The Thomas S. Szasz Awards for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties were won this year by historian Robert Higgs (general category) and psychologist-philosopher Robert Spillane (professional category).
The Szasz Award is a tribute conferred annually on persons or organizations, American or foreign, judged to have contributed in an outstanding degree to the cause of civil liberty. The award is intended to encourage civil libertarians to persevere in the battle to protect personal autonomy from state encroachment.
The general award is given to an author or activist who has done exceptional work to popularize the importance of civil liberties. The professional award is given to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, sociologist, or economist, who has made advances in civil liberties on a theoretical level. The winners each receive a plaque and $1,000.
Higgs's work has focused on the reasons and methods by which government grows and usurps liberty. He has recently concentrated on how the state creates and exploits fears in order to expand its power over its subjects.
Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy for the Independent Institute and editor of the Institute’s quarterly The Independent Review. He is the author of Depression, War, and Cold War, Resurgence of the Warfare State, Against Leviathan, The Transformation of the American Economy 1865-1914, Competition and Coercion, and most famously, Crisis and Leviathan. He is also the editor of The Challenge of Liberty, Re-Thinking Green, Hazardous to Our Health?, Arms, Politics, and the Economy, and Emergence of the Modern Political Economy. He has written more than 100 articles and reviews in academic journals.
For more than 30 years Spillane, who lives in Australia, has fought against what Szasz calls the medicalization of moral behavior. He actively campaigns against the mass drugging of children and the use of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in management and its misuse in psychology.
Spillane teaches philosophy and psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney, and has taught at the Universities of New South Wales, Stockholm, the London and Manchester Business Schools, and the Abcor Institute in Frankfurt, Germany. He has written nine books, including Organisational Behaviour: The Australian Context, Stress at Work: A Review of Australian Research, Achieving Peak Performance, and Personality and Performance: Foundations for Managerial Psychology (co-written with the late John Martin), which draws on the work of George Herbert Mead, Peter Drucker and Szasz to argue that psychology should be used to understand and master oneself, not manipulate others, and that management should concern itself with what people do, not with their “psyches.” His most recent book is The Management Contradictionary (co-written with Rodney Marks and Benjamin Marks), is a humorous look at the linguistic pretensions of managers and psychologists. Spillane has also written more than 120 professional articles and a play, the comedy "Entertaining Executives."
Past winners include anti-affirmative-action activist Ward Connerly, First Amendment journalist Nat Hentoff, computer-privacy champion Phil Zimmermann, author James Bovard, Julie Stewart of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, William Mellor and Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice, law professor Richard Epstein, development economist Peter Bauer, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, Second Amendment scholar David Kopel. sociologist Irving Louis Horowitz, and syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum. Last year's winners were libertarian-feminist author Joan Kennedy Taylor, and economist Bryan Caplan.
For almost five decades, Szasz has distinguished himself as the preeminent defender of individual rights in the fields of psychiatry and psychology. He has remained a steadfast champion of the classical-liberal values of voluntary interaction, the rule of law, and an open society. His struggle on behalf of civil liberties has been indefatigable, sustained despite intense opposition over a lifetime of brilliant intellectual accomplishment.
Emeritus professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center/Syracuse, Szasz is the author of some 25 books, hundreds of scholarly articles, and a regular column in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty. His most recent book is “My Madness Saved Me”: The Madness and Marriage of Virginia Woolf. His forthcoming book from Transaction is titled Coercion as Cure: A Critical History of Psychiatry.
Szasz’s other books include The Myth of Mental Illness; The Therapeutic State; Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts and Pushers; Insanity: The Idea and It's Consequences; Cruel Compassion: Psychiatric Control of Society's Unwanted; Fatal Freedom: The Ethics and Politics of Suicide; Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America; and Liberation by Oppression: A Comparative Study of Slavery and Psychiatry
The Thomas S. Szasz Award is a project of the Center for Independent Thought.