We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Misfortune is not licence for taking by force

The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else
– Frédéric Bastiat

RyanAir has just lost a legal dispute with Bob Ross, a customer of the airline who suffers from cerebral palsy, due to the fact the airline did not supply him with a wheelchair for use within the airport at RyanAir’s own expense. The low cost air carrier was ordered to stop charging disabled passengers £18 ($33) for the use of wheelchairs the airline provided at Stansted airport as this was deemed to be in violation of the Disability Discrimination Act.

[The Judge ruled] the airline should pay £1,000 compensation for injured feelings to Bob Ross, a cerebral palsy sufferer, who brought the case after having to pay for a wheelchair to take him the half-mile from Stansted check-in to the aircraft two years ago.


The Disability Rights Commission, which supported Mr Ross’s case, praised the judgment for recognising that Ryanair’s policy was a “slap in the face” for disabled people wanting to take advantage of low-cost flights. Bert Massie, the commission chairman, added: “It beggars belief that a company that made £165 million profit last year should quibble over the cost of a wheelchair.”

So what we are being told here is that because the unfortunate Mr. Ross has a terrible affliction, he can forcibly impose his costs on others who do not wish to bear them. In a civilized society, a civil society, people should feel that it is right and appropriate to assist those who are disabled. Enlightened businesses should seeks to cater to those with special mobility or other needs and it is right that social opprobrium be heaped on those who decline to do so. Yet Mr. Ross did not seek social opprobrium for RyanAir but rather the forcible appropriation of its resources.

Yet why does a disability give anyone, no matter what unfair cards fate has dealt them, even a terrible affliction such as cerebral palsy, the right to legitimately help themselves to other people’s money by force? Whilst I think RyanAir’s policy of applying these charges was perhaps unenlightened (and certainly bad P.R.) to ‘quibble’ over the costs of a wheelchair, I fail to see by what right Mr. Ross is owed by force backed obligation a special charge on the resources of a company he elects to do business with.

As the regulatory state, and those who make their living from it, work to replace more and more social exchange between people with mandated politically derived behavioural formulae, less and less people (and the companies run by people) will seek to do ‘the right thing’ from any sense what is reasonable and decent, and instead will merely do what is mandated by political processes. When people like George Monbiot and Peter Hain describe their visions of a total political ‘society’ (which is to say the replacement of social interaction by political interaction… the replacement of society with state), Mr. Ross is an exemplary product of that world view.

Of course to some it would seem any criticism of a wheelchair bound person suffering with cerebral palsy is beyond the pale. But I prefer to think of Mr. Ross as a human with the same rights as myself, but not more just because he has less mobility. Yet it seems this man has not just the right to impose his needs on others but to say otherwise means the state will force you to compensate him to the tune of £1000 for hurting his feelings. I wonder when the Disability Rights Commission will take this to its logical conclusion and start going after people such as myself for airing such heretical views if they hurt the feelings of those who want to impose their needs on others?

31 comments to Misfortune is not licence for taking by force

  • Cydonia

    My thoughts exactly. This story has been irking me for days. Now I feel much better!


  • I was thinking of writing something about this but you got there ahead of me!

    I’d just like to add a further thought. RyanAir is a low-cost airline, this means that, in order to provide the cheapest possible fares, it provides only the basic service necessary without all the traditional extras. This is the basis of its contract with its customers. Mr Ross should have realised this and if a free wheelchair service was a deal-breaker – it is not hard to find out which airlines provide this – he could have chosen to fly with an alternative, “more compassionate” airline.

    I think it’s a great company but I hate flying with them. I don’t mind paying a little extra, especially as competition with RyanAir has reduced that “little extra” to the minimum, for a more comfortable service from other carriers.

    The point is: wheelchairs aren’t free. It costs RyanAir money, as it would any other airline, to provide a wheelchair service. This cost could be paid by the user of the wheelchair, and £18 is a small amount, or it could be absorbed by the airline in which case it would have to charge more for on fares to cover such “discretionary” costs. This should be a free choice for each company to make, instead RyanAir is being forced to choose the latter, less efficient option.

