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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Happy Birthday, Thomas Szasz

Thomas Szasz, the great champion of liberty and critic of what he has dubbed the "Therapeutic State," is 90 today. For the last 50 years, no one has worked harder or more eloquently to defend the individual from the State-medicine complex than Szasz. His specialty -- so-called "mental health" issues -- puts him virtually in a class by himself among libertarians. These issues include civil commitment ("a crime against humanity"), forced drugging and other "treatments," the insanity defense and verdict, and more.

Aside from Szasz, few people have been willing to condemn psychiatry's medical pretensions or psychiatry's assaults, backed by State power of course, for what they are.

He has also been a persistent opponent of the "war on drugs," including the prescription system, and a defender of the right to commit suicide.

Emeritus professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center/Syracuse, Szasz is the author of some 25 books, most famously The Myth of Mental Illness, a 50th anniversary edition of which has just been published, hundreds of scholarly and popular articles, and a column in The Freeman. His latest book is Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared.

Among Szasz’s other books are Psychiatry: The Science of Lies; The Medicalization of Everyday Life: Selected Essays; Coercion as Cure: A Critical History of Psychiatry; The Therapeutic State; Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts and Pushers; Our Right to Drugs: The Case for a Free Market; Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences; Schizophenia: Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry; Cruel Compassion: Psychiatric Control of Society’s Unwanted; Fatal Freedom: The Ethics and Politics of Suicide; Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America; Liberation by Oppression: A Comparative Study of Slavery and Psychiatry; “My Madness Saved Me”: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf; and Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices.

I first met Tom in the 1970s. Since then he has been a constant inspiration to me. I am proud to know him.

All lovers of liberty should be familiar with is heroic life.


Robert Higgs said...

Bravo, Sheldon; and bravissimo, Tom! He is truly a great man. I am honored to know him and to call him a personal friend, as well. Among living libertarians, he has no peer.

Tom said...

Thanks Sheldon. Recently, I suggested to a coworker that he read my copy of "Ceremonial Chemistry" . He took it without reservation!

Not too long ago, I sent you some links to an interview he did with Australian Radio. I only hope that I am as sharp as he was at 89.

If only we could get all libertarians to read his works.

Anonymous said...

Tues. 10/05/25 12:16 EDT

T.S.S. - Truth's Sweet Sound

part 1 of 2

Let us now salute a humanist, a valiant libertarian,
iconoclast, psychiatrist, learned writer and contrarian.
To foes and fans, respectively, he brings both Pain And Pleasure,
and for those who mind respectfully, he's an intellectual treasure.

Self-acknowledged friends of liberty are well advised to heed him
if they don't know how psychiatry's a threat to Faith In Freedom.
His detractors deign to denigrate and call him "paranoid"
(a defamatory label slapped on those deemed "Anti-Freud").

He has called psychiatry "quackery" on more than one occasion;
Antipsychiatry: Quackery Squared is just another variation
of this paternalist, determinist, elite epistemology,
institutionalized inhumanity and gravely flawed ontology.

For over fifty years he's dared to speak words most audacious
against The Therapeutic State: those medically mendacious
practitioners of psychobabble and Psychiatric Slavery,
The Manufacture Of Madness and other forms of human knavery;

those soul doctors and inquisitors, who judge both good and badness,
those definers of normality in this, The Age Of Madness.
His Untamed Tongue hurls Heresies against their pompous piety,
and false idols like Schizophrenia: Sacred Symbol Of Psychiatry;

against Ceremonial Chemistry, through which Our Right To Drugs
is politically abrogated by the state's coercive thugs;
against electroshock, lobotomy, outrageous Cruel Compassion,
and chemical strait-jackets, "therapeutically" in fashion.

"It's our intent to save," protests this pseudo-medical profession,
(just like the slave's) the madman's Liberation By Oppression.
The "prescription" is Coercion As Cure for that most disturbing
misbehavior that some other folks are having trouble curbing.

