We tend to think of ‘Statism’ and, what passes for ‘Socialism’, as modern political attitudes. These allegedly political attitudes are, however, neither modern nor principally political. Modern ‘liberal’ dogma is no more than the latest manifestation of a certain type of human psychology.
Evolution has equipped human beings, particularly men, with the urge to control the actions of others and to control the environment around them, which is why mankind has advanced so successfully in material terms. In some individuals, this controlling psychology becomes so extreme that we see it as a mental illness: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is a relevant example.
It is perfectly reasonable to argue that nearly all politicians, to a greater or lesser degree, exhibit OCPD characteristics. But, in the modern world, do ‘liberals’ exhibit them more intensely than others? There is a strong case for arguing that they do.
According to psychologists, OCPD is characterised by: ‘Preoccupation with details, orderliness and rules’, ‘Extreme perfectionism, resulting in dysfunction and distress when perfection is not achieved’, ‘Desire to be in control of people, tasks and situations’, ‘Inability to delegate tasks’ ‘Psychological rigidity and stubbornness’, and ,’Inflexibility about morality, ethics or values’.
Does all this sound familiar?
OCPD characteristics are the foundation for secular authoritarian regimes, most notably Socialist ones. But modern liberals also invariably wish to control every aspect of society and to micromanage the day-to-day behaviour of individuals. The few freedoms they claim they wish to advance or leave in place, are invariably the freedoms that they value for themselves personally.
Liberals convince themselves that they are doing all this for our own good. That, however, is the same self-delusion which most dictators construct for themselves in their own minds, and also that of those religious men who seek to make windows into men’s souls. It is the psychology of control, and not charity or political theory, which is really behind it all. Socialism, containing as it does the necessary, superficially attractive justification for authoritarianism, is merely a nice doctrine to latch on to.
In fact, the reason which many Socialists give for not contributing to charities themselves is that ‘it’s the State’s job to look after us’. When, occasionally, they do become involved in what they call ‘charity’, all it usually amounts to a succession of promotional stunts to advance their own controlling, Socialist agenda, and their own public profile. For example just about the most inefficient, demeaning, (but most importantly controlling), way of helping people who, owing to a short term misfortune, have no money to buy food, is to collect food to them and distribute it, via a Food Bank.
There is something to be said for distributing the surplus food which manufacturers donate, and would otherwise throw away, but there is no sense whatsoever in someone buying food and handing it over to a Food Bank to be distributed. The Food Bank has to store the food in a warehouse, maintain stock control, and package it into suitable boxes to be delivered to the grateful recipients. The costs, including the vast amounts of volunteer time involved, are wholly disproportionate to what is delivered. Some Food Banks even get grants from the local council!
What is wrong with cutting out all this admin and simply giving someone who is penniless the money to go and buy something from a Supermarket? The recipient can then buy what is on special offer, focus on what he needs, and get far more from spending the few pounds available than the Food Bank possibly can. Raise this question with the operators of any Food Bank, and they will answer, “There’s no guarantee that the person will spend the money wisely.” Yet simultaneously they will insist that the reason the person requires the free food in the first place is because of ‘austerity’, and benefit cuts etc. The two positions are incompatible. If a penniless, supposedly hungry, person cannot be relied upon to spend a small gift of money on food, then it is near certain that the reason he cannot buy any in the first place is because he has spent his money on something the Food Bank disapproves of.
Distributing boxes of food, however, is better publicity than giving the recipient some money to buy what he wants. It allows the operators of the Food Bank to appear in the papers and on television, to advance their own personal political agendas, and, to maintain the all-important sense of control over the recipient of the food. Promoting and maintaining dependency is a reliable way of exerting control, or at least maintaining the satisfying illusion that your decisions on someone else’s behalf have made their life better. The possibility that the recipient of the food might, knowing that he will get free food, be spending his money on something else, or even selling his box of food to someone, and then buying bottles of cider, doesn’t occur to them.
One of the characteristics of a ‘controlling personality’ is possession of an arrogant confidence that you know everything. The Food Bank operator always assumes that he can judge the merits of anyone who comes for food. The possibility that the person concerned might be cleverer than he is not considered.
Apparently, nurses are now being ‘forced’ to rely on Food Banks. Leaving aside the question of why a member of a profession which earns a minimum salary of £23,000 a year, and where overtime is readily available, is ‘forced’ to rely on a Food Bank, whereas 2 million pensioners who live on only the minimum state pension of less than £8,500 a year never do, why does the nurse require the Food Bank to choose what food to give him or her? From the perspective of the Food Bank operators none of this matters. By handing out food, they get what they want, both in terms of psychological contentment, and personal publicity.
The food, however, has cost anything up to ten times as much (and sometimes more), to supply, and left the individuals who were really desperate for it humiliated. Giving them a small amount of money, however, does at least allow them to maintain some sense of independence.
The Good Samaritan took his injured man to an Inn, gave the Inn Keeper money to provide for his requirements, and told him that if it cost more he would pay him when he came back. The Samaritan didn’t try to micromanage what food the injured man would be allowed or start a political campaign in support of a State-run monopoly to assist victims of muggings. The Samaritan’s gift was for the purpose of empowering the victim rather than to enslave him or make him political propaganda-fodder.
The volunteers who devote long hours to Food Banks would do far more good by getting a job at Minimum Wage for a few hours a week and donating the money to the Food Bank clients. That, however, does not involve control over others and neither is it rewarded by such nice photos in the local paper. But such is ‘Socialism’ and modern ‘liberal’ thought.
This mentality extends far beyond merely controlling other people. The controlling obsession moves those who suffer from it to seek to control the fate of all living species, the weather, and even in, due course, the fate of the Universe.
The climate and composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, has, for example, been changing ever since the planet was formed 4.5 Billion years ago. But today’s liberals assume that its present exact composition is the ideal. According to liberals, if the temperature threatens to go up a few degrees, then this is a potential disaster. Presumably, they feel the same about it falling, in which case they are in for a shock when the next Ice Age starts. No doubt then they’ll insist we all have to apply artificial means to stop it dropping.
Similarly, all species are to be preserved.
Whether any of this amounts to a liberal mental health condition, is a moot point. Being of a charitable disposition myself, I would say, that for the most part, it does not. But OCPD is nevertheless a potentially dangerous psychological characteristic…
By Ronald Olden
Source: The Ludwig von Mises Centre