What conflict of interest? How power blinds us to our flaws

The Wall Street Journal’s reports on Congressional staffers gaining from stock trades leads to the question: Why do powerful people risk losing so much by squeezing out a little more gain?

Journal readers commented that they thought the staffers were being disingenuous when they said they weren’t doing anything wrong, even when trading in and out of stocks that stood to benefit from government actions that the staffers oversaw.

A psychologist from Yale University told the Journal that people are not good at being objective about their own conflicts of interest.

A professor from Northwestern University told the Journal that power makes people “feel both psychologically invincible and psychologically invisible.”


One solution for the conflict of interest on Capitol Hill is to increase how often staffers’ trades are disclosed. Currently, disclosure is required once a year.

Other options: “Ban trading outright, subject all trades to independent review before they can be executed or require members of Congress to put their assets in blind trusts,” according to the article.

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