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Too Much Emphasis on Profits? Rein In ‘Sociopaths’ in the (Corporate and Government) Boardroom?

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

Sorkin (2019) points to a Jamie Gamble, former partner at the law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, a lawyer with wide and deep experience with many large US corporations, who argues that most if not all US corporate executives “are legally obligated to act like sociopaths”… characterizing corporate America as a “complex network of horribles”


Metaeconomics framing makes it clear, first, that Self-interest only based behavior focused on maximizing profits without due regard for the shared Other-interest gives a lower overall payoff for both the individual and the larger community, and is Bad Capitalism. Second, Metaeconomics also clarifies this is about the Ethics, the Moral content of the Other-interest at work in influencing Corporate Executives within their own business environment, as well as in interacting with Government Bureaucrats and Political Appointees, who also need to operate on high Ethical standards within Government. It is through balance in Self&Other-interest, with Ethics tempering and conditioning the pursuit of profit, that we have the greatest possibility of achieving Good Capitalism.


So... back to Sorkin (2019)... regarding Corporate Executives in particular, quoting Corporate Lawyer Gamble: “The corporate entity is obligated to care only about itself and to define what is good as what makes it more money... Pretty close to a textbook case of antisocial personality disorder. And corporate persons are the most powerful people in our world.” Perhaps much the same could be said about Government Bureaucrats, and especially Political Appointees, too , many involved in the Self-interested pursuit of Power? Profits and Power driven by the same primal drive of Self-interest only?


What is the solution? Sorkin (2019) points to the Jamie Gamble suggestion for new governance rules, in that corporations in the Market (and, we might add, bureaucrats and appointees in Government):


should “adopt a binding set of ethical rules, approved by stockholders and addressing the key ethical dimensions of corporate life” including:

■ Their “relationships with employees.” ■ Their “relationships with the communities in which they produce and sell.” ■ Their “relationships with customers.” ■ Their “effects on the environment.” ■ And their “effects on future generations.”


Seemingly a similar set of guidelines might also be approved by voters, as regards the Government. These are all domains of Other(shared with others, but still internal to Own-self)-interest, somewhat separable, but all overlapping. Sorkin (2019) goes on to point out, that Gamble sees that once the rules are in place “any shareholder could sue the board of directors for violating the ethical rules — just as any shareholder can today sue the board of directors for violating the maximize rule.” As Metaeconomics teaches, this would encourage more balance in the Self&Other-interest, rather than Self-interest only, or, serving only a narrow Other(perhaps only with profit maximizing shareholders, at all costs)-interests. It seems voters, too, should have similar recourse in the Government, perhaps being able to do votes of confidence or some such.


In Metaeconomic terms, in the technical terms represented in the Figure (for details on how this works, see this Webpage), we develop new governance rules defining the Empathy based path 0M in the Figure. This puts in place an influence (homonomy) on corporate executives (government officials) to stop focusing strictly and exclusively on the Ego driven path 0G (autonomy). In fact, any shareholder (voter) now has the right to sue, otherwise force and control (heteronomy) movement toward the Ego`N`Empathy path 0M. We encourage and require…if necessary… the tempered, conditioned path 0Z. In fact, we move the corporate executives (and government officials) away from a shared Other(narrowly shared with a few others, cronies)-interest in profit (power) only, a path 0M that was absolutely overlapping with path 0G, pointing instead toward the kind of path 0M depicted in the Figure, leading to a far more reasonable path 0Z.


This kind of shift would also hold the potential for producing far more reasonable CEO compensation, and pay structures within the corporations, contributing to reductions in the extreme income and wealth inequality in the US in general. Nudging Executive and Bureaucrat/Political Appointee choice onto path 0Z would also likely lead to fewer payoffs in the domain of rent-seeking associated with Government awards of special privilege, as in the massive bank bailouts in 2008-2009.


Sorkin, Andrew Ross. "An Idea: Rein in ‘Sociopaths’ in the Boardroom." New York Times, Section B, p. 1, July 28, 2019.

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