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A civil, but still flawed look at Hayek from the left

It is a measure of how far we have travelled in the world of ideas that the case for state central planning, as was once championed by British Fabian socialists and similar people 100 years ago, struggles to get a respectable hearing these days. That is not to say that the idea is dead, merely that it has been subjected to a sustained intellectual and practical hammering, not least the fall of the old Soviet Union.

One person who has the good sense to realise how discredited central planning has become is the American leftist writer, Jesse Larner. Who deserves some of the credit? It is a certain FA Hayek, he says, telling this to readers whom, one imagines, might have called for his defenestration by saying anything nice about Hayek only 20 or 30 years ago. The article, which focuses on Hayek’s early book, The Road to Serfdom, is fairly respectful of the case against central planning, and one might hope that this shows that parts of the left have fully grasped the folly of said. But there is a lot left in this article that is misleading, besides-the-point, or which misses some crucial points. In a way, the muddle of this article explains perfectly the mindset of what can be loosely called the left today, and yet is also suggestive of how libertarians might yet be able to engage with the smarter of them and bring them over to our side. So I have decided to take a look in some detail. Let’s start with this:

Politically, Hayek is not the cynic I had braced for. Plainly, transparently—and in stark contrast to many modern conservative intellectuals—he is a man concerned with human freedom. One of the unexpected things in Road is that he writes with passion against class privilege.

That is very revealing of the circle that Mr Larner keeps. He is amazed, apparently, that a guy who defends the free market order is not a political “cynic”. Well, if by cynicism one means a low view of those who seek to attain by power and influence what others do by enteprise and hard work, I guess he has a point, but that hardly is a sin in my book. Also, Mr Larner should have read enough right-of-centre authors to know that liberty is actually a regular concern. One of the very reasons why there was a counter-movement against socialism after WW2, from all those think tanks and academics with those strange central European surnames like Mises and Polanyi, was precisely because they saw, in socialism, the loss of liberty.

Here’s another one:

Indeed, he is often eccentric. He is a romantic, a serious deficit in a social theorist. Many of his arguments rest on a reductionist idea of socialism, and his conception of the sources of law can only be called mystical.

Huh?

But Hayek is not merely an eccentric mystic.

The only justification I can think for that remark is that Hayek was a notable defender, and explicator, of the value as he saw it of the English Common Law and the post-1688 settlement in England. He called himself an “Old Whig”, was a great fan of the legal scholar Blackstone as well such figures as David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, Adam Smith (of course) and Edmund Burke. In the case of Burke, the influence is interesting, since the great Irish politician, now mainly remembered as a scourge of the French Revolution, was a supporter of the American Revolution, moved for the impeachment of Warren Hastings, of the old East India Company, was a notable denouncer of political corruption, and was primarily a Whig, and not a Tory. It is also true that Hayek valued the Burkean notion that there is a value, not always easily grasped, to traditions that have developed across the centuries. I’ll readily admit though that this is a weakness: just because something is traditional, does not of course make it a good thing. There is, in fact, a tension between those Hayekians who praise certain traditions and those, who, from the more natural rights portion of the libertarian camp, think that we should send some traditions to the scrapheap. He goes on:

One of Hayek’s most original contributions to economic theory is the insight that economic systems are based primarily on information rather than resources. To plan an outcome and to direct economic inputs and outputs toward this outcome is to stifle the emergence of a spontaneous, democratic response to the needs of the individuals who make up the community—a response that will necessarily have winners and losers, but that will not privilege the vision or depend on the limited information of a governing elite, and that will encourage further experimentation.

That is a pretty good summary. I’m buying.

He points out that any economic master plan would necessarily have to delegate so many important issues of policy to non-elected technocrats as to be inherently antidemocratic, and that a society in which the value of goods and labor were defined according to their utility to the plan would necessarily allow no room for individual choice and subjective valuation.

Yep.

Today, these observations are merely obvious. Yet it is worth pointing out that Hayek understood at least one very big thing: that the vision of a perfectible society leads inevitably to the gulag.

Yep.

The absence of any consideration of more libertarian, less top-down approaches (the socialisms of Luxembourg, Kropotkin, Proudhon, many others; or of the possibility of nontotalitarian models of social democracy, like those that emerged in Europe after the war) should alert the reader to Hayek’s limitations. Admittedly, Kropotkin’s ideas had little impact on the world of 1944, Stalin’s a great deal.