    There is this fiction that either the wheelchair service is somehow free or that such a service ought to be paid “out of profits”. The other “more compassionate” airlines don’t pay for this out of profits, they simply charge their customers more to provide these “free” services.

  • Ryanair will now be charging a 50p surcharge on all tickets to cover the costs of all the other claims they now expect to receive from previously charged wheelchair users.

    On another front the EU is attacking the low cost airline for repayment of rebates it previously received from a small Brussels airport. The EU conglomerstate is clearly determined to destroy the low cost air travel UK passengers have recently enjoyed and probably more importantly ensure it does not become more general across their continental oppressed fiefdom

  • Andy Danger

    With such an extensive nanny state, is it any wonder that there are more brats throwing temper tantrums to get what they want?

    Of course the next step to right such horrible injustices as these will be to make “free” wheelchair service mandatory for every airline. Argh.

  • Verity

    Yes, well said, Perry! Others have already made most of my comments, but why should I let that stop me when I haven’t had my say yet?

    Bob Ross deliberately chose a “no frills” airline to fly with. The sense of entitlement absolutely seeps out of this man. Does he think no-frills applies to everyone except himself? No free coffee or free £1.50 glasses wine for anyone else, but an £18 wheelchair for him?

    How much was his seat on that flight? Take an average Ryaniar ticket of, say, £40. But Ryanair was supposed to pay him for the privilege of carrying him, so minus the £18, he would have paid £22 for his flight while everyone else paid the £40.

    Ryanair became a major contender by being stupid? And yes, they are now going to force other passengers to pay a wheelchair levy of 50P per flight to cover the costs of people like Bob Ross.

    This is yet another outrageous finding by the leftie court. Even if I were contemplating flying Ryanair in the near future, I would refuse to do so because I am not going to contribute 50P to the Bob Rosses of this world. I’m sorry he’s suffering from a debilitating disease and if I could make it right by snapping my fingers I would do so. But I have no interest in helping him meet his airline expenses out of my pocket.

    My one area of disagreement with Perry: “Enlightened businesses should seeks to cater to those with special mobility or other needs and it is right that social opprobrium be heaped on those who decline to do so.”

    Why? Enlightened businesses should run themselves as they fit and not according to the level of social opprobrium doled out by hectoring Kumbaya fascists.

  • Andy Danger

    I think Perry was differentiating between the legal and moral realms. He believes it would be the moral thing to do for businesses to provide wheelchair service, but would never dream of forcing them to do so.

    Besides that, Verity, there’s this little thing called public relations. People can heap all the “social opprobrium” onto an airline for whatever reasons they wish, so long as they’re not backed by the guns of the state. That’s the market at work.

  • Why? Enlightened businesses should run themselves as they fit and not according to the level of social opprobrium doled out by hectoring Kumbaya fascists.

    People are only hectoring Kumbaya fascists if they want to use force to compel other to do something. Why should Mr. Ross not be equally at liberty to try to ‘hector’ RyanAir to see things his way by giving them bad publicity or other such non-force backed measures? Just because I think it is RyanAir’s right to tell Mr. Ross to pay £18 or get stuffed, that does not therefore oblige me to think that is what they should do.

  • Verity

    Perry – Of course Mr Ross should be free to fight his corner and try to shame Ryanair into changing its successful “no frills” formula for him. We are all at liberty, at the moment, to take to task companies we feel have treated us unfairly.

    But I don’t think the court should have found for him, as he had deliberately chosen an airline that shaves down its prices with an emory board in order to provide cheap tickets. He knew this when he bought the ticket.

    And I still don’t agree with you that businesses “should” make adjustments for disabled people. I think they should run themselves to maximise their profits, and if they don’t mind the bad publicity, that is a business choice. I don’t like that word “should” because it implies coercion. You said they “should” be met with opprobrium. Had you said, “Should expect to be met with opprobrium” I’d have had no argument with you. “Should be met with opprobrium” sounds too bossy for my taste – and also, it doesn’t sound like you.

