Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Megalomaniac

Many of us wonder what drives President Trump.  Or more uncharitably, what is the nature of his mental instability. The natural place to turn is the psychiatric community, but they have walled themselves off from the discussion because of the American Psychiatric Associations's Goldwater Rule, which prohibits them from diagnosing anyone they have not personally examined. Now a few people are peeking out from that wall.

In an Op-Ed piece yesterday in the New York Times, under the cover of a broad discussion of how decisions should be made on whether someone, say Trump, is unfit to govern, the authors, two psychiatrists, (one by the way a Democrat and the other a Republican), wrote this:

"Today, diagnosis is often linked to observable traits, making evaluation at a distance plausible. Even if Mr. Trump refused to cooperate, diagnosis might be the easy part — perhaps too easy. Whether or not they can say so, many experts believe that Mr. Trump has a narcissistic personality disorder." 

Starting with this opening, we have a comment from a reader, a professor emeritus of psychology, featured as one of the NYT picks, who wrote that "Donald Trump, in words and behavior, has every single symptom needed for an unequivocal diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder according to the latest diagnostic manual (DSM-V) of the American Psychiatric Association." 

I have heard people casually being described as narcissists, so I checked out what Narcissistic Personality Disorder really is. In the Wikipedia entry, the first thing I saw is a synonym: Megalomania. This does not bode well -- it is one thing call someone a narcissist, or to go further and have a serious clinical discussion a personality disorder.  It is another to be saying, in different words, that your country is run by a megalomaniac. 

Then I skipped down to the symptoms:

  1. Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from others
  2. Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.
  3. Self-perception of being unique, superior and associated with high-status people and institutions
  4. Needing constant admiration from others
  5. Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others
  6. Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain
  7. Unwilling to empathize with others' feelings, wishes, or needs
  8. Intensely envious of others and the belief that others are equally envious of them
  9. Pompous and arrogant demeanor

Reflecting on these symptoms, I would submit that there is more clarity for a diagnosis of President Trump based on his observed behavior over the course of his presidency than there would be by having a personal examination by a psychiatrist. Trump is mentally ill, the diagnosis is clear, and it is time for those in the psychiatric community to come forward. Literally, our country is being run by a megalomaniac. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

I'm going to start blogging again

I stopped doing posts on this blog in 2014. I found it too time consuming, and I had painted myself into a corner by the narrow topics, the tone, and the article-like discourse.  So I'm going to do a reset. I will just throw things out there that are on my mind, crafted to be one step better than stream of conciousness.  It will be more like Tweets without the character constraint.  At least that is my plan.

For now, as those of you who have found their way to this post might know, I came out with a new book a few months ago called The End of Theory. (I hate linking to Amazon, but that is where people will end up going.)

When I started it, my objective was to explain the use of agent-based modeling to deal with financial crises. I had been working on this at the Office of Financial Research. But in order to motivate the use of this new method, I felt I should explain why economics could not do the job. That took on a life of its own, and by the time I was done my "how-to" book on agent-based modeling had expanded to be a critique of neoclassical economics with the agent-based model proposed as a replacement -- a new paradigm.

I wish I had taken notes as I went along so I could figure out how the book morphed from my original intent. But in any case, I am proud of the end result, and I hope you will find it thought-provoking.

To get a sense of the ideas behind the book, here is a recent interview I gave for The Institute for New Economic Thinking which gets to the key themes.

And, for a more in-depth treatment, here is the webcast of a talk I gave in June at the OECD.