Libertarianz Policy Relevant to Autism / Disability Issues, in the 2011 NZ General Election


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One of the many minor political Parties running in the 2011 NZ General Elections, is the Libertarianz Party. Their disability policy can be found on their website, here. It is the most confrontational disability policy I have encountered so far (but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing). I do expect that merely reading the policy will upset – and indeed confuse – many potential voters.

The policy begins by showing an awareness of the models of disability (that’s a good start); specifically siding with the medical model of disability over the social model: “Disabilities are real physical disorders; blaming ‘society’ and turning people into victims is completely unhelpful.” They go on to say no one is entitled to disability services, and “We are capable and intelligent; “Nanny state” should stop treating people with disabilities like children and let us get on with the job of standing up to the challenges life has handed us.

There seems to be a potential contradiction there. First, they acknowledge that disabilities are real; not mere creations of societal attitudes. And yet it goes on to state that disabled people are capable and intelligent (and so should not be treated like children). Yet the very real disabilities they began by acknowledging, do frequently leave the disabled – including some of those with autism – in child-like vulnerability; lacking the mental or physical abilities to fend for or care for themselves as “capable and intelligent” individuals. Disabilities can and do affect both the capabilities and the intellect. This is surely just poor wording choice rather than an actual contradiction in their understanding of the realities of disability; with bold and passionate rhetoric, clarity and detail can get sidelined.

Then comes the second seemingly contradictory claim, that “It is your attitude to a disability that is the major determinant of how well you succeed...” Note that the disability policy statement began by stating that medical truths rather than attitudes, define and create disability. So it seems then that the statement is that the attitudes that matter are not other people’s (“society’s”), but your own (the disabled individual). I can see the relevance of the division between society’s and personal attitudes, but it seems to be coming awfully close to undercutting the strong starting claim that disability is about actual restrictions and medical issues, not just restrictions created by attitudes.

There is room for both ideas simultaneously of course; that disability is medical fact but that attitudes can affect the impact of disability. But this is at the heart of the social model of disability too; that the medical truths underlying disability are made worse by attitudes, though the social model places the emphasis on the attitudes of others, whereas the Libertarianz rhetoric places it on the attitude of the affected individual. Either approach takes note of the importance of attitudes to the reality of disability. I doubt the Libertarianz approach is actually trying to say that societal (or “others”) attitudes actually have no impact on the lives of the disabled (of course they do); rather about what if anything should be done about that impact.

Whereby their ultimate message is (I think), something like this: Disability is real rather than wholly a societal creation born of poor attitudes and other barriers (such as limited access to buildings). But the impact of disability can be lessened if individuals come to see themselves less as victims (which State support and State sanctioned views encourage) and take charge of their own successes (within the bounds that disability has created in their lives of course). Societal attitudes and barriers may make disabled lives more difficult, but that does not entitle disabled people to the financial and physical support and services from the taxpayer, which brings us to the upcoming point of who is then to provide that support where it is nevertheless needed, and the disabled person themself is unable to provide it through utterly no fault of their own.

The Libertarianz disability policy goes on to state that private businesses shouldn’t be forced to provide disability access, but that public institutions (such as courts) should be. That it is in the best interests though of private institutions to make their services available to the widest number of people, including the disabled.

The Libertarianz Party holds the view that disability support should be coming from private insurance and charities, rather than the government. But they acknowledge that due to interference and taxes these providers have been hampered, and so special provision would have to be made for the “severely disabled.” It’s unclear who these severely disabled would be (examples and criteria are not provided, but examples and criteria are rare in political policy statements anyway).

In a recent press release from the Party, it is again stated that there would be ongoing support for the “permanently disabled” under a Libertarianz approach. However, there is a difference between being permanently disabled, and being severely disabled. The severely disabled may not be permanently disabled, or may be permanently disabled but not always at the same level of severity. The permanently disabled may be barely disabled. The difference is practical and important. Maybe the idea is that only the permanently and severely disabled would qualify for ongoing support.

For autism, I guess this means the most severely autistic might qualify, but considering the ongoing debates about the nature (permanence included) of autism, and how much the severity can be affected with particular (sometimes highly controversial) therapies, I’m not sure where autism would fall in such a scheme.

The policy ends with an eye towards a brighter future for the disabled: “Looking to the future, the prognosis is bright: as Western medical and prosthetic technology gets better and better, disabilities will get less and less disabling.

I was left with rather more questions than answers after reading the policy, so I personally emailed the disability spokesman a while back (a couple of weeks or so), for clarification. I was particularly interested in hearing more about the meta-views of disability, since the social and medical model were introduced quite passionately in the policy. I haven’t received a reply.

Though the Libertarianz policies will look extreme and even upsetting to some, it is consistent with the other Parties I have looked at so far; in as far as it recognises special protections and exemptions would have to apply to the disabled as a particularly vulnerable group within society. The governmental support for the disabled under the Libertarianz though, is not seen as on ongoing or inherent right (as is often the langauge or intent of the other Parties) so much as a sad necessity of a system that has been affected so drastically by taxation and other interference.

