “There is no such thing as society, only individuals”? That’s the sociopathic mindset in a nutshell… Sociopaths are like that — they lie a lot….other people simply are not real to sociopaths… the influence of sociopathic thinking is far broader than we realize, particularly since it’s almost never recognized as such. That’s precisely why we need more awareness of the workings of the sociopathic imagination — the forms it takes, the impacts it has, the conditions in which it flourishes and spreads…. It’s also been argued that sociopaths have a sense of morality, only it’s a different one than the rest of society, perhaps, in which selfishness is a virtue, and altruism a vice, as per Ayn Rand…Now, even if it could be generalized, a 4% presence of psychopaths in business is not a lot, except when compared to 1%. The greater significance lies in why psychopaths are so dramatically over-represented in corporate management, and what that says about the environments they find so hospitable — which ties in directly to the rise of the 1 percent, who have done so much better than everyone else since the 1970s…

Full text

“The sociological imagination Mills calls for is a sociological vision, a way of looking at the world that can see links between the apparently private problems of the individual and important social issues.” – Oxford University Press

“I always said that if I wasn’t studying psychopaths in prison, I’d do it at the stock exchange.” – Robert Hare, creator of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist and its variants, the most widely used diagnostic tools for psychopathic personalities.

In 1998 the International Sociological Association listed radical sociologist C. Wright Mills’ book “The Sociological Imagination” as the second most important sociological book of the 20th century. As is only natural with such an influential work, there are differing interpretations [2] of what’s meant by sociological imagination, but all involve some relationship between individuals and society. Lately, however, we’ve been exposed to a completely opposite sort of imagination, one that sees only individuals in isolation, and seems incapable of grasping even the most basic of social facts connecting them with each other. Call it “the sociopathic imagination,” because sociopaths are defined by their lack of empathy, conscience or any form of intuitive social awareness.

We’ve seen this most strikingly in a recent wave of attention to some bizarre thinking of the 1 percent. It was sparked by billionaire investor Tom Perkins, with his letter to the editor [3] of The Wall Street Journal, in which he compared public criticism of the “one percent” to Nazi attacks on the Jews, and suggested we were on the road to another Kristallnacht, which was reinforced by the remarks of others, such as billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell [4], who supported him.

As Paul Krugman correctly noted [5], “Mr. Perkins isn’t that much of an outlier” among the 1 percent. Krugman scored them for their “paranoia” and “megalomania,” both of which are obviously present to some degree, but it was one of their own who zeroed in much closer to the mark. Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer — who has advocated a $15 minimum wage [6] and for raising taxes on people like him “to reward the true job creators [7],” ordinary middle-class consumers — rightly called them sociopaths when he recently appeared [8] on “All In with Chris Hayes.”

“These are the people who did not go to their kid’s soccer games. These are borderline sociopathic people and they don’t care about other people,” Hanauer said, to which Hayes responded, “I don’t want to diagnose anyone from afar, I just want to stipulate.” That’s an honorable, well-meaning liberal sentiment. But it’s a bit misplaced, particularly since it meant a missed opportunity for deeper understanding. The point isn’t to stigmatize any one particular individual, but to identify and arm ourselves against a pervasive, corrosive mindset. It’s a mindset devoid of empathy or conscience, for whom other people simply are not real, a mindset that has gripped us collectively, ever more tightly, over the past 30 to 40 years, regardless of how much mayhem it creates, as the richest 1 percent has roughly tripled its share of income, while the rest of us, collectively, have seen our incomes stagnate, despite rising productivity, year after year after year.

Remember Margaret Thatcher’s remark, “There is no such thing as society, only individuals”? That’s the sociopathic mindset in a nutshell. Of course, Thatcher added, “and their families,” an obligatory conservative feel-good trope. But as Hanauer told Chris Hayes, “These are the people who did not go to their kid’s soccer games.” In short, Thatcher was lying when she tacked on “families.” Sociopaths are like that — they lie a lot.

They lie when they call themselves “job creators,” for example. As Hanauer says, the real job creators are the consumers, whose demand for goods and services is the only thing that keeps businesses going, thus creating all the jobs — including those of the “job creators,” too!

“When businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating evolution,”Hanauer wrote. “In fact, it’s the other way around.”

But, in a way, it’s not a lie at all, since other people simply are not real to sociopaths. We see that reflected in the callous indifference and disregard shown in slashing food stamps and cutting off unemployment insurance. Or in the dehumanizing language of “makers vs takers.”

