Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Justifying the Psychopathy of Narcissistic, Dishonest Billionaires Is Very 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez psychopath billionaires
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College on March 3. Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Athena Film Festival

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slapped CNBC down over a tweet about psychopathic millionaire CEOs.

The Democratic congresswoman from New York responded to a post by CNBC Make It, which said, "Most successful millionaire CEOs are psychopaths—here's why it doesn't have to be a bad thing," and linked to an article about psychopathy among business executives.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: "Justifying psychopathy because low empathy, narcissism, dishonesty + lack of deep emotional attachments are traits that have made a tiny handful of people billionaires (yet land many more people in prison while not getting adequate mental healthcare) is very 2019."

Psychopathy is a mental disorder, and psychopaths are arrogant manipulators who do not feel guilt or remorse. They are capable of feigning charm to win people over but can become very angry when things do not go their way or people do not do what they want.

A 2009 study in the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry estimated that the prevalence of psychopathy in Great Britain's general population is somewhere between 0.6 and 1.6 percent.

The study also found that psychopathic traits "correlated with younger age, male gender; suicide attempts; violent behavior; imprisonment and homelessness; drug dependence; histrionic, borderline and adult antisocial personality disorders; panic; and obsessive-compulsive disorders."

According to a 2011 paper in the journal Jurimetrics, 16 percent of all adult American males in prison, jail on parole or on probation are psychopaths. And there are significantly fewer female psychopaths than male psychopaths.

Studies have examined the prevalence of psychopaths at the top of the business world. The traits of psychopathy lend themselves to individual success, particularly a lack of conscience, but these people can cause chaos in organizations as they rise.

One study from 2010, published in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, found there were around three times as many potential psychopaths in the corporate leadership world, compared with a sample American community.

"Most of the participants with high psychopathy scores held high-ranking executive positions, and their companies had invited them to participate in management development programs," despite negative feedback from bosses and peers about their performance, the study said.

"Overall, the patterns of correlations and plots suggest that psychopathy is more strongly associated with style than with substance. Presumably, impression management and the ability to present well can obscure or trump subpar performance and behaviors that are damaging to the organization," the study noted.

Other studies also show that psychopathic leadership can harm companies financially. A 2017 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that hedge fund managers with psychopathic tendencies make worse investments.

"Managers with greater psychopathic tendencies produced lower absolute returns than their less psychopathic peers, and managers with greater narcissistic traits produced decreased risk-adjusted returns," the study found.

Another piece of research, from 2017, found a similar situation when looking at the stock returns of companies exhibiting psychopathic traits.

"We find that language characteristic of psychopaths present in annual report narratives, questionable integrity, excessive risk-taking and failure to contribute to charitable undertakings tend to reduce future shareholder wealth," the study said.

"These findings imply that firms could benefit from incorporating psychological evaluation in their recruitment processes, especially when seeking to fill senior management posts," the study added.