That comes across as a bit disengenuous. I guess Hayek probably did know about these other, “bottom-up” forms of socialism, but as he, and his mentors like Ludwig von Mises pointed out, such “libertarian socialism” is an oxymoron since it ignores whether a member of a “voluntary” commune would be allowed, in practice, to leave with his or her share of accumulated capital and strike out on their own. If the answer to that is yes, then you would quickly find quite a lot of ex-commune dwellers reverting to old-fashioned entrepreneurial capitalism. If these “bottom-up” socialists prevent this, or demand that the profits of the break-aways be wholly or partially confiscated, it is hard to avoid the conclusion of the late libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick that socialism involves the preventing of capitalist acts between consenting adults.

Mr Larner trudges on:

Hayek doesn’t seem to grasp that human beings can exist both as individuals and as members of a society, without necessarily subordinating them to the needs of an imposed social plan (although he acknowledges that the state can legitimately serve social needs, he contradictorily views collective benefits as incompatible with individual freedom).

That is not right at all. Hayek wrote a lot about traditions, the benefits of inheriting cultural values via institutions such as the family, and so on. He certainly did not think if collective benefits of things like laws and defence of freedom as clashing with liberty; in fact he made it abundantly clear that law and liberty were intertwined.

And:

He rejects the very concept of social justice, for much the same reasons that he rejects the arbitrary valuation of labor: in Hayek’s view there is no way to put an objective value on a grievance or to weigh it against other claims. And because he locates all responsibility and agency only at the level of the individual, he sees no way in which any claim can be generalized to society.

He did reject it, for the very reason – as Mr Larner knows perfectly well – that is a question-begging term. Social justice requires, as a premise, that wealth somehow exists “out there” and that the collective of humanity has some prior claim to said. But that puts the cart before the horse, as Hayek explained. He also pointed out that terms like “social justice” smuggled egalitarian, illiberal concepts into more neutral terms, and this was a pernicious thing, since it disabled clarity of thought.

Perhaps it is because of this outlook that Hayek does not, in Road, address collectivism as a spontaneous, nongovernmental, egalitarian phenomenon.

He probably does not address it as, to the extent that any collective effort involving more than one person is freely undertaken by said, there is no need for it to be addressed. Individuals band together to form foundations, charities, firms, clubs, whatever. So long as they are free to leave and their property is not seized, what is the issue? There is not one. What Hayek was against was coercively shoving people together into collectives not of their choosing.

Even a brief survey will show that there are all kinds of imaginative ways in which libertarian collectivism can coexist with capitalism and markets.

If that is true, what is the problem? People can and do share ideas for free – as on the internet – or band together to form common cultural, economic and political groups all the time. This is the paradox of a liberal society; far from being a cliched world of individuals pitted against each other in a war, a free society allows enormously complex and rich examples of co-operation. The market is, in fact, the most remarkable example of co-operation that there is.

It is a bit chilling to read the words of the British socialists quoted by Hayek—E.H. Carr, C.H. Waddington, Sir Richard Acland, H.J. Laski—who, when Hayek wrote, were calling complacently for what can only be read as an enlightened totalitarianism, even in the shadow of Hitler. And Hayek is very convincing, and most interesting, when discussing the romantic roots of German antiliberalism and of the illiberal statism of the left and right. But this does not mean that public disbursements in the social interest necessarily start us down a slippery slope to the totalitarian state, and Hayek, in suggestively conflating government spending with government planning, pulls a bit of a sleight of hand in Road.

Well I do not know. I think that although the direction of socialism that Hayek predicted may not have been entirely accurate. But Larner is surely missing a point that frequently exercises the likes of us at Samizdata: what might be called the regulatory form of socialism. Under this form, one might nominally own a house, or a company, or whatever, but there are so many rules telling you what to do that you might as well have nationalised ownership. This is a much harder form of socialism to fight. I am certain that Hayek would have addressed this issue. He would have been horrified by the loss of civil liberties in Britain and the constant demand for a government “solution” to this or that problem.

There are glimmerings of respect for Hayek here in Mr Larner’s article, and this is by far from being the worst left-of-centre review of Hayek that I have read. Mr Larner clearly respects what the great Austrian thinker stood for, and has the good grace not to engage in gratuitous name-calling. But there remain problems. Oh well, this is the sort of person that libertarians need to patiently cultivate.