Is everyone who supports such cuts or uses such language a sociopath? No, of course not. Only a very small fraction are, at best. But the influence of sociopathic thinking is far broader than we realize, particularly since it’s almost never recognized as such. That’s precisely why we need more awareness of the workings of the sociopathic imagination — the forms it takes, the impacts it has, the conditions in which it flourishes and spreads.

First, however, we need to be clearer about sociopathy itself. It doesn’t help that the terminology is fragmented, and that interpretations differ. “Psychopath” was the officially sanctioned term until the 1950s, when the  American Psychiatric Association changed the classification of psychopathic personality to sociopathic personality. A decade later it changed again to antisocial personality. But the two historically most important researchers in the field both used the term “psychopath” (more on them below), and significant subsets of researchers retain different meanings or favored usages.

It’s been argued [9] that psychopaths have been taken to be more commonly criminal, even violent, and the result of genetic hard-wiring, whereas sociopaths are interpersonally rather than physically destructive, and the result of a difficult or abusive childhood. This is has little impact or no impact on the present discussion. It’s also been argued [10] that sociopaths have a sense of morality, only it’s a different one than the rest of society, perhaps, in which selfishness is a virtue, and altruism a vice, as per Ayn Rand. This is relevant to this discussion, as the influence of psychopaths on the larger society clearly involves altering, if not violently reversing the common sense of morality. That’s why I will tend to use the terms interchangeably in a broad sense, reflecting the usage of the experts I’m referencing, but favor ‘psychopathy’ with respect to specific behavior and ‘sociopathy’ to describe broader societal impacts. There is also a further small subset of psychopaths who deserve special attention: those who are serial killers (not that all serial killers are psychopaths — they aren’t). As it happens, Ayn Rand chose a serial killer as the model for the protagonist of her first novel, which means that we cannot honestly ignore this small, but vividly illustrative sub-population.

Two main figures loom large in our understanding of sociopaths (or psychopaths, nearly the same thing for our purposes). The first was Dr. Hervey Cleckley, whose classic clinical study, “The Mask of Sanity [11],” first published in 1941, put the term on the map. Best known as the co-author of “Three Faces of Eve [12],” which dealt with multiple personality disorder, Cleckley was a man who struggled mightily to make sense of some of the most confusing aspects of human experience and behavior. The title of his book referred to his core conceptualization of the psychopath, that they present the superficial outward appearance of normal, sane psychological function, behind which is a profoundly different sort of being. In a later edition, Cleckley wrote that he found himself “in complete accord” with the following:

A psychosis is a major mental disorder. A psychopathic personality shows not a disorder of personality but rather a defect of personality, together with a set of defenses evolved around that defect. The defect relates to the most central element of the human personality: its social nature. The psychopath is simply a basically asocial or antisocial individual who has never achieved the developed nature of homo domesticus. [emphasis added]

The second figure is Dr. Robert Hare, who developed a rigorous 20-point checklist (the Psychopathy Checklist PCL, and its revised form, PCL-R) based on rigorously testing Cleckley’s 16-item clinical profile, as well as a wide range of other research. Hare had a more critical analytical approach which further discerned four major groupings that accounted for 18 of the 20 points, and also developed variant checklists for specific sub-populations. (See Hare’s website [13], article for  [14]Psychology Today [14] and professional paper [15]describing his work in relation to Cleckley’s.) Hare also argued that psychopathy is dimensional (more or less) rather than categorical (either/or). Each checklist item is scored 0-2, with normal people scoring 3-4, “moderate” psychopaths scoring 20, and full-blown psychopaths (1% of the population) scoring 30 or more. Hare’s dimensional view enables us to understand psychopathy as distinct phenomenon, epitomized by extreme examples, yet also recognize its continuity with a broader population range.

We may begin to discuss how psychopathy influences the broader culture by considering the literature linking it to business. In 2006, Hare co-authored “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work [16]“ with Paul Babiak. A subsequent study they conducted with a third co-author found that 4% of a sample of 203 corporate professionals met the 30-point threshold for being described as psychopaths. (Other studies [17] found similar results.) It was not a randomized, representative sample, however. Nonetheless, in response to a later misrepresentation in a New York Times op-ed, Hare noted on his website that:

As things stand, we do not know the prevalence of psychopathy among those who work on Wall Street. It may be even higher than 10%, on the assumption that psychopathic entrepreneurs and risk-takers tend to gravitate toward financial watering-holes, particularly those that are enormously lucrative and poorly regulated. But, until the research has been conducted, we are left with anecdotal evidence and widespread speculation.

