Poverty and Disabilities

Poverty and Disabilities

William Thomas

3 Mins
September 28, 2010

Question: Objectivists still haven't given an answer as to how the disabled and poor are to be taken care of. Basically, your response was, "nothing." So does the Objectivist have a logical solution as to how the "needy" and "unabled" can be taken care of in a Capitalistic society?

Answer: The Objectivist answer to poverty and other social problems is: 1) create a society in which people have clear reasons to be responsible and work for their own benefit; 2) If these problems bother you, YOU try to find solutions through creative charity and investment in cultural change and human capital (i.e., education).

Need I point out that despite all the rhetoric, the government social programs of today have not resolved our social problems and indeed often exacerbate them? The effects of the recent welfare reform show how much this country had created a culture of poverty and a class of people habitually dependent on government aid. The morality of government social programs is that of a thug; when a politician takes credit for a new program, remember that the money for it was taken at the point of a gun from people who never approved of the program and who will never see any benefit from it. I mean, the taxpayers.

You can read David Kelley's book A Life of One's Own for the moral argument against the welfare state.

And see our suggested readings on social assistance for economic and historical information about the ill effects of government social programs and the alternative arrangements possible in a free market.

There are numerous proven ways that interested individuals can create institutions that reduce the effects of poverty, ignorance, and disabilities. These include endowed schools, clinics, and hospitals; mutual aid societies and targeted insurance; and creative business thinking that sees a resource where others see a shortcoming.

But if you think that the elimination of poverty is the standard by which a social system should be judged, you are mistaken. People have free will and life is risky; there is no system that can preserve human freedom and ensure that no one will be foolish or evil, that no one will have bad luck they did not insure against, and that no one will have imperfect health.

Objectivism defends the right of the individual to seek his own happiness in life. The preservation of individual freedom in the free market gives everyone every reason to live productively and prudently. It sets everyone free to create the best institutions for human happiness. It requires that all dealings with others be freely chosen, so that each person can engage only in dealings from which he sees a benefit. It recognizes that each person is responsible for his own life, and does not mortgage your right to exist to the failings of others. There is every reason to think that such a society will have little poverty or social vice, but the standard by which we judge it is that there is every reason to think it will make possible a happy life for a rational human being.


William Thomas

William R Thomas writes about and teaches Objectivist ideas. He is the editor of The Literary Art of Ayn Rand and of Ethics at Work, both published by The Atlas Society. He is also an economist, teaching occasionally at a variety of universities.