Free Enterprise Psychology.

One of my regular reads is Dr Sanity. The doctor who lists her occupation as an M.D. (Psychiatry/Aerospace medicine) has very pro-liberty views, and is very strongly opposed to the antics of the socialist left. What follows is an interesting argument (one of the best I have seen in a long time) for capitalism. This is quoted in her most recent post, but was originally from another post, “KARL MET SIGMUND AND THE REST IS POSTMODERN HISTORY.”

 Capitalism allows the basic nature of man to creatively express itself by mastering the physical world. The instinctual energy Freud spoke of is directed away from the destructive pursuit of power over other people and sublimated toward acts of creation, which further both the individual’s life and all of civilization.

 The Marxist intellectuals’ big mistake was in not recognizing the difference between repression and suppression. And in not understanding the way psychological defense mechanisms work (particularly the healthy or ‘mature’ defense mechanisms such as sublimation, anticipation, humor, altruism and supression.)

 They correctly noticed that the instinctual energy of the proletariat was being harnessed both for the individual’s good as well as the society under capitalism; and yet were unable to appreciate the fact that unless you accept the reality of human nature and give it the freedom to transform all its most negative aspects into something positive for the individual and the culture/society (which is what the mature defenses do so creatively), then you end up crushing all human initiative, creativity, and productivity.

 Societies can either encourage the development of these healthy, mature psychological defenses with which to cope with reality; or they can encourage the development and expression of the worse aspects of human nature–i.e., those which result in violence, racism, criminality and all the other pathologies. Either way, social, political and economic systems can only encourage certain human traits that result in civilized behavior; or, they can encourage those that are barbaric and antisocial. Human nature is the same, though, no matter what type of society or political system it finds itself in.

 Simply put, totalitarian systems–whether from the left or the right (and that includes Marxism in any of its incarnations, whether religious or secular)– actively promote the most negative, primitive, and immature aspects of human nature. In fact, they give a societal/institutional blessing to such behavior; and thrive on the resulting projection, paranoia, distortion, and denial of reality.

21 thoughts on “Free Enterprise Psychology.

  1. This is objectivist theory.

    One thing those on the right haven’t done well enough is regularly remind people that left-wing ideals appeal to the base emotions of humanity and lefties define success as making everything equal with the lowest common denominator. Right-libertarian thinking appeals to the noble attributes of humanity and sees human quality of life as the yardstick of value.

    Taking it to it’s theoretical conclusion the individualist’s ultimate value is life and the collectivist’s ultimate value is death, embodied in organisations like the ‘Voluntary Human Extinction Movement’ and various facets of the Green movement such as those who believe it’s better to make people grow trees close to their houses even if the owners have to risk their lives in fire-prone areas.

  2. There is something missing in Objectivist theory.
    Many Aborigines hang on to tribal lores/laws because they did work in the past, and the tribe survived. Many people instinctively seek out families in times of trouble. Socialism is an attempt to extend these kin values to the large societies we find ourselves in. In Aboriginal Australia, the loner often died. The rugged individualist didn’t survive.
    Things are better for individuals now, but no man is really an island. It’s just that we have a broader range of people with whom we can interact and mingle, and thus more choices in whom we will socialise with.
    I wouldn’t say that the collective action of the Volunteer fire-fighters was for death, would you? Some groups are life-assisting, some are anti-life. Just be careful which one you join.

  3. Nick, the argument there is whether we are talking about a group of individuals who voluntarily come together to more effectively further their own ends or a collectivist tribal group in which the individual may be sacrificed for the ‘common good’.

    Their is no doubt the tribe was an important part of human evolution, but now that we can exist as beings of reason tribalism is hardly an enlightened state of being. Family is another interesting one – I would argue it is a great way to live: very rewarding and need fulfilling. But it’s not for everyone. Plenty of people prefer to live outside of family structures.

  4. And wasn’t there a contradiction in your argument in talking about collectivist compulsion, and using the VOLUNTARY human extinction movement as an example? Communist societies would be good examples, but not voluntary ones!