A quick peek inside their Lexicon Of Lunacy is revealing:
They claim "it's for the patient's good" to hurt instead of healing!
In the name game they're the champions, inventive and prolific,
and this game's named "diagnosis"; doesn't that sound scientific?

They say good behavior's healthy, bad behavior's a disease,
and excessive bad behavior's an addiction, if you please!
If you're focused they'll profess that you "obsess compulsively";
if you're not, why then, they'll diagnose a "case" of "ADD."

Sometimes doctor and his patient will use language to deceive;
the semantic antics make it hard to know whom to believe.
For to claim "My Madness Saved Me" all depends on how you spin it;
as manipulative strategy, there's certainly method in it.

In addition to the name game, there's another that they play;
this rendition's called the blame game, and the gambit's to portray
some hapless person as the scapegoat for some other's sin and vice,
and then purge society's problems via ritual sacrifice.

With their force-fed drugs they'll "cure" your "oppositional defiance"
(with both big brother and big pharma have they formed a close alliance).
When they call forced drugging "medication," it's to euphemize
what is poisoning, which wouldn't be permitted, otherwise.

Anonymous said...

T.S.S. - Truth's Sweet Sound

part 2 of 2

"Mental illness" is the "cause" of your reluctance to admit
you "need" their "help," hence they'll vote to involuntarily commit.
Don't protest that you've been wronged and call it forced incarceration.
Call it "patient's right to treatment"; such semantic innovation!

For, the concept of a human right in true democracy
is rather different now that we've evolved into Pharmacracy.
The Theology of Medicine has replaced theocracy,
where hippocratic absolution leads to health hypocrisy.

Law, Liberty and Psychiatry don't mix well, so pay attention.
Disregarding this has consequences too horrible to mention,
because Psychiatric Justice just is not what you might think;
adversaries in the courtroom could very well include your shrink!

When the innnocent are "diagnosed," the goal is to accuse;
when the guilty plead "insanity," the goal is to excuse.
In both cases are the concepts of responsibility
and free will negated. Liberty's the final casualty.

And from courtroom now to bedroom, opportunities galore
to exploit what should be private, too auspicious to ignore.
Painting sexual behavior as a medical condition
opens up the door to "experts" who will sell Sex By Prescription.

So you think your schooling's phoney? Guess it's hard not to agree,
but it's easier to blame your brain's "unbalanced chemistry,"
or perhaps your chromosomes are slightly "flawed," genetically,
but either way, it's Ritalin to calm "hyperactivity."

It's from history books you'll learn what they don't teach in those psych classes:
That through myth manipulation, men manipulate the masses.
The Myth Of Psychotherapy suggests something's amiss
with what should rightly be The Ethics Of Psychoanalysis.

The Myth Of Mental Illness has persisted by confusing
fact with metaphor, an error that has led to our abusing
first the language, then true understanding, then our fellow man,
and then, finally, freedom. Let's correct this error, if we can.

Doesn't talk of "mental illness" reify The Meaning Of Mind?
Don't concrete and abstract thus become perfidiously entwined?
Is our Fatal Freedom fraught with Ideology And Insanity?
Who controls birth, life and death? Indeed, deep questions for humanity.

So...Insanity: The Idea And Its Consequences makes
a profanity of reason - mind "diseases" are all fakes.
How much further we will tolerate The Medicalization
Of Everyday Life
is a question that requires some contemplation.

Eating from the tree of knowledge put us on the path wherein
we commence and take the first steps to commit The Second Sin.
Then, by cultivating clarity in language and in thought,
we can reconstruct the tower that the Babelians once wrought.

Intellectually inoculate with a few Words To The Wise,
as a vaccination for Psychiatry: The Science Of Lies.
In so doing, we protect the things that make our lives worth living,
and to Thomas Szasz, for this truth serum, thanks should we be giving.

Sheldon Richman said...


Anonymous said...

Tues. 10/05/25 12:40 EDT

haha! Thanks!