Bryan Caplan  

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Comparative Phooling... The Deaton Paradox...

COMMENTS (14 to date)
Adam Casey writes:

How much do you still endorse the paper Scott criticizes?

Colombo writes:

A personal testimony.

I used to believe I had a mental illness. Then I read Szasz, and I stopped believing that. Before Szasz, I thought that I couldn't control myself, and that I shouldn't even try. I think I was led to believe this by psychiatrists and my family over many years. Today, I'm better, thanks to Thomas Szasz's realistic analysis.

In his books I read things that my father should have told me, but couldn't. Things that my psychiatrist and my psychologist ought to have explained, but didn't. Things I would liked have to find or hear in the media, but never read or listened. A collective failure.

I think I've been ripped off for many years. There was a fundamental incoherence in the psychiatric drugs and the psychotherapy, where I was told that I had to take care of myself, but to keep going and taking the medication.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps Szasz was wrong about everything he wrote. My former psychiatrist is angry at me and I don't know why, since I am better. Perhaps there is an economic explanation for this?

I don't try to convince other people that Szasz was right. It is possible that some of those who believe the orthodoxy is right will be better off if they stand firm on that faith. Who am I to disturb them? On the other hand, most people never heard about Szasz, and probably never will. How can they make a well informed choice?

Is learning the truth better than living right, or do we need the truth in order to live right?

In my personal experience, people (professionals or not) generally lack compassion in this topic. I used to lack compassion too, but that is probably because I've been on psychiatric drugs for many years. Or maybe not. What excuse can give people who have never taken psychiatric drugs for their misbehavior? To be clear, not feeling compassion is not a bad thing, but abusing other people is. Compassion prevents abuse. And compassion, like patience, memory or self-control has to be learned and practiced in many real life scenarios. For example,

Perhaps some people who read my testimony feel the urge to correct me and send me back to drugs and psychiatrists. I can see that they would feel better with themselves afterwards. To such people I would recommend to try the drugs for themselves, and to read what Thomas Szasz wrote. If they don't want to try the drugs, at least they should read the durg studies on safety and efficacy, and analize objectively the risks and benefits.

I don't care about science or truth. To me, science is mostly a very convoluted scam. I only care for results. I've tried many things, and realism seems to work for me. I apologize if my words hurt the feelings of some people.

Thanks for reading.

entirelyuseless writes:

I commented at Scott's blog that I don't really think he disagrees much on the facts but mostly about how to describe things. Still, I would be interested in reading a response if you ever write one.

Greg G writes:


I'm glad you are doing so much better after reading Szasz and I agree that you should continue doing what works for you. And we should be happy that it is working for you.

I also agree that it is results that matter most. One big reason that most people do care about science is that it has led to most of the medical treatments that DO work.

Sadly psychiatry has yielded disappointing results so far, especially when compared to the great advances in other medical specialties. Despite a history that includes some outright scams and a lot of bad ideas, I think that the main problems in the field simply come from the fact that they are investigating a really hard problem to solve.

The brain is the most complex and important organ and it is probably the one we understand the least. It does not follow from the idea that a pragmatic approach is best, that it is pragmatic to stop caring about science. Maybe it is true, as Rorty insisted, that the concept of truth really doesn't add anything in the search for results.

Brian writes:


Nice article in Time. Just one quibble. You say

"According to economists’ standard estimates, letting anyone take a job anywhere would roughly double global production – a bigger gain than any other economic reform known to man."

The gain from completely open job borders might double global production, but it would be a one-time gain (attained over whatever time frame it takes to realistically accomplish open borders). The economic reform of moving to free-market capitalism has provided far larger gains over time than a mere doubling. Though by no means trivial, the gains through open borders are relatively minor compared with any economic reform that leads to sustained growth (versus a one-time gain).

Mr. Econotarian writes:

"The gain from completely open job borders might double global production, but it would be a one-time gain"

The question is whether "open borders" would enhance the global trend towards higher levels of economic freedom (the average chain-linked Economic Freedom of the Word index has increased from 5.31 in 1980 to 5.77 in 1990 before jumping to 6.74 in 2000 and finally to 6.86 in 2013).

Two things could happen:

1) Those who tend to prefer economic freedom will move to more economically free countries, leaving their country with just people who do not prefer economic freedom, slowing down the pace of reform.

