Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Appeal to My Fellow Idealists on the Left

Dr. Peter Breggin M.D.

Whether you agree or disagree with Dr. Breggin, he does present interesting ideas and opens up much needed debates.

To listen to an audio recording of this essay:

An Appeal to My Fellow Idealists on the Left
By Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
Monday, June 22, 2009

Bailouts and government takeovers! Limiting executive pay! Strengthening government oversight of business! Universal health care! Raising taxes on the rich! Fighting pollution!

Progressives can rejoice. But flush with victory as you are, please reflect with me on some of the consequences. Starting as a young reformer decades ago, I have fought against racism, the abuse of women and children, and especially oppressive practices within my profession of psychiatry. I took on, and continue to take on, nasty adversaries: federal agencies like the FDA and NIMH, the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical industry. Over a lifetime, I have opposed forces that many feared, and some hoped, would crush me.

As a younger man, I felt free to pursue these ideals while taking for granted that the America I knew would endure. It was as if I lived on a giant ocean liner, preoccupied with improving equality and justice among the crew and passengers, without wondering what kept the ship afloat. But in case you haven’t noticed, our ship is beginning to flounder under the weight of too much debt while it heads into a sea of fiscal and regulatory icebergs. Progressives could end up playing their band with idealistic fervor as the deck disappears beneath all of our feet.

In my youth, I was sure that the world would be a much better place if only we could elect leaders who were, to put it bluntly, more like me. Although I’m still an idealist and a reformer, I no longer have faith that a team of well meaning likeminded people can take over the country and transform it for the better.
I have since learned that Founders of this nation greatly feared leaders with good intentions. They knew the danger of bending the rules to fit our personal ideals. They knew the threat to freedom from charismatic leaders. They repeatedly declared that the success of our government would ultimately depend on a high level of personal responsibility and devotion to liberty among its citizens.
Progressive and liberals, if you want to give yourselves a fright, consider this. At some point—and this is guaranteed—leaders who oppose you will take over this giant government apparatus that you are manufacturing for your own ends. In the hands of your enemies, the government apparatus that you built will turn on you to crush your freedom and your ideals.

Do not imagine that the Founders were less well-intentioned or idealistic than you are. The Founders were extraordinarily principled people—idealists who risked everything they had for the sake of freedom. Not a single signer of the Declaration of Independence made money off the War of Independence, and many lost their homes, their fortunes, and even their lives. Probably no other group of individuals in history was so idealistically motivated as well as so successful in promoting human freedom.

Their goal was to give individuals the freedom to take responsibility for themselves. But they were not indifferent to the needs of people. Ben Franklin, for example, lead the creation of many institutions that continue to serve our citizens, from the U. S. Postal Service to the first ever local fire department, from a great university to community hospitals and libraries. Ben never patented his inventions. Instead he freely gave humanity inventions like the lightning rod and Franklin stove. Other Founders initiated reforms in the penal code and prison system, and even in mental hospital care. But their over-riding goal was the creation of a free space in which people could pursue their own lives, for better or for worse.

Returning to myself as a younger reformer who had faith in leaders with good intentions like my own—I had no idea that the Founders had looked carefully into this aspect of human nature and found it menacing. They created checks and balances to prevent well-intentioned idealists from using the government to impose our ideals on other people. They built a limited government, constrained by checks and balances—a government that would forever protect each person’s right to pursue life, liberty, property, and happiness.

The checks and balances that restrain government are being battered like the levies of New Orleans. The executive branch tries to flood the economy with money while it controls the activity of business. Innumerable Czars are answerable only to their maker—who is Barak Obama. Empathic judges make policy instead of applying the law. The levies are about to fail, and this time they will wipe out America.

Progressives, my fellow idealists, please reconsider this frantic bulldozing of the checks and balances. You are undermining the freedoms that have enabled us to voice our differing opinions.
That brings us to what I call The Primary Principles—the refrain of my weekly report:

Protect freedom

Take responsibility at all times

Express gratitude for all your gifts and opportunities

Become a source of love


  1. Breggin is a crank and has been labeled so by many. He's an anti-psychiatry nut and upon review of his "science", a federal judge openly called him a crank in the middle of the courtroom. His work on iatric effects of medication is akin to late night talk shows pushing colon-cleansing as a cure for cancer. Other than his questionable science, the remainder of his views are ripped off directly from Thomas Szaz; so much so that outside of his science (if you can call it that), there is little reason to look at his work at all.

  2. 1. The validity or invalidity of his psychiatric positions does not effect the validity or invalidity of his political and social commentary.

    Henry Ford's brilliance in industrial endeavors is not diminished by his backwards anti-semitism. Pablo Neruda's brilliance as a poet should not be downplayed because of his political and economic idiocy.

    2. And in regards to his political and social commentary I would encourage you to take the points that you feel are valid and disregard that which you don't agree with.

    3. Reading over Breggin's history in psychiatry I see a mixed bag of genuine accomplishments (such as his efforts to eliminate lobotomies), overstatements of truths (like the tendency of some psychiatrists to be too quick to turn to medicine) and some points I completely disagree with.

  3. As his political positions are entirely ripped off from Thomas Szasz, there is really very little reason to pay him any mind at all. And the fraudulent nature by which he's conducted "research" and mis-cited sources is so egregious that if you want to score any kind of political credibility, you should steer clear of such chicanery. Szasz does a better, more thorough job in both political writing and valid criticism, mostly without the gibberish that is most certainly picked up from a general talking points style of writing.

    It's simply a matter of where you spend your time. Since his psychiatric work is either fraudulent or specious and his political writings are lifted mainly from Szasz, why waste time with him? I'm sure that guy that shot those two agents in DC had some coherent things to say about government involvement in the economy, but I wouldn't want the soiled nature of the rest of his person to bring down the message.