  • A a disabled man I am appalled by the infantile rights culture which we now have.There has to be a realisation that there is a cost to enablement ratio which at some point becomes ludicrous,a wheel chair ramp up Mount Everest for example. In this life there are somethings we can do, some things we cannot do and somethings we never get round to doing,we have to live with it.If the disabled demand the right to have society fund exact parity,is not society within its rights to demand equal performance?I’d love to, but I just can’t,that is not to say we can’t do something else and personally,there are many things that I haven’t done,that time permitting,I can and will do.
    A totally political society is a callous society,the general attitude becomes,”Nothing to do with me,thats somebody elses job”As we have seen with child abuse cases,if it left to the professionals disaster can follow.

  • Verity: Well I do indeed think they should. Please note that “should” does not mean the same thing as “must”… I just happen to think the decision is RyanAir’s to make, and not the state’s.

  • What troubles me further is that it’s not just that Mr Ross is entitled to economic retaliation. It is the underlying assumption, even the implied assertion that making profits somehow makes you guilty until proven innocent.

    If you want full service, do not go for a low-cost airline. What part of “low cost” could possibly be unclear ? Low cost means everything’s optional or plainly unavailable. Further, did the addition 18 pounds charge make the ticket unaffordable, or more expensive than the alternatives, thereby truly “denying” Mr Ross the opportunity to fly cheaper ?

  • Perhaps Mr. Ross should be made to pay out for the “hurt feelings” of everyone employed by RyanAir.

  • jk

    I have MS and have flown RyanAir out of Heathrow several times. I don’t remember any extra charges. I usually limp to the gate but RyanAir gates are a looooong way and I have lately accepted a ride to the gate.

    I am new to the wheelchair culture but I hope I never develop that sense of entitlement. I have seen it and it appalls me. Boo to Bob Ross.

  • Chris Rowe

    Just to make matters worse, Michael O’Leary (chief exec of Ryanair) was on the Frost programme this morning. It was not Ryanair that were directly making the charge for the wheelchair, but passing on the charge from BAA – the owner of the terminal.

    Mr Ross aparrently paid only £10 for his ticket, but Ryanair get landed with an £18 bill for getting him through the terminal to the aircraft. Mr O’Leary also commented that at 90% of the airports Ryanair operates out of, there is no charge for wheelchair services by the terminal operator.

  • It is worth noting that there is an entitlement to mobility and care allowances according to the degree of disability.Mobilty allowance is specifically to enable disabled people to get about, especially if they find public transport difficult to use.
    I don’t know the circumstances of MR Ross but it would be galling if he qualifies then does this.

  • This l(Link)etter features in today’s Guardian:

    I, too, have been a victim of Ryanair’s wheelchair policy and it is fairly typical of its management to respond to this legal ruling by imposing a 50p per ticket surcharge, generating a handy £12m in extra income.
    I am pleased with the ruling – but why does the surcharge feel like another slap in the face for all passengers, disabled or able-bodied?

    A victim?

  • Cydonia

    Martin Cole:

    “On another front the EU is attacking the low cost airline for repayment of rebates it previously received from a small Brussels airport. The EU conglomerstate is clearly determined to destroy the low cost air travel UK passengers have recently enjoyed and probably more importantly ensure it does not become more general across their continental oppressed fiefdom”

    Can’t agree with you Martin. This is an area where the EU is doing a good job. Ryanair, in common with other airlines, is subsidised by local State-owned airports. Why should such a subsidy be any less objectionable than all the other myriad State handouts to which we object? I for one do not want my tax money to be used to subsidise the travelling expenses of middle class second-home owners.

    It isof course particularly ironic that Ryanair is at the forefront of fighting to keep such subsidies in place!.


  • I agree, the morally correct thing should not be forced sdown people’s throats. Now in the USA, we have a ton of handicapped parking spaces, which almost overnight have doubled in size because the fascist nannies have decided that handicapped people need a double sized parking space cause they all have lift/crane vans. In my estimate, that composes about .005% of handicapped parkers. Most handicapped folks seem quite mobile but got fat and lazy, which now has been re-diagnosed as a disease.

  • Disabled people should pay for wheelchair ramps in public places, those bigger carspaces and for wheelchair access in public toilets. Why should taxpayers help those less fortunate to live a normal life? This isn’t a land of opportunity you know.