52 comments to A civil, but still flawed look at Hayek from the left

  • Ian B

    The only reason state central planning appears to be discredited these days is that the Left (Proggies, that is) has moved on to something more advanced and totalitarian. The strategy now is to use non-governmental groups to govern, hence the switch in terminiology from “government” to “governance”. The strategy now is to use non-governmental groups to impose a continuity of authoritarian governance quite unattainable in a democratic polity by use of government. The government’s five year plan is old hat now, replaced by the governance cloud’s never-ending plan; the role of government is to be just governance’s catspaw, and it matters not who ascends to the purple as their actions are dictated by agencies, quangos, NGOs, binding transnational treaties and so on; which is why for instance it matters not a jot whether we are notionally governed by Broon, Cameron or that Clegg bloke- once in power they will have no choice but to do as the governance structure demand. A trivial example for instance currently is Boris Johnson, a man who no doubt likes a tipple and has railed against the nanny state- now in power, he finds himself obligated to join the temperance movement tilting against the windmills of binge drinking**.

    They are so far ahead of us in terms of political organisation and power, it’s embarrassing. They don’t need central state planning any more. They’ve created a “government outside government” to do it instead, whose policies roll on and over us regardless of who we vote for.

    **A minor personal success, I’ve been trying to find out for some time where the “binge drinking” moral panic we’re now in the grip of came from. The answer appears to be from one Henry Wechsler, a creature of nanny central, Harvard, who has devoted his life to talking up drinking among college students with the usual bad statistics etc- ’twas he who coined the term “binge drinking” for being mildly tipsy. He’s funded by the millions by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, whose ten billion dollar war chest is currently being pumped into action against beer and fat people.

  • Jon

    An … interesting look at Hayek … too bad this journalistic hotshot didn’t address the knowledge problem.

  • CFM

    “It is also true that Hayek valued the Burkean notion that there is a value, not always easily grasped, to traditions that have developed across the centuries. I’ll readily admit though that this is a weakness: just because something is traditional, does not of course make it a good thing.”

    Why is this a weakness? Just because something is traditional doesn’t make it a bad thing either. Many, perhaps most, traditions are simply of no import beyond their familiarity. Reference the Johnathan Pearce posting of July 20. The vast majority of traditions in any given society merely provide a measure of familiarity, of common perceptions and habits, organically risen from the shared experience of the populace.

    Christmas dinner, an acre of meadow, a pound of coffee. Variety is the spice of life I say. Let the English keep their pint at the pub, tea at four (?) and their peculiar currency (It’s already been emasculated by decimalization anyway). These are the small, unique characteristics of a great civilization.

    We can easily reject witch-burning, gay bashing and Jim Crow. But keep yer conformist paws off of my 8 oz. porterhouse, the Cross of St George, Thanksgiving, and the springtime fertility rites. And wait your turn instead of breaking queue like a dang Belgian.

    The leftie writer you quoted, like all lefties, dislikes tradition because it stands in the way of world conformity. A level of conformity that, for this old Southwestern Libertarian, amounts to death by boredom.

  • nick g.

    Some changes to tradition are good. Once only blacks could be slaves. Now we can all be wage-slaves! Whereas the minority class of slaves were ‘taxed’ at 100%, now 100% of us are taxed <100%. Who says there’s no progress?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Just because something is traditional doesn’t make it a bad thing either

    But of course. A reflexive hatred of tradition is just as silly as a worship of the new, or hatred of the new. That is why we need things like principles, reason, evidence to help us decide whether a tradition is valuable or whether we need to correct it. What Hayek understood of course is that without lots of good information, it was better for man to err on the side of tradition, given the limitations of every individual’s knowledge.

    We can easily reject witch-burning, gay bashing and Jim Crow. But keep yer conformist paws off of my 8 oz. porterhouse, the Cross of St George, Thanksgiving, and the springtime fertility rites. And wait your turn instead of breaking queue like a dang Belgian.

    Indeed. But to decide which are the traditions to scrap and those to keep, you need to think. Just saying tradition is a good thing won’t help.

  • Ian B

    Conservative: “Christmas is a good thing and must be encouraged”.

    Leftie: “Christmas is a bad thing and must be discouraged”.

    Libertarian: “People will decide for themselves whether they like celebrating christmas or not. Leave them be.”

    We don’t need to decide which traditions to scrap and which to keep, using reason or anything else. These things wax and wane as a result of individual choices. To start dividing traditions, like any other aspect of society, into good sheep and bad goats is to fall into the planner’s fallacy.