Now, even if it could be generalized, a 4% presence of psychopaths in business is not a lot, except when compared to 1%. The greater significance lies in why psychopaths are so dramatically over-represented in corporate management, and what that says about the environments they find so hospitable — which ties in directly to the rise of the 1 percent, who have done so much better than everyone else since the 1970s. In a 2005 Fast Company article, “Is Your Boss A Psychopath? [18]” Alan Deutschman wrote:

There’s evidence that the business climate has become even more hospitable to psychopaths in recent years. In pioneering long-term studies of psychopaths in the workplace, Babiak focused on a half-dozen unnamed companies: One was a fast-growing high-tech firm, and the others were large multinationals undergoing dramatic organizational changes — severe downsizing, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures. That’s just the sort of corporate tumult that has increasingly characterized the U.S. business landscape in the last couple of decades. And just as wars can produce exciting opportunities for murderous psychopaths to shine (think of Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic), Babiak found that these organizational shake-ups created a welcoming environment for the corporate killer.The psychopath has no difficulty dealing with the consequences of rapid change; in fact, he or she thrives on it,” Babiak claims. “Organizational chaos provides both the necessary stimulation for psychopathic thrill seeking and sufficient cover for psychopathic manipulation and abusive behavior.

This is not an incidental relationship. It is directly tied to the rise of junk bond/leveraged buy-out financialized capitalism, which rebranded itself as private equity following its initial bad press in the late 1980s. And that in turn has been justified by the “Myth of Maximizing Shareholder Value [19]”, as Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith recently described and debunked it, building on an earlier analysis [20]. Maximizing shareholder value was the rationale; the result was a dramatic reorientation of corporate behavior, favoring short-term (quarterly) profits to the virtual exclusion of all else, including concerns related to goodwill, reputation, corporate citizenship, etc.

One can summarize four main flaws Smith identifies with this viewpoint: First, she notes, “Legally, shareholders’ equity is a residual claim, inferior to all other obligations.” So the whole concept is without legal foundation. It came out of Harvard Business School, in a 1976 paper by Michael Jensen and William Meckling, and it said what some people wanted to hear, period. End of story. Second, maximizing shareholder value doesn’t work. Smith notes,“as John Kay has stressed, when companies try to ‘maximize shareholder value,’ they don’t succeed [21].” The most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented ones, but the most visionary and innovative ones. Third, even worse, it’s downright toxic. “Jensen himself, in 2005, repudiated his earlier prescription precisely because it led to fraud,” Smith writes, going on to quote from an interview [22] in the New York Times, in which he laments a common outcome in which “even basically honest people move around the corner to outright fraud.” The situation Jensen described is custom made for psychopaths — and for those who aren’t, it creates an environment in which sociopathic behavior is far and away the path of least resistance.

The fourth and final flaw is that it was all just a cover story anyway — or, to put it more bluntly, a con. Smith puts it more tentatively than I would, writing, “I strongly suspect that if Jensen and Meckling had not come out with this line of thinking, you would have gotten something similar to justify the actions of the leveraged buyout kings, who were just getting started in the 1970s and were reshaping the corporate landscape by the mid-1980s. They were doing many of the things Jensen and Meckling recommended: breaking up multi-business companies, thinning out corporate centers, and selling corporate assets.”

The end result of all this was not just a corporate environment in which psychopaths and sociopaths could flourish; it had the effect of turning corporations themselves into sociopaths, as their traditional responsibilities to multiple stakeholders were tossed on the rubbish heap in the name of short-term profits to maximize shareholder value. That was the point of “The Corporation [23],” a 2003 Canadian documentary that took the concept of “legal personhood” to its logical conclusion, asked “What kind of person is it?”, and concluded that the answer was “a sociopath.”  Hare was even  interviewed for the film, which is the most successful documentary in Canadian filmmaking history. This is yet another instance of the sociopathic imagination — once you’ve accepted the basic logic, casting aside all social obligations you simply can’t imagine any way they could be put back again.