2) Enhanced migration (which could involve foreign nationals moving back and forth between their less economically free countries and more economically free countries) would strengthen the awareness of benefits of higher levels of economic freedom globally, speeding up the pace of reform.

We have certainly seen a big difference between "Nixon going to China" and the effect of trade with China versus the Cuban embargo. Whether this applies to immigration as well as trade is an interesting question.

Sieben writes:

[Comment removed. Please consult our comment policies and check your email for explanation.--Econlib Ed.]

Colombo writes:

When humans find something that looks true, they sanctify it. Sanctification means that its evolution is stalled. No change is allowed in something holy. This is the curse of success.More success means that correction is more difficult.

I think the world right now need less respect and less love for science, in order to leave her room for improvement.

Matt Skene writes:

Every other major bodily organ suffers dysfunctions that cause it to over- or under-produce various things. When this happens, it is properly labeled as a disorder or illness, and is treated by medicine when possible. Why in the world would the brain be any different? And since all sorts of disorders make life more difficult, make it harder to focus or make good decisions, make it in any number of ways more difficult to carry out our plans or accomplish our goals, how could disorders of the most central organ to the production of behavior not similarly negatively affect our lives? Your defense of Szasz on psychology seems to create a bizarre exception to normal facts about health and biology.

Colombo writes:

@Matt Skene

The mind is not the brain.

Szasz said: "Mind is a verb, not a noun".

Matt Skene writes:

I didn't say it was. I said that parts of the body sometimes fail to function properly, and when they do, this affects how we think and our ability to effectively run our lives. Even dualists have to acknowledge that our ability to think and reason is affected by changes to the brain and the body (otherwise everyone who has every used drugs or alcohol is quite the actor and quite the liar). Brains serve a number of vital functions, and if they aren't working right, then this will result in psychological effects, such as those described as mental illnesses. Thinking otherwise requires you to either ignore the obviously close connection between what happens in the brain and what happens in the mind or else to assume that brains aren't subject to the same types of disorders as everything else in the body is. Neither is at all plausible, no matter what one's view on the mind is.

As an aside, Szasz is simply wrong about the word "mind" in the sense it's being used here being a verb. The word just isn't used in the way that verbs are used in English.

Colombo writes:

How do you know what happens in other people's minds?

Does the mind cause chemical changes in the brain or in other parts of the body?

The "mind is a verb" is a koan, meant to illustrate the point that conscious beings act. A cadaver does not act, or think, or complain of any psychological problem. Yet, their brains experiment chemical changes, like rotting.

Please, think, imagine or visualie this: five thousand fluorescent elephants of the size of an ant, all carrying signs protesting that taxes are too low. This does not exist in reality. I have "created" them in my mind, and now you have "recreated" them in your mind. What physical or chemical changes have ocurred in my brain and in your brain *before* this imagination happened? If there was any change, did it happend *after* the imagination?

If every mental event is caused by chemical reactions, then there would not be such things as free will, creativity, personal responsibility, or good and bad. This could be called "chemical nihilism".

Matt Skene writes:

I don't see how any of this is relevant to what I said. I said brains can suffer disorders, and mental states can be affected by what happens in the brain. I'm still not sure which of these claims you're wanting to reject. Their combination seems to entail the possibility that brain disorders cause mental problems, especially given the relevance of the brain to what happens in the mind. Since drugs have been proven to bring about changes in how people think and act by fixing issues with how the brain operates, I can't see how anyone with even a basic familiarity with the facts can justify the claim that psychiatry doesn't sometimes help to fix mental problems. Dualists need to find a reasonable way to accommodate this fact, not pretend it isn't one.

Greg G writes:


The problem with using koans, rather than logic, in these discussions is that quickly leads to people talking past each other.

Despite the many limitations of psychiatry, there are many more people who believe they have gotten good results from it than there are who believe they have gotten good results from reading Szasz.

The fact that we can't explain which physical and chemical changes in the brain cause which mental events does not disprove such causation, it just leaves it inadequately explained. I doubt you could explain the exact mechanics of consciousness or soul either.

If the world really is deterministic it does mean many people are wrong about some aspects in the common understanding of some of the terms you listed, but it wouldn't actually change the world one bit. The fact that we might find more meaning in one world view than another might be enough to justify holding that world view but it does nothing to make it more likely that world view is objectively true.

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