Psychopath Economics is the ultimate expression of an elite’s power. And today’s economic system is controlled by a psychopathic elite that’s cavalier about its impact on people or planet. Unless we challenge the system, it will lead us to our destruction.
Psychopath Economics is a book about how an elite’s power begins to destroy the society on which it is dependant. Coldly efficient, its logic hides behind political debates and media storms to quietly devastating power.
More than politics, economics is the art of the possible and goes to the heart of how we live our lives. It can deliver riches beyond dreams and the famine of nightmares. Its exercise exceeds even war as the ultimate expression of human power. Indeed, economics is usually the war itself.
Criminals in suits
The 2008 financial crash and its aftermath has exposed many of our comfortable beliefs about how power work. Criminals in suits are showered with riches, while people who actually make things of use struggle to make ends meet.
Hard work doesn’t necessarily pay. We don’t live in a meritocracy and the avenues to progression are increasingly blocked. The system just isn’t fair. That’s because yesterday’s winners have pulled up the drawbridge to filter out opportunities to all except those people who are directly useful to them. Meanwhile, this growing inequality has created a widespread sense of injustice.
But human societies are very rarely egalitarian. And in this respect, today’s elite – the so-called ‘1%’ – is treading a well-worn path. Populations grow by exploiting the natural and human resources available to them, but the rewards are rarely distributed evenly – or even equitably. Most civilisations are hierarchical, with wealth distributed by power and status.
As civilisations rise from the land, a social pyramid inflates and elites emerge at the summit. Once at the top, elites maintain, increase and consolidate their power by reinforcing the status quo and the patterns of consumption that made them dominant. An elite might have everything, but it’s never enough. It’s a dynamic that steadily undermines the pyramid’s whole social and environmental foundations.
The quiet logic of power
Psychopath Economics is about legitimacy and the logic of power. Peter Batt argues that power is ultimately psychopathic because, in its purest and most effective form, it applies a cold, calculating focus on achieving its aims to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.
Psychopaths tend to be charismatic, effective and fearless. They are attracted to power, just as they are attractive in power. They are goal-driven and dynamic, but lack emotional connection or concern about consequences.
From this flows a number of conclusions. To start with, psychopathic power is destructive; it seeks to exploit human and natural capital to breaking point. It exhausts the land and targets those within society least able to resist. This is ultimately self-destructive and today’s societies have all the hallmarks of a civilisation careering towards collapse.
Secondly, an elite is not terribly interested in reasoned arguments for change, because that, by definition, would suggest that it will concede some power. Inequality is a self-reinforcing process, and psychopathic power makes no concession without a threat.
So, thirdly, any change of direction is dependant on the herd actively disrupting the system.
Bewildering the herd
Psychopath Economics looks at three dynamics: belief systems, consumption and the logic of power. Written in four parts, the first gives an overview of the whole book before looking at economics as a belief system used to obscures power, its exercise and the motivations of those who wield it.
Peter Batt uses the image of the bull as the faceless power of capital, and Walter Lippmann’s concept of the ‘bewildered herd’. He argues that neoliberalism is economics for and by the psychopathic elite.
Part 2 looks at how belief systems and the logic of power drive the rise and fall of civilisations. Part 3 takes these themes and looks at how they are playing out today.
The fourth and final instalment looks at why and how the ‘herd’ can break the cycle of bewilderment. But Peter Batt argues that this involves disrupting the system, most likely via debt denial, anti-branding and direct action.