I just read the long New Yorker profile of Carl Icahn from the summer. And my first reaction was - why are so many of the super rich and successful business people (well strictly men, in this case) such mentally and emotionally damaged people?
This passage early on in the piece stuck with me:
The old conundrum about whether it is better to be loved or feared has never posed much of a dilemma for Icahn. In “King Icahn,” a 1993 biography, the author, Mark Stevens, described his subject as a “germophobic, detached, relatively loveless man,” and quoted one contemporary saying, “Carl’s dream in life is to have the only fire truck in town. Then when your house is in flames, he can hold you up for every penny you have.” When the biography was published, Icahn stocked his office with copies to give to visitors. These days, he bristles at the term “corporate raider,” favoring the euphemism “activist investor,” but the reality is that when Icahn targets a company the response from management is generally terror. He has a volatile temper and a vindictive streak. Everyone makes time to take his calls.How screwed up of a person do you have to be to still feel as Icahn does, or did at the time his biography was published 25 years ago when he was nearly sixty, to be a multi-billionaire, yet still be so insecure and needing "a win" at all times? Now in his eighties, he used Trump's sycophantic idolization of him to try to get the EPA to make a change that would directly benefit his business empire.
These "alphas" spend their whole lives using money and power in an attempt to fill the emptiness in their hearts. And no matter how much money they make and power they accumulate, it's never enough to fill that gaping hole.
They need constant acknowledgement of how great and smart they are. Along with Icahn, I immediately thought of Trump, Welch, and others of that ilk. And as a society what do we really get out of this? Some jobs I guess, but their goal is making deals that benefit themselves. The jobs created are often accidental or at best beside the point.
The kicker is that our society lionizes these figures and their success, so it's a constant feedback loop where being a "successful businessman" or at least playing one on a reality TV show is all that matters. And now the results of society enabling this mental illness every day is on display from the White House.