    Hell, why don’t they just stay home, they’re so inconvenient.

    I sure hope I never become disabled, then I’d be worth less in society’s eyes, I’d be a drain, and hell, I couldn’t afford to buy those wheelchair ramps either.

  • So, NIMBY, do you actually have an argument to make (i.e. are you going to make a coherent case for why a disabled person should have the right to use force to compel people to support their needs) or are you just going to posture in righteous indignation?

  • NIMBY:

    Think of wheelchair-users as niche customers. In a free market, businesses cater to such customers or niche suppliers emerge. Just because the government doesn’t force a business to provide a wheelchair ramp or a parking space doesn’t mean that businesses won’t tend to provide these anyway.

  • toolkien

    Take the argument further (perhaps facetiously). How about people are not just wheelchair bound but bedridden? Do airlines have to provide space for them if they want to travel? How about any other special needs cases? Hyperbaric chambers (better make special modifications in the planes to allow for the pressure variances), people with allergies, people with any ‘abnormality’. Apparently people have a right to travel and this was all about ‘hurt feelings’ which is just as likely possible with the bedridden. The company made millions so what a few hundred pounds to take few sets out to have room for a hospital bed? Come on, it’s all about feelings and cold hearted profit here….

    But of course it’s about ‘reasonable’ measures, but whose value judgements control? I agree that perhaps it would be more moral and right to have wheel chair services (mostly because I have been conditioned that way and there is some ‘projection’ of myself into ‘what if…’ scenarious) but I do see the problem when commonly held right and wrong can easily merge with the State and these outcomes result. It is more alarming that there seems to be a growth industry here, lawyers, advocates, and pandering politicians and it will only get worse.

  • veryretired

    This is a very clear example of the simple, ideological premise upon which the legitimacy of the modern welfare state is based, i.e., need is a value which trumps all rights.

    This concept is not always understood by those it penalizes, so they become indignant at the thought of someone whose claims seem so artificial. In truth, it is the cornerstone of an entire inverted morality in which weakness is power, and strength is a liability; incompetence is a claim, and competence is a lifelong sentence of servitude; inability is a demand that must be met, and ability an unending debt which can never be paid.

    Rand described all this decades ago, and specifically stated that the results of this philosophical inversion would have enormous practical implications. Those of you who dismiss her writings because she believed in the rule of law instead of some infantile obsession with the “perfect” anarchical society, can quiver with as much righteous indignation as you wish. This is old hat to those of us who have been paying attention.

    Perhaps if you stopped trying to reinvent the wheel every day, you would have a little more traction in the ongoing debate regarding these issues. But, of course, it is more important to be “pure” than effective, and nothing is purer than… nothing at all.

  • limberwulf

    I would like to add to Peter’s statement. The greatest problem with the nanny state is that it makes charity impersonal. There is nothing wrong with reaching out to those in need, in fact, it can be incredibly beneficial to both the giver and the receiver. When that gift becomes forced, rather than given freely, there is no place for joy on the part of the giver, nor gratitude by the receiver.

    The nanny state becomes not only impersonal, but destructive to the society as a whole. People who would otherwise be happy to give to their fellow humans who have been hit by some hardship in their life become quite resentful at being asked to give when a large sum has already been taken from them for just that purpose. It is frustrating to help someone and have them continually come back for more help, particularly when no gratitiude is shown for that which has already been given. Those who would happily offer gratitude (or more if they were able) are left with no one to thank. The sense of entitlement becomes the only way they can justify their means of existence, the other alternative being a total loss of self-worth. It is cruel to give to someone without teaching them a way to help themselves. It is cruel to take away all consequences and have a person never learn life’s lessons, because they continue to make the same mistakes. It is cruel to force people into labels and tell them they are poor because they are “under the poverty level set by the state”. It is cruel to tell a man who is struggling that he is not struggling simply because he does not “qualify”.