    Needless to say, witch burning, gay bashing and jump Jim Crow are all violations of the basic rights of the person anyway. To argue about them on the basis of tradition misses the point. Neither are any of them particularly traditional anyway, more akin to “fads” at particular historical junctures. Especially gay bashing, which didn’t exist until recently because gays didn’t exist until recently. The very concept of sexual orientation is a modern phenomenon.

  • Johanthan Pearce

    We don’t need to decide which traditions to scrap and which to keep, using reason or anything else.

    Well for sure, individuals, if they are free to do so, can figure these things out for themselves. But what if the tradition involves a tradition of coercing or persecuting X or Y? Then there is a need to appeal to some standard of value, to reason, to challenge it.

    Needless to say, witch burning, gay bashing and jump Jim Crow are all violations of the basic rights of the person anyway.

    Indeed. So that is precisely why, as I said in my piece, that we have to weigh up certain traditions against the measure of such concepts as rights. If the right to life and a tradition clash, so much the worse for the tradition.

    Neither are any of them particularly traditional anyway, more akin to “fads” at particular historical junctures. Especially gay bashing, which didn’t exist until recently because gays didn’t exist until recently. The very concept of sexual orientation is a modern phenomenon.

    I dunno about the gay issue: homosexuality and the way in which people viewed it has changed quite a bit in different epochs (it was punishable by death in parts of Europe until the Enlightenment); as for witch-burning manias, these did indeed reach a height in the early modern era of Europe, but they were a bit more than a fad. The obsession with rooting out evil spirits and killing such folk went on for several centuries. Not really a fad, like mini-skirts or the Rubik Cube!

  • Ian B

    What I’m saying Johnathan is that tradition is irrelevant to the discussion of whether to allow any practise. If it’s traditional to hit black people in the street, the tradition part doesn’t matter. Hitting people is an initiation of force which in libertarian terms is automatically illegal. Whether your grandfather did it doesn’t matter at all.

    As an example, take infant circumcision. In my view this would be illegal in a libertarian society, because it is initiation of non-consensual force on another individual. It matters not that some cultures have done it for centuries. If an adult wishes to cut off bits of themself, that’s up to them. But for an adult to do so to a child is a violation of the child’s right to not be a victim of such force. The adult has committed an act of violence and should be apprehended and punished, just as if I chose to cut my childrens’ little toes off. What difference does it make that one is traditional and the other isn’t? We don’t need to appeal to reason to challenge it, which implies some kind of debate. Libertarianism is very clear on the basic rights of the person regarding their person and property. That’s all we need.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    What I’m saying Johnathan is that tradition is irrelevant to the discussion of whether to allow any practise.

    Well quite. I agree. I said so. I said that the key thing, in judging a tradition, is to ask if it is compatible with things like liberty and rights. If not, it gets junked.

    A tradition of say, forced marriages is out of order for exactly that reason, given that the parties such arrangements have no say in the matter. But in order to say that this is wrong, we need an independent yardstick to judge such a tradition, which I think is what Hayek does not always do, hence my half-agreement with Mr Larner.

  • S Peterson

    Two observations:

    1) In Constitution of Liberty Hayek posits that tradition should be given the benefit of the doubt from an evolutionary, or organic, frame of reference, i.e. these traditions have been found over time to confer some sort of benefit to individuals and society as a whole. However, traditions should not be unquestioned,and should be changed or expunged by the application of reason and knowledge.

    2) As to writers of the left understanding the implications of Hayek’s analyses. Writer/blogger leftist Michael Yglesias noted in a comment in the past day or so that Road to Serfdom speaks to the collapse of Soviet-style central planning. Implication being that non Soviet-style central planning could get it right.

    I would also posit that many of the reductionist ideas about socialism held by Hayek stem from his Austrian analytical framework exemplified by Mises’ Socialism.

  • Will T. Power

    Hayek said elsewhere that two institutions get in the way of the collectivist, perfectable state. One is private property and the other is the nuclear family. Thus to implement it both these institutions must be either abolished or so severely circumscribed or regulated as to be rendered meaningless.

    “the regulatory form of socialism. Under this form, one might nominally own a house, or a company, or whatever, but there are so many rules telling you what to do that you might as well have nationalised ownership.”

    Yup, there’s a name for this — fascism, which was hailed as a “third way” in the 30s.

  • “What Hayek understood of course is that without lots of good information, it was better for man to err on the side of tradition, given the limitations of every individual’s knowledge.”

