Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Paul Krugman's Word Search

Paul Krugman is looking for a word:
There has to be some word for the kind of person who considers his mild discomfort the equivalent of torture, crippling injury, or death for other people. But I can’t think of it.
Although it's not quite the word he's looking for, the phenomenon he's describing is narcissism. It's not that their pain is so much greater than everybody else's - it's that only their own pain has significance. You're seeing a combination of narcissistic character traits - a lack of empathy crossed with grandiosity, self-importance, and envy of others who are getting the sympathy and attention they deserve.


  1. It's in a different context, but the events that led me to think about the term "narcissism" involved the Madoff scandal.

    First, in the context of Mr. Madoff himself; several pretty good pieces have been written about the kind of personality it takes to run a Ponzi scheme for decades, especially one built around as public a persona as the one he affected.

    Second, in the context of his family and associates; they appear to be in the midst of playing the "poor pitiful me" card despite having profited handsomely from the crimes he committed. This is all the more galling because they all but certainly knew that what he was doing was wrongful yet did nothing about it (except profiting from it).

    Finally, in the context of the authors of the stories that have taken the angle that Madoff's real crime is that he did it to his own people. Hmmmm, so I guess if he did it to "somebody else's people" it wouldn't have been such a bad thing . . . narcissism at its finest.


  2. As Mike at C&F is apt to remind us, it's possible that with Madoff we're looking at sociopathy.

  3. . . . and based on Mike's comments:

    "Before trusting someone, I need to know: What is wrong with him? If I can't point to anything, then I immediately avoid that person. Or, when I must deal with that person, I use appropriate manipulative tactics (which I would never otherwise use on a good person)."

    . . . he may be one too.



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