Monday, December 5, 2022

Comments by nicmart

Showing 31 of 31 comments.

  • As a friend and ally of Szasz, I think his biggest mistake was to join forces with Scientology, though he clearly stated that he was not interested in its creed. His duplicitous critics have smeared him with the association ever since. I think Scientology is silly, but no sillier than other religions. It comes in for ridicule because of its attacks on psychiatry, some of which are not carefully made (e.g., Tom Cruise). Still, Scientologists are subject to nothing as cruel as the treatment of Mormons in the early years of their religion.

  • How things have changed. In the 1960s and 1970s the Left celebrated Szasz’s tolerant and liberating views. (He was the leading public figure speaking out against pathologizing homosexuality, advocated decriminalization of drug use, supported abortion rights, was an unabashed critic of the oppression of women, and opposed the death penalty.) Kesey was a Szasz enthusiastic fan of Szasz when he gained fame for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I’ve posted to YouTube a warm and interesting interview of Szasz by Studs Terkel. But the authoritarian instinct, and increasing awareness of how psychiatry could be used against people disapproved of by the Left, gradually lead to not only an embrace of coercion, but an almost complete takeover of the mental health industrial complex by leftists.

  • Your understanding of Szasz is spotty. As he put it, he was not anti-psychiatry for the same reason he was not anti-Catholic, though he was an atheist. He believed that people had the right to embrace any belief system or practice if voluntary.

    Many times Szasz wrote emphatically about the misogyny and racism of psychiatry, as well as the drug war. Germaine Greer called him “the great man.” Szasz was virtually the lone, and certainly the most prominent, voice in psychiatry opposing treating of homosexuality as a disease. (I attended a packed and enthusiastic venue in San Francisco when Szasz attacked the Dan White verdict.)

    Socialist countries have a horrible history of employing psychiatry oppressively, as they do other aspects of the state.

    Szasz also supported economic freedom for all people. He was a courageous man.

  • Calling people “toxic” is intended to characterize them as poisonous agents when you really just mean you don’t like the way that they behave. Bacteria, radiation, and chemicals are toxic, but individuals are good and evil in various proportions. The choice to do right or wrong is the essence of humanity, and that is what you and psychiatrists both believe they do not deserve.

  • I agree with Julie. You use pseudomedical jargon, as do psychiatrists, to label behavior. If “Toxic EQUALS criminal,” as you say, then “criminal” is the appropriate word minus the medicalization. The Nazis could have called the Jews “bad,” but it was much more effective, and dehumanizing, to call them “vermin.” (Not to ignore that the holocaust began with the “unfit” and the “mentally ill,” not with the Jews.

    Psychiatry doesn’t “legitimize” people by diagnosing them, it dehumanizes them, replacing their moral agency with pseudo-disease.

  • I don’t know any libertarian (small “l” means not a member of the Libertarian party) who favors the Cuba embargo. Not only is it an aggressive act against that country, it is an attack on the freedom of Americans to travel. Anti-interventionism and peace are central to the modern libertarian movement, which is highly critical of U.S. foreign policy, present and past. Two of the most prominent libertarian authors who are American policy critics are Robert Higgs and Murray Rothbard. There are videos featuring both men on YouTube, and quite a few of their lectures on iTunes U.

    In 2009 C-Span hosted a 3-hour interview with Dr. Higgs., which is found here:

  • How can “libertarian socialist” not be an oxymoron? Socialism requires state coercion, and libertarianism is the antithesis of coercion. A “libertarian socialist” might support some freedoms (and so did the Soviets, for that matter), but certainly not a comprehensive political philosophy centered on freedom.

    One can oppose socialism and not be a rightest, though some rightists oppose socialism (and many oppose libertarianism). To an unhyphenated libertarian like myself, the right and left have a great deal in common as rulers. They both redistribute confiscated wealth: sometimes to the same constituencies, and sometimes to different constituencies. As socialism progresses, it invariably becomes more repressive. (I’m alert to what might be called The Scandinavian Exception, but it is no exception at all. While Scandinavian countries may have large, expensive welfare states, they are able to fund the welfare by keeping their economic activity relatively free market. In that they resemble post-1989 China. more than, say, Cuba.)