  5. That’s the same thing in that they’re both the logical conclusion of starting from the (false) left-wing premise of living for the ‘common good’. Both are based on the (false) idea that people’s lives don’t belong to them, and should be sacrificed for a higher ends not related to their own wellbeing.

  6. But we don’t live as beings of reason! Only computers are entirely rational, not having nerves, and therefore not having any ‘instinct’ for survival, or any emotions to get in the way.
    Birds released into New Zealand, whose ancestors haven’t seen snakes for centuries, are instinctively afraid of snakes, and snake-shapes are used to keep them off buildings.
    Humans are born with an instinct to attribute animism to the universe. Is this a survival instinct?
    We can use reason, but it is not the only component of our beings.

  7. Yes, Nick, but reason is our primary means of survival. If we don’t use it we will die. More importantly than simply dying, human happiness and prosperity increases with how much weighting is given to making decisions on a rational basis.

    Lets examine a hypothetical situation – you are about to make a decision, reason says if you take Course of Action ‘A’ you will be killed, but your gut instinct tells you it’s the way to go, your religious guru has told you his god(s) are protecting you, the love of your life has asked you to do it for her hand in marriage and your ancestors did it. So, Nick, reason or emotions?!

  8. Nicholas; We are essentially individuals, thinking our separate thoughts, believing what we think is right, and doing pretty much as we like. We do though tend to collectivize and form groups and on a larger scale, societies. In a free society this is a voluntary action, or we may be born into it although if the society you were born into doesn’t suit you then you can move into one that does, so its still voluntary. In such a voluntary grouping you tend to tone down or repress those instincts you may have which are unacceptable to the group.

    Capitalism or the free market works on the same principle, where we freely do that which benefits us as individuals, in relation to the needs of the society. In doing so you take into account the fact that if what you provide is not what society wants then you will suffer economic hardship, as nobody will use your service or product. This creates a corollary, where if that society has an unmet need someone will do well meeting it if he can figure out what that extra need is. The thing about it is that it is voluntary and self ordered, and in seeking to achieve individual benefit we are driven to benefit the whole group.

    In a command economy or society, the interactions are decided by central planning, that is that some elite somewhere decides what shall be fair for you to have, who will produce it and where, and what your contribution shall be in order to receive your share. This is against human nature and inefficient.

    If someone was capable of deciding all of those things as well as the free market does, he would be somewhere on the French Riviera, soaking his feet in a bucket of champagne and shagging himself stupid from the proceeds of the futures market, not working as a bureaucrat for a public service salary.

  9. Mark, instead of Hypotheticals, let’s get real.
    Many studies have shown that going to Church increases your life-span, and more life is a positive.
    But you are an objectivist, either an atheist or an agnostic- so what do you do? Do you listen to your objectivist friends, and have a shorter life, or do you go where the facts tell you to go to improve your life- the nearest church?
    Because studies HAVE shown that church attendance will add years to your life. The recent issue of Time Magazine for Feb 23, 2009, looks at faith, and its’ effects.

  10. Jim, let’s go to the French Riviera (though I would add Tahiti), and see if anyone matches your description, and get him to lead the LDP! We’d be rich, AND we’d soon be ruling the country! (Today, Australia; Tomorrow, the world; the day after that, look out , aliens!)

  11. Nick, I believe people who go to church probably have longer lives on average because they are on average less likely to smoke or drink excessively, speed or drive dangerously, do hard drugs, participate in reckless behaviour, commit dangerous crimes, work excessive hours etc etc etc. And they are on average more likely to wear their seatbelt, eat healthy foods, go to their doctor when they are sick, have the care and attention of a like-minded community when required and lead lives of moderation and reservation in a secure family environment.