Smith made two other points worth noting here. First, that the impacts of leveraged buyouts went far beyond the firms taken over, to the entire corporate community: “To forestall takeovers, many companies implemented the measures an LBO artist might take before his invading army arrived: sell off non-core divisions, borrow more, shed staff.” That’s why “The Corporation” could credibly argue that corporations as a whole are sociopathic, not just a few selected ones. Second, Smith noted that Jenkins added even more fuel to the fire with his “1990 Harvard Business Review article, ‘It’s Not What You Pay CEOs, but How [24],’ that led to an explosion in the use of option-based pay and resulted in a huge increase in CEO pay relative to that of average workers.”

This last point helps undermine the delusional claims of 1 percenters like Sam Zell, who said, in a clip Hayes used in his segment, “The quote ‘one percent’ are being pummelled because it’s politically convenient to do so. The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the one percent. It should talk about emulating the one percent. The one percent work harder; the one percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.”

Pure bull, of course. Zell understands better than anyone the crucial importance of how he and his cronies get paid — and how that depends on others not getting paid. In fact, it depends on them getting screwed, as Hayes went on to point out. Zell bought Tribune Corporation — which owns the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times just for starters — for $8.2 billion in 2008, in a classic, heavily-leveraged deal (with some of the money even coming from employee pension plans!). But less than a year later Tribune went bankrupt, with $7.6 billion in assets and $13 billion in debt. “More than 4200 people lost their jobs, but despite the company’s troubles, executives got tens of millions of dollars in bonuses,” Hayes pointed out. “Try doing what Sam Zell did if you’re not in the one percent,” he added. How exactly were those 4200 people supposed to emulate Sam Zell, you might ask. Good question. They could poison their dogs, but then what? How do they actually getpaid?

In Zell’s imagination, he’s the swashbuckling, risk-taking job creator. But in the real world, the only risk he really took was with other people’s lives — and the jobs he created were counted in negative numbers. Zell’s not alone in this. He’s not the exception, he’s the rule. In a 2012 appearance [25] on CNN, Hanauer pointed out that neither Google’s Stanford-educated creators nor the venture capitalists who backed them took on any real risk. The only ones ever at risk were the pension funds whose capital the venture funds drew on.

It wasn’t always thus. Once upon a time the CEO did better because the company did — and that meant its employees, suppliers and shareholders all did better, too. During the “golden age” of American capitalism, from 1947 to 1973, GDP grew 4.0%  annually, with 4.8% unemployment and substantially higher income gains for the bottom 99% (4.1% per year) than the top 1% (1.8% per year). CEOs typically made 20 or 30 times what their average employee made during this era. But the 1970s brought a prolonged crisis to American business, with Europe and Japan finally fully recovered from World War II, the two OPEC oil shocks and stagflation. Jensen and Meckling’s shareholder value thesis was just one of many failed attempts to find a way out.  It just happened to be the one that caught on, because it did find a way out for one small demographic — Sam Zell and his 1 percent cronies. From 1973 to 2011, GDP growth slowed to 2.7% annually, unemployment rose to 6.5% and income growth shifted entirely to the top 1% (4.8% annually) with no growth at all (0.0% annually) for the bottom 99% as a whole. CEOs now make 200 to 350 times more than their average employees.

These figures obviously refute the whole “job creators” narrative — but only if one is actually impressed by the real world. Sociopaths, by their very nature, are not. They also utterly destroy the whole “equality vs. opportunity” frame that Chris Christie tried floating to defend Perkins, Zell and his own rapidly dwindling Wall Street donor base. They clearly show that the reality is exactly the opposite of what Christie claimed: historically, broad equality has meant far more opportunity for many more people. Again, Christie could not care less. Does that mean he’s a sociopath? Not necessarily. But he is promoting the sociopathic imagination. What more can you ask from a GOP politician?

As I said, of course Zell knows the importance of how he and his cronies get paid. And how that depends on others not getting paid — even getting screwed. That’s absolutely central to how his wealth is accumulated. But that sordid psychopathic reality is entirely divorced from his virtuous hard work rhetoric (which actually was plausible once upon a time, but hasn’t been for going on 40 years now), and connecting those facts is simply beyond Zell — it’s beyond the reach of the sociopathic imagination, which cannot see coherent social realities at all, but only fragmented individuals and episodes, the better to manipulate them.

