Libertarianism without Inequality

By Michael Otsuka | Go to book overview

Chapter 2 Making the Unjust Provide for the Disabled

I have argued in Chapter 1 that it is possible, across a fairly wide range of individuals who differ in their capacity to derive welfare from resources, to distribute initially unowned worldly resources so as to achieve equality of opportunity for welfare in a manner which is compatible with each person's possession of an uninfringed libertarian right of self-ownership that is robust rather than merely formal. It is possible to provide a fairly wide range of disabled members of society with the opportunity to acquire enough worldly resources to better themselves, via the investment, rental, or sale of these resources, to the same degree as able-bodied individuals who are themselves provided with the opportunity to acquire a fairly generous portion of worldly resources. The holdings of the able-bodied would be sufficiently generous that the disabled would be able to support themselves through truly voluntary exchanges with the able-bodied that do not involve forced assistance. By these means, one could achieve equality of opportunity for welfare across this range of individuals without any encroachments upon anyone's robust-libertarian right of self-ownership.

In this chapter I would like to address the question of what, if anything, is to be done when it is possible to provide for the basic needs of some individuals only through a distribution of resources which encroaches upon the robust-libertarian rights of self-ownership of others. Let us suppose that a given segment of the population are disabled in the following respect: through no fault of theirs, they lack the ability to engage in productive labour. Suppose that, in the absence of voluntary charitable contributions, their basic needs for food, clothing, shelter, and medicine will be met only if others who are able-bodied are forced to engage in productive labour on their

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