Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dirty Tricks, Traffic Studies, And Why Sociopaths Flourish In Politics

“Is it wrong that I’m smiling?” one Chris Christie staffer asked another after closing a major bridge to a punish town whose Mayor didn’t endorse the New Jersey Governor’s reelection bid. “No,” the other aide wrote back. This is what passes for a “traffic study” in the Christie administration, apparently.

If the aides’ discussion strikes you as a horrifying way to talk about a decision that hurts thousands of people, you’re not alone: that’s one of the reasons this scandal seems to be so devastating for Chris Christie’s political future. It plays into the House of Cards stereotype about politicians and political operatives, that they care about power above all else, including the welfare of their constituents.

As it turns out, this stereotype has some basis in fact. According to solid psychological research and theory, politicians often end up possessing qualities common in sociopaths — or simply are sociopaths themselves. And while it’s not possible to identify the psychology behind the actions of Christie or his staff, the sheer callousness of their rhetoric presents a good opportunity to examine whether political leaders and operatives more broadly have an empathy problem. The answer appears to be yes.

Read on...

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