What I’ve just described is all about what economists call microeconomic behavior — the behavior of individual actors and firms — though I have made note of the macroeconomic effects, what it’s done to our economy as a whole. But one can also look at the macroeconomic story more directly — and the same sort shift toward a more sociopathic world can be observed that way as well. Enter Hyman Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis. (Summary paper by Minsky here [26].) He published a book-length treatment, “Stabilizing an Unstable Economy [27],” in 1986. It might not have been able to predict the exact timing of the crisis — no one sociopathic investor could make a killing off of Minsky’s insight. But he did explain how a sound, stable economic order actually produces a dynamic that moves the economy increasingly toward greater and greater instability over time. It provides a community of non-sociopathic citizens with the insight and judgment to see through and reject the policies that actually hasten and worsen the crisis enormously.

One can think of Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis as composed of three main parts. First is its basic definitional identification of  “Three distinct income-debt relations for economic units, which are labeled as hedge, speculative, and Ponzi finance.” Hedge financing units are those that meet all their financial obligations by their cash flows. Speculative finance units can pay interest on their liabilities out of cash flows, but cannot repay the principal — they have to roll over their loans when they come due. Ponzi units cannot pay either interest or principal out of cash flow — they must sell assets or borrow. Ponzi units, in particular, exemplify the form that corporations have increasingly taken on via leveraged buy-outs or, as Yves Smith noted, in defense against such buyouts. They are custom made for psychopathic CEOs to thrive in.

The second and third parts of Minsky’s financial instability hypothesis are its two main theorems:

  • The first theorem of the financial instability hypothesis is that the economy has financing regimes under which it is stable, and financing regimes in which it is unstable.
  • The second theorem of the financial instability hypothesis is that over periods of prolonged prosperity, the economy transits from financial relations that make for a stable system to financial relations that make for an unstable system.

In short, as long as hedge units dominate in the economy, markets generally tend toward equilibrium and stability, as the hallowed imagery of the “invisible hand” promises all markets must. As long as these conditions prevail, everyone’s prosperity really is intertwined. But when speculative and/or ponzi units dominate, the market tends toward a speculative boom-and-bust cycle, the sort that actual real-world economies have been exhibiting as far back as economic record-keeping extends. Those cycles exist because hedge unit dominance tends to return after a bust, producing a relatively stable regime, which in turn becomes increasingly unstable over time, leading to another crash.

While conventional economics sees instability — and, ultimately, crisis — as the exception and equilibrium as the rule, Minsky argues the exact opposite: equilibrium is actually only a phase that economies pass through on the way to their next crisis. We were in a particularly extended period of equilibrium after World War II, due to the depth of the crisis we had dug ourselves out of, and the extent of reforms put into place. But Minsky saw the signs of returning instability as far back as the 1960s, when he began publishing his work on the financial instability hypothesis.

Of course, there was significant damage to the economy even before the crash, as the shift toward an increasingly risky economy also involved shifting risk onto those least able to deal with it. This was the subject of a 2006 book, “The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care  [28]and Retirement — And How You Can Fight Back [28]“by Jacob Hacker, a Yale University political scientist. Among other things, Hacker cited statistics showing that the size of year-to-year swings of pre-tax family income had tripled since the early 1970s, while the number of bankruptcy filings had skyrocketed from 300,000 in 1980 to 2 million in 2005.

The sociopathic imagination has another name for this enormous risk shift onto the shoulders of individual workers and families: it’s called “labor flexibility,” and it’s a good thing. After all, would a sociopath lie about something as crucial as that?

If Minsky’s focus on real-world financial behavior allowed him to see the growing dangers that most model-obsessed economists missed, there were some who represented the opposite extreme, avidly advocating the sociopathic perspective. Chief among these was Alan Greenspan, longtime chair of the Federal Reserve, first appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987, a few months before the Crash of ’87 [29] and the year after Minsky published “Stabilizing an Unstable Economy.” It’s depressingly obvious which economist had the greater influence over this time period, as Greenspan’s enthusiasm for deregulation was legendary. But why associate Greenspan with sociopathy? Two words: Ayn Rand. From the 1950s, Greenspan was a member of Rand’s inner circle, deeply influenced by her ideas. And, as mentioned above, Rand chose a serial killer as the model for the protagonist of her first novel. It’s time to discuss that disturbing fact, and consider its consequences.

The psycho-killer model  I’m talking about is William Hickman. Rand’s fascination with Hickman was brought to light by Michael Prescott, a conservative crime novelist, in his May 2005 blog post, “Ayn Rand’s Real Man [30],” and the essay that eventually evolved out of it and several followup posts, “Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman [31].” Here’s how Prescott introduced the matter:

In her journal circa 1928 Rand quoted the statement, “What is good for me is right,” a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard,” she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing “Journals of Ayn Rand,” pp. 21-22.)

