I overheard a bit of conversation last week.
One woman mentioned to another that a block from where she lived, on two consecutive days, a man was shot in the neck and a woman and child were taken hostage. “I’m very upset that the Austin city council voted to defund the police,” she said.
The other woman replied, “But we need to spend more on mental health!”
The second woman’s response contains at least seven fallacies.
1. That the only way to advance mental health is to cut the budget for police and police training. The alternatives are not mutually exclusive.
2. That one can, in fact, deal with mentally ill offenders without police support. Imagine an unarmed counselor trying to detain an armed and deranged person.
3. That most crime is due to poor mental health rather than vice. We have a curious reluctance these days to call vicious people wicked; instead we call them “sick.” But vice is a moral disorder, not a mental disorder, and most persons suffering from mental illness are not violent.
4. That violent persons who really are mentally deranged can be cured by hiring more counselors to talk with them on the fly. Although having more residential institutions might help, I don’t suppose the second woman was thinking of that, for in our day ideology dictates that disordered people must be “deinstitutionalized” and turned loose on the streets. If she was thinking of so-called halfway houses, I doubt that she knows much about how these dismal caves are run.
5. That what our governing classes mean by “mental health” actually has something to do with it. Bear in mind that in our generation, progressive political ideology brands faith as a mental disorder, but regards a variety of genuine derangements as personal choices or identities. A good case can be made that if government policy has any effect on mental health at all, it makes people crazier.
6. That the state should be the first-line defender of mental health. The second woman may have been thinking of subsidizing non-governmental institutions such as hospitals, but do we really want to compel them to follow the government’s conception of mental health? And please don’t suggest subsidizing churches.
7. And that public officials really are using the money that they cut from police budgets for authentic social services, rather than, say, an increase in funds to facilitate abortion, as in my own town. Never forget that the governing classes consider killing babies an element in social services.