Lessons from the Psychopaths of History

‘[O]ne might well describe the twentieth century as the bloodiest period of utopian political experimentation the world has ever witnessed.’ [1]

The regimes of Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot support the thesis that people with dangerous personality disorders, when they act together, and when the circumstances are right, can pose an existential threat to society. Each of these leaders clearly displayed traits associated with psychopathy and narcissistic and paranoid personality disorders.  Continue reading

Understanding Democracy – Social Democracy

Like pure democracy, undiluted capitalism is intolerable

                                                                        Wilhelm Ropke

Two pillars in our modern system of democracy emerged from the catastrophes of world war and genocide. These building blocks are social democracy and the legal protection of individual human rights.     Continue reading

Did Psychopaths Play a Role in the Financial Crisis?

I recently had the pleasure of listening to author and journalist Joris Luyendijk in conversation at the Dalkey Book Festival about his book Swimming with Sharks. Joris is an inspiring example of a journalist fulfilling a role that is essential for the health of democracy – dispassionate enquiry into the abuses within the financial system. The following post is my summary of Joris’ main findings in Swimming with Sharks, as well as a suggestion for something important he may have missed…     Continue reading

Brexit is not Democracy in Action, It is Democracy in Crisis

The UK vote to leave the European Union is being hailed by the Leave side as a victory for democracy. During the campaign, Conservative Boris Johnson claimed that those supporting Brexit were doing so out of a desire to restore UK democracy. He made headlines by comparing the European Union with Hitler, claiming that both were pursuing a similar goal in trying to create a powerful superstate. As the polls closed he tweeted that democracy had been served. UKIP leader Nigel Farage has made his career by vilifying the European Union as an enemy of democracy and promising that Brexit would free the UK from its ‘anti-democratic’ grip.Far from being a victory for democracy, however, the Referendum campaign and the UK’s vote to leave have undermined democracy.    Continue reading

Understanding Democracy – Prohibition on State Sponsored Ideology

Remarkable as the new U.S. system of democracy was at the time of Independence, U.S. society at that time had not progressed beyond some of the most unethical features of ancient Athens. Slavery was widespread, women were excluded from political participation, and a genocidal war was being waged against the Native American population. Despite its undoubted advances, what the new American democracy clearly did not do was to guarantee equality of citizenship to all.  Continue reading

Understanding Democracy – The Importance of the Constitution

According to the historian Roger Osborne, the American Revolution was the most decisive event in the history of democracy. Within the first seventy years of the new United States of America’s existence, every white adult male had the right to vote in state and federal elections, almost every important public official was elected, a series of national and state institutions had been set up to protect citizens from the power of the state and from the tyranny of the majority, political parties had been established that relinquished power peacefully after elections, and a culture of mass participation in politics had emerged.    Continue reading

Love and Hate in the World’s Religions

Heracles, son of Zeus, is one of the great heroes of ancient Greek mythology. His most famous feat was to slay the fearsome Hydra, a multi-headed creature whose breath could kill instantly. Even the Hydra’s smell was said to be so poisonous that anyone who approached it died in agony. In his effort to kill the Hydra, Heracles smashed at its heads with his club. However, no sooner had one head been destroyed than two more grew in its place, an expression of the hopelessness of his struggle. Realising that he could never defeat the Hydra alone, Heracles called for help to his charioteer Iolaus, who burned the stump of each head as soon as it was struck off to prevent others growing in its place. In this way Heracles was able to finally cut off all the heads, including the final immortal head, of the Hydra.    Continue reading