Essay:Inevitably disenfranchised group

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An inevitably disenfranchised group in society is one that will tend to be powerless and trampled-upon no matter what economic or political system is devised. Most proposals to better the lot of these groups through government intervention either infringe the rights of others (e.g. by forcibly redistributing wealth to the poor) or restrict the freedom of members of these groups in order to protect them from exploitation. Examples would be welfare programs and minimum wage laws (for the poor); and laws requiring parents to provide for their children, and forbidding minors to sign legally binding contracts. As is always the case with government intervention, these policies have unintended consequences.

The poor

The prime example is the poor. The poor (i.e. those in whatever social underclass lacks much access to resources) are relatively powerless under both communism and capitalism. No social system has ever managed to abolish a poverty-stricken underclass or to give its members truly equal rights to education, legal services, security against crime, etc. Their rights are vulnerable to violation by both private and public sector actors, because they cannot afford lawyers, gated communities, and other means of fending off depredations by states and other criminals.

Lew Rockwell writes, "Government is always and everywhere a rich man's business. The poor have never played a role in the administration of the State, except insofar as they are used by elites as a cover. In fact, the emergence of the State itself grows out of the successful cartelization of one sector of elites against all its competitors. So of course these same elites rule on behalf of themselves. In the whole history of humanity, there is only one means by which the class of the poor have successfully converted their lot into something higher, and that is capitalism."[1]


Likewise with children; not much can be done, from a legal standpoint, to make their situation better if they happen to be unlucky in certain ways. If they are orphans, or their parents are different or hostile to them, then their childhood is probably going to unpleasant, compared to what it would have been like if they had had loving, concerned parents. No system can change that, although it is possible to mitigate the problems. Freedom does the best job at mitigating the problems by making more options available. The child loses the option to force his parents to pay his way or have anything else to do with him, but it is unreasonable to demand that anyone have a right to anything at another person's expense, except in fulfilment of contract or restitution for crime.

People have attempted to ensure the care of all children by mandating that parents provide the necessities of life with the child is a minor. This does not necessarily prevent the parent from making the child's life rather unpleasant and from expelling the child from the home as soon as the child reaches the age of majority. Nor does it do anything about those situations in which money cannot be extracted from a parent, whether because that parent is indigent, imprisoned, dead, or cannot be located.

The parent has a right to peace in her own home, and to get rid of unwelcome parasites. It is the same principle that justifies abortion. The people who get abortions are those who do not feel willing and able to fulfil what they believe a parent should do (or has to do, in order to keep that child alive). Ultimately there is no getting around the fact that some people in any society will get off to a relatively bad start in life because of unfortunate circumstances beyond their control, and some will not even have an opportunity to be born or to reach adulthood.

Children do, at least, have evolution on their side, in that those parents who have destroyed their own children have tended to weed out from society the genes and memes that would promote child neglect and abuse. Those parents who adequately cared for their children, on the other hand, have tended to propagate genes and memes that promote such care. Ludwig von Mises notes, "Even the most primitive husbandmen are dimly aware of the consequences of acts which to a modern accountant would appear as capital consumption. The hunter's reluctance to kill a pregnant hind and the uneasiness felt even by the most ruthless warriors in cutting fruit trees were manifestations of a mentality which was influenced by such considerations."[2]

The same could be said for killing children; such homicide represents a significant waste of resources. Children are the means by which life is renewed, and those societies that have destroyed their young have tended to go extinct; this is probably why a tendency evolved for people to find children "cute," to desire to protect and nurture them, and to be aghast at any proposal to destroy them. Of course, in an age in which strenuous physical labor is not as much needed as in the past, and in which medical technology has enabled even the relatively aged to reproduce, it is not as necessary to keep large numbers of young people around, so it is possible that the drive to preserve the young will diminish in intensity as evolution continues.


Fetuses are in an even worse situation than children as far as powerlessness is concerned; they are even more defenseless, and no legal code has succeeded very well at protecting them from abortion by parents who do not want that child. But the child's life was a gift from the parents, and they can choose to not give any more gifts, in the form of continued resources necessary for life.

Everything is relative. No one's life is eternal. One can bewail that a grandfather died a year earlier than he would have if the family had been able to afford better medical care. One can bewail that a fetus was not able to be born. One could, theoretically, bewail the many sperm and ova that never even reach the point of becoming a zygote and therefore are not even given the same slim chance at years or decades of survival that, say, a Rwandan tutsi child during the height of the 1990s massacres might have enjoyed. For them, the "You only live once" does not apply; they do not even get the kind of chance referred to in that saying. This is not necessarily bad; as Ludwig von Mises quotes Sophocles as saying, "Not to be born is, beyond all question, the best; but when a man has once seen the light of day, this is next best, that speedily he should return to that place whence he came."[3]