Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What are the costs?

Often in today's world, autistics (and other people with disability labels) are described as taking from but not contributing to society, as a devastating tragedy to their families, as an unsustainable burden to public welfare agencies, and so forth. The proposed solution is either cure or eugenics, depending on whether or not you're talking to someone who has a wonder cure to sell.

Quite apart from the inhumane nature of evaluating the existence of one's fellow citizens in terms better suited to industrial cost-benefit analyses, this view of disability fails even under its own terms because it doesn't take into account that there's an awful lot of costs, burdens, and emotional devastation on the other side of the equation. I'll list just a few of them for my readers to ponder:

What does widespread discrimination against qualified workers with disabilities cost our economy?

When children are inadequately educated in special needs classes, what is the cost of the resulting loss of productivity over a lifetime of unemployment or underemployment?

How much emotional devastation do families suffer because of stigma, stereotypes, and mass hysteria?

What is the amount of money wasted each year on researching potential cures that are unlikely to result in anything useful?

When large numbers of people feel that they cannot get reasonable opportunities in our society and console themselves with drugs and alcohol, what is the cost of that?

How much potential for lifetime achievement is lost every time an autistic teenager commits suicide because of prejudice and social rejection, and how much devastation must his family endure because of his loss?

What is the cost of being expected to do anything it takes, no matter how difficult, expensive, or emotionally distressing, to fit into our society's extremely narrow definition of normality?

When public welfare agencies see their role as providing only the least possible assistance, rather than providing the services needed to enable their clients to find productive niches in society, how much more does that end up costing in the long term?

How many families spend large amounts of their savings, or go into debt, buying purported cures and therapies that are either useless or actually harmful to their child?

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  • Great post, ABFH! These are some very important questions and it is time our society started to take a look at them. Thank you for putting this easy to understand format. I'll be passing it on to many people who need to see this.

    By Blogger Bev, at 11:38 AM  

  • Excellent.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 PM  

  • Ooo the joys of cost benefit analysis. Economics versus political socialism, it's a slippery slope you know!
    Best wishes

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:09 PM  

  • *raises hand*

    Chapter 11.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:16 PM  

  • Ooops, I wasn't clear: Massive amounts of money spent on self-styled experts during a state of long-term confusion prior to the appearances of the wonderful bloggers (like abfh) I've come to know and trust.

    *puts down hand as all is well now*

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:20 AM  

  • Thanks Anon. When I read your first comment, I thought you meant that some corporations might end up in bankruptcy because of their discriminatory ways.

    I'm glad all is well with you now.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:42 AM  

  • The biggest question in any "cost-benefit" analysis is who bears the costs and who gets the benefits. If those two individuals are not the same, then a cost-benefit analysis won't work.

    By Blogger daedalus2u, at 11:57 AM  

  • Only a third of your questions can be answered in terms of economic cost analysis. The remaining questions are either statistical in nature, subject to large cost ranges due to subjectivity making the analysis meaningless, or are not defined in terms of “economic” costs. The three that can be answered are textbook microeconomic analysis that is done in classrooms all the time.

    By Blogger Chuck, at 12:25 PM  

  • Chuck: You're quite right that there is a large amount of subjectivity in my questions. The same is true of the propaganda I'm arguing against.

    By Blogger abfh, at 2:37 PM  

  • Cost-benefit analysis is fine for a corporation. If an employee isn't pulling their own weight, they can be fired. I think the company is within their rights to do so.

    The same is not true of humanity as a whole. Only a fascist and despotic system would work under the presumption that you either contribute your share or be eliminated/prevented. There are all sorts of people who for various reasons are unable to contribute as much to the economy as others. They still have the right to exist. There are also fat cats who have a lot of money doing hardly anything at all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:19 PM  

  • "Only a fascist and despotic system would work under the presumption that you either contribute your share or be eliminated/prevented."

    That's so true. But a lot of Americans ARE for the elimination of poorer classes or people with disabilities, as extreme as that may sound. It's scary.

    Good post, abfh. Whenever I talk about issues like the Community Choice Act, i start explaining in a numbers sense because that's what connects people. It's sad that we have to talk about it in that manner to catch their attention though. Especially around human rights violations, basic freedoms, etc.

    By Blogger cripchick, at 9:49 PM  

  • Well said.
    Society has a lot to answer for.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:35 PM  

  • You've made some excellent points!

    People can't be classed as purely a financial cost.

    By Blogger Philip., at 1:57 PM  

  • The financial contributions of Aspies MORE than pay for all the care every Autistic on earth could ever need.

    Bill Gates: The taxes generated alone cover Autistic care. How about the jobs created and the charitable contributions? That is a huge sum.

    Bram Cohen: The inventor of Bittorent.

    Satoshi Tajiri: Pokemon's inventor. How much revenue and how many jobs were created for that product?

    Dan Akroyd: Blues Brother's made how much money and is still sold on DVD?

    This is the short list. I could go on and on.

    Hmm, as far as I can tell the only reason the NT community is not squatting in a dark cave right now is because of US.

    The greatest minds of our time are populated with Aspies.

    Any imaginary debt to society has been more than paid.

    Great post ABFH!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:54 PM  

  • Although I think valuing the contributions of autistics is important, I find the statement:

    "Hmm, as far as I can tell the only reason the NT community is not squatting in a dark cave right now is because of US."

    offensive and prejudiced. Plenty of NTs have made great achievements as well. (Even accepting the problematic idea of 'progress' which that statement also reflects, the idea that living a 'primitive' life in a cave is inherently inferior to 'civilization'.)

    By Blogger Ettina, at 7:16 PM  

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