A reader has challenged the libertarian-ness of my opinion that the seriously mentally ill should be institutionalized. And her point does make at least superficial sense. After all, libertarians are supposed to believe that everybody should be free, right? Right?
Actually, no we don’t. And I get the distinct impression that the lady who issued this challenge is no libertarian. Libertarians most certainly do NOT believe that murderers, psychos or dangerous people in general should be allowed to run loose in society. Any more than we believe that lions and tigers should be permitted to roam the streets.
The only legitimate function of government — and I mean the one and only legitimate function — is to protect us from force and fraud. From harm. And dangerously mentally ill people often do great harm. They have, historically, done a lot more harm to people than have lions or tigers.
Are all mentally ill people dangerous? Maybe not to others, but as I have previously noted, if they are unable to get along with other people without aggravating them to the point of homicidal temptation, then they are dangerous to themselves. I actually happen to know a few folks I believe are genuinely mentally ill, and to most of those who encounter them, they are very easily confused for assholes. The truth is more complicated than this, and they aren’t necessarily always able to be responsible for their behavior — but as they appear pretty normal most of the time, they strike others more like assholes than like those suffering from mental illness.
Not everybody is willing to be patient with extreme obnoxiousness. They may very well choose to act upon their impatience in ways quite harmful to the offender. Is it fair, or — to use the “progressives'” favorite fetish-word, compassionate — to expose innocent sufferers of mental illness to such a risk? Pardon me, but I think not.
We need to explore ways to take better care of seriously mentally ill people. Just because they aren’t able to come and go as they please (usually because they refuse to take their medication unless somebody makes them), that doesn’t mean they must languish in a dungeon.
The real reason for all this Leftist “compassion” is that many “progressives” don’t want to be bothered having to give a damn about anybody else. Caring for those with mental illness is a calling, requiring rare and special gifts, and granted, not everybody is cut out for it. But the human race has always been blessed with certain kind souls who are willing to devote themselves to such work.
Enough, already, with the charge that libertarians are the crazy ones. We’re the only ones out there making any sense.