How Psychopaths Undermine Democracy

The following four testable hypotheses form the basis of a coherent and comprehensive narrative to explain how psychopaths and people with narcissistic and paranoid personality disorders have an enormously detrimental impact on societies all around the world.

Please let me know your thoughts, and feel free to suggest further readings on any of the hypotheses below.

1. A minority of people with dangerous personality disorders, when the circumstances are right, and when they act together, pose an existential threat to society. These dangerous personality disorders are psychopathy, narcissistic personality and paranoid personality disorder.

2. Democracy can be seen as a series of defences built up over time to protect societies against this dangerous minority – and from the worst aspects of our own natures. These defences are the rule of law, electoral democracy, the separation of church and state, social democracy, shared sovereignty among nations, human rights law, and cultures which acknowledge the dignity of all.

3. Democracy is fragile because the conditions which empower this dangerous minority are deeply embedded in economic, religious and cultural institutions, and in our individual and group psychology. These conditions include vast inequalities in wealth across the world, and the culture of greed which neo-liberalism seeks to justify. The fragility of democracy is also evident in the ease with which populist leaders can stir widespread nationalist or xenophobic passions, and in the lure of fundamentalist religions.

4. Despite the violence and greed that scars the world today, there are grounds for hope. Reasons for hope can be found in history and in human psychology. History clearly shows a development in the institutions of democracy over time which has resulted in a greater level of protection against psychopathic, narcissistic and paranoid leaders today than at any time in history. (More, of course remains to be done.) Hope can also be found in the psychology of human development. These disorders, which cause so much suffering, are a result of failures in love and care in early childhood. Their prevention would result in a more just and peaceful world.

The path to a better world is through the spread of democracy and better care for every child born on our fragile earth.



3 thoughts on “How Psychopaths Undermine Democracy

  1. Psychopaths and the rest of their breed would be powerless and inconsequential if supposedly normal people didn’t empower them through subservience, imitation and celebrity status

    Everyone has wants and desires. It is part of life and of sustaining one’s life. Others label it greed only if you somehow end up having more than they do.

    Democracy is mob rule, leading to the subjugation of some for the benefit of others. If a majority of villagers decides they don’t like you, what’s to keep them from lynching you?

    • When we look at the history of democracy, we see that it comprises much more than the right to vote. Elections are only one aspect of democracy, and if democracy were only elections then it would indeed be mob rule.
      But democracy also means the rule of law applied equally to all and the protection of citizen’s rights in law. It means social democracy, in which systems of social security ensure people who are unable to work do not become destitute. It means the separation of church and state so that the state does not discriminate against citizen’s on the basis of their religion, or force us to adhere to a given set of beliefs. It means the protection of fundamental human rights in law, so that everyone, including women and minorities, are not discriminated against, either by the state or by their fellow citizens. It means limits on national sovereignty so that the leaders of nations can be held accountable for crimes they commit abroad. All this requires democratic citizens who believe in democratic values, including limits on power and the fundamental equality of all.
      This democratic framework secures freedom for all to pursue lives of value, while constraining those who would abuse their freedom to exploit and subjugate us. This is why democracy serves as a protection against psychopaths and those with narcissistic and paranoid disorders from achieving and remaining in power, and acts as a constraint upon them if and when they do get elected.

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