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Hubris Syndrome:Politicians intoxicated by power


Most political leaders become mentally or physically incapable of sound judgment and lose their grip on reality, argues David Owen in a new book.

David Owen was a former UK Labour Foreign Secretary and then a founder of the SDP with Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and Bill Rodgers.




The reason for the photo gallery is that Adam saw an article in the UK Daily Telegraph on a new book by David Owen. An extract from the article follows:-

Political psychology took hold of him when he was a young medic helping to treat MPs for alcoholism and depression.

He saw the pressures they were under and began to consider how illness affects the decision-making powers of leaders. And he noticed that some leaders who weren’t actually ill in the conventional sense became so intoxicated with power that it warped their judgment.

There were warning signs: unshakeable self-confidence, contempt for advice and inattention to detail. Gradually, they would lose their grip on reality.

There was no name for such a condition, so Lord Owen invented one: Hubris Syndrome (HS). His book of that title, published last year, was really just one chapter of a six-year study of illness in heads of government, rushed out to coincide with Tony Blair’s departure from No 10.

In it, he argued that the mental health of Blair and President George Bush was undermined by HS. They’d stopped listening and were behaving recklessly, taking their instructions direct from the Almighty.

An almost messianic fervour led to the biggest foreign policy blunder for a century: the invasion of Iraq.

Now Owen has published the whole opus, In Sickness and in Power, as a wake-up call about the consequences of physical and mental decline of our rulers.

Adam then began to think about some NZ politicians who might perhaps be considered to be showing signs of suffering from this condition.

NZ Sufferers? (Note post updated as original photos were no longer available)



Now he fully accepts that there may well be other NZ politicians who are suffering various stages of Hubris Syndrome.

Readers are invited to consider who else might be showing signs of HS, or perhaps those who are now in recovery.

  1. Young Nick permalink
    16/04/2008 20:16

    Methinks this sounds very familiar … an epidemic must be breaking out amongst City Councillors in Dunedin. At least 10 out of 14 have persistently ignored the good advice of their own independent consultants to pursue a project which is forecast to generate a $10m plus loss per annum … hmmm I wonder what project this might be. Perhaps a well known UK Professor is correct when he says … “overstated revenue – understated costs + overstated economic benefit – understated social and environmental impacts = project approval”. Warped judgement, unshakeable self confidence, contempt for advice and inattention to detail. When will they learn? When will we learn …. not to elect them in???? I guess there’s always the next election….?



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