Saturday, January 01, 2005

A Unique Blog

One of the reasons I am excited about The Szasz Blog is that the issues we'll discuss here are largely ignored by libertarians, as Tom points out in Faith in Freedom. My own discussion of this neglect, "Why Do Libertarians Ignore the Therapeutic State?" can be found here.


At 4:26 PM, Blogger Nicolas Martin said...

It is a damning indictment of most libertarians that they stand mute in the face of the mass imprisonment and torture of individuals for ostensibly medical reasons, though most of those people have committed no crimes, or trivial ones. Conversely the silence of libertarians is deafening as personal responsibility is eviscerated by courtroom psychiatry.

When Faith in Freedom first appeared the Cato Institute featured no fewer than four book titles on reform of the postal system. So far as I know, Cato has never published a book about psychiatric abuses, and none by Tom Szasz. I want postal reform as much as the next guy, but to a disturbing degree libertarians in the public eye seem to have become efficiency consultants to the welfare state. I think of this as Postrelism, in recognition of the editor who took the moral fire out of Reason magazine.

I've contacted several prominent libertarians to ask why they ignore the threat of the therapeutic state. Lew Rockwell said that he likes what Szasz has to say about psychiatry, but for some reason he can't seem to find a place on his popular web site for criticism of the therapeutic state, though his writers regularly extol the virtues of vitamins. Perhaps libertarianism is as much about nutrition as it is postal efficiency.

I also contacted Walter Olson, editor of the valuable, to ask why his site didn't address the intrusions of forensic psychiatry, but he didn't bother to respond. Liberty magazine, which has published several Szasz articles, has actually run the most vociferously anti-Szasz pieces I've encountered in recent years, and by people who aren't even recognizably libertarian.

Some writers published in libertarian periodicals are ga-ga for psychiatry, like Cathy Young and Michael Fumento. Others, like jacob Sullum, are solid opponents of the therapeutic state. But, save The Freeman, I know of no other libertarian publication that regularly visits the issue.

There are various reasons why most libertarians are not on the right side of the issue. Foremost has to be that they accept the validity of psychiatry just as non-libertarians do. The baneful psychological theories of Rand-Brandon must still be significant. In my experience, people who show up at local libertarian meetings are largely self-interested. They are chiropractors who are "libertarian" to the degree that they want complete freedom to practice chiropractic, or vitaminologists who don't want supplement sales upended by the FDA. I'd guess that many people who consider themselves libertarian think the mistake is not that there is a therapeutic state, but that it forces "mentally ill" people to take drugs rather than nutritional supplements.

The number of libertarians who understand the threat elucidated so well and so long by Tom Szasz is miniscule.


Post a Comment

<< Home