    That, right there, Johnathan, is pretty close to why I maintain that “The Fatal Conceit” is the book that Hayek shouldn’t have written. Someday before I die, I should do a full-blast paper on this. His account of the rise and purpose of values — which is actually only implicit in that book, and which is a big part of the problem — is woefully inadequate in accounting for, say, the unprecedented productivity of the past two hundred years.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I would also posit that many of the reductionist ideas about socialism held by Hayek stem from his Austrian analytical framework exemplified by Mises’ Socialism.

    I’d be fascinated to know what people mean when they use the word “reductionist”. What in fact one sees in Mises’ and Hayek is the ability to get to the essentials of socialism, to define it right down to its roots. The trouble with the sort of article that Larner writes is that he wants to define socialism as whatever happens – he thinks – to be collective forms of human effort. But that is erroneous because, as I pointed out, all kinds of voluntary collective efforts can and do flourish in a free society. Socialists want to claim credit for things that happen quite normally in conditions of freedom and private property ownership. Maybe it is a form of envy.

    I once heard it said that while libertarians are prepared to give space to socialists, socialists rarely return the compliment. That sums it up.

  • Paul Marks

    To be kind to the leftist writer (not something I am often accused of being). The “Road to Serfdom” may have misled him about Hayek.

    In this work Hayek writes in a respectful tone about ideas of natural law – something that the left would regard as “mystical”.

    Actually Hayek himself did not believe in natural law (or any basic, non “evolved” moral principle) – but he was out reaching to those who did (real conservative minded head bangers – people like me).

    And without being formally dishonest – as he no where in The Road to Serfdom says “I believe in natural law” or anything like that.

    It is just a respectfull tone when mentioning this sort of thing.

  • Gabriel

    As an example, take infant circumcision. In my view this would be illegal in a libertarian society, because it is initiation of non-consensual force on another individual.

    Utterly absurd and completely typical Libertarian gibberish. Do you think a parent can’t confiscate their children’s toys because it violates their property rights? What about cutting his nails if he doesn’t want it? Grow up.
    The whole concept of Children’s Rights is the brainchild of the totalitarian Left and nothing more nor nor less than then first step towards communal breeding of children and the eradication of hereditary transmission of knowledge and custom – that is to say the only absolutely indispensible condition of cultured existence.* That so many Libertarians support it is the best indication that their philosophy is pernicious horses**t. When exactly are you going to learn the elementary fact that different modes of association have different rules associated with them? Idiots.

    There’s a lot of idle talk on this site about “the 2nd American Revolution” or whatever, but, mark this, if you or any of your gang of Epicurean, soma-fuelled drones try to stop circumcision, well, read Maccabees.

    *Same goes for “equality of opportunity”.

  • Johanthan Pearce

    The whole concept of Children’s Rights is the brainchild of the totalitarian Left and nothing more nor nor less than then first step towards communal breeding of children and the eradication of hereditary transmission of knowledge and custom – that is to say the only absolutely indispensible condition of cultured existence.*

    I think that is paranoid nonsense, and I’ll explain why. For all that it is sensible to cherish the rights of parents to raise their kids as they seek fit, and to take responsibility for their children and their children’s behaviour, children should not be thought of as the property of their parents, to be treated how parents want regardless of the cruelty, neglect or other considerations. That is why this is not a simple issue.

    I don’t see why the idea of rights, such as the right to life, liberty and happiness, cannot be applied to children. Think of it in this way: children are future adults; it is important that they should be protected and guided by their parents so they can become adults. but that does not give parents a blank cheque to do what the heck they like to their kids, such as cut off body parts for religious reasons. If you think that is acceptable, then you deserve the same treatment, without painkillers.

  • Gabriel

    but that does not give parents a blank cheque

    Apparently you understand the word ‘different’ to mean ‘none whatsoever’ or something. Your loss.

    If you think people are going to stop circumcising their children (and at the behest of people who believe that infanticide on demand is the solution to the problems thrown up by irresponsible sexual behaviour, no less) without massive violence, you’re damn wrong.
    Just more proof that in the fight for liberty and civilization, it’s Cultural Conservatives vs. everyone else and Libertarians are on the winning side.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    If you think people are going to stop circumcising their children (and at the behest of people who believe that infanticide on demand is the solution to the problems thrown up by irresponsible sexual behaviour, no less) without massive violence, you’re damn wrong.