At the time, she was planning a novel that was to be titled “The Little Street,” the projected hero of which was named Danny Renahan. According to Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra [32], she deliberately modeled Renahan — intended to be her first sketch of her ideal man — after this same William Edward Hickman. Renahan, she enthuses in another journal entry, “is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness — [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people … Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should.” (“Journals,” pp. 27, 21-22; emphasis hers.)

“A wonderful, free, light consciousness” born of the utter absence of any understanding of “the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people.” Obviously, Ayn Rand was most favorably impressed with Mr. Hickman. He was, at least at that stage of Rand’s life, her kind of man.

He was also, Prescott goes on to note, “a forger, an armed robber, a child kidnapper, and a multiple murderer,” the Jeffrey Dahmer of 1927/28. We need not go into the bloody details here. Suffice it to say, Ayn Rand saw the same connection between criminals and CEOs that Robert Hare did more than half a century later. The only difference was, she was rapturously enthralled by what she saw, and sought to spread the influence of sociopathy as widely as possible. He was justifiably horrified and alarmed, and sought to counter the spread of sociopathy to the best of his abilities.

There have been some vigorous defenses of Rand in response to Prescott’s initial discoveries, attempts to suggest that she was young and impressionable, that her thinking evolved. Prescott considers some of those arguments, and is willing to cut Rand some slack in his later essay. But he can’t ignore how little her fundamental outlook seems to have changed over the years. And neither should we. One of the most frightening aspects of Rand’s infatuation with Hickman is the way she demonizes the public, which is quite justifiably appalled by him. Here’s a small snippet from Rand’s journal that Prescott comments on:

The first thing that impresses me about the case is the ferocious rage of a whole society against one man. No matter what the man did, there is always something loathsome in the ‘virtuous’ indignation and mass-hatred of the ‘majority.’… It is repulsive to see all these beings with worse sins and crimes in their own lives, virtuously condemning a criminal…

This is not just the case of a terrible crime. It is not the crime alone that has raised the fury of public hatred. It is the case of a daring challenge to society. It is the fact that a crime has been committed by one man, alone; that this man knew it was against all laws of humanity and intended that way; that he does not want to recognize it as a crime and that he feels superior to all. It is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul.

Like a true murder groupie, Rand seems more outraged at the public than Hickman probably was. But there’s an eerie similarity between her loathing for the public with their unnamed “worse sins and crimes” and the contempt shown by the likes of Perkins and Zell for average Americans who simply long for the promise of the American Dream that their parents and grandparents once took for granted.  How dare some of them seek food stamps to feed their children! Or seek unemployment insurance, simply because there are three job-seekers for every job! Surely, they are guilty of worse sins and crimes than the wheeler-dealers of the 1 percent who destroyed the economy in the first place.

As for Rand’s direct connection to Greenspan’s thoughts and actions, in May of 2012, Gary Weiss, author of “Ayn Rand Nation,” wrote a most illuminating piece, “Republicans and Ayn Rand, a love-hate affair [33],” in which he dealt with Paul Ryan and Alan Greenspan’s attempts to distance themselves somewhat from Rand. For Greenspan, this was particularly difficult, considering how close they were. “Greenspan wrote essays for Rand’s newsletters, including one in which he espoused an extremist vision of capitalism, in which all forms of regulation, even building codes, would become a thing of the past,” Weiss noted. “That essay, written in 1963, was published in an anthology called “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,” which is still in print.”

Weiss also took note of Greenspan’s so-called “flaw speech” in October 2008, when he said he had found a “flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.” Adding that “those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

But after some research, Weiss concluded it was “less a mea culpa than it was a public relations exercise,” saying, “He backtracked on his ‘flaw’ remarks almost as soon as he made them, and he contradicted them at every opportunity.”

