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"Rights" of disabled individuals

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Ishinho
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What is the Objectivist view towards the disabled (physically, mentally, or both) who are incapable of taking care of themselves? According to Rand, the government has three legitimate purposes: police, military, courts. None of these provides for any kind of social services. Does this mean that a severely disabled individual lives at the mercy of voluntary action taken by those who decide to provide charitable assistance? Assume the disabled individual is "alone in the world" without family or friends to provide room & board.

This question came to my mind as I read an article in today's Chicago Tribune about a group of disabled individuals who staged a protest in front of the American Medical Association's headquarters, demanding that the AMA support federal legislation that would provide greater assistance for disabled individuals so that they can live alone rather than in an institution. One of the protesters was quoted as saying "a person has a right to decide where to live." I agree, but my question is "at whose expense?" I'm fairly certain of the Objectivist viewpoint about this issue.

However, there are those that are incapable of choosing their clothes, let alone where to live. What is the Objectivist viewpoint about this?

Thanks.

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Does this mean that a severely disabled individual lives at the mercy of voluntary action taken by those who decide to provide charitable assistance?
Yes...but ...whatever the political system, people such as you've described live at the "mercy" of others. The real difference is whether such help comes forth voluntarily, or whether people can be forced at gunpoint to proved "help".
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Yes...but ...whatever the political system, people such as you've described live at the "mercy" of others. The real difference is whether such help comes forth voluntarily, or whether people can be forced at gunpoint to proved "help".

That is an EXCELLENT point to make, in a very small package. I'll have to add it to the Intellectual Ammo folder in my grey matter filing cabinet.

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Yes...but ...whatever the political system, people such as you've described live at the "mercy" of others. The real difference is whether such help comes forth voluntarily, or whether people can be forced at gunpoint to proved "help".

If I understand you correctly, if no one volunteers assistance, severely disabled individuals are left to fend for themselves under the Objectivist viewpoint? This would be my understanding of Rand's description of a "true" capitalist system.

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If I understand you correctly, if no one volunteers assistance, severely disabled individuals are left to fend for themselves under the Objectivist viewpoint? This would be my understanding of Rand's description of a "true" capitalist system.

Correct. Just because someone happens to be disabled, does not mean that I should be FORCED to pay for them. An exchange or transaction that is NOT performed voluntarily is immoral.

Edited by Chops
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If I understand you correctly, if no one volunteers assistance, severely disabled individuals are left to fend for themselves under the Objectivist viewpoint?
An appeal to mass opinion is not an argument. Nevertheless, out of curiosity, do you think most people would agree that this is the right approach? Or, would most people feel that any system that lets this happen is imperfect? If the latter, then we know that the disabled have nothing to worry about -- there are enough benevolent folk to take care of them.
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The chances of disabled people suffering in an Objectivist world would be slim. Many people have disabled friends and family members, who value and would thus care for them. Disabled individuals who lack such familial support could be assisted by the many charity programs (ie: voluntary) that are out there.

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One of the protesters was quoted as saying "a person has a right to decide where to live."
Though what they really meant by that is "a person has a right to live where they decide to", rather a different stance.
However, there are those that are incapable of choosing their clothes, let alone where to live.
If you're asking whether they have ordinary rights, the answer is basically "yes", but in severe cases there may be an issue of rights-guardianship. With severe mental incapacitation, a physical adult may be no more capable of exercising their rights than a 2 year old, hence a guardian may have to be appointed. That would be one area that is properly the concern of the court system, to oversee rights-custodianship according to objective law. But that presupposes a volunteer, so it's not the duty of the courts to force someone to oversee a disabled person, or to force payment to an overseer.
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An appeal to mass opinion is not an argument. Nevertheless, out of curiosity, do you think most people would agree that this is the right approach? Or, would most people feel that any system that lets this happen is imperfect? If the latter, then we know that the disabled have nothing to worry about -- there are enough benevolent folk to take care of them.
I do believe that most people feel that this is the right approach, but I'm not sure that most people would actually do anything about it. "Passing the buck" is almost tradition. Don't get me wrong, it burns me to think that my taxes are paying for special services to people who are "needy" for whatever reason. No one is entitled, or has a right, to their own apartment (in contrast to the protester's statement), and no one should be compelled to contribute their "property" against their own judgment. I guess I'm just unsure of the level of "benevolence" out there.
If you're asking whether they have ordinary rights, the answer is basically "yes", but in severe cases there may be an issue of rights-guardianship. With severe mental incapacitation, a physical adult may be no more capable of exercising their rights than a 2 year old, hence a guardian may have to be appointed. That would be one area that is properly the concern of the court system, to oversee rights-custodianship according to objective law. But that presupposes a volunteer, so it's not the duty of the courts to force someone to oversee a disabled person, or to force payment to an overseer.
Agreed.
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Ishinho,

