Idyllic childhoods of CEOs reconsidered
By Mitch Hall,
October 10, 2006

The USA Today article, "CEOs Often Spanked as Kids," by Del Jones, (10/10/06), is significant for what it does not mention as much as for what it does. A presupposition of the article is that CEOs are successful human beings, perhaps among the most successful. However, that is, at best, a dubious assumption. The Canadian forensic psychiatrist Elliott Barker has written about the high rates of sociopathic personality disorders in corporate CEOs. The documentary movie entitled The Corporation cited the work of another Canadian forensic psychiatrist, Robert Hare, to establish the case that if corporations were individual people, the predatory, remorseless behavior that they demonstrate would lead to their being diagnosed as sociopaths.

American CEOs are disproportionately enriched monetarily while most of the rest of the population become more and more hard-pressed to make ends meet, even though in 2000 the average American couple worked seven more weeks a year than they did in 1990 (Morris Berman, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire, p. 18). In 2001, CEOs in Germany and Japan earned about 20 times the income of workers in their companies, whereas CEOs in the US earned over 500 times as much as workers in their own companies ("Executive Pay," Business Week, April 16, 2001, pp. 76-80). Some of these same CEOs who are collecting these inordinate spoils for themselves are responsible for massive layoffs of workers, outsourcing work to sweatshops in poor countries, felonies and misdemeanors, hostile takeovers of other companies, and wrecking the environment.

As the foregoing considerations make clear, we need to question vigorously the assumption that attaining CEO rank is a measure of being a successful human being. Perhaps the alpha males (and females) at the head of corporations are avenging themselves for childhood humiliations, including corporal punishment, which they rationalize as having been good for them. In their own, culturally sanctioned, winner-takes-all ways, they humiliate others and try to prove they are worth so much more than the rest of humanity.

The truly human measure of success is in behavior characterized by compassion, altruism, collaboration, and other lived (not just espoused) values, rather than in ruthless competitive aggression. The spankings did not lead to success in any meaningful sense, but in the nightmare of social and environmental breakdowns that we are experiencing.

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