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Many people deny that their disabilities make them worse off than others, or worse off than they would themselves be without the disabilities. Elizabeth Barnes has suggested that there is nothing odd about these claims as disability is a mere difference. Opponents of the mere difference view are often concerned about the unacceptable implications of the view. If it were true that disability is a mere difference, they suggest, then it would be permissible to cause disability, and permissible to refrain from preventing disability. These implications are absurd, or so we are invited to concur, and therefore disability cannot be a mere difference. Barnes has argued at length that the unacceptable implications argument is a weak objection to the mere difference view. Her main argument is that there are a number of reasons for why it may be wrong to cause disability, even if disability is a mere difference. One such reason is because of transition costs. According to this claim, causing a person who is nondisabled to become disabled is wrong because of the heavy transition costs associated with acquiring disability, even if the person is not made worse off in the long run. This paper analyses the nature of transition costs in much more detail than is found in the existing literature. Our detailed analysis of the nature of transition costs is then used to argue for two main conclusions. Firstly, we provide considerable additional weight to Barnes’ argument that even if disability is a mere difference, transition costs entail that it can be wrong to cause disability. Furthermore, we strengthen Barnes argument by showing that transition costs entail that it can be wrong to remove disability (cause a disabled person to become nondisabled). Secondly, our detailed analysis of the nature of transition costs provides reason to doubt that well-being, including transitory impacts on well-being, is the only thing that should determine the wrongness of causing or removing disability. Maximising well-being is not the only thing we do or should care about. The upshot of this analysis is that even if it is true that some disabilities do make people somewhat worse off, non-welfare considerations still defeat the claim that it is always wrong to cause disability.
Keywords Disability, Transition Costs, Mere Difference View
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