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New categories of mental illness

I recently came across an article at the Cato Institute entitled Is Libertarianism A Sign Of Mental Illness? It discusses a conference at Harvard to study the "free market mindset". The article suggests that the conference is based on the assumption that adherence to free market principles is some kind of mental disorder.

The examples he cited looked like there were a lot of the papers given at the conference did indeed contain some screwy idea. I considered the possibility that the author was cherry-picking and went to the conference website to look at some of the particulars. I found one real gem that was not discussed in the Cato article.

One of the papers is on something called "Regulation Reactance". According to the author of the paper "Some decades ago, social psychologists identified a related tendency they named “reactance”: the negative response to threats to, or constraints on, perceived freedoms". This reminds me of something  the Harvard Lampoon did years ago. They put out a parody of People magazine, and one of the headlines on the cover was   "Scientists Reveal Why People Fear Murderers".  Now social psychologists explain why people fear threats to their freedom. Except this time it's not a joke.

I found this a few weeks after the Wall Street Journal ran a story called Face It: You're Addicted to Success. The article states "Like a drug, professional success can induce a feeling of ecstasy that quickly feels essential. Recapturing that feeling can require greater and greater feats, a phenomenon that -- more than simple greed -- explains the drive for ever-larger bonuses and conquests". This passage makes the desire to achieve and to build wealth sound a lot like cocaine addiction, and the rest of the article is not much better.

We are living in a time when a desire for freedom is considered a mental illness and a desire to better yourself is considered an addiction. This is scary.


To be fair, people can get themselves screwed up chasing after success too hard.

To be doubly fair, the definition of "success" can be anything - to get money, to get promoted, to lose weight, to read loads of books, to create that perfect artwork.

Also, in reply to those people at Harvard who did that study, I'm pretty sure running to The Authorities as a response to every problem in the world isn't exactly healthy either. I know that's not an argument, but I feel like saying it...well, not to them. :)

Edited at 2009-03-01 06:58 am (UTC)