    Paranoia again. Is it really the case that enforcing the law against mutilation of minors is going to lead to “massive violence”? Really? In the UK, it is a criminal offence, as far as I know, to cut off body parts of a child. If it is not against the law, it fucking well should be. I do not observe the enforcement of laws preventing cruelty to kids in the UK leading to riots in the streets.

    I notice that you have not answered my point on what the limits are or should be on the ability of parents to do to their kids. So do you think that parents have total control and are entirely beyond the rule of law? If not, what? Spouting off about cultural “conservatism” or such blather is, I am afraid, not an answer.

    Consider yourself truly spanked.

  • Gabriel

    Consider yourself truly spanked.

    Uh-huh.

    Circumcision of male infants is completely legal in the U.K. subject to the operation being carried out by a person with relevant medical qualifications. It is carried out – at varying ages- by the English upper classes, Jews, Muslims, many Catholics and all sorts of other people, though it is more of a minority activity than a century ago.

    Personally, if it were banned I would decide to emigrate away from Britain on the grounds that my people were evidently no longer welcome there. However, if the 1948 war had gone differently and I had no choice then I’d do it illegally and, if some state thug from the NewFreedom Bureau or whatever came to stop me, I’d use the maximum amount of violence I could muster.

    People put up with so much shit from their government it beggars belief, but there are some things they won’t stand. Like the clueless Cobdenite you are, you don’t have a damn clue about what makes people actually tick.

    So do you think that parents have total control and are entirely beyond the rule of law? If not, what?

    I’m not under an obligation to provide a treatise on the rights of duties of parenthood. Subjects of the English Crown are allowed, as they have always been allowed, to make arrangements for a harmless operation to be performed on their son. You’re the one who wants to unleash a wave of state violence on people doing an activity performed peacefully for millenia – you f**king prove it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Circumcision of male infants is completely legal in the U.K. subject to the operation being carried out by a person with relevant medical qualifications. It is carried out – at varying ages- by the English upper classes, Jews, Muslims, many Catholics and all sorts of other people, though it is more of a minority activity than a century ago.

    Fair enough. The only justification I can think of is to perform such an operation for grounds of health. to protect the health of the child against a serious problem. Doing so because of some ancient book is bonkers, and in my view, should be off-limits. This is not a trivial matter, like a choice of haircut or what sort of shirt to wear in the morning.

    Personally, if it were banned I would decide to emigrate away from Britain on the grounds that my people were evidently no longer welcome there. However, if the 1948 war had gone differently and I had no choice then I’d do it illegally and, if some state thug from the NewFreedom Bureau or whatever came to stop me, I’d use the maximum amount of violence I could muster.

    So, if it was established by the medical/other professions that such cutting off of body parts was impermissable without the consent of the child, you’d resort to violence, would you? What a thug you really are after all. Do you honestly think that kids have any say in this? I’d be most interested to know whether those subject to these operations get any say in the matter. People like you should be seen for what you are: imposing your own religious nonsense on those unable to defend themselves: little children. Fcrissakes.

    Like the clueless Cobdenite you are, you don’t have a damn clue about what makes people actually tick.

    I know enough to know that forcibly cutting off body parts without the consent of a person is an evil. If that makes me a Cobdenite, good. Richard Cobden was a great man.

    I’m not under an obligation to provide a treatise on the rights of duties of parenthood. Subjects of the English Crown are allowed, as they have always been allowed, to make arrangements for a harmless operation to be performed on their son.

    You could at least have the honesty to state whether you think there are limits on what parents can do to their kids, including such operations. Whether they are painless is besides the point. You think that parents do have such total power.

  • Consider yourself truly spanked.

    For some reason, I get the image of all those nuns in Monty Python and the Holy Grail crying out, “Spank me!” “No, spank me!!”

  • Sunfish

    For some reason, I get the image of all those nuns in Monty Python and the Holy Grail crying out, “Spank me!” “No, spank me!!”

    It’s still better than the “I’m a purer libertarian than thou!” pissing contest threads. Although, if they go anywhere near what comes after the spankings I’m going to bail and go and troll the nutbars at Gorgon Poisons for a few months to clear my head. (Hmmm…which screenname to use…?)

  • Gabriel

    Fair enough. The only justification I can think of is to perform such an operation for grounds of health. to protect the health of the child against a serious problem. Doing so because of some ancient book is bonkers, and in my view, should be off-limits.

