Disabilities, rights and libertarians…

This is an article I write as a reply to a woman who has written things that move me much, at a libertarian forum at Facebook. Her opinion is that it is impossible for her to be be a libertarian, and that she therefore has to be a socialist… She regretts that, obviously! I have seen other disabled people write the same thing as she does, and I have written about it too in Swedish.

With this article I want to show that the question of disability rights is a crucial question that shows some flaws in common libertarian thinking.

Khannea wrote this in the singulibertarian group.

”In a perfect world I’d be libertarian. However in a perfectly libertarian world, I’d be left at the mercy of a system that’s hostile to collective taxes. Let’s pit it in plain words – if I’d have to survive the ‘charity’ popularity contest I fear I’d be dead pretty soon. Hence I feel I can’t *afford* a purely libertarian society. I can not ever work, not in the current definition of ‘work’ and I am 100% dependent on disability.

This places a high moral burden on me. I’d *want* to be libertarian. But I know I can’t ever pull it off, and I know I have to resist a libertarian society with all might.

Maybe as technology advances, or maybe if technology allows me to catch up with the rest of society, in terms of marketability, I’d be more complacent. I also get a little testy quite often, as I notice that (my) society does succumb to liberalization tendencies, and my quality of life is decaying steadily.

When I bring this up with hard-line libertarians I get a range of responses, such as (a) yes you are right, you’d starve and that would be good for society; (b) oh don’t worry, you are useful, and you’d do great on donations, IF ONLY we libertarians wouldn’t have to pay so much taxes or (c) in a REAL libertarian world all these things would not be an issue. You’d be rich, since you’d get a job and make money easily, and your day-to-day costs would be far less. There have been (d) and more comments, some of them quite non-flattering.

I am not buying all that. So, rip loose, how is a sourpuss like me to feel comfortable in a forum like this? Do I simply ”misunderstand” libertarian values? Am I doing something totally wrong? Should I be ”blamed” for some kind of transgression?

I don’t think it’s very uplifting to discuss my ‘disabilities’ as length. Treat me as the ‘perfect storm of dillemma’ for libertarianism – someone fairly smart, someone of a certain age, someone with a diagnosed extremely distracted mind – declared 100% disabled by law. On the one hand with clear talents, on the other hand fundamentally neurologically disorganized. What does Libertarianism do with someone like me.

Note that in theory, if I got fed up real bad, I could use a range of perfectly legal means to cause damage to society (as an act of protest) and with the means I have right now could probably could easily inflict systematic disruption (sabotage) several times the value of my current disability. So in effect I do have means to protest an societal marginalization, and I will be increasingly forced to use them, in effect using my influence to ‘blackmail’ society. Clearly this potential for ‘insurrection’ (and the cost of prisons, police) should be taken into account in this as well. ”

My answer!

Dear Khannea!

I have written in Swedish about the dilemma you write about. 

In Sweden the government helps disabled to get aid, and many disabled, for example those with Cerebal Palsy, get the right to a paid assistent that helps them to get a ”normal” life.

There are problems with the system but it functions relatively well.

Many libertarians would call this system socialistic. Taxmoney is used to help disabled. I disagree. I cannot imagine a liberal or libertarian system without government support for disabled.

You are correct when you say that disability is a dilemma for libertarians. It is!

Mainstream libertarians who dont know much about disabilities normally say that the costs of living will decrease in a libertarian state and that will PROBABLY help most disabled…

People who know more about disabilities normally say that more people would give money as charity, and that disabled people would have to get by with the help of charity.

There is a great problem with that.

Most disabled people are fed up with charity. For centuries they have been dependent on charity and some have received it, most disabled not. All over the world they have demanded their rights to life, free speech, liberty, independent of charity and they have actually succeeded to secure their rights and have increased their standard of living.

A RIGHT is not the same thing as CHARITY. Charity is not a Right. That is the problem.