    (Note: The thing is, if you forced people who didn’t like church into this environment, they’d probably die earlier through suicide!>

    Nick, seriously, I believe there may be other factors. I think having a deeper understanding of philosophical issues gives you peace of mind, as does having a value system to live by. And I believe the Christian value system isn’t a bad one to base your life on (That’s not to say there aren’t a bloody lot of screwed up people in the church, though. But that may be because they are attracted to the church as a solution to their problems, and some churchees have no problem in the initial stages promising these searcher types that the church will solve all their problems).

    I was a committed Christian from my high-school days, and only decided it was all bunk in my late 20s. Now, although I don’t believe in god, I still take my children to church, read them Bible stories and practice all the major ceremonies such as baptism and religious occasions. There are two reasons for this: I think the church is an important part of our Western heritage and Western value system, and has a role in the core of the society I want to be a part of. I want my children to have access to that society and to obtain the benefits of it. But the most important role of the church (and this is linked to the first reason) is that it provides a basis for philosophical consideration. As you have stated, people do have animistic tendencies, and the church is the means by which we consider those (and I still refer to this as the ‘spiritual’ side of humanity, even though I don’t believe in the supernatural). So I still see the church as relevant and my children will go up into it. And if your studies are correct at least I’m giving them the best chance of long life!

  12. I like the part that you have highlighted in bold Jim.
    As Michael points out, this line is quite similar to objectivist theory. ie: Due to nature of reality, man has the need for freedom as a fundamental principle – not a personal value.

    Objectivism holds that all knowledge is connected and can be integrated. In addition, contradictions are impossible, therefore a correct (or at least more optimal) political system such as capitalism should be consistent with knowledge from other perspectives – such as psychology.

    However from the little I know about Freud I think his psychoanalysis theories were lacking. Although perhaps his theories do (alarmingly) hold true for many people.

  13. But don’t you want a longer life for yourself, as well?

    Nick, I already have all the benefits that would be obtained by going to church. I have a value system that allows me to live life in a deliberate and thorough fashion, knowing how to make a good go at obtaining optimum benefit from each situation thereby maximising my happiness and prosperity. I have the peace of mind that comes from having a complete overarching understanding of the metaphysical and epistemological nature of the universe and the ethical underpinnings of the human condition. My understanding of these values allow me to build high-quality relationships that enrich my life and provide me with family and community (of people who would actually choose to spend my time with!). My use of reason with this peace of mind has allowed me to live as a productive individual, producing wealth for myself and (albeit indirectly) for others, satisfying my values and providing me fulfillment. I can go on but you get the point.

    And as good as your Christian value system is, mine is real!

  14. As a Christian, the fascinating thing is that the parts of Objectivism that work are taken from Christianity. Productivity and the work ethic seem like the Protestant work ethic under a new name. Trading for a living sounds like treating others as you want them to treat you (the golden rule). So your value system sounds a lot like mine!
    (I realise that some people think that Christianity advocates altruism, but Jesus, the founder of Christianity, always said to love your neighbour AS yourself, not better nor worse. And some acts of Charity are inspired, not by altruism, but by the hope of future reward- sounds a bit like a capitalist!)

  15. Objectivism says that it is based on objective reality, and will therefore lead to people leading longer lives. Therefore the average of a longer life is proof that you are dealing with reality in a good way, a way that works.
    If someone were to assert that his values were based on reality, but my Christian values gave me a longer life, I can make the following assertion, and base it on the objective evidence-
    “My Christian values are more real.”

  16. Thanks Tim. I thought this thread had died a natural death so I haven’t looked at it until I noticed Nicholas commenting on it.

    I tend to have something of a love/hate relationship with objectivism, I agree with the basics but when I read Rand, even when agreeing with her I find her as irritating as Philip Adams. I get the feeling she tends to talk down to her readers, although that might be my ‘working class’ twitchiness. I lived with a chick who was a Rand fan, – don’t ever do that.

    Pat Santy, the author has a libertarian background, and tends to use her psyc skills in commenting on the state of politics and current issues and it makes for fascinating reading at times. Her analysis of the left and their thinking basicly lead me to the conclusion JC mentioned above, – leftism/love of state is an illness reverting back to primitiveness.

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