Why We Think It’s OK to Cheat and Steal (Sometimes)

While there’s a general consensus among the Zero Hedge community that the big boys are manipulating the various markets to maintain and even accelerate the Ponzi, this still requires a great deal of conscious participation by those lower down the ladder. While many of us are calling for the hangman’s noose around Blankfein or Bernanke’s neck, shouldn’t we also being stringing up your next door neighbor or that self righteous prick of a brother-in-law or maybe even you?

One of the concepts I constantly highlight is that we’re all susceptible to this behavior. And while I probably wouldn’t get much argument on this point from the more self aware and honest readers, I’m absolutely certain they would argue with me as to degree. We’re all liars, cheats and thieves; of this I have no doubt. Once this is understood and as painful as this may be to internalize, the only questions remaining are to what degree and how do we rationalize and justify this degree? You would be surprised how much your surroundings and peer group have to do with this rather than just your personal moral code.

We’re chasing windmills if we think that by getting rid of certain people or regimes (once again) we will change the direction we’re headed. This is a multi headed Hydra and our heads are there as well. In order to understand the nature of the beast in government and on Wall Street, we must first come to know the beast within. I can’t tell you how many of my clients have no problem informing me that while they’re horrified by the corruption and theft in this country, they want their piece of the pie. What’s good for the gander is good for the goose as long as the goose can rationalize it away as just trying to maintain their life style and income.

I’m not judging my clients for I live in a glass house. But this will not change unless we begin to understand and accept that the beast is within and that we aren’t just fighting an external enemy but ultimately one that is internal. I’m absolutely certain that a major rationalization and justification used by the powers that be for pumping the Ponzi is that Mr. and Mrs. Jones are demanding it. And they would be correct. There is an interesting video on the web of Catherine Austin Fitts asking a group of people for a show of hands of those who would be willing to experience major losses to their 401(k) and pension accounts to stop the beast. Very few hands went up.

Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational” gave an enlightening and informative talk last March (2009) about “bugs in the moral code”, a talk which coincided with the depths of the stock market crash. This 16 minute video is well worth watching if for no other reason than the insight it will bring you regarding your own behavior. I won’t spoil the video by discussing the contents other than to ask you to pay particular attention near the end when he mentions that the further the psychological or physical distance between you and the actual money, the higher the propensity to steal. He then mentions this helps explain the wholesale theft using derivatives. I agree.

For thousands of years there has been cycle after cycle of people allowing themselves to be exploited and abused by the few. This will never end until we understand why we willingly slip on the chains that bind us to our masters. I submit that unless and until we’re willing to explore these extremely painful areas within our own dark abyss, we’re doomed to more of the same. I’m not trying to divert attention from the sociopaths; I’m saying the sociopaths are home grown. We can do all the weed pulling we feel is needed and more will grow unless we go after the roots. And the roots are within.

Dan Ariely followed this up with another talk in May of 2009 exploring the question “Are we in control of our decisions” which is also well worth watching. That link is below as well.

Cognitive Dissonance    4-25-2010

Our Buggy Moral Code

Are We in Control of our Own Decisions

Dan Ariely at TED.com

Catherine Austin Fitts Web Site

Like this article? Take a second to support Cognitive Dissonance on Patreon and gain access to exclusive Patreon Only articles!
Become a patron at Patreon!