While I find much of merit in Dr. Peter R. Breggin's article on voluntary psychiatry [September], and think he is performing a valuable service in exposing psychiatric abuses, I must take exception to his handling of the question "But what if the individual does not have personal sovereignty?" As with so many writers on libertarian psychiatry, Dr. Breggin seems more interested in maintaining an ideological purity than in facing squarely this difficult question.
He begins his answer with the claim that "…personal sovereignty loses all meaning unless it is assumed to exist in everyone," a substantial overstatement, to be sure. But he goes on to say that "Sovereignty, like freedom, is not granted to people, but exists as an inherent attribute of people. It is a natural right, a given, a first premise" (original emphasis). It should be clear, however, that this answer is inadequate: it merely posits an assumption, whereas the original question concerns a matter of fact. Consider a person rendered unconscious from an accident. Surely he does not have personal sovereignty (which Dr. Breggin has defined in terms of "capacity"), and so the above question is appropriately asked. It is no answer to simply say that personal sovereignty is an "inherent attribute" of this unconscious person.
The problem I am raising here is one that runs through much of the literature of libertarianism, especially in its less sophisticated examples. Freedom (and personal sovereignty) may indeed be a natural right and even the highest of political values, but is so only for those capable of exercising it, broadly understood. Thus we do not treat children as adults, we make decisions for them, in their best interests—we assume they are not capable of acting fully voluntarily. Likewise with unconscious persons, or even on occasion with people with mental difficulties. The problems in this last instance are often excruciatingly difficult, and the benefit of doubt must always be given to the would-be patient. But it is no answer to run from the problem, to allow a loved one to waste away, to wander the city in a daze, completely out of touch with reality. This is no respect for personal sovereignty; it is gross neglect, founded upon a too primitive concept of the individual.
But again, I commend Dr. Breggin for the work he is doing. I urge him only to recognize these difficulties, to recognize that there are times when we must step onto the slippery slope, mindful always that that is just what we are doing.
University of Chicago
However much I may applaud Peter Breggin for his championship of personal sovereignty, I am obliged to protest his estimation of Jose Delgado—whom Breggin sees as nothing more than a behaviorist enemy of individual psychological liberty. By his remarks, I gather Breggin is referring to the book, Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society, in which Delgado presents a lay explanation of the remarkable inhibitory and excitatory effects of electrical stimulation of the brain. Delgado's point, however, has nothing to do with advocacy of cybernetic societal control. The "psychocivilized" society he proposes would be one wherein the techniques of electrocerebral stimulation lie open to the individual for the sake of their self-willed mental evolution. For Delgado, "Individual choice entails assuming accountability for the direction of personal destiny."
Perhaps a cursory examination of Delgado may suggest to some that he is promulgating the ultimate in psychologically-repressive practices, but this is not so. The techniques he describes do not supplant or overpower volitional action, as the evidence makes amply clear. The implications of Delgado's ideas are no more sinister than the current popularity of the so-called "biofeedback" devices, which enable one to deliberately enhance the level of alpha-wave activity in the brain, promoting a state of profound calm.
Breggin's reaction to Delgado prompts me to remark on Anne Wortham's article, as an opening to a larger point. Wortham makes much of the responsibility for one's social/psychological perspective resting in individual choice. She makes her point…but I really doubt that anyone, not even Susan Love Brown, would have been in disagreement to begin with. I believe that Wortham, for all her exegetical proficiency, had missed Brown's main concern: Why have so many blacks chosen a path of "least respect"? There are reasons that serve to explain why some groups in society (blacks, women, homosexuals, etc.) have largely succumbed to debilitating self-evaluations, and it is worth understanding why some of the group succumb and others do not. Naturally, an act of will may effect a veritable miracle of psychological transfiguration, but this is really no help in the main. The hope of humane libertarianism should be to replace miracle with method, making liberation accessible to many who would otherwise lack the strength or the understanding to rise above their circumstances.
The point that I want to press was suggested to me by William Stoddard's letter, wherein he makes the comment that "belief in free will is an outright invitation to psychological self-deception." Now, I do not literally agree with Stoddard, but he enunciates a valid caution against a kind of Manichaean attitude that permeates libertarian notions of psychology. This attitude is exemplified by Breggin's knee-jerk dismissal of Delgado's researches, and by Wortham's severe rejection of environmental factors as an explanation of cultural patterns.
