Friday, January 21, 2011

"Senseless," or did the perpetrator of the Tuscon massacre have a reason? (Thomas Szasz)

Thomas SzaszThe great Dr. Thomas Szasz takes to task those who blame Jared Loughner's act of mass murder on his supposed "mental illness":

Do people really want to know why, on January 8, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona, a young man named Jared Lee Loughner engaged in mass murder? I submit they do not. Politicians, psychiatrists, pundits, and the press univocally assert that Loughner’s deed is the “senseless” product of mental illness. This belief in a non-existing mental disease causing mass murder is on a par with young children’s belief in Santa Claus. It is false but satisfies the believers. The great French essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) sagely observed: “Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known.”

Before his shooting spree Loughner had produced a video he called “My Final Thoughts,” stating: “All humans are in need of sleep. Jared Loughner is a human. Hence, Jared Loughner is in need of sleep.” On the morning of his massacre he posted a message on his MySpace account acknowledging his sense that he was at the end of his rope and his decision to let go: “Goodbye. Dear friends . . . Please don’t be mad at me.”

“War is a continuation of politics by other means,” said Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831). I suggest that, similarly, mass murder in plain sight, such as Loughner committed, is a continuation of suicide by other means. Sometimes it is called “suicide by proxy” or “suicide by cop.”

Loughner, to use his metaphor, has gone to sleep. And so have we if we prefer to believe that his self-destructive and destructive act is the senseless product of his “mental illness” rather than the result of his planned, “sensible” decision. The latter view is unpopular and unacceptable because it acknowledges Loughner’s humanity and free will, precisely the qualities that psychiatrists – aided and abetted by the criminal justice system – are intent on removing from persons they label “mad.” This medicalized view of certain offenses – usually crimes that particularly upset people – has, for reasons I have presented elsewhere, become widely accepted in our society, embraced equally by the right and the left.

Read the rest, and for more information on Dr. Szasz and his groundbreaking work on what he calls the "myth of mental illness," check out his website.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Lysander Spooner!

Lysander SpoonerI would like to take the opportunity on this, the 202nd anniversary of the birth of Lysander Spooner, to recommend reading one of the most important articles I've ever read on political philosophy: "The Constitution of No Authority," where he makes the stunning conclusion that the Constitution is not binding to us in the least:

The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. [This essay was written in 1869.] And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. And the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them. They had no natural power or right to make it obligatory upon their children. It is not only plainly impossible, in the nature of things, that they could bind their posterity, but they did not even attempt to bind them. That is to say, the instrument does not purport to be an agreement between any body but "the people" THEN existing; nor does it, either expressly or impliedly, assert any right, power, or disposition, on their part, to bind anybody but themselves.

Read the rest, and while you're at it, also check out Spooner's terrific work "Vices are Not Crimes." (these two articles had a tremendous influence in my journey to radical libertarianism)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Don’t Accuse Me of Blaming America When I Blame the Government (Bob Higgs)

The great Robert Higgs takes on those who like to bring out the "Blame America" nonsense when people criticize government actions:

Robert HiggsIn discourse about public affairs, words matter much more than most people appreciate. We live immersed in language so twisted and abused, in part by the design of interested parties and in part by the sloth of inattentive speakers and listeners, that we often fail to notice or object to linguistic miscarriages that pass for intelligent expression. The examples are legion, but here I have in mind a particular turn of phrase that American conservatives, especially neocons, have employed in recent years as a counterstrike against critics of U.S. foreign and defense policy: They describe such critics as “blaming America” or sometimes as “blaming America first” for attacks against this country or its citizens abroad.

Thus, for example, those who fault U.S. Middle East policies for creating the conditions that caused Muslim fanatics to attack Americans, both at home and overseas, are said to be blaming America for what the policy’s defenders’ take to be the unprovoked acts of terrorists bent on imposing Sharia on the United States, destroying this country’s freedoms, or attaining another such farfetched objective.

Read the rest