You need not be unsure of the level of benevolence out there. Just look at the response you received on this board. Objectivists, the most notoriously selfish people in America, are jumping all over the opportunity to provide you, someone who is "philosophically disabled", with an answer to your question. Certainly none of the people who answered you would have done so if they felt they had nothing to gain and/or keep.

Thanks everyone for contributing to the quality of the world, this website, and to the reputation of Objectivism!

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... it burns me to think that my taxes are paying for special services to people who are "needy" for whatever reason.
Personally, I would not mind giving a little money to a cause like that, if that all there was to it -- paying for basic food and shelter for those who are really unable to function as humans. I definitely object to the money being taken from me by force, though. Worse still is when the gun-wielder expands the definition of basic necessities to includes a life-style that is beyond what most of the world's able-bodied humans live.

If you want a completely different approach, then here is what I offer, in terms of what I see would be a rational free-market response to this. When a couple is having a baby, there is some, small chance that the baby will end up with some type of serious disability that cannot be detected during pregnancy. It makes sense for someone to offer insurance against such an eventuality. Suppose 1 out of every 500 kids has MS. If each couple having a kid paid a premium of a little over $2,000, the total premium across 500 couples would be $1 million. So, the one kid with MS would end up with a corpus of $1 million, providing a stream of income to support him (this is apart of medical insurance, that is separate).

One can bicker over numbers. To play devil's advocate, let's say that the actual incidence of various disabilities is 1-in-100. Also, let's assume that each such kid actually "needs" a corpus of $2 million. If we were to assume that, then we're saying that each kid would imply a payment of a $20,000 premium. Even such high numbers do not change the argument: because, if that's the cost, then that's the cost. If people who want to have kids aren't going to bear the cost -- via insurance -- then why should they force others to do so?

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If I understand you correctly, if no one volunteers assistance, severely disabled individuals are left to fend for themselves under the Objectivist viewpoint? This would be my understanding of Rand's description of a "true" capitalist system.

It should be noted that your concern in this issue is not alone. With that in mind, let me ask this of your concern; if we lived in an Objectivist society, would you value helping disabled people enough to voluntarily give your time and money to that effort?

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I guess I'm just unsure of the level of "benevolence" out there.

Perhaps you should volunteer at a charitable organization? What better way to see first hand how generous Americans are. (If you are so inclined, of course.) :D

I can only wonder how much more generous we would all be if we weren't losing so much of every dollar we earn and spend to taxes.

Edited by K-Mac
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Perhaps you should volunteer at a charitable organization? What better way to see first hand how generous Americans are. (If you are so inclined, of course.) :D

I can only wonder how much more generous we would all be if we weren't losing so much of every dollar we earn and spend to taxes.

Without taxes there would be less need because less people would be disabled due to injuries since the businesses would keep more of their money and afford to buy or make better equipment.

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The chances of disabled people suffering in an Objectivist world would be slim. Many people have disabled friends and family members, who value and would thus care for them. Disabled individuals who lack such familial support could be assisted by the many charity programs (ie: voluntary) that are out there.

As the father of an 8-year-old girl who uses a wheelchair, I agree, particularly because an Objectivist who is aware of his responsibilities would be accountable to them. Having a child was our choice, and it comes with all sorts of risks that are ours to assume and ours to deal with the consequences. It is our responsibility to take care of her. My extended family, especially my parents, help out as well because they want to as part of their independent relationship with her as grandparents. Objectivists are compassionate too, not cold-hearted robots.