Of course, human beings are not determined; their activity is impossible to describe by predictive laws in any formal sense. But the appellation of "free" will is a bit misleading, for no human being can successfully function in the absence of a matrix of personal history. A person "freed" of such influences would, I suppose, have the ability to make near-spontaneous personality transitions…but would likely suffer from a great sense of velocity, of anxiety, in the absence of a psychological continuity with their past experience. It is the effect of this continuity that can, if overwhelming, dampen individual volition or, if properly assimilated, provide stability of character.
One must also understand that the mind is, in part, a physical process and therefore susceptible to electrochemical and biological study, after Delgado. It is also a kind of "stochastic" process, a cascade of accumulated experience, that can overwhelm or buoy one up. Neither Breggin's views on behavioral research nor Wortham's doctrines of responsibility grasp the inherent complexity of human volition.
Let me end by making clear that the alternative to a Manichaean position on the issue of free will vs. determinism is not a contradictory, have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too melange of theory. The alternative is to transcend the free-determined dichotomy, to discover an understanding that would integrate the presence of spontaneous volition with the stochastic vector of personal experience. Personal identity is, after all, an ambiguous thing. It is wrong to think the most important question is "Who are you?" Better we should be asking each other "Who have you been…and who are you becoming?"
Dr. Breggin replies: I am delighted that my critique of psychiatry stirred up so much response and that my critics nonetheless voice appreciation of my attempts to fight psychiatric abuses. But I remain concerned that so many well-meaning and thoughtful persons will throw freedom to the winds over psychiatric issues. This confirms my fear that psychiatry remains a totalitarian threat of such insidious proportions that even libertarians fail to perceive it, for if libertarians wish to bend the principle of freedom in the interest of therapy, what can we expect from ordinary establishment thinkers?
A main argument centers around personal sovereignty. Does a person remain morally responsible for himself and his actions even when he has been battered by drugs or compromised by brain damage? Does a person remain responsible when he has been oppressed by cruel or loveless parents and persecuted by a prejudiced and brutal world? I don't know how anyone can give an absolute answer to any of these questions. Certainly "moral responsibility" cannot be measured scientifically, and I defy anyone to show me how he can judge whether or not another person is responsible for his actions. I "assume" people are responsible because I prefer that vision of humanity, because it has worked in my own life and the life of other people I respect, and because it helps my clients. Under all circumstances and in all people, however biologically defective, I seek to relate to the moral individual in order to encourage him to the utmost. I act as if personal sovereignty is an absolute.
But all this is tangential and even irrelevant to the political issue! While I have some doubts about my concept of personal sovereignty as an inherent quality, indestructible and perhaps eternal, I have no doubt about the political necessity of acting as if each person is sovereign. All men may not be equal in reality, but they must be treated as equals by the law. Otherwise the entire structure of freedom collapses.
The libertarian who becomes "soft" on psychiatric issues should not forget that someone must implement his desire to help people against their wishes. Civil commitment is the ultimate expression of state involvement in the life of a citizen, for it declares him unfit for liberty. Who shall implement such power? Psychiatrists? Philosopher-kings? Political bureaucrats? Juries? The writers of the letters to REASON? Anyone who takes it upon himself to make such a judgment of another person must become the master of that other person. When the state is involved, this means totalitarianism.
The reply that we commonly take over for unconscious patients holds no water. Everyone knows the difference between an unconscious person and an unwilling or uncooperative person. As a former emergency room physician and a psychiatrist who once worked in hospitals, I cannot recall a single instance where this distinction baffled anyone for more than a few moments. When an emergency physician saves a bleeding but unconscious person, he needs no psychiatric laws to protect his intervention. Medical tradition takes care of that. But should he then choose to treat the person after he becomes conscious and refuses treatment, he must call in a psychiatrist to treat him "for his own good." I don't think the law should sanction this imposition upon the conscious person.
What about the person who is delirious with fever or drug intoxication and who resists treatment which he might welcome when he is recovered from his physical disorder? This is a sticky problem, and it should remain so. If you take it upon yourself to treat a person against his will because you believe his will is not a true expression of his intact self, then you should also take responsibility for your actions when the person recovers. If he then chooses to seek redress against you on the grounds that he was not physically impaired and indeed did not wish treatment, then you ought to be liable. Yes, this is a tough line to take, but it would stop a great deal of oppression committed in the name of doing good.
