Libertarianism for the mentally retarded

I have recently taken up a job where I work with the mentally retarded and mentally ill. It isn’t my goal in life to work my way through this field for any significant length of time, but I feel it will be a good experience for me as far as it goes. In fact, I’ve only just started and I’m already encountering a whole number of surprises. This is all probably especially emphasized at the house where I have been working due to the severity of the mental retardation in all the ‘clients’, but I have little doubt I would find my eyes opening a fair bit regardless of the exact situation. Specifically, two thoughts are constantly being churned in my mind:

  • How happy are any of these people?
  • Who, if not the government, would pay for their care?

I will leave the first question to the experts or mystery, but the second one is much more pragmatic. Under our current, humane form of government, the funding for much of the services these people need is obtained through the state. Some of it comes from charity and good will – I think the land on which my recent house sits was donated – and for people outside non-profit and other mental health programs, they may be fortunate enough to have private care independent of the government. In fact, one of the residents grew up a town or two over, having been taken in by a nice farm family for quite some time. I don’t know to what extent the state involved itself funding-wise, if at all, but surely there are plenty of example of people getting help from private individuals. However, those examples represent a small minority of the cases. Most people cannot afford the sort of care some of these ‘clients’ require.

So this all makes me wonder, if we had a wholly libertarian government, who would care for these people? Who would ensure that those who cannot help themselves not only are able to live, but are able to live healthy lives?