Less Empathy by Those in Power, Please

I recently wrote a lengthy piece for Trigger Warning regarding the pitfalls of empathy in regard to political thought.  The upshot of that musing is that empathy polarizes the political landscape not between those with and those without empathy but between those who focus their empathy on different targets.  Those without empathy, in theory, should be immune to the zeitgeists of the political landscape, having no one to empathize with except themselves.  An obvious follow-up question would be: is it better or worse to have those with empathy in power versus those without?

In order to conduct this exercise, you must first turn off your empathy.  The alternative implies that no reasoning I give will resonate.  Let’s go for the throat right from the get go.  Consider abortion.  There are two sides to this debate, of course.  There are those that believe that a woman has ultimate sovereignty over her womb and those that believe that the future life holds that sovereignty.  Hidden behind these charged beliefs is a more interesting one.  Does the state have a vested interest in seeing additional citizens born into its land?  And, if so, does this interest trump any personal interests, either of woman or child?  Note how, in phrasing it this way, the question of empathy is removed.  The answer to whether the state has an interest is orthogonal to any innate feelings toward mother or child; it is simply a question for its own sake.

We could extend this to any number of other politically charged topics, but continuing on: can a person with empathy correctly answer the question of the state’s interest?  Or, are they inherently biased?  The answer is obvious: a person’s answer to this question is heavily tied to their sense of empathy.  Therefore, it follows that the only objective thoughts on such a charged subject must come from one without empathy.  Say what you will about the psychopath’s antisocial bent or inability to formulate goals, but do consider that the political landscape could be far different if there were more of us in power.

Tough topics such as abortion, the national debt, gun control, the legalities of marriage, and so forth could be more objectively served by those without empathy.  Maybe it is time to put less empathy in positions of power rather than more.  Maybe then, traction could be gained on tough issues.  I’m not saying that everyone would like the results, but it would be hard to disagree that something, rather than nothing, would come of it all.


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