09 August 2019

psychiatry, Christianity, Marxism — unholy trinity?

A review* of a book by Cass Sunstein (populariser of the Nudge idea) serves to remind us of the Left's suspicion of individual volition, and its liking of the notion that people can be compelled to realise their 'true' desires.

Commenting on Sunstein's idea that the government can help you achieve your goals, law professor Samuel Moyn accuses Sunstein of having a simplistic view of individual preferences.

For a long time, Western philosophy has rejected a blind trust in human desire. The Christian tradition asserts that sinful inclination lurks most where people claim to be making free choices, and many modern social theorists — notably, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud — have insisted that people's conscious desires can be ascribed to ideology and rationalization. [...]

The main problem in today's society is not, as Sunstein maintains, that the state tends to transgress its bounds and overregulate; instead, it is that in the state's absence, private coercion often holds sway, allowing powerful forces like the "free market" and structural injustice to reduce humankind to servitude [...]

Note the idea — implied but not stated — that a vanguard of community representatives (elected? unelected?) could, and would, help an individual to achieve what he really wants, rather than using their power to (say) move him even further away from his goals.

Curiously, scepticism about motives, here applied to private individuals, is rarely applied to agents of the collective. They are somehow endowed with a greater degree of rationality, greater ability to avoid being manipulated, etc; as well as being unusually benevolent or altruistic.

* via Arts & Letters Daily