In Response to Bettina Bien Greaves

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I would like thank Bettina Greaves for her comment on my essay “Mises and Psychiatry” (March). I share her admiration and respect for Mises and his work, shown by many laudatory references to his writings in y books.

For example, in Our Right to Drugs: The Case for a Free Market (Praeger, 1992, p. 159), I approvingly cite Mises’ statement: “Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous, habit-forming drugs. . . . The mischief done by bad ideologies, surely, is much more pernicious, both for the individual and for the whole society, than that done by narcotic drugs” (Human Action, pp. 728-29). And in Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America (Praeger,2001, p. 65), I cite Mises’writ- ing: “[Social insurance] has thus made the neurosis of the insured a dangerous public disease…. We cannot weaken or destroy the will to health without producing illness” (Socialism, p. 432).

These and many other acknowledgments of Mises’ genius ought to suffice to show that my essay, “Mises and Psychiatry,” was not intended to be, and ought not to be interpreted as, an “attack” on Mises. Mises was human and hence not perfect. As Greaves cogently notes, no one can know everything and even the wisest and most decent men can utter ill-advised opinions. Having said that, let me re-emphasize the crux of my argument regarding psychiatry.

My Objections to Psychiatry: Behavior Is Not Disease, Coercion Is Not Cure

1. Behavior is not disease. Greaves writes: “Breuer discovered that a girl was paralyzed because of psychic conditions. Medical doctors had not been able to discover the cause. This was 15 years before Freud’s fame.”

This girl was not· paralyzed. She pretended to be paralyzed.

Real paralysis cannot be cured by an exchange of words between doctor and patient, even if that exchange is given scientific-sounding names such as “hypnosis,” “catharsis,” and ” psychoanalysis.”

2. I distinguish, and urge libertarians to distinguish, between voluntary and involuntary psychiatric interventions. Breuer and Freud were physicians in private practice. Neither was a psychiatrist. Neither had, or could have had, involuntary patients; such persons were locked up in insane asylums, whose directors were state employees. (This is why most psychoanalysts in Austria-Hungary were Jews, but no state mental hospital director was a Jew.)

As a libertarian, I have no more reason to oppose psychiatric relations between consenting adults than I have to oppose religious relations between consenting adults. By the same token, I oppose – and believe all libertarians ought to oppose – psychiatrists’ using the power of the state to impose their”treatment” on involuntary”patients,” just as I oppose clergymen’s using the power of the state to impose their creed on atheists or heretics.

The problem is not that psychiatry is subject to abuse. The problem is that, today, psychiatry is synonymous with actual or·potential coercion. Hence, it ought to be called “psychiatric slavery.” I maintain that, like chattel slavery, psychiatric slavery is an abuse of human rights, as the following vignette illustrates.

In November 2001, New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, “concerned about how his 55,000-member force was·holding up, announced mandatory mental-health counseling for every member of the New York City Police Department (NYPD).” The result:

Ira Warheit, a Manhattan periodontist, can attest to the abuses that can occur when overzealous psychiatrists want to “help.” Warheit spent three days volunteering at ground zero wherever he was needed – giving medical advice, passing out food and working on the bucket brigade. While taking a rest break at one of the staging centers around ground zero, he was confronted by a psychiatrist, Antonio Abad. They began talking, but within minutes the psychiatrist excused himself. He returned with a NYPD officer to have Warheit removed to  Bellevue Hospital. “I tried to explain,” Warheit says, “that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was a doctor volunteering, but the cop physically restrained me and I was transported to the psychiatric hospital.” Once at Bellevue, Warheit continues, “a female doctor comes up to me and says she has some questions. I told her I’d be happy to answer her questions, but I wasn’t going into the hospital. So she calls over two goons and they forcibly put me in restraints and shoot me full of Haldol.” … According to Stuart Shaw, Warheit’s attorney, “A claim has been filed for Ira for false arrest and false imprisonment. . . . What I’m afraid of is that Ira’s case is just the tip of the iceberg…. I’ve handled a lot of commitments but none of the stature of Ira.” … Ayal Lindeman, a volunteer emergency medical technician from Rockland County, N.Y., already had witnessed the seizure of another volunteer at ground zero when he met Warheit and learned his story. Lindeman tells Insight, “There’s this doctor who was being told that he’s going

to the hospital, and he’s saying ‘I don’t want to go,’ and this psychiatrist gets the cops and they handcuff the poor guy and off he goes to Bellevue. This is a doctor who has been volunteering at ground zero – and this psychiatrist, Abad, is having him committed and pumped full of Haldol.'”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.