The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

The Real Problem With Egotistical Politicians

Many of us want to accuse politicians of having large egos or being drawn to a desire for ego enhancement.  The evidence (both anecdotal and research-based) suggests that our accusations have some justification.  Egotism is at the core of psychological patterns such as narcissism, psychopathy, sociopathy or hubris.

In 2007 Jim Kouri (then vice-president of the US National Association of Chiefs of Police) wrote a brief, yet telling, article claiming that politicians share the same traits as serial killers – namely psychopathic traits.1  Whilst Kouri noted that “not all violent offenders are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are violent offenders,” he claimed that “some of the character traits exhibited by serial killers or criminals may be observed in many within the political arena.”

One of the world’s leading psychopathy experts, Dr Robert D Hare, describes psychopaths as showing the following characteristics: conscienceless yet rational, logical and manipulative, predisposed to crime, selfish, and without guilt, shame, remorse or empathy.  Other traits include: a superficial charm, glibness, and a grandiose sense of self-worth.  Does all this sound like any politicians you know?

Another psychological diagnosis that sometimes is attributed to politicians is that of Narcissistic Personality Disorder which has similar characteristics to those of psychopathy or sociopathy.  In a 1998 study2 involving four professions (university faculty, politicians, clergy and librarians) politicians scored higher than the other three professions in a test known as the Narcissistic Personality Inventory.

Hubris is defined as insolent pride and excessive overconfidence, and this too has been studied with respect to politicians.  Dr Peter Garrard et al studied US and UK political leaders.3  Garrard noted that many of them developed what he called “Hubris Syndrome” which he defined as “a radical change in a persons outlook, style and attitude after they acquire positions of power or great influence.”  The change in those with this syndrome meant that they lost contact with reality and overestimated their competence, accomplishments or capabilities.

Sometimes politicians don’t even attempt to hide their egotism going so far as to flaunt it in the face of their electorate.  In Australia there are no less than four political groupings that include the name of the politician in the title.  Clive Palmer started the Palmer United Party, Bob Katter has Katter’s Australian Party, Nick Xenophon the Nick Xenophon Team and Jacqui Lambie (having quit from the Palmer United Party) is forming the Jacqui Lambie Network.

From this – admittedly very brief – perusal of the evidence it appears reasonable to suggest that there is a strong correlation between egotism and politicians.  What may be still in doubt is whether politicians are driven to enter politics because of their over-inflated egos or whether they acquire an excessive sense of self-worth and entitlement as a result of attaining political office.  Perhaps it is a bit of both.

Whether we use the terms narcissism, psych/sociopathy, or hubris, politicians do display a much greater inclination towards these psychologies than does the rest of the population.  Dr Hare, for instance, estimates that just 1% of the population display psychopathic traits.

Therein is the real problem with egotistical politicians.  It is not that politicians are egotistical per se, but that those with psychopathic/narcissistic/hubris tendencies are highly over-represented in our parliaments, congresses and senates.

It is easy to see why when we think of some of the traits.  Those with these traits can be charming, expert manipulators (meaning that you don’t see it coming), and have a glib way of speaking.  It is easy to vote for a charmer.  Thus we get parliaments, senates and congresses that are woefully unrepresentative of the population as a whole.  That’s the real issue.  The “typical” politician, is not “typical” of the population, hence it becomes increasingly impossible to claim that we live in a “representative” democracy.

So if our system of electoral democracy means that we are likely to end up with politicians who display far greater narcissistic or psychopathic tendencies than is usual in the population, then it is time to look for alternative democratic models.

1. Jim Kouri, Serial killers and politicians share traits, The Examiner, June 2009
2. Robert Hill & Gregory Yousey, Adaptive and Maladaptive Narcissism among University Faculty, Clergy, Politicians, and Librarians, in Nathaniel Pallone (ed) Altruism, Narcissism, Comity: Research Perspectives from Current Psychology, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, 1999.
3. Peter Garrard, Vassiliki Rentoumi, Christian Lambert, David Owen, Linguistic Biomarkers of Hubris Syndrome, 2013. available at, accessed 28 August 2015

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