Primal Points As Cheri Adrian acknowledges in her generally insightful review [December] of R.D. Rosen's Psychobabble, a lot of nonsense is being sold today in the name of psychology. But Rosen's book is itself a part of that nonsense, at least in regard to his unfounded inclusion of Arthur Janov's Primal Therapy on his shopping list of "pop" psychocults.
Certainly, many of the proliferating weird new therapies of the '70s are antirational, subjectivist, authoritarian, jargonized, simplistic, and complacent, often claiming quick cures and total fulfillment. But Primal Therapy is none of the above.
REASON readers should know better than to be taken in by Primal Therapy's superficial talk-show image of a "scream-your-way-to-instant-catharsis" cure-all. We've seen how the media can trivialize, distort, and vulgarize our own ideas; we should not make the mistake of judging a new therapy, philosophy, or social movement by what we know of it from Barbara Walters, the New York Times, and People magazine.
As Adrian suggests, the proper response to what appear to be wildly inflated claims is a healthy skepticism. Undoubtedly some of Janov's theoretical formulations can be rationally criticized. His earlier writings tended to be anti-intellectual, and underestimated the complexities of human psychology. Some of his conclusions are extrapolated beyond what is justified by his research, particularly when he moves out of his own field of expertise into sociology, economics, and philosophy (though libertarians will be intrigued to discover Janov's argument that a Primal society will be a society without government).
But skepticism carried to the extreme of refusing to face reality is not healthy. Reason readers ought not to rely on Rosen's fast talk, but should check out the evidence first-hand. Janov's latest and most developed work is reported in Primal Man: The New Consciousness, coauthored with neurologist Michael Holden.
It is my contention that Primal Therapy is not a "psychotherapy" at all, but the first psychophysiological therapy, which offers a way out of mind-body dualism.
Thomas Szasz, and other skeptics, please take note: Mental illness is not a myth. It's as real as the human nervous system.
Questionable Optimism It is unfortunate that some of the libertarian movement's most respected intellectuals are promoting some very questionable attitudes. I refer to the positions of Rothbard as advanced in his December Viewpoint.
First and most important, the Marxist-Leninist concept of the dialectical nature of history has several serious flaws: if the victory of libertarian ideas is so inevitable, why should I and my fellow LP activists sacrifice so much of our own precious time and money on the effort? If state-capitalism will naturally "founder on its own inner contradictions," what is the point of breaking our asses to defeat it? In fact, in order for that wonderful, victorious day to be hastened, might we all be better advised to promote statism (which will in turn speed up the recognition of statism's inadequacies, and so forth) as so many leftist dialectic fans have theorized? These are serious questions which Rothbard must answer before any LP optimist should accept his rationale for optimism.
Second, the leadership errs in promoting optimism so enthusiastically, I believe, since it is precisely the high expectations which they generate that cause much of the disillusionment when our activists encounter reality. Some of our most capable people are getting killed in the trenches of signature-gathering, campaigning, and daily political activity. Our best people enter the political arena with Rothbardian optimism, discover the nasty world of politics, and wither into hopelessness at the dichotomy.
I believe that a more guarded, long-term optimism may be justified. For instance, we may point out the intelligence, dedication and courage of our fellow-libertarians and realize that it is by virtue of these heroic attributes of our individual freedom-fighters that we will prevail. Or we may also adopt optimism as a strategic tool, since confidence and enthusiasm are essential elements to a winning strategy. Neither of these rationales, however, promotes the fatalistic, mystical (and usually collectivist) notions inherent in dialectical theory or the self-deception inherent in the thoughtless optimism of the novice and the person divorced from the routine, ugly realities of the fray.
Educational Dispute Complete desocialization of American education [Editorial, December]? About as easy as saying that henceforth all people will walk on their hands instead of their feet!
I am against the ever-increasing socialistic programs mandated by the various forms of government. However, common or public elementary and secondary education has been with us, in some form, for 200 or more years, and in the absence of anything better that (1) educates the masses and (2) bills adults a small amount over a large number of years (portion of property taxes), it is the best thing going.
Early common or public education in America (all of 1800 and the first half of 1900) provided, for those who attended and completed the course of study, adequate preparation to be admitted to the various colleges and universities or to mainstream themselves into the general population and become useful citizens.
Today, however, it is a little different. One of the biggest problems with public education has been the changes mandated by federal and state governments and the courts. Nowhere in the Constitution of the United States is control of education mentioned. Right or wrong according to individual beliefs, the courts have mandated busing of students and eliminated prayer, and now before the courts is an issue of taking Christ out of an annual Christmas program.
Another problem of public education today is apathy on the part of parents and this apathy carries to the school via the students. Possibly this would change if parents were charged a tuition. Thirdly, public schools have lost their authoritarian role over the child. Success of parochial and private education today can be attributed to authoritarian atmosphere within these schools.
Back to your editorial concerning, in part, the breaking of the public school monopoly. Vouchers and tax credits are nothing more than the redistribution of wealth, and home tutoring would bring us back to a setting as found in "The Little House on the Prairie" TV show, as a lot of parents today would have a difficult time completing modem algebra 1, let alone trying to teach it. If all are not educated, an illiterate population (or education for the rich) could bring, in time, a dictatorship form of national government.
I leave to your many readers thoughts about the common or public form of elementary and secondary education. If there are ways or means to desocialize American education as mentioned in your editorial, perhaps your readers will comment. It has been said that democracy (government by the people) is not perfect but yet is the best form of government so far invented. Possibly we could say the same today about common or public education as, so far, it is the best invented.