Mr. Dunn makes much of defending psychosurgeon José Delgado. I have written about Delgado at length and will be glad to send my analyses to anyone who is interested. I do want to make clear, however, that he has not only called for massive funding of an educational program to indoctrinate Americans into accepting "physical control of the mind," he has experimented with the psychosurgical control of human beings as well, including their remote control by surgically implanted electrodes.
Finally, I want to address myself to the question of ideological purity. Some of the letter writers imply that I am motivated by such a perversion. But is it perverse to reason, to use logic, to seek consistency with one's principles? To the contrary, I feel it is an obligation! And beneath this philosophical issue, there is another more human or personal obligation. When you go to a therapist or psychiatrist, do you want him to bend the rules here and there as he finds one thing or another that he wishes to impose upon you for your own good? I for one would never seek help from anyone who did not consistently and thoroughly advocate my personal freedom. I suspect that most REASON readers would feel the same way. As a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist, I wish to respect each human being's right to be free—even his right to be free of me and my good intentions. —P.R.B.
David Levy's "Learning Economics from Walt Disney World" [October] describes a unique application of Spencer Heath's idea of a proprietary community, in which the city owner collects the rent and sets rules of conduct and public services based on market demand. REASON devoted much of its May 1972 issue to considering proprietary communities like Disney World, speculating that big landowners one day could replace local government.
Government is so bad that some people are willing to replace it with anything. But how many have really considered living in a totally planned city?
We have proprietary semi-communities now: mobile-home parks, huge shopping-and-apartment complexes, vertical office/apartment combinations like Chicago's John Hancock tower, and retirement "estates" such as Del Webb's Sun City. Are these the kind of communities we want to live in? The ultimate destination seems to be Paolo Soleri's arcology (i.e., architecture + ecology), the one-building city—privately financed, of course! It looks nice on paper: a combination Hong Kong apartment complex and rocketship to the moon. But would you want to live in one?
This is a completely subjective matter, of course. But I think most people would agree that the esthetic anarchy and economic diversity of a minimally-planned city is more interesting in which to live and work.
Walt Disney World may be a ripsnorting success, but the much-ballyhooed "new towns" haven't done so well. In May 1972, REASON reported enthusiastically on the development of Columbia, MD, the largest of the proprietary "new towns." It had 20,000 residents and was to have housed, employed, and entertained 100,000 altogether. The developers, Rouse Co., had attracted 44 industrial plants, including a GE "appliance park." REASON reported that Columbia had made $3.6 million for Rouse Co. in 1971.
In 1972, Rouse Co. stock sold for $40; by September 1974 it had crumbled to $2.75. It has not recovered. Rouse Co. had to be bailed out by its partner, Connecticut General Insurance Corp. of Hartford. Rouse pulled out of Columbia except for a management contract, blaming the high interest rates. It scratched its new-town ventures at Shelby Farms, TN, and Wye Island, MD, after spending $4.2 million. Said Mr. Rouse: "These projects take more than a decade to get started, and there is just too much uncertainty as to their ultimate viability. Privately-developed new towns are dead in this country for the foreseeable future." (Forbes, 1 Oct. 1974)
Meanwhile, when last heard from Paolo Soleri was in the Arizona desert north of Scottsdale trying to build his first arcology with a few idealistic students and even fewer dollars.
So much for the wave of the future. Specialized projects like suburban shopping centers and Walt Disney World continue to pay off. They may even, with Levy's aid, teach us economics. The best of them are nice places to visit, but…
I'll stay where I am, Weird Sam and all.
Walt Disney World proves that a proprietary community works beautifully if it is also the world's largest amusement park. But what about other large private developments that have no such special advantages? There are condominiums in Florida and cooperatives in New York that house thousands of people. Do any of these developments provide their own private fire protection or other "municipal" services? If so, do they do it cheaper and/or more efficiently than nearby governments? Would the residents save money if their development were allowed to withdraw from the city that governs it, receive no city services, and pay no taxes? I would like very much to see an article in REASON that examines these questions as applied to specific condominium and cooperative developments.
ROTHBARD AND VIETNAM
In their letters in the October issue of REASON, Sylvester Petro and several others are guilty of misrepresenting Dr. Murray Rothbard's position in regard to the fall of South Vietnam. Mr. Petro takes the opportunity to also misrepresent the anarcho-capitalist viewpoint. A complete rebuttal of both these errors would not be possible in the space of one short letter. However, I should like to make the following points.
