Political Compass #31: Seriously disabled people should not reproduce.

Welcome back to the second half of this endeavour!

Many political debates here have included references to The Political Compass, which uses a set of 61 questions to assess one’s political orientation in terms of economic left/right and social libertarianism/authoritarianism (rather like the “Libertarian diamond” popular in the US).

And so, every so often I will begin a thread in which the premise for debate is one of the 61 questions. I will give which answer I chose and provide my justification and reasoning. Others are, of course, invited to do the same including those who wish to “question the question”, as it were.

It would also be useful when posting in these threads to give your own “compass reading” in your first post, by convention giving the Economic value first. My own is
SentientMeat: Economic: -5.12, Social: -7.28, and so by the above convention my co-ordinates are (-5.12, -7.28). Please also indicate which option you ticked. I might suggest what I think is the “weighting” given to the various answers in terms of calculating the final orientation, but seeing for yourself what kind of answers are given by those with a certain score might be more useful than second-guessing the test’s scoring system.

Now, I appreciate that there is often dissent regarding whether the assessment the test provides is valid, notably by US conservative posters, either because it is “left-biased” (??) or because some propositions are clearly slanted, ambiguous or self-contradictory. The site itself provides answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions, and there is also a separate thread: Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading? Read these first and then, if you have an objection to the test in general, please post it there. If your objection is solely to the proposition in hand, post here. If your objection is to other propositions, please wait until I open a thread on them.

The above will be pasted in every new thread in order to introduce it properly, and I’ll try to let each one exhaust itself of useful input before starting the next. Without wanting to “hog the idea”, I would be grateful if others could refrain from starting similar threads. To date, the threads are:
Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading?
Political Compass #1: Globalisation, Humanity and OmniCorp.
#2: My country, right or wrong
#3: Pride in one’s country is foolish.
#4: Superior racial qualities.
#5: My enemy’s enemy is my friend.
#6: Justifying illegal military action.
#7: “Info-tainment” is a worrying trend.
#8: Class division vs. international division. (+ SentientMeat’s economic worldview)
#9: Inflation vs. unemployment.
#10: Corporate respect of the environment.
#11: From each according to his ability, to each according to need.
#12: Sad reflections in branded drinking water.
#13: Land should not be bought and sold.
#14: Many personal fortunes contribute nothing to society.
#15: Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.
#16: Shareholder profit is a company’s only responsibility.
#17: The rich are too highly taxed.
#18: Better healthcare for those who can pay for it.
#19: Penalising businesses which mislead the public.
#20: The freer the market, the freer the people.
#21: Abortion should be illegal.
#22: All authority must be questioned.
#23: An eye for an eye.
#24: Taxpayers should not prop up theatres or museums.
#25: Schools shouldn’t make attendance compulsory.
#26: Different kinds of people should keep to their own.
#27: Good parents sometimes have to spank their children.
#28: It’s natural for children to keep secrets.
#29: Marijuana should be legalised.
#30: School’s prime function is equipping kids to find jobs.

*Proposition #31: * People with serious inheritable disabilities should not be allowed to reproduce.

SentientMeat (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Strongly Disagree.
Anyone can have a baby with a serious disability. This proposition would appear to arbitrarily target those who already have such a condition, even though it is entirely possible that their baby will be born healthy while a healthy couple’s baby is born with their condition. There is a word for such double jeopardy, ie. punishment of one born with some affliction by denying them the joy of parenthood: eugenics.

It might be that such a policy could reduce the frequency of that condition in future generations, thus reducing suffering in the long run. However, I would counter that the suffering which such a policy would immediately cause to those denied the choice of parenthood would take a heck of a long time to redress, and perhaps would never be compensated for since the genes are still carried by those without such disabilities and thus the condition’s incidence may not actually become that much less frequent.

Far better, say I, to seek to cure that condition, or to select from a reproductory sample of the afflicted person a zygote which tests negative (a mere refinement of what occurs naturally in many cases anyway - the failure of a blastocyst to implant in the womb.) I feel that the suffering in this scenario effectively falls to zero (unless one contends that single celled organisms can ‘suffer’, in which case one should really be lobbying for a ban on antiseptic.)