Solutions Important The January issue of REASON arrived this afternoon. When I saw the startling cover picture I immediately read the story ["Is This Any Way to Run an Airway?"]!
Congratulations for clearly bringing this terrible and terrifying situation out in the open. And—more important—for stating possible solutions that could, if implemented promptly, save a lot of lives.
My flying started in 1932 and has greatly increased through the years, so I realize the importance of what you say.
Herbert M. Elkins
Libertarian Sensitivity I want to send my compliments on the quality of the articles that have been appearing in recent issues. I find two or three articles that I can use in the classroom in each issue.
Being a fairly recent student of libertarian thought, I find several areas in the libertarian tradition which seem to be deficient.…For example, I find the absence of the concept of preventive behavior in libertarian thought. Let me explain. A libertarian society's success is based at least partially upon high personal ethical standards. By ethical I mean it takes highly committed individuals who are sensitized to the needs for voluntary interaction based on rational, free choice. Now certain actions by individuals are obviously coercive or fraudulent and thus collectivized force can be used. Libertarian thought, however, appears to posit that such collectivized force can only be legitimately used after the wrongful act is committed; threat of such wrongful act is not considered enough to legitimize the use of collective force. Thus a libertarian society would appear to have built-in seeds of destruction, as individuals can initiate coercive acts much faster than legitimized collective force can react to them. Legitimized collective preventive behavior appears to be excluded. Should such acts be excluded?
In addition, it would appear that the survival of a libertarian society depends upon constant attention to imparting and supporting sensitized, rational behavior among individuals. Unfortunately, attacks on sensitization and rationality, unlike attacks on personal property, are not always immediately measurable; erosion occurs over a period of time, often in small increments which go unnoticed (witness Fabian Socialism). The cumulative effect of this erosion, however, is such that before the threat becomes common knowledge, the inertia created by the erosion cannot be easily reversed. A purely defensive use of legitimized collective coercion can be used when the danger was imminent. I believe that some of the so-called victimless crimes contribute to the erosion process of both sensitization and rationality. As an example, violence on TV and pornography have been shown by some studies to lead to desensitization in that other persons are seen not as human beings with dignity but rather as objects to be manipulated. If the majority of persons become desensitized, how can the principles of libertarianism be implemented?…
I would like to see a dialogue started on the role of preventive behavior, both individual and collective, in a libertarian society. If you are aware of any past discussions on these questions, I would appreciate references.
Douglas W. Schell
Criminal Law Reform The article on S 1437 [November] was excellent. NCARL (National Committee Against Repressive Legislation) will support the new House Bill 13959, which advocates the incremental approach to changes in federal criminal law. All libertarians should join NCARL in this positive push.
Happiness I would like to point out what I consider a point missed by Jim Stumm and Sid Greenberg [Letters, December] and an emphasis lacking in Paul Beaird's review [September] and Ayn Rand's work. Man's life qua man as the standard of ethics is uncontestable.
What else would you have? Ayn Rand is correct in noting that happiness can be the end but not the standard. Without a standard one has no means to gauge possible happiness. We have no infallible guide, which is her point and the whole purpose of ethics.
As I see it, what Jim Stumm and especially Sid Greenberg object to is the depersonalized and intellectually rigid and emotionally stultifying atmosphere of Objectivism communicated by the attitude and practices of its founder. I was outraged at the article in Life (or Look) entitled "The Angry Cult of Ayn Rand," but 8-10 years later I consider it a fairly accurate if somewhat emotionally drawn account.
"Man qua man" is subject to interpretation. I for one take it personally and indeed within the context of my life would deliberate on my possible future happiness and fulfillment in choosing something so important as a career. On the other hand, one can take "man qua man" as a frozen abstraction but this is then a psycho-epistemological and not a philosophical issue. Sid Greenberg and Jim Stumm would throw out the baby with the bath water.
Wm. T. Loggins
Which Parasites Can Go? Like Doris Gordon [Letters, December] I found Mr. Lorenz's abortion analogy [August] inapplicable. In refuting it, however, Ms. Gordon herself goes beyond logical bounds. A fetus conceived through rape is by definition not "biologically caused by his mother in part." Furthermore, I don't know any freedom-of-choice advocates who would seriously contend that a fetus does not exist. Obviously if it isn't dead it lives. For that matter, even a corpse exists—as a corpse. A fetus, however, lives as a parasite in the body of its host/mother. Society forbids killing a month-old infant because that infant has identity as a fait accompli; it is a separate entity, or it would be unable to live outside the mother.
The issue of personhood, whatever that is, is irrelevant. The non-aggression-without-cause principle holds for all living creatures with identity. Parasites don't have it. A concept of "potential" personhood begs a useless question: is a fetus human? The issue is life, not any particular type. Whether a fetus is plant, animal or human, it's still a parasitic organism. We may justly implement personal preference in an aggressive manner (read: destroy a fetus) against only that which at the time lacks identity. We may not, however, use one-sided force against that which lives apart from us and still call ourselves "libertarians." (The jury is still out on killing trees.) A fetus, however, has a "right to life" only when that life can be distinguished with reason from another life. Otherwise, one might apply the "right to life" approach to forbid all amputations, removal of tumors, etc. Until the point of viability outside the uterus, a fetus has no more "right to life" than a tumor and merits no more. And what is LFL's stand on cancer operations?
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".