What Dr. Rothbard meant as exhilarating was not the communist triumph of Vietnam. What is exhilarating is seeing that a State can fall whenever it loses popular sanction. If a fascist one can fall, then we know a communist one can also. We look for the day when all States shall crumble, not to be replaced with other States, but with the institutions of the free market.
Free market institutions or anarcho-capitalist institutions, if you will, can never exist to the exclusion of the State until enough persons accept and live the eternal principles of truth. Truth can not be forcibly imposed. Those of us who know and live it already, are not responsible for the errors and/or the immoral actions of others. As long as we do all within our capabilities, we have done all that is possible to bring about the changes we desire. A is A.
Whereas law is indispensable to a free society, it is natural law and not statutory law. The former is the basis of a competing common law which derives its enforcement capabilities from a general acceptance within a given community. The latter is the arbitrary rule of man. It is a usurpation and a crime, to use the words of the great individualist anarchist, Lysander Spooner.
Michael A. Nash
With the sort of start Lloyd Taylor has given himself in his run for San Francisco County Supervisor he deserves to lose.
Regardless of whether his views on prostitution, gambling, minimum wage laws, and child labor laws are correct, he is tilting at the wrong windmills. The majority of the issues he has proclaimed about are imbedded in state and Federal statutes, and no county supervisor in California is going to be able to do much about them.
If he wants to tackle those issues he should run for state or Federal office. He would do far better to limit his attack to the injustices imbedded in local law.
I wonder if he realizes that his proposed ban on the sale of fluorocarbons would make most refrigerants and a number of very valuable anesthetic drugs unavailable. As a member of an endangered species (anesthesiologists) I resent that very much.
Kenneth R. Noel, M.D.
El Centro, CA
Mr. Taylor replies: A person is free to engage in any profession or use any product as long as he does not infringe on another's rights. When a person pollutes the atmosphere with fluorocarbons—which some evidence shows destroys the ozone layer—he infringes on my rights to be left alone. Flurocarbons are in the same class as water pollution and noise pollution. A proper function of the state is to prohibit pollution of another's property.
Government banning of cyclamate food products to "protect" my health infringes on my right to eat hazardous food if I so wish. Government banning of fluorocarbon aerosols may protect me from someone else's actions which increases the risk of skin cancer to everyone. —L.T.
ETHICS VS. POLITICS
The recent accounts of the Libertarian Party National Convention have caused much doubt in my mind as to what some people believe libertarianism as a political philosophy entails. Libertarianism holds that it is morally right (good) that people live with one another in such a way that none of their relationships suffer the initiatory use or threat of physical force in any form. Libertarianism is differentiated from other political philosophies by the fact that it holds this type of relationship among people (called "liberty" or "freedom") as the primary social good. Thus, libertarianism has a moral point of view; it declares what ought to be in society. To say this, however, is not to say that libertarianism is a complete moral code, a sufficient guide for all human actions. Libertarianism per se is a political philosophy not an ethical system. (This is not to deny that the justification for libertarianism might only lie within a specific ethical system.)
To many the above may seem an exercise in the obvious, but I do so with real purpose. If the above remarks are true, then some of the remarks about the national convention seem ridiculous. Complaints to the effect that as libertarians it was wrong to deny a person nomination on grounds that he is a homosexual have no basis. There is nothing in the libertarian point of view that demands that one consider homosexuality or bisexuality as just another competing "life style" as opposed to a sexual/psychological sickness!! There is nothing in the libertarian point of view that prohibits non-coercive acts of discrimination against homosexuals, bisexuals, blacks, Harvard professors, etc. The moral status of such actions belongs (at least) to the realm of ethics, not political philosophy. Further, as regards the morality of homosexuality or bisexuality, nothing follows from the commitment to freedom. The right to different sexual preferences does not make any preference right, and it certainly does not protect you from suffering from "social disdain" if that preference is judged as less than morally right. Just as it is a mistake to speak of the rights to liberty and property without a realization that these are ethical claims, so too it is a mistake to assume that these rights exhaust the ethical arena. For the protection of both liberty and morality, it is vital that libertarians do not blur this distinction.
Douglas B. Rasmussen
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".