    Don’t do it then, yeesh. Oops I forgot I was dealing with an intolerant zealot.

    So, if it was established by the medical/other professions that such cutting off of body parts was impermissable without the consent of the child, you’d resort to violence, would you? What a thug you really are after all.

    Thug Word of Indian origin used to refer to those willing to defend themselves from violent Libertarians determined to use force in order to impose their morality on everyone else.

    Do you honestly think that kids have any say in this?

    Why on earth would I ask an 8 days old child what his preference was?

    People like you should be seen for what you are: imposing your own religious nonsense on those unable to defend themselves: little children.

    There is no fraction small enough to express how little I care about how you choose to raise your children. I’m sure they’ll be very happy as little Miss Hiltons in the future and its none of my business. How about returning the favour Mr. Freedom Man?

    I know enough to know that forcibly cutting off body parts without the consent of a person is an evil. If that makes me a Cobdenite, good. Richard Cobden was a great man.

    The point is simple, really. Classical Liberals had basically good ideas, modern ones have basically bad ones, but the common thread is an inability to understand what people actually find important. You are advocating the 2nd expulsion of the Jews from England (among other things) and you don’t even seem to realise it.

    You think that parents do have such total power.

    To perform a circumcision? You’re damn right I do. If you can’t see the difference between that and cutting off their head, then I suggest you X-ray your head or something.

  • There’s some woman in the US (I’m sure there are loads, actually, but I’m thinking of one in particular) who’s been campaigning to stop the routine circumcision of babies for years. Read an interview with her a few years back, and she mentioned how she’d started out avoiding the Jewish issue and campaigning merely against the non-religious practice which is supposedly for health but which she reckons is more to do with adding a couple of hundred extra on to your obstetrician’s bill. She wasn’t interested in getting into a religious debate. And then one of her friends reminded her that she was undertaking this campaign because she believed that circumcision involved unnecessary cruelty to babies and asked her “Don’t you care about Jewish babies?” Which was of course a good point.

    I hasten to add that I don’t bring this up in order to argue with Gabriel, who I think is absolutely right, but merely because I thought it was interesting. The key point is that I don’t think she was trying to ban anything. If I recall correctly, she was mainly going for an awareness and persuasion campaign, a lot of which focussed on grown men saying that they wished they still had their foreskins. Some people, eh? I mean, would you advertise that fact to the general public?

    > the common thread is an inability to understand what people actually find important.

    Excellently put.

    > The only justification I can think of is to perform such an operation for grounds of health. to protect the health of the child against a serious problem. Doing so because of some ancient book is bonkers, and in my view, should be off-limits.

    Speaking as an atheist, I must say that I think religion is a far better justification than health. The only health-based reason to do it is to prevent infection. Well, if that’s the goal, cut off the kid’s feet, while you’re at it. And sew his eyes shut.

    P.S. When will someone fix the damn tab indexing on this comment form?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    A lot of nonsense here from G. and Sq Two, but instead of going through every line of what they say, let’s conduct the following thought-experiment:

    Suppose a religion stated that all 10-year-old boys had to have a small mark branded on their forehead as a mark of their parent’s faith. Suppose the operation to tattoo or brand the kid was painless and caused them no serious ill effects. I still say that such a thing, if done against the consent of the kid, is impermissable. This has nothing to do with my views for or against religion, and it is disengenous to say so. The key issue is consent. If a Jewish or Muslim child wanted to have something like this done for reasons of their faith – not their parents’ – and the person doing the operation was convinced that consent was genuine, I would have no objection. Teenagers have fashion tattoos done all the time – and they probably regret that later!

    The issue is one of consent. That is the issue that is important to me. It is plainly a real problem for religious parents who seem unable to grasp that the child might have some say in these matters. I fail to see why this idea makes people assume that I am arguing for the end of civilisation as we know it, the explusion of Jews/others from the UK, or other paranoid nonsense.

  • The NGOs don’t know it yet but they are about to get emasculated.

    What from:

    When Global Warming turns into a little ice age. When American electrical supplies become unreliable.

    When NGOs are operating at the margins they are a tolerable nuisance. When they start having everyday economic impacts: even numbered houses can use electricity on even numbered days – no one will give a fig.

    There is a big move in the USA to gut the greenies and drill. Just wait until temps keep falling and the Delaware freezes over.

    Their days are numbered. They have sown the seeds of their own destruction.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Thug Word of Indian origin used to refer to those willing to defend themselves from violent Libertarians determined to use force in order to impose their morality on everyone else.

