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Most people want to succeed, but most also have moral qualms about doing whatever it takes. People with unusually strong ambitions or weak qualms, however, should be willing to do much more, even murder. And at the top of each walk of life we expect to find a disproportionate fraction not only of high ability folks, but also of high ambition and low qualm folks.
We thus naturally worry about finding the darkest forms of foul play at the top. Literature is full of plausible-seeming scenarios where by leaders in government, business, and even the arts commit the most terrible crimes to get ahead. But we tend to believe these stories more about leaders long ago or far away, and less about leaders in admirable walks of life, like religion, academia, or the arts. Is this just wishful thinking, or is there more to it?
An interesting concrete example is corporate assassins. We hear of assassination of leaders in crime or politics, at least far away, but less often in business. Given how little it seems to cost to have someone killed, why don’t more corporations have their competitors’ leaders knocked off?