So in a mainstream libertarian world disabled would loose their rights to life and liberty, since without aid they could never excercise these rights. They would be dependent on charity to excercise their rights to life. That is not acceptable. (Would any other libertarian accept that? To have to beg for the right to speak freely? Off course not!)

I can understand that you choose to be socialist. In a mainstream libertarian world you would loose your rights.

But it does not have to be like that.

Nightwatchman state

Most libertarians accept the concept of a nightwatchman state. That some taxes are acceptable, and that one can, with the help of them, secure the negative rights of all people (the right to life, to freedom, to free speech). That is: with the help of taxes, and a minimal state, one can support Police and courts.

In my view a libertarian society has to secure the rights of all. In a libertarian society the minority should NEVER be allowed to be trampled upon. Minorities have equal right to exercise their rights as the majority.

That creates a dilemma, the dilemma you talk about.

Without a government that secures your rights as disabled, you as a person, as well as most other disabled people, are excluded from the society.

Formally you would have the right to live, but in reality you would not have that right since you only could exercise that right if you got money from Charity.

But what would happen if libertarians would include aid to groups, like the disabled, in their notion of the minimal state, of the nightwatchman state? 

Yes, it means that money would be transferred from some people (as a tax) to other people, by force in the same way as taxmoney is intended to the Police. But so what. What are we to do otherwise? Should we who like libertarian ideals spit in the face of disabled people and tell them to fuck off? Should we say that ”no, no, you dont have the RIGHT to live, go to some rich people and BEG for money instead, and you MIGHT get help.” Should we say: ”yes you have the right to life, on this piece of paper it is said that you have equal rights, but dont come here with your demands to be able to exercise these rights. It is only nice words on the paper…”

Off course not!

The minority have the equal right as the majority!

Perhaps some day in the future, when technology has advanced, the government support for disabled would be unnecessary, but today it is NECESSARY!

One might say that this means that some government funding for hospitals would be necessary too,and other kinds of government support. Yes! For the reasons I state above, I personally believe that a ”safety net” is necessary. Humans are far too valuable to be thrown away as some kind of garbage! Preferably some kind of negative tax, as Milton Friedman proposed, too.

Is it Libertarian? Perhaps not, but who cares? I was born free and have the right to redefine politcal concepts if the concepts do not match with the reality!

So instead of saying that you cannot be a libertarian, help me and others to develop a definition of libertariansm that does NOT assume that your rights as humans, should be trampled upon! Minorities have equal right to life and free speech (etc) as majorites. That is a cornerstone of libertarian thinking!

Disabled libertarians will transform the libertarian thinking in the future, I am convinced of that!

/Torbjörn Jerlerup (Works with disabled and am using a hearing aid.)


One might say that government funding does not guarantee that disabled get help. Correct. But in that case the disabled person can go to the court to demand his and her rights. Without government support that would be impossible. A Charity is not a Right!

I know that some of my libertarian friends will disagree with this writing. But instead of saying that I should call myself social liberal instead, pleas challenge my views instead. Challenge the dilemma I and Khannea write about!)

PS 2

Freedom from and freedom to? Is not freedom of/freedom to a positive right? Yes it is. But as soon as we talk about the state we have to talk about freedom to and freedom from. (All libertarians that are for a state uses that kind of langiage with regards to such things as freedom of speech, etc…)

The important thing is what definies freedom. A negative concept or a positive. In order to avoid oppression the disabled has to get the MEANS with which he or she can avoid it. The disabled will be opressed, and all his or her rights trampled upon, without some AID…


En introduktion till crip theory

4 tankar om “Disabilities, rights and libertarians…

  1. I received an e-mail from a family member that detailed protests by disability rights activists of Sen. I think the public school system as well as public housing and all other programs that turn people from adults into leeches of the state to be loathsome. I strongly support school vouchers of the kind that have been successful in Sweden.

  2. Håller inte med. Det du pratar om är en vanlig liberal stat – själv har jag inga invändningar emot eftersom jag är liberal. Det är dock ingen anarki vi pratar om här.

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