The Bright Man’s Burden
In many states, the mildly retarded must submit to the guidance of competent persons or authorities before making important decisions.1 These include the decision to marry, to have children, to enter into financial contracts, and to live alone. Generally speaking, adults of normal intelligence may make these decisions without obtaining the consent of anyone, and they value this autonomy. When persons of normal intelligence, acting through the state, take custody of the retarded, they do not seek the consent of the retarded, who acquire protection but lose their legal rights. If we claim that relative intellectual superiority justifies restricting the liberties of the retarded, could not exceptionally gifted persons make the same claim concerning persons of normal intelligence? I propose to examine the moral importance of relative intellectual superiority, and to consider whether it can serve as adequate grounds for denying full citizenship to the mildly retarded.
KeywordsNormal Person Civil Liberty Mental Capacity Competent Person Full Citizenship
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