I’ll give them this much: They sure do make you think. And so I’m left to ask, what do you think..?

Please note, I’m not endorsing voting for Libertarianz, and I am not a member of Libertarianz, or indeed any other political party. No one has asked me, or paid me, to write these posts. If I become aware of Libertarianz introducing any major changes to their policy relevant to autism pre the election, I will add it as a dated edit under this paragraph. I welcome feedback from any and all parts of the political spectrum to this and the other Election 2011 posts I shall be doing, which will all be filed under the category “NZ Elections 2011; Autism.”

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13 Responses to Libertarianz Policy Relevant to Autism / Disability Issues, in the 2011 NZ General Election

  1. Sharon says:

    I agree there are inherent contradictions and confusions. Sounds like a new party?

  2. Luke H says:

    Hi, I’m the Libertarianz Disability spokesman. I’m terribly sorry I didn’t receive the email you sent me – it probably got lost due to some email hiccups which are now sorted out.

    If you could send it again (to or I would be happy to discuss the our disability policy with you.


    My thoughts on your well-reasoned analysis:

    If you like, the primary thrust of the Libz disability policy is to disconnect the idea of “disabled people should be cared for” (we think supporting the disabled is great, if they request or require it) from the idea “the job of the state is to provide for everyone who needs it” (which we disagree with, due to the non-voluntary nature of taxpayers contributions). We think that insurance, charity and personal contributions should replace state support as the source of funding to help disabled individuals.

    The disability policy as presented on the website was written after a request by Without Limits magazine. A lot of people see our policies as being quite negative (“Who will support me if you take away my government entitlement?”) so I wrote the disability policy as an attempt to present our policy in a positive way to disabled individuals.

    You make a good point about the vagueness of the policy to sell-off state assets to fund annuities to support severely/permanently disabled individuals. One problem is that it is difficult to anticipate how much money would be available because many government ‘assets’ may be of zero monetary value. This obviously affects how wide a support net could be spread. Possibly a reasonably fair way to assign monies would be to set up payments proportional to how much the individual has received from the state in the last, say, five years.

    Thanks again for your thought-provoking analysis of our disability policy.

    Luke Howison
    Libertarianz Disability Spokesman

    • And thank you Luke for that well-considered and very helpful reply. Your explanation does help fill in the holes, and explains the wider and surrounding context of both the policy and its presentation. I really do appreciate you taking the time to respond in this way.

  3. Hi, and I hope you don’t mind me commenting here. My name is Shane Pleasance, & I am the new president of the Libertarianz.

    I would suggest that you have summarized our policy, along with its inconsistencies, very well. Indeed, I would like to thank you for pointing them out – and for your interpretations.

    We are a relatively new party in the general scheme of NZ politics; but the concept of Liberty is based on a philosophy with quite a few kilometers under its belt. In fact, its been left back in a gulch and not visited for some time.

    Even the most casual of searches will find Libertarianism is based on principles such as ‘non initiation of force (even when the government does it), individual responsibility and freedom to do as one pleases, provided one does not trample on the same rights of others.
    We also believe that there are few actual human rights – life, lawful pursuit of private property and freedom from force or fraud. We also believe that one cannot ascribe to others any more rights than those which we have ourselves. To do so leads to subservience and inevitably – trampling on the few rights we have. 51% Of us voting to spend 100% of the populations money on things that 49% of the population are against is as immoral as if it were 99% out voting 1%.

    We believe the only role of government is to uphold those rights – law and order, justice and defense.

    Common politics have usurped common sense. In the name of ‘democracy’, politicians promise to allocate resources (those %’s again), to whichever minority or majority group will get them enough votes to get them into power, for that is all they desire.

    We do believe that democracy is the best we have – but that the power that government has over resources should be severely curtailed.

    New Zealand is a magnificent country filled with good people.

    We think that one of the worst monopolies that the government has (and it doesn’t matter which government) is the one on ‘compassion’.
    Voting for some party to spend taxpayers money where you think it is best spent is not compassionate. Helping people yourself is compassion. Voting for our government to use force to extract money from people (human rights – property) to help poor and suffering people is immoral, self-righteous laziness & bullying. People need to be clothed, fed, medicated and sheltered.
    New Zealanders are compassionate – and do and will derive great joy in helping people.
    There is no joy in doing it at gunpoint!

    Our leader is a GP. I am a registered nurse who has managed an NGO supporting people with mental health and learning difficulties. Our vice president is a nurse at Kids hospital Auckland. We have walked the walk. We also recognise there is no such thing as an utopia. What we propose would not be a perfect land without disease and misfortune, but will at least have morally correct underpinnings which reflect the human dignity of self determination – good or bad.

