Mental Health: What’s Freedom Got to Do With It?

Q: I noticed that the Daily Dose of Reason seems to be a mix of psychology and political commentary, as opposed to your Life’s a Beach column. I was wondering if there was a particular reason you do this as opposed to having it all about psychology?

A: The clue to answering your question lies in the title, “The Daily Dose of Reason.” “Reason” is a term from philosophy, not psychology. I comment on politics and culture in the Daily Dose of Reason column as a byproduct of my interest in philosophy (of which politics is a subdiscipline). Reason and freedom matter to mental health. An individual cannot be happy and healthy unless residing in a free society, which is why I comment on politics; and there will not be a free society (or happy individuals, either) without a rational philosophy to nurture and foster them. There are not enough people commenting on the decline of freedom, individual rights and capitalism in our society, at least not in a principled way. I’m practicing what I advise others when I tell them to spread and share their ideas, as opposed to watching helplessly and hopelessly from the sidelines, being depressed and angry.

It’s interesting that when a mental health professional comments from “the left,” he or she is applauded and it’s taken as a natural extension of his profession; but when a psychotherapist comments from the “right” or the “non-left” it raises questions, and often even hostility. (The same is true of actors, artists, and those in other professions who are expected to hold views that are considered “nice and humanitarian,” which most people erroneously associate with the ideology of brute force, mediocrity and suffering, known as welfare-state socialism). I will also note that America’s founding fathers were primarily scientists, philosophers and members of other professions, who entered the realm of ideas and politics because they knew how important ideas and freedom were to the preservation of all they held valuable. That was the era of the Enlightenment and these were the “Renaissance men” who contrast sharply with today’s age of artificial specialization where everyone must stick narrowly to one interest and pretend that this interest has nothing whatsoever to do with anything else. Both my column and the Daily Dose of Reason are popular (we get tens of thousands of hits daily), although the Daily Dose has been online for 13 years, is more popular and has more readers than the column. The column is growing, however. To those of you who are telling your friends and contributing to the ever-growing increase in our website visitors, by word of mouth — you have my sincere and lasting thanks.