Civilisation has long since reached a point where people with tragic conditions can enjoy fulfilling lives and contribute to society - we can rejoice that Stephen Hawking’s parents were not barred from reproduction, for example. We might argue about precisely what constitutes a “serious disability” and whether embryo screening is therefore appropriate, but I would suggest that this is peripheral to debating proposition #31. On its face, it is a vastly authoritarian contention which I would think few to none of us here would ascribe to without some pretty strained interpretation.

Welcome back SM.

7.0/-3.0 here. Strongly disagree.

Leaving aside the potential for abuse (who gets to decide what “disabilities” qualify), it’s really a simple matter of individual rights. One does not give up one’s right to reproduce just because one is a member of a society.

However, the corrolary to this is that a person’s right to reproduce (and produce a disabled child) does not give that a person a lien on my income to care for that child. If it does, then I will want a say in whether or not that person can reproduce.

One more issue to throw out in this discussion: If you disagree with the proposition, you must also disagree with laws forbidding close relatives (including siblings and parent/child couples) from marrying.

Hoo boy, I get to be first to respond!

Shodan ticks “Agree”. People with serious, inheritable conditions should not reproduce.

Please note that the phrase DOES NOT SAY “should not be allowed to reproduce”. I am not advocating government intervention. But, Stephen Hawkings notwithstanding, it would better if we could free up limited resources by not spending them on avoidable problems.

Now bring on the Beethoven references.


That was my title, necessarily abbreviated. The proposition we are debating is #31 which contains the words “should not be allowed”.

Actually, it DOES say that.

SM often shortens the proposition for the thread title, and in this case it changes the whole meaning. You actually need to read the OP, not just the thread title.

I don’t see why seriously siable people as a whole shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce.

But I’ll go with Shodan saying that with today’s genetic screening and research, people should be informed of the chances of producing a defective iffspring.

The moral choice would then be to reproduce or not, depending on the chances.

Unfortunately genetic and prenatal screening is disgustingly sad in the U.S. I can look up a cite if someone needs it but I believe we are not only not near the top, but somewhere around #10. And even when we are # 1 (as we should be! - for all the pride we take in our country!)

(slight hijack)
I heard of a case a month or so ago. This woman knew that she should take her folic acid pills, she knew folic acid can totally prevent spina bifida and hydroencephaly, she knew she should get proper prenatal care. (Or so her mother told me on the phone). Yet she chose to do none of the above. Her baby was born with spina bifida.
(/end hijack)

I don’t know enough about inherited disabilities and how likely they are to be transmitted to answer this question either way. It seems like the goal of alleviating suffering of future generations should be valued less than ensuring freedom from tyranny for future generations, though.

I strongly disagree based on the limited knowledge I have. There is just too much authoritarianism in that statement for me to take it seriously.

Last time I took the test I was:

Economic Left/Right: 4.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.44
People should be “allowed” to reproduce, sure. But am I, personally, going to judge them fairly harshly? Yes.

Like Mattie Stepanek’s parents. I believe they are incredibly selfish people. Whatever their reasons for continuing to have children, I don’t think I can believe that they are behaving any way but selfishly. If you have four children and three die horribly at an early age and one lives longer but almost completely incapacitated, I want to know what you’re thinking.

Economic Left/Right: 4.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.18

Its all about individual rights and allowing people to be responsible for their own actions. To me its a no brainer, and I strongly disagree that people with serioud disabilities should not be ALLOWED to reproduce. It should be their individual choice.

Well, thats the rub of the nanny society. If they are paying the bills they can have a say, and in fact they can INSIST they have a say in various facets of the lives of the members…for the good of the collective society of course. In Europe there are many decisions (though I’m not sure if this is one…yet) that the government can make for its citizens to curtail their rights, because society picks up so much of the tab and so has so big a stake in things.


If it is “should not be allowed”, then I Disagree. Not the government’s business.


Should not reproduce? Definitely. Should not be allowed to reproduce? No. Even the most profoundly disabled life is still precious and comes complete with all the rights and responsibilities as all of us. I’d rather that society support some of those who perhaps should not have been born than let society dictate who should not reproduce. Disagree- agree with the ends but not the means.

(1.62, -4.92) here. fun quiz. does it mean anything (i.e. do our differences in scores indicate a difference in political philosophy?)?

strongly disagree on the same grounds as just about everyone else. perhaps “three generations of imbeciles are enough”, but it’s not up to the government to make that determination.