We were chided recently by another parent of a disabled kid and a school official after we declined having our daughter bused to school because the early pickup time would have her on a bus for 90 minutes to go to a school 15 minutes away. It's our "right," they said. But it's our responsibility to see that she is educated, meaning we need to get her to school, and it's our responsibility to take good care of her, and therefore not have her sit on a crummy school bus for that long.

Disability is just another facet of individualism. There is a wide range of abilities, mental and physical, that people have. My daughter is hampered by physical limitations, but not mental.

My wife and I also view her disability as a means to prove the value of individualism over collectivism. Folks make all sorts of assumptions because my daughter uses a wheelchair. Some people think she's not smart, others say things like "poor baby" or others just see someone in a wheelchair and expect a hassle in dealing with them. Really it's annoying.

So we take our daughter roller skating (she can wear skates and stroll herself or be pushed) and we take her to play laser tag, take her swimming, to concerts, etc. Our daughter has fun, and folks notice. For the same reason, we always seek out innovative programs and adaptive devices that many people with disabilities don't because they can't afford them or don't see them as necessary.

For example, my daughter is the youngest person, and the first child, to pass the drive test and clinical evaluation for the iBot wheelchair. Invented by Segway creator and engineer Dean Kamen, it is powered by three computers and six gyroscopes. It can climb stairs, go up and down curbs and traverse uneven surfaces such as dirt, grass, sand and gravel. It can also go into a vertical position so that it user can be at eye level with people who stand or can reach items on higher store shelves. We're awaiting to find out how much our private insurance will pay and then we'll borrow or raise the rest.

Basically, the iBot wheelchair is the ultimate disabled adaptation, in the spirit of Darwin's statement that it is not the strongest, or the smartest, who survive, but those who can adapt and handle change. It enables the disabled person to adapt to the environment, rather than forcing the environment to adapt to the disabled person. Some disabled people oppose this for a irrational reasons, such as potential dangers or because they feel that it could discourage the end of architectural features such as stairs or steps. To us, however, an iBot represents man's ability to adapt to an environment, like the way we can walk in space thanks to spacesuits or climb mountains thanks to safety equipment. It would enable my daughter to anywhere, and not depend on using ADA as a crutch.

We do this because it's our responsibility, both to take care of her, provide her the best that's available within our power and to educate her that she does not need to be dependent. Family and friends are fine, but that's fine because it's voluntary.

In an Objectivist world based on personal responsibility and accountability, people who bring a disabled person into the world would act accordingly.

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So we take our daughter roller skating (she can wear skates and stroll herself or be pushed) and we take her to play laser tag, take her swimming, to concerts, etc. Our daughter has fun, and folks notice. For the same reason, we always seek out innovative programs and adaptive devices that many people with disabilities don't because they can't afford them or don't see them as necessary.

For example, my daughter is the youngest person, and the first child, to pass the drive test and clinical evaluation for the iBot wheelchair. Invented by Segway creator and engineer Dean Kamen, it is powered by three computers and six gyroscopes. It can climb stairs, go up and down curbs and traverse uneven surfaces such as dirt, grass, sand and gravel. It can also go into a vertical position so that it user can be at eye level with people who stand or can reach items on higher store shelves. We're awaiting to find out how much our private insurance will pay and then we'll borrow or raise the rest.

Basically, the iBot wheelchair is the ultimate disabled adaptation, in the spirit of Darwin's statement that it is not the strongest, or the smartest, who survive, but those who can adapt and handle change. It enables the disabled person to adapt to the environment, rather than forcing the environment to adapt to the disabled person. Some disabled people oppose this for a irrational reasons, such as potential dangers or because they feel that it could discourage the end of architectural features such as stairs or steps. To us, however, an iBot represents man's ability to adapt to an environment, like the way we can walk in space thanks to spacesuits or climb mountains thanks to safety equipment. It would enable my daughter to anywhere, and not depend on using ADA as a crutch.

We do this because it's our responsibility, both to take care of her, provide her the best that's available within our power and to educate her that she does not need to be dependent. Family and friends are fine, but that's fine because it's voluntary.