Ironically, Paul Ryan was far more dishonest, which paradoxically made him a better psychopath, and hence truer to Rand’s ideal. Unfortunately for him, he was swiftly caught out. Ryan had once been such an open Rand enthusiast that he assigned her books as reading material for all his staffers. Weiss noted that Ryan had tried to pass off his allegiance to Rand as an “urban legend” in an interview with The National Review, but that the Randian Atlas Society shot back by releasing a recording of Ryan praising Rand, saying, “But the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”

This leads us to conclude with a brief focus on one way to make sense of Rand and those she’s influenced. It’s analogous to the physical phenomenon of redshift, in which light or other electromagnetic radiation from an object moving away from the observer at near the speed of light is increased in wavelength, or shifted to the red end of the spectrum. Similarly, gravitational redshifts are a relativistic effect observed in electromagnetic radiation moving out of gravitational fields, such as black holes. In like manner, for Randian psychopaths and those under their influence, normal prosocial human behavior appears redshifted menacingly as “collectivism,” while ice-cold sociopathy appears warmed up as “individualism.” Use your secret decoder ring to translate accordingly when you encounter those in thrall to the sociopathic imagination. You’ll always know what your Tea Party uncle is talking about — even if he, quite honestly, doesn’t have the slightest clue.

 

See more stories tagged with:

one percent [34],

gop [35],

tea party [36],

the right [37],

inequality [38],

sociopath [39],

margaret thatcher [40],

Tom Perkins [41],

1 percent [42],

ayn rand [43]


Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/economy/sociopathic-1-percent-driving-force-heart-tea-party

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/paul-rosenberg
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociological_imagination#Definitions_can_differ_based_on_social_circles_and_are_not_agreed_upon
[3] http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304549504579316913982034286
[4] http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/02/05/zell-backs-tom-perkinss-arguments-about-class-warfare/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1
[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/opinion/krugman-paranoia-of-the-plutocrats.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0
[6] http://politicsinminnesota.com/2013/06/nick-hanauer-the-capitalists-case-for-a-15-minimum-wage/
[7] http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-07/raise-taxes-on-rich-to-reward-true-job-creators-nick-hanauer.html
[8] http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/are-the-99-whiners-151429187704
[9] http://knowledgenuts.com/2013/11/03/the-difference-between-psychopaths-and-sociopaths/
[10] http://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/112693/psychopathy-versus-sociopathy.pdf
[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mask_of_Sanity
[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Faces_of_Eve
[13] http://www.hare.org/
[14] http://web.archive.org/web/20111007085219/http://aftermath-surviving-psychopathy.org/index.php/2011/02/24/this-charming-psychopath-how-to-spot-social-predators-before-they-attack/
[15] http://www.hare.org/references/HareandNeumannARCP2008.pdf
[16] http://www.amazon.com/Snakes-Suits-When-Psychopaths-Work/dp/0061147893
[17] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/drishtikone/2013/10/are-ceos-and-entrepreneurs-psychopaths-multiple-studies-say-yes/
[18] http://www.fastcompany.com/53247/your-boss-psychopath
[19] http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/01/myth-maximizing-shareholder-value.html
[20] http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/10/why-the-maximizing-shareholder-value-theory-of-corporate-governance-is-bogus.html
[21] http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2007/12/holiday-special-something-that-changed_30.html
[22] http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/03/business/yourmoney/03guru.html?pagewanted=print&position=&_r=0
[23] http://www.thecorporation.com/index.cfm?page_id=2
[24] http://hbr.harvardbusiness.org/1990/05/ceo-incentives-its-not-how-much-you-pay-but-how/ar/1
[25] http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1209/02/fzgps.01.html
[26] http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp74.pdf
[27] http://www.amazon.com/Stabilizing-Unstable-Economy-Hyman-Minsky/dp/0071592997
[28] http://www.greatriskshift.com/
[29] http://business.time.com/2012/10/22/25-years-later-in-the-crash-of-1987-the-seeds-of-the-great-recession/
[30] http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2005/05/ayn_rands_real_.html
[31] http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/romancing-the-stone-cold.html
[32] http://web.archive.org/web/20110511095536/http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/essays/rprev.htm
[33] http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/05/02/paul-ryan-ayn-rand/
[34] http://www.alternet.org/tags/one-percent-0
[35] http://www.alternet.org/tags/gop
[36] http://www.alternet.org/tags/tea-party-0
[37] http://www.alternet.org/tags/right-0
[38] http://www.alternet.org/tags/inequality
[39] http://www.alternet.org/tags/sociopath
[40] http://www.alternet.org/tags/margaret-thatcher-0
[41] http://www.alternet.org/tags/tom-perkins
[42] http://www.alternet.org/tags/1-percent-1
[43] http://www.alternet.org/tags/ayn-rand-0
[44] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B