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Mass Obsessive-Compulsive Psychosis & the Austerity program April 24, 2013

Posted by larry (Hobbes) in economics, Psychology, social policy.

Portugal vs the Joffrey Baratheon of economic policies

Revealed: George Osborne’s secret veto on fraud inquiries

For those of you who might just have missed this news. The corruption runs deep, in both the UK and in Europe. The austerity train just continues to run, irrespective of how many it runs over that get in the way in the process. The answer to Cui bono? is no longer going to go deep enough to get to the bottom of this. It is more than a matter of vested interests. What this type of thinking resembles most is a kind of mass obsessive-compulsive psychosis.

If the defining characteristic of a psychosis is a belief with a dramatic dislocation from reality, the truth is that we come across people who harbor one or another belief that has absolutely no relationship to reality every week if not every day. I don’t just mean the entertaining of a false belief. We all entertain one virtually every day, whatever we ourselves may think. I mean a belief that not only has no empirical evidence for it but that clearly has none and can be seen by a detached observer to have none.

Austerity programs initiated in the past have been shown empirically not to work. The current austerity program has been shown empirically not only not to work but to have contra-predictive effects, that is, it is inducing the opposite effect it was predicted to bring about. As a consequence, it is difficult if not impossible not to conclude that the thinking underlying austerity appears to involve a kind of psychotic dislocation from reality with a strongly attached obsessive-compulsive component.

The question now is, if this is what we are dealing with, how do we dislodge it? The standard solution, sequestration in an asylum, will not suffice for a mass induced psychotic belief. Direct confrontation has not worked and can be seen not to have worked. This is common with psychotic belief systems. Because they have no connection with reality, confrontation with reality will not dislodge them. The only other option open to those who wish to dislodge this particular belief system, which is having such a devastating effect on so many, is a kind of flanking movement, involving I would suggest the fundamental presuppositions underlying the belief system that is helping to keep this program alive. This is a lot easier to say than to do, partly because core political functions are inextricably involved.

I may be wrong and it may be simply a matter of vested social interests. If that is so, then the solution is relatively straightforward. But if it isn’t that, there is no easy solution. The consequence of the latter is that we let capitalism “cure” itself by allowing it to bring the debt down, in its own inimitable way, which may take another 20 years and leave incredible damage in its wake, including increasingly grotesque inequalities.

Addendum: I have ignored a dimension in the discussion above. This is partly because it involves only a subset of the people who are advocating austerity. The people I have left out are the psychopaths or sociopaths (I have defined them differently in posts previously.) who are in positions of authority. The behavior of sociopaths can be altered by altering the reward-punishment pathways. The behavior of (true) psychopaths, on the other hand, can never truly be altered other than incidentally and temporarily. They have to be physically or functionally removed from whatever positions they hold in order to eliminate the deleterious effect they continually have on those around them. Before they can be removed, of course, they have to be recognized for what they are. While this is difficult to do, it is not impossible. Outside assistance, from say a properly trained industrial psychologist, is one way. The reason I left these people out of this discussion is that they are not psychotic in any way. They know exactly what they are doing. They may entertain false beliefs like the rest of us, but if anyone is finely tuned to reality, especially the psychological states of others, it is the psychopath.


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