Michael Savage, the popular talk-show host and Conservative flame thrower, is not alone in likening Liberalism to a full-blown human malady, a “mental disorder.” At least one respected authority on the human psyche, Dr. Lyle H. Rossiter, has concluded as much. His book, The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness, also associates Liberalism with a malfunctioning mind. However, as compelling as, the evidence he marshals in support of the claim may be, it will not close the case. Dr. Rossiter writes:
Like all other human beings, the modern liberal reveals his true character, including his madness, in what he values and devalues, in what he articulates with passion. Of special interest, however, are the many values about which the modern liberal mind is not passionate: his agenda does not insist that the individual is the ultimate economic, social and political unit; it does not idealize individual liberty and the structure of law and order essential to it; it does not defend the basic rights of property and contract; it does not aspire to ideals of authentic autonomy and mutuality; it does not preach an ethic of self-reliance and self-determination; it does not praise courage, forbearance or resilience; it does not celebrate the ethics of consent or the blessings of voluntary cooperation. It does not advocate moral rectitude or understand the critical role of morality in human relating. The liberal agenda does not comprehend an identity of competence, appreciate its importance, or analyze the developmental conditions and social institutions that promote its achievement.
There is nothing wrong with Rossiter’s enumeration of these Liberal failings. Herein lies not merely so many verifiable lapses of good judgment, but a compelling explanation for the recurring failure of Liberal/Progressive/Socialist societies to cope successfully with life’s complex challenges. And the Liberal never learns from past errors. He never acknowledges what invariably happens to societies that fall into the rusted-out pot at the end of his utopian rainbow. Which of these “noble experiments” has ever yielded freedom, opportunity, or prosperity? Those suffering so badly in Venezuela today can be added to the long line of victims victimized by Socialism’s “sunny” ambitions gone horribly awry. Spreading poverty and a progressive loss of liberty, that is the rotten fruit that comes with the Progressive’s baleful harvest.
But these ill-conceived notions of what is good for us and what isn’t are value judgments. Being personal moral choices, they belong more to the realm of ethics than psychiatry. These Liberal lapses are irredeemably harmful to the general welfare of societies and whole civilizations. But why do they constitute lapses in sanity, for that, is what a mental disorder is? We already have a strong hint. The very failure to acknowledge the sad saga of Socialist reform in times and places near and far already suggests an inactive brain steering the social activist’s “big” heart.
In a path-breaking 1969 book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Dr. Nathanial Branden put some meat on the brittle psychiatric bone. His self-described “Bio-centric” approach to human nature and personality disorders began with a simple observation: in every medical field, a particular bodily organ is judged healthy or otherwise by its capacity to perform the biological function for which it is designed. Once a physician knows the life-supporting role served by a heart or cardio-vascular system, a liver, lung or entire respiratory system, etc. a thorough medical exam will reveal whether all is well or further medical attention is indicated. So Branden naturally inquired: what life-supporting role has nature assigned to the human mind – or the consciousness of any species so possessed. Being an acolyte of the novelist/philosopher, Ayn Rand at that point, Branden was able to hitch her powerful team of philosophic horses to his own scientific wagon.
The mind, he concluded, actually performs three vital, life-preserving functions. Perception is the first great task it exercises. On the human level, those perceptions must be organized in clear and coherent conceptual terms and logically developed. As Sir Francis Bacon announced centuries earlier, knowledge contains the power to effectively cope with the many challenges nature imposes and so steadily improve the conditions of life on earth. Rigorous thought, rational, systematic organization of the material provided by the senses held the key to unlocking nature’s secrets and overcoming the obstacles she poses. Next, comes evaluation. The mind must be able to discern the actual benefit and harm the things of the world represent for individuals and societies. What, now and in the future, is good for me, my family, my country? What isn’t? Finally, there is the regulation of action. Knowing what is and isn’t good for one is of no value if one lacks the will power to resist contrary motivational tugs and temptations. The addict who knows he is killing himself but relentlessly continues drinking, doing hard drugs, video-gaming or dozing off in front of the TV all day and half the night misses the motivational mark. A healthy mind is cognitively and emotionally tuned into reality. That’s what it means to be rational. The rational is that which properly identifies reality for what it is. The first cause of irrational behavior consists of self-inflicted evasion – the willful refusal to see reality for what it is.
Psychology and ethics actually merge, since to act rationally, men must be honest. That means much more than refusing to lie to one’s parents or spouse. It is the determination to see the world as it is and not pretend that what is isn’t or that what isn’t is. To be rational is to perceive reality, critically evaluate the beneficial and harmful relationship this or that actually poses, and to live accordingly. How can one expect to deal effectively with the world one confronts if one is unwilling to even to become acquainted with it? In the end, nothing fruitful comes of the attempt to fake reality. That is the province of the irrational. It is as Thomas Jefferson famously said: “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free . . . it expects what never was and never will be.”