  • It is curious that in his letter resigning from the APA Mosher found no space to criticize the central problem with psychiatry: coercion. I’m not sure he ever fully repudiated the use of violence in the name of mental health, though he took issue with it to some extent.

    Szasz rips Mosher a new one in his 1976 book, “Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry.” First he quotes a paper by Mosher (who was then at NIMH) and John Gunderson*:

    “We need to demonstrate that it costs more not to treat someone than it does to provide care. If doubling the cost of treatment makes it possible to halve the loss of productivity, about $2 billion a year will be saved.”

    Szasz spends a few pages on Mosher and Gunderson, including these snips:

    “Here, then, we are face to face with the inexorable consequences of psychiatry as a state-supported priesthood, and of its collectivistic-positivistic perspective of treating persons as defective objects. The traditional reasons and justifications for treatment in medicine have been, first, that the patient has a disease; second, that he wants and consents to treatment for it; and, third, that a physician agrees to treat him. Gunderson and Mosher now add a fourth justification for treatment to this list — one, moreover, that has long been the favorite justification among Marxists, Communists, and National Socialists: namely, that treating the patient is in the best economic interests of society…. The patients’ desire and consent for treatment, and the physicians’s freedom to treat or eschew treatment are, of course, all matters potentially — and in the so-called mental health field, actually — at odds with the economic principle enunciated by Gunderson and Mosher. This is hardly surprising. The principle they propose is for the benefit of the bureaucrats whose views Brown [director of NIMH] and Mosher represent, that is, the state-employed psychiatrist-policemen.” After all, it is they, not the patients, who are the recipients of the funds here debated.”

    [*Gunderson is described thusly on one web site: “He is most famous for being the first psychiatrist to offer up a coherent and reliable description ( symptom checklist) to describe the behaviorsthat comprise what has been called Borderline Personality Disorder.”]

  • Yes, Frank, you have the freedom to misrepresent a person’s views. You are even free to misrepresent mine, for instance by associating my views with those of the libertarian (sic) party which I detest. (The LP platform once opposed coercive psychiatry, but that part was removed.) By and large the anti-psychiatry movement is leftist, and so has little if any Szasz influence. I doubt the movement will influence Szasz since is is no longer alive. Even more so, I doubt that a leftist movement will lead to less psychiatric coercion. Socialist states have shown themselves to be very fond of psychiatry for controlling dissidents.

  • You want the state to determine what is bogus disease and who is a legitimate doctor, but it is the state that has determined that psychiatry offers genuine treatments for real diseases. My view, consistent with Szasz, is that the state should not be in the medical business. It is up to individuals to decide if they buy into psychiatry and its treatments, just as they might choose acupuncture, homeopathy, faith healing, or abstention from any medical treatment. It is clear that government officials are neither capable of determining what is real medicine, nor of preventing harm by licensing and other regulations.

  • Szasz was not an anarchist, he was a libertarian. A libertarian h0ld liberty as a primary value. That is as transparently impossible to reconcile with communism as it is with state psychiatry.

    So, anyone who believe in economic freedom is right wing? Then only statists can be libertarians, and the world is upside down. You might just as well argue that someone is right wing because he advocates freedom of speech or religion.

  • Libertarians don’t come in left or right. A libertarian equally opposes authoritarian/statism from any source. I’m curious to know what you think makes Szasz right wing. His opposition to the drug war? His support for abortion rights? His opposition to laws against consensual sex and long-time support for gay liberty? What specifically?

  • Thomas Szasz expressly repudiated the anti-psychiatry label. Even the references above include his book in which he criticizes the anti-psychiatry movement and its progenitors. Szasz opposed psychiatric coercion which, Laing et al did not, and he criticized the pseudoscience underpinning psychiatry. He was not opposed to the non-coercive practice of psychiatry, just as he didn’t oppose non-coercive religious or sexual practices.

    Szasz was not “right wing,” he was a libertarian. To be a libertarian is to be neither right nor left.