    I expect people like YOU are far better at deciding how help should be provided to those you support. You would not waste like the government does!

    We would want our policy to reflect only that, really. Our business is to set the scene for charities and self determination to flourish.

    That said, we will review our policy in the due course of better representing our principles – and in light of your feedback.

    Kind regards

    Shane Pleasance

    • Shane, thank you for taking the time to comment. The Libertarianz are the first Party of the ones I’ve looked at so far leading up to this election, who have actually popped over to comment / explain / clarify on my post about their disability policies. I’ve been reading a lot lately about disability and autism groups submitting questions and concerns to Parties over the past couple of months, and not receiving any acknowledgement or answers, which doesn’t look good in an election year (or any other year really). Neither of the major parties (National or Labour) have even released their disability policies yet (I keep reading about how they intend to release it though… at some point), and it’s only a week to go until voting day. It shouldn’t be this hard to figure out the attitudes and intentions of the people who want to tell us what to do for the next three years!

      So again, thank you for your efforts and thoughtful response.

    • Sunshine says:

      I’m out in the US, but I completely agree with this! In the US, it has been an utter failure when the govt. has attempted to legislate “compassion,” from equal opportunity laws that have made businesses wary of hiring disabled individuals, to inefficient distribution of services for the disabled, to out of control spending that has left us broke. Meanwhile, I have enormous faith in our ability to take care of our own, and I think charities can do it better, and there can be win wins for everyone (think about when a business partners with a charity to raise money and get some good PR at the same time).

  4. David V says:

    Before I was the father of an autistic boy, I was active in the Libertarian Party of the United States. Everything up there that was written is pretty consistent with attitudes amongst Libertarians in America. As for myself, it has posed a conundrum to me personally. On the one hand, I’ll take all the help I can get as a parent! On the other hand, I’m not into spending other people’s money. As your most recent article touched on, the local public school can make a difference in my autistic child’s care. We did, in fact, move to this school district because of the reputation of its special education programs. However, I support that school with my tax money, so it’s not like I’m going to bite the hand I feed. I have not taken advantage of a new state law that requires health insurance companies to pay for autism therapies, and I did not vote for the measure when it was on the ballot. I thought that it went too far in forcing society to help carry my burden. Maybe I’m being foolish, but it just didn’t seem right. Besides, I’d rather interact with my son at home than have him off at therapies all the time.

    • You’d be surprised (or perhaps not surprised) at how much of what you’ve just said closely resembles my own experiences and attitudes. I have done my best to maintain neutrality in these political posts I’m writing leading up to the election this Saturday; tried to explain parties’ attitudes and policies without building in my own values. But I do have values, very strong ones (strong because they stand up to reason and reality, not strong based on tradition or faith). I’m tempted to write a more personal post on what I independently wish the politicians would do (or not do) for people like my son, but I don’t want to undercut the neutrality I’ve attempted in these political posts. I might give that further thought though. Thanks for your comment David 🙂

  5. Great post, and excellent comment thread. I have just back-linked this page to an earlier post on my ADD-focused WordPress Blog, to an article entitled Tales from the ADD Dark Side, subheading: Disability vs. Difference, where I chime in on the underlying concepts pointed out in this post.

    I have included the metaphor below in my comment on another blog, but I believe it bears repeating here (with a few edits for relevance to this post). The rest of my point can be found in my post on ADDandSoMuchMore dot com in the article referenced above (search for the main title).

    If all are to be held to the SAME standards ultimately, then society must hold the SAME standards for access to the same training and development for all. Otherwise, society is handicapping unfairly, actually “RAISING the bar” for some, to use that unfortunate “bar” metaphor, while setting things up to be easier for the rest. (We call that “discrimination.”)

    As an example using the physical disabilities community for a more easily understood analogy:
    If we are going to penalize students for being late to class, it might be considered “an unfair advantage” to EXCUSE the ones who use the wheelchair ramp *unless* that entry is at the back of the building, making it impossible for the wheelchair-bound student to make it on-time without leaving the prior class ten minutes EARLY.

    Until we succeed in getting that darn ramp moved, to be FAIR, we can *either* bar the front doors to ALL students, or change the “late” time for those who can’t use the front door. If we use government funds for ANY “doors,” it is discriminatory NOT to use them for ALL “doors.”

    The reason for our governments to make sure we DO that, by the way, is NOT “compassion” itself, but because we reap what we sow. Always have, always will. It is in our best self-interest as individuals and nations to make sure that the gifts of all of our citizenry are developed — and in a compassionate manner — because we will ALL reach a point where “they” hold our personal futures in their hands. Doesn’t it just make SENSE to raise them to be educated to be able to THINK, with kindness as a moral value, nurtured to be able to use their talents and abilities optimally? “Soft skills” must be modeled to be developed.

    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC – (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and on ADDerWorld – dot com!) “It takes a village to educate a world!”

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