I wonder who this question is targetted at…i.e. what kind of folks would say that ‘seriously disabled people should not (be allowed) to reproduce’? And what their rational would be.

As I see it, a large percentage of Americans, while disagreeing on the details, would disagree agree with this position: (most) liberals are going to say people should be allowed to reproduce if they want (and have the state pick up the tab, a la BobLibDem), conservatives (at least the quasi-religious fundi-conservatives) are going to be against abortion reguardless, libertarians (a la John Mace) are going to be against it on personal choice and freedom grounds (while NOT wanting the government to pick up the tab)…who does that leave? Centrists? Even most of them would disagree probably for all of the reasons of the liberals/conservatives/liberatarians etc. Seems like it would be a pretty narrow niche group of eugenics types, no? Perhaps true Communists? Facists? How about the Greens? They seem to me to be a likely candidate for this, no?


I think physical and mental disabilities need to be divided into two camps.

Imagine sitting in a room full of the seriously mentally retarded. They can’t make informed decisions about their own welfare and are unable to provide subsistence for their own lives. Payments by other people must be made for their upkeep. Their condition is inheritable.

Under such circumstances, preventing them from reproducing is essential and wholly justifiable. Absolutely no good could result from the birth of a child with such serious mental disabilities. I think, in such cases, the guardians of the seriously mentally retarded should ensure that conception does not occur. If they have no rational idea for what having a child would entail and no ability to provide for a child, I would * strongly agree * they should not be allowed to reproduce.

However, if someone with a purely physical inheritable disability makes a reasonable and informed choice to reproduce, I would * disagree * they should not be allowed to reproduce.

I remember a story form two decades ago about a woman born without hands. Her condition was inheritable; even odds on whether her children would have hands or not. She gave birth to a kid without hands. She wanted more kids—with hands or without hands. Now, if I were her doctor, I’d certainly recommend not reproducing given her condition, but I don’t think prohibiting her pregnancy should be allowed.

Since there isn’t a whole lot of debate here…

Is there anyone who disagrees with the proposition but who would support mandatory car seat belt laws or motor cycle helmet laws? Or, as I originally posed it, anyone who would disagree with the proposition but who supports laws against sibling marriage?

I would argue that they should not be allowed to be raped and that any sexual encounters with such people is rape. If they are protected against sexual encounters that they cannot, by law, consent to, then they will not reproduce.

I worked for a brief time in a temp job at our county’s MR/DD center.

While I was there, a couple of people who attended classes in the center fell in love and decided to marry. Both of these people had the mental abilities of a child of about seven. They were minimally functional, in other words: they could communicate on a basic level, could perform simple tasks, but needed around-the-clock assistance to live on their own.

After the wedding, they announced their intentions to have a baby, because, in the words of the potential mother: “Babies are pretty.” The job ended before I found out if they ever had a baby or not.

I remember at the time discussing this with my husband. I was torn between two minds on the issue-- and still am. On one hand, I fear for the child, who, if born “normal” will suffer a lack of parental socialization and education, and if mentally disabled will have needs which may not be met by parents who cannot even meet their own. On the other hand, forced birth control or sterilization smacks of eugenics and facism.

One way or another, the child would end up being cared for by the staff who assisted the parents in their home and supported by State money. The parents relied on the State for the lion’s share of their income: they worked at a special industry set up for them here in town, but it pays pittance wages which could never support them. This also tears me, because on one hand, I support the welfare system in our country, but on the other, I realize that this child could be potentially more of a drain on resources than another child. If the child is born disabled, chances are that the State would always have to support him, whereas a “normal” child has a chance at a successful, tax-paying life.

This seems to be one of those painful issues for which there is no cut-and-dried answer. Constitutionally speaking, the rights must lie with the potential parents, not with a child not yet concieved. Childrens’ Services will have to do the rest: if it is proven that the child cannot be cared for in its home environment, they can make decisions as to what to do at that point.

Car seatbelt laws is not the same case. If you don’t wear your seatbelt, you are only harming yourself. But if you procrerate while you have some inheritable disease, you are harming your child.

Economic left/right -2.25
Social Libertarian/Authoriatian .82

Strongly disagree

Strongly disagree. It isn’t the governments job to tell me who I can screw and whether or not I can produce a child. Of course I think people who are likely to pass on serious genetic flaws shouldn’t have children but that’s a personal choice.