Bryan Caplan on Thomas Szasz and The Myth of Mental Illness

Professor Bryan Caplan and I discuss the ideas of the iconoclast social critic and psychiatrist Thomas Szasz. Dr. Caplan won the Thomas Szasz award in 2005 for his paper, The Economics of Szasz: Preferences, Constraints, and Mental Illness. We have a wide-ranging conversation about Szasz, his ideas, and how to help ourselves and others when struggling with life. Dr. Caplan shares some of his personal experiences with depression during Covid and how he got out of it.

Thomas Szasz was a champion of liberty and responsibility. His bestselling book was The Myth of Mental Illness. He was a humanitarian who condemned the mistreatment of people involuntarily committed to mental hospitals and advocated for personal responsibility.

Bryan Caplan Discusses the Ideas of Thomas Szasz

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00:00 Intro to Bryan Caplan
00:35 Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids
00:56 How did you discover Thomas Szasz?
01:33 The Untamed Tongue
02:07 Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences
02:34 Myth of Mental Illness
02:57 Ceremonial Chemistry
03:25 How long did it take you to understand Szasz?
06:13 What do you think most people misunderstood about Szasz?
08:14 Heavy drinkers respond to incentives
10:55 How homosexuality got declassified as a disease
11:41 Transvestism
12:34 The Useful Lie
12:56 Responsibility
14:34 Criticisms of Szasz
15:42 Szasz as a philosopher of mind
16:34 Scott Alexander
17:53 Drapetomania
18:06 What was it like to meet Szasz?
19:29 Suicide
20:05 Why do you think Szasz wrote so much?
21:00 Did you get pushback when writing your paper on Szasz?
22:19 Shakespeare and Szasz
23:24 Has Szasz helped you in your personal life?
27:12 Brittany Spears
28:27 Addiction is a Choice
29:05 Karl Kraus
29:51 Szasz’s political beliefs
31:13 Suicide
32:29 Epicurus
32:54 Julian Simon
35:17 Surround yourself with friends
36:11 How do you stay productive?
37:51 Lucretius
39:01 How do you deal with depression during Covid?
41:16 Faith in Freedom
41:38 Free will
43:38 Writing advice
44:45 The Baader Meinhof Complex
46:43 Economics of Szasz
49:50 Rational vs. Irrational
52:53 Schizophrenia
56:10 Biographies of schizophrenics
59:15 Hearing voices

3 thoughts on “Bryan Caplan on Thomas Szasz and The Myth of Mental Illness

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