Sunday, March 2, 2014

Finding What You are Looking For

NOTE: I am reproducing several articles from my old blog. The first, "The Best Argument Against the FairTax", should have been included among the other essays I reposted recently, but was not. The second, "The Problem of Pornography", is one I found while searching for the FairTax article, and as it seemed interesting, I decided to reproduce it here. "I  Knew I Was On To Something" is cited in the second essay, and is one of my favorite essays about a topic which troubles me greatly. In fact, I am surprised I did not reproduce it earlier. (The same quote it discusses is the subject of my "Stupid Quote of the Day" series on December 30, 2012. Since I plan to reproduce that whole series sometime this week, I am not copying that essay tonight.) "The Politics of Psychiatry" mentions the Potter Stewart quote examined in "The Problem of Pornography" (and is amusingly controversial to boot), and "Finding What You Are Looking For" is cited in that essay. "False Precision" provides a good analogy, showing the futility of "scientific management" of economics, a topic examined again in "The Perfect Model". "Be Careful When 'Sticking It' to 'Big Business'", though burdened with a horrifying number of needless scare quotes (thankfully, something I have given up in recent years), is an interesting predecessor to the argument I made best in "In Praise of Contracts". "Kelo, Home Schooling and Drug Laws - Inconsistent Theories of "Social Costs"" is an interesting examination of the harm done by pragmatic solutions, often proposed by moderates and even conservatives. "Trial by Parenthood" consists of my reflections on how having children divides us into two groups. "An Interesting Contrast" meanders here and there, covering everything from the definition of hypocrisy to the benefits of search engines, yet, somehow, it manages to amuse me. "Why Term limits Will Fail (And Should)" is one of my earlier examinations of the subject of term limits, a topic examined again in "Critique of a Congressional Reform", "Some Thoughts on Term Limits", "Damn the Torpedoes!", "Making the President Irrelevant", "Racketeering Through Legislation", "Power and Disorder", "Our Aristocracy" and "The Problem of Professional Politicians, or, The Impossibility of a True 'Ousider' Candidate". "The Cost of Big Government" takes an all too brief look at precisely that, the cost of big government. "Transparency, Corruption and Reform" is a frequently cited essay looking at the relationship between the size of government and the amount of corruption.  Finally, "A Perfect Quote" provides a very brief statement I found on IMDB, which perfectly summarizes the greatest problem with the political left.

In a post yesterday, and in many posts before, I spoke about how scientists with a particular result in mind can find it in the data, even if the data really doesn't support that conclusion. In particular yesterday I was writing about the cancer researcher who decided his preliminary data didn't need any review, he was convinced cell phones cause cancer.

Well, when looking through Best of the Web, I found a headline from the New York Post which provides a perfect example. 

It appears a contractor lost this friend's cat in the walls of an apartment. He started breaking through walls to rescue the cat. Upset at the damage and unable to stop him, the super called the police who took him to a psychiatric ward. Used to people being delusional, the staff there decided his tales of trying to rescue a cat were delusions.

Which shows how much your preconceptions control what you see. This man, who apparently functions normally in the outside world, was written off as hopelessly delusional, simply because the assumption was that only insane people end up in psychiatric wards.

Actually, this also is a good argument supporting my reluctance to allow involuntary commitment. I have always had problems with a free society allowing medical personnel to deprive another of his rights, either directly or acting through a court proceeding, and this helps show why. Even without the sinister motives that drove the Soviet Union's frequent diagnosis of "creeping schizophrenia" in political dissidents, well meaning psychiatric staff can find mental disorders where none exist. The power of preconceptions is just too great, and it proves very easy to find mental illnesses in people who can function perfectly well in the world at large.

But that is another essay, and will have to wait for a day when I have more time.

I know I said I would write about involuntary commitment elsewhere, but I do have one thing to add. It is interesting that the left is often concerned over even a single unjust execution or imprisonment, even concerned that different categories of criminal are being treated differently, but they don't seem to care about the potential abuses of commitment proceedings. The only time commitment draws their attention is when it is used against criminals such as rapists to extend their incarceration. Otherwise, they seem completely unconcerned with the potential that sane people may be committed improperly.


Originally posted in Random Notes on 2008/07/25.

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