    When I have money taken from me to support the “needy”, I am less able to help those around me that I see in need. Some of them truly need help, but dont “qualify” for help by the state. Some of them are not really hurting, but they are on the verge of success if someone would be willing to invest in them a little. They in turn add to the success of the entire society, and society benefits. I cant afford to help those kinds of people when the state takes my money to give to “the ones who really need it”. I can make my own decisions on who gets my gift, and how much. I can have the joy of seeing someone who is hurting be helped and know that it was me that helped them. That person can see through my actions that all men are not heartless, and can be inspired, and can have a subject for their gratitude. There are many inspiring stories about people helping other people, there are very few inspiring tales of someone getting their welfare check.

    Nimby, the fact is, people who call for the state to help the needy are not caring at all. They are jsut trying to let “someone” help the needy, rather than helping the needy themselves. There is no personal responsibility at all. Those that would call for the removal of forced charity are far more caring in general. They recognise the great loss for both giver and receiver when the state takes over. Not to mention the horrible inefficiencies of having to pay government admin staff, and all the regulations that allow some to take unfair advantage of the system and others to not be helped at all. Yes, there will be those that will give to no one, but that is not a reason to force them to do so, much less to take money from those that would truly like to be able to help their neighbor.

    Need is not a justification for theft. A man who breaks into your house and steals “to feed his family” is still a criminal. A man who demands his more costly plane ticket at everyone else’s price, and uses force (in this case the legal system) to have his demands met, is a theif.

  • Cydonia


    “Those of you who dismiss her writings because she believed in the rule of law instead of some infantile obsession with the “perfect” anarchical society, can quiver with as much righteous indignation as you wish. This is old hat to those of us who have been paying attention.”

    I’m not sure I follow. Are you suggesting that anarcho-libertarians oppose the rule of law? Not any of the ones I have ever met (or read).

    As for the topic in hand, I imagine that it is just as much old hat to non-Randians libertarians as to Randians. Anarcho-libertarians such as Rothbard were/are at the forefront of the attack on fake “rights”.


  • toolkien


    I agree with most of what you have said. What it all boils down to for me is that there is a very simple equation, there are people (with value judgements) and resources (that become property through value judgements). Value judgements create property and value at its most essential basis and it should be left to he who created to decide how it is disposed. When the State invades this continuum they are disruptive. The State takes away a person’s value judgement and, at best, replace it with its own, or, at worst, with nothing at all. There is a disconnect between creation (with sound value judgements) and disposition (with sound value judgements). I used to nash my teeth over the confiscated labor that funds transfer payments (and its cousins) but I soon realized, that while that is bad enough, the bigger crime is the obliterating of peoples’ system of value that pointed them to labor (physically or mentally) in the first place and negating who they essentially are.

    And for Verytired, this is about as Randian as I get as I have found Rand to be too absolutist for my tastes (as did many of her former compatriots).

  • Those of you who dismiss her writings because she believed in the rule of law instead of some infantile obsession with the “perfect” anarchical society, can quiver with as much righteous indignation as you wish. This is old hat to those of us who have been paying attention.

    Well, I am a minarchist so you are obviously not targeting me with that remark… that said, you are quite wrong if you think most genuinely libertarian anarchos eschew the ‘rule of law’… polycentric law is still law.

    I moved away from Objectivism (I was once a ‘true believer’) and towards Popper because of Rand’s irrational dogmatism. That said, I do not dismiss much of what she wrote out of hand.

  • When government administers anything it puts in place rules,regulations and procedures.It also sets criteria which define the levels and boundaries of its functions.Other criteria also define who is entitled or comes under the remit of those functions.Initially this is made law, then tested in the courts over time,differing rulings acreting to the original intentionover time.Working practices health and safety issues all add to the process.
    In the case of disability, this means that there defined levels of help and ludicrous rulings that say,basically, if you need help to eat a meal you get help but if you can’t go to the shops to get food you don’t .The outcome of this is that people have to conform to standards of disability to satisfy the rules,so they do.This exacerbates the victim culture because, under the system if you don’t whinge you don’t get.I was lucky enough to collapse with heart failure on a visit to the hospital followed by a systems failure,but many people are not that fortunate.

  • hello,

    Peter how r u? your article is to cool , and u r write . i know you r very fursted by the your giverment , so if u confirtable then come to my country. My contry have very good giverment do this is confirtable for u.

    Hope u read this article as soon as possilble.