The irrational, the willful failure to see the world as it is, to evade that responsibility is symptomatic of a mal-functioning mind. That is the condition in which modern Liberalism is mired. The truest believers are generally the biggest fakers. So divorced from reality, so willing to evade the plain facts in front of them and the
vital lessons of history plainly posted behind them, America’s Liberal/Progressive zealots continually cross their own purposes and achieve exactly the opposite of what it is they say they wish to accomplish. The causes and crusades modern Liberalism take up invariably yield consequences as unwanted as they are unintended. With what result? Liberalism then calls for more of the same in ever-stronger doses. That Liberals refuse to learn from their mistakes only confirms the diagnosis of mental defect. But let’s get down to cases, or at least one interesting “tell.”
Nothing so captures the lunacy of the Left’s high-flying flight from reality or reveals the root cause of their common illness as the hysterical reaction President Trump’s policy initiatives have provoked. With near-maniacal frenzy, the “Resistance” denounces as cruel and heartless the social services Donald Trump’s recently-unveiled budget would cut in order to reduce burdensome taxes, spur economic growth and put the nation’s fiscal house in order. What will result from the effort to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare? To Liberals, pain, and suffering on an unprecedented scale. In hastily-organized press conferences and nightly television broadcasts, commentators cry brute cruelty and predict widening hardship. For them, it’s unconscionable to throw millions off of the recently expanded Medicaid rolls, leaving so many without adequate health coverage. Announced cuts in the federal food stamp program will callously deny food and nourishment to the least amongst us, especially America’s financially strapped children. “People are going to die,” we are assured.
One must appreciate the rich irony these dire predictions contain, not to mention the hopelessly distorted view of reality they mistake for absolute certainties. The Liberal mind reflexively concludes that if government does not provide essential services, even to able-bodied, working-age Americans, nothing and nobody else will. As for the irony, Liberals are often portrayed as starry-eyed idealists, socially-conscious optimists working for a better future for all. Actually, when it comes to judging human nature or men’s native capabilities, they are crass and confirmed cynics, deep-seated pessimists of the lowest order. Liberalism looks out at America and sees vast oceans of helpless individuals dependent on government for their daily bread and life-long sustenance. If government is not caring for the needs of the people those needs will not be met. In the absence of social services untold numbers will suffer privation, lose all hope and perish from the earth.
Liberalism sees something that doesn’t exist. Yes, in any generation there will be individuals who cannot make it on their own. But that forms a tiny segment of the population. And the whole record of American philanthropy says an abundance of Godly goodwill will be there to answer compassion’s call. Americans, the freest and most prosperous became the most generous and caring people who’ve ever peopled the planet. Liberals are blind to the reality of things. Americans do not define themselves as helpless or hard pressed, by nature. From the country’s beginnings, all an American ever asked for, even the poorest of immigrants newly arrived on these shores, was, as Jefferson put it, “a guarantee of the free exercise of industry and possession of the fruits acquired by it” Until recently, Americans never thought that things are hopeless or that they are helpless. America used to be and can once more become a bright, shiny “can-do” country.
Now, it’s true that success requires an abundance of opportunity, i.e., a thriving economy and robust job market. It is the lack of such that prompts the expansion of social programs and services (especially in times of depression and widening hardship). But that opportunity is precisely what Liberalism demolishes. Ever-rising taxes necessary to finance the cost of a cash-strapped WELFARE STATE and the ever-more-burdensome cost of complying with the avalanche of regulations pouring out of the ADMINISTRATIVE STATE steadily deplete the pools of capital and motive fuel that drive men’s productive efforts. Willfully evading the irrepressible impact of (1) runaway public spending, (2) crushing combined federal/state/local tax rates, (3) chronic budget deficits and (4) mounting public debt (now rounding out at $20 trillion) on local and national economies, Liberalism destroys the chance to find gainful employment, to grow prosperous and comfortable, and experience the satisfaction that comes from advancing in life on one’s own. Someone once said: “You cannot help a man permanently by doing for him what he could and should do for himself.”
Liberalism’s willful war on reality manifests itself in myriad ways, always with calamitous results. In Part Two we shall take up some additional self-defeating policy positions Liberals continue to advocate, including: (1) the demand for a “living wage” with specific minimum wage targets, (2) the failed, multi-trillion-dollar effort to stamp out poverty in America, (3) the predilection to see not so many individuals struggling to make their way in the world, but groups in perpetual conflict, torn apart by unremitting oppression and exploitation (witness the cries of “white privilege,” Implicit” racism, “hands up, don’t shoot,” LGBT Rights, micro-aggressions and now comes cultural “appropriation”), and (4) giving the Establishment the gift of ever-more government power to do what greedy “capitalists do, influence public power to advance their own private interests. Liberalism unwittingly advances the very cronyism and corruption it deplores, and its own predisposition to view capitalists as greedy and corrupt should have been enough to end the exercise.