In an Objectivist world based on personal responsibility and accountability, people who bring a disabled person into the world would act accordingly.

It is good to see parents with a disabled child take care of things themselves instead of demanding others to do it for them. There are so many people that demand others do it and so few that do it themselves that it is really a great thing to see parents do as you and your wife have done and are still doing. Keep up the great work!

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It should be noted that your concern in this issue is not alone. With that in mind, let me ask this of your concern; if we lived in an Objectivist society, would you value helping disabled people enough to voluntarily give your time and money to that effort?

I would imagine that Objectivists would find value in helping disabled people because of the selfish satisfaction involved. I recall my wife's uncle building some kind of playset (he owns a fabricating shop) for some kids with Down syndrome because one of his friends' children was one of them. He told of how great it was to see these kids having fun and just enjoying how great it is to be alive, celebrating the highest value - life. Some would say that's altruism, but I submit it's selfish. It's great to see other people happy and to know it's possible because of one's actions.

I help out all the time at my daughters' schools. I make no bones about the fact I do it because it selfishly makes me happy, and that I do so to gain political favor with school officials (we always get the teachers we want and get other preferential treatment). It's quid-pro-quo, a trade of sorts. I have no problem with it, though some other parents do because they say I should do it "for the children" or because I want to "give back." Give back what? My taxes?

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I would imagine that Objectivists would find value in helping disabled people because of the selfish satisfaction involved. I recall my wife's uncle building some kind of playset (he owns a fabricating shop) for some kids with Down syndrome because one of his friends' children was one of them. He told of how great it was to see these kids having fun and just enjoying how great it is to be alive, celebrating the highest value - life. Some would say that's altruism, but I submit it's selfish. It's great to see other people happy and to know it's possible because of one's actions.

I know exactly what you mean. I selfishly give a little bit of my money to the New Zealand Cancer Society every year because I know from first hand experience what it is like to suffer because someone you care for died of cancer. I have had several people I cared for die of cancer.

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It is good to see parents with a disabled child take care of things themselves instead of demanding others to do it for them. There are so many people that demand others do it and so few that do it themselves that it is really a great thing to see parents do as you and your wife have done and are still doing. Keep up the great work!

It's funny you would say that. My wife said that the aide in my daughter's class told her that in all her years she has never seen a family so willing to help out and support the class and the aides. The context of this is that my daughter is having problems with her kneecap popping to the side when she transfers from wheelchair to a toilet. She uses a wall bar to pull herself onto a transitional bench she scoots on to get to the toilet because she' can't bear weight.

We've been going to her school daily about the time she goes to the bathroom to experiment with knee braces, altering bench heights and other techniques so she can do this herself with only an aide to watch for safety. And we'll be going there to help until a trunk swing comes in that will allow her to do the transfer more quickly (and without the knee pain). I know that other parents won't do that. The default in a case like this is for the school psychologist to call her physical therapist with California Children's Services and ask her to help. Well, professional consultation is OK, but we're the ones who are supposed to help our kid, being that she's ours and all.

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It's funny you would say that. My wife said that the aide in my daughter's class told her that in all her years she has never seen a family so willing to help out and support the class and the aides. The context of this is that my daughter is having problems with her kneecap popping to the side when she transfers from wheelchair to a toilet. She uses a wall bar to pull herself onto a transitional bench she scoots on to get to the toilet because she' can't bear weight.

We've been going to her school daily about the time she goes to the bathroom to experiment with knee braces, altering bench heights and other techniques so she can do this herself with only an aide to watch for safety. And we'll be going there to help until a trunk swing comes in that will allow her to do the transfer more quickly (and without the knee pain). I know that other parents won't do that. The default in a case like this is for the school psychologist to call her physical therapist with California Children's Services and ask her to help. Well, professional consultation is OK, but we're the ones who are supposed to help our kid, being that she's ours and all.

That is exactly what I am talking about! Again you show a willingness to look after your own child rather than demand that others do it. Reading that you and your wife are like that put a big smile on my face. I love seeing/hearing about/reading about great parents like you two are. It makes me happy.

Now if only the world had more parents like you two! It would be a much better place if it did.

