APRIL 01, 1971 by LEONARD E. READ
Even when government is limited to codifying the taboos, invoking a common justice, and keeping the peace, there is and has to be an operating staff: a bureaucracy, as we call it. Routine procedures of a bureaucracy offer a legal way to administer a police department, as distinguished from arbitrary rule.1
Worrycrats, as I call them, are a special breed of totalitarian bureaucrats who spawn rapidly as society is socialized. These people concern themselves with our health, education, welfare, auto safety, drug intake, diet, and what have you. Worrycrats today outnumber any other professionals in history, so rapidly have they proliferated.
We might say that theirs is indeed big business, except that the activities of these worrycrats in no way resemble a free market operation. Freedom in transactions has no part in this political procedure. Citizens are coerced to pay these professional worriers whether they want their services or not. A nongovernmental operation of similar nature would be called a racket.
While the worrycrat has never ranked higher in my esteem than any other practitioner of chicanery, it took two successive observations to "turn me on." Driving north on the
Perhaps I would have dismissed the thought had I not read in the next morning’s paper about the World Health Organization, operating out of
Mine is not an argument in favor of smoking or against anyone quitting; whether you smoke or not is none of my business. Rather, I question the propriety of our being coerced to pay worrycrats to worry about us. We worry enough on our own without paying to have our worries multiplied. George Robert Sims wrote a truism:
For one that big misfortunes slay, Ten die of little worries.
An experience comes to mind. In 1947 I visited
Admitting to both the nervousness and excessive coffee, I suggested—perhaps incorrectly—that, short of accidents, we are born, more or less, with our time tags; that my excesses might make a year or two of difference, but why fret about that!
"I never thought of it that way before," said he, "but now that you mention it, here’s a piece of evidence in your support. Fifty-some years ago sixteen couples, all in our early twenties, arrived in
The Competence of Worriers
Observe the massive outpourings of the worrycrats—over TV, radio, and in the press—about lung cancer, heart failure, mercury, cranberries, cyclomates, seat belts, groceries, and so on. Unless one sees through all of these unsolicited oral and verbal counsels, he is going to be unnecessarily concerned. It is my contention that tens of millions have had their ordinary fears and worries substantially multiplied by reason of these professional do-gooders. Millions of people who never gave longevity more than a second thought are now worrying about it. Fear and worry are far deadlier menaces than all the things the worrycrats pretend to protect us from. But before trying to substantiate this point, let us raise a few pertinent questions.
Are these political saviors really concerned about your welfare and mine? Actually, they do not know that you or I exist. Nor will they know when we cease to exist. What, then, is their motivation? The truth is that I know as little about their motivations as they know about what is good or bad for me.
But let us suppose that they are worried about you and me. Who are they and what is their competence? Certainly, lovely ladies serve a purpose, but they are not experts when it comes to your welfare or mine. Nor are publicists, propagandists, the folks of Madison Avenue—all of these people who prepare the worry words we hear and read.
Or, let us further suppose that these worrycrats are the world’s most advanced physicians and scientists. Would they know enough of what is injurious or helpful to you or me to justify forcing this information upon us or frightening us about it? You and I are in no way alike; each individual is unique, extraordinary, different. Were this not the case, my doctor could examine me and apply the same findings to you and all others. Examination of one would suffice for everyone.
No Two the Same
As a matter of fact, individuals vary widely. For instance, an associate of mine must strenuously exercise to live. The same exertion by most people would do them in. A late friend of mine passed on at 95. He had observed a rule all his life: never move except when necessary. Similar inactivity for most of us would bring about an early demise. There are drugs which can save your life but would kill me. This is why pharmaceutical houses publish long lists of contraindications for each drug they manufacture.
Dr. Roger Williams, a noted biochemist at the
I care not who sits behind the worrycratic desk, whether a dullard or an Aristotle. When anyone thus tries to fathom our ills, deficiencies, excesses, he is staring into absolute darkness. Prescribing for and presiding over 200 million distinctive, unique individuals is no more within man’s competence than sitting atop the Cosmos and directing the Universe. Contrary to socialist doctrine, we are discrete beings—not a mass, a collective, a lump of dough to be kneaded, baked, and consumed!
Death Hastened by Fears of Psychosomatic Origin
Now, what about fears, anxieties, worries? Are they killers? One scarcely needs modern science to find support for the idea that most ills are psychosomatic in origin. Go back well over two millennia and there it is: "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." 4
Here is modern support:
For instance, a patient whose parents have both died of heart disease will be anxious about his own heart.
When then a normal diencephalic response to an emotion causes the heart to beat faster or when gastric distension pushes his heart out of its usual position, he will be inclined to interpret what he feels as the beginning of the disease which killed his parents, thinking that he has inherited a weak heart. At once all his fears cluster like a swarm of angry bees on his heart, a vicious cycle is established and thus anxious cortical supervision may eventually lead to organic lesions. He and his family will then be convinced that he did indeed inherit a weak heart, yet this is not at all true.
The above is taken from Man’s Presumptuous Brain by A. T. W. Simeons, M.D.5 This is but one of many illustrations of how death is hastened through fears, anxieties, rage, worries, a physiologic and pathologic process set in motion by a psychosomatic origin. In brief, unless one would speed the process, let him not fear death.
I repeat, the outpourings of the worrycrats tend to multiply our stresses, anxieties, worries; instead of rescuing us from our waywardness, they are literally scaring us to death.
Ideally, there is a role for government with respect to health, education, welfare. That role is to inhibit misrepresentation, fraud, violence, predation, whether by doctors, educators, restaurateurs, pharmaceutical manufacturers, labor unions, or others. No false labels; no coercive impositions on anyone! This is to say that all of us should be prohibited from injuring others. Actions that harm others—not what one does to self define the limits of the social problem and of governmental scope.
You know yourself better than anyone else does. Better that you turn yourself toward what you think is your advantage than be turned by a worrycrat toward what he thinks is your advantage. You at least know something, whereas he knows nothing of you as an individual.
The Reform Process
Men live their lives within a framework of customary relations and patterns for achieving their ends and solving their problems. In the absence of positive force, they have worked out and accepted these patterns voluntarily, or they submit to them willingly. Any alteration of these by government involves the use or threat of force, for that is how governments operate. The old order must be replaced by a new order for the reform to be achieved. The result of the forceful effort to do this is disorder….
Men may adjust to the new disorder, resume the course of their lives as best they can, and submit more or less to conditions. In time, they may even forget that the system is maintained by force, or that things could be otherwise. After all, most peoples at most times have lived under varying degrees of oppression. Nonetheless, ameliorative reform introduces violence into life. The force charged with keeping the peace becomes the disturber of the peace. Traditional relationships are disrupted.
1See Bureaucracy by Ludwig von Mises (New Rochelle, N. Y.: Arlington House, 1969).
2See New York Times,
3Free and Unequal,
5First published in 1961 by E. P. Dutton & Co.,
The Stress of Life by Hans Seyle, M.D. (New York: McGraw-Hill Co., 1956).
The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas S. Szasz, M.D. (London: Martin Seeker & Warburg, Ltd., 1962).