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I have a mentally disabled brother. He cannot talk, or basically look after himself independently. When I was growing up I got a lot of nonsense thrown at me about how I had to look after him, respect him and all that because he was 'mentally disabled' (I got in trouble if I said he was retarded, but hey he is retarded).

Anyway, my mother is quite the reverse of the sort you might respect DragonMaci. She seems to feel that she has some duty to look after him, even though Im pretty sure he annoys the hell out of her (he is really emotional and extremely violent at times), and when he is over, he is just in his room all the time. Its crazy when parents feel such an obligiation for such kids, when really they have no genuine wish to have anything to do with them.

While I support parents looking after their physically/mentally disabled kids if they value them (and there are many good reasons why this might be the case, depending on the nature/severity of the case) I hate it when its conducted due to obligation.

DM has a good point in that without government intervention there would be less disabilities. Not just for the reasons he gives ,but because the system as it is now in NZ at least trivilizes disability. People feel that if it happens, well they are ensured of care without any effort on their half, so so what if it happens ? Take more risks, do stupid things that might result in disability!

i

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It should be noted that your concern in this issue is not alone. With that in mind, let me ask this of your concern; if we lived in an Objectivist society, would you value helping disabled people enough to voluntarily give your time and money to that effort?

I might be willing to help so long as the details (how much time, money, etc.) are left to my decision. I may decide to devote my efforts to raising money for Leukemia research instead, or some other worthy cause.

I think my original post has been misunderstood. I'm not advocating for "forced" donations. I was simply trying to figure out how such causes are seen under the Objectivist theory.

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I can only wonder how much more generous we would all be if we weren't losing so much of every dollar we earn and spend to taxes.

I think you've hit on an important point. We "give" (read: are forcibly deprived of) tax dollars to subsidize countless social service programs that we would not otherwise voluntarily support. Thus, we feel that we have already "given" so much, why volunteer more. I believe there are many, many causes worthy of support that should not be funded by the government, but they are. If I didn't see so many of my tax dollars wasted on funding arts and other activities that are wholly the province of the private sector, I might be more willing to contribute to the causes of my choosing. By the way, I do raise money for cancer research, but only because I value the group I contribute to and the work they do.

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I might be willing to help so long as the details (how much time, money, etc.) are left to my decision. I may decide to devote my efforts to raising money for Leukemia research instead, or some other worthy cause.

I think you have identified how charity would be viewed right here. There are some people who may not give a dime to any charity, but others, such as yourself, would probably identify some cause (or causes) that they value and would contribut time and/or money as they deemed necessary. However, the whole world cannot be "saved", and the providing of life for everyone cannot be ensured. There may be tragic instances when people "fall through the cracks", but I think it has already been stated that this happens even now with the alleged "safety net" of the government. Whether or not that number would increase or decrease is immaterial to the principle involved; it is immoral for the government to forcibly take money from one person and give it to another person based on some "need".

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I have a mentally disabled brother. He cannot talk, or basically look after himself independently. When I was growing up I got a lot of nonsense thrown at me about how I had to look after him, respect him and all that because he was 'mentally disabled' (I got in trouble if I said he was retarded, but hey he is retarded).

Anyway, my mother is quite the reverse of the sort you might respect DragonMaci. She seems to feel that she has some duty to look after him, even though Im pretty sure he annoys the hell out of her (he is really emotional and extremely violent at times), and when he is over, he is just in his room all the time.

Yeah, I know she is like that. At least Antonio as his wife do it out of love for their daughter and the value she ads to their lives. Sadly, not so with your mother.

DM has a good point in that without government intervention there would be less disabilities. Not just for the reasons he gives ,but because the system as it is now in NZ at least trivilizes disability. People feel that if it happens, well they are ensured of care without any effort on their half, so so what if it happens? Take more risks, do stupid things that might result in disability!

I meant the world as a whole, not New Zealand, though you are right about the NZ system trivilising disabilities and that people don't care about the risk because of automatic coverage. I hadn't taken that into account. That is another factor that makes things worse. Oh, and I can add workers having more money and thus being able to afford safer equipment and houses. There are no doubt many more reasons why a Laissez Faire world would have less disabled people.

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