    I cannot let this outrageous comment pass. The thuggees, as they were called, were people who beat up and killed folk for money, etc, in India. India was also a country where widows were burned alive with their dead husbands. Those wicked, liberal imperialists, the British (sarcasm alert) banned this practice. Quite rightly so.

  • Ian B

    Ooh, I hadn’t noticed this thread kicked off on the circumcision thing. Sorry for starting that. But since Gabriel has come out with such balderdash, and Johnathan has so eloquently demolished it, I’ll just add-

    Gabriel accuses libertarians (or at least anti-circumcicion ones like myself, it seems) of being “on the side of the Left” by wanting to prevent him cutting bits off his children. In fact we see that in this Gabriel is using a leftist argument, not Johnathan. I came across something similar just yesterday in another discussion, regarding the fact that lefties would be free to form communes in a libertarian society, but libertarians are unable to be free of collectivism in a free society. The response boiled down to- “libertarians are taking our right to be collectivist away, by refusing to be coerced”. In other words, the leftie sees their right to coerce as paramount over their opponents’ desire to not be coerced. Of course this is rubbish.

    Likewise Gabriel is arguing that his “right” to coerce (harm) his child is greater than the child’s right to not be coerced (harmed), and greater than another person’s right to assist the child in avoiding coercion (harm). Again, this is rubbish. I do not have the right to saw off my childrens’ toes, regardless of whether I can prove that this causes some serious problem later in life or not (a person with no little toe would be unlikely to be practically disabled by it, it’s only vestigial, etc).

    The issue of childrens’ rights is a more tricky one for libertarians. Adult rights are easy. If an adult wants to saw part of his willy off, fine. I won’t stand in his way. Up to him. Just as he has the right to put a ring through it, hang bells of it, or have it completely removed. He can cut his legs off too if he likes, even kill himself. Not my business.

    But children are a different issue. They are inherently dependent on wards, normally their parents, but that doesn’t mean we can just say parents have the right to do whatever they wish to their children. We thus accord children protective rights, and this isn’t some new leftie idea. I don’t know many conservatives who’d be happy with their neighbour sodomising their baby son, for instance, or sawing his little toes off, or locking him in a cellar indefinitely. We recognise generally as societies that some parents may be unfit, or even insane, and recognise that at some point others are, must, be able to step into the situation.

    A libertarian society would have many people within it who are unable to be independent- children, the elderly and infirm or senile, the insane, the mentally or physically disabled. They would be unable to assert their own rights directly, and the mentally unfit would be unable to make their own decisions- personally I’ve dealt with this a little when my mother’s cancer hit her brain and it’s not nice to take over somebody’s life but somebody has to do it.

    So it’s clear to me that these people have “rights of protection” and others have duties towards them. This isn’t leftyism Gabriel, it’s practical situations people have dealt with since the year dot. A mentally handicapped person still has a right to life, even if they can’t be granted all of the freedom-rights we accord competent persons. The right to not suffer unwarranted violence is a basic measure of human dignity. We would not happily sodomise an incapable person, or a child. Who thinks that parents can do such to their children? I don’t see many hands up. How about you Gabriel? No? Why so shy?

    Your claim for the right to mutilate your child’s genitalia is no different, Gabriel. There is no medical reason for doing it, it is a religious ritual, and religion doesn’t trump law, or basic rights in any decent society. You ask how you can gain consent from an eight day old baby. You can’t. That’s why you shouldn’t do the damned thing. The baby’s right to its own bodily integrity trumps your right to compromise that. Your job is to be his protector, not his owner, and that’s a role you took on by fathering the child. Your job is to do the greater good and the minimal harm; you may consent to a medical operation because to not do so would be to cause a greater harm, not because of a whimsy. The requirement to do the best for your children is not a modern leftie construction but a basic requirement of parenting, just as it always has been, and if you don’t understand that I truly pity your children.

  • Ian B

    As for being anti-circumcision being anti-Jewish, that’s balderdash too. Religious circumcision isn’t an exclusively Jewish practise, even if we ignore the widespread arbitrary circumcision in the US (which originally started among health quacks to stop boys fiddling with themselves). Religious circumcision appears to be an ancient ritual with its epicentre in the middle east; many arabs do it, africans do it. That Judaism made it a centrepiece of the religion is just indicative of that religion’s historical tribal roots.

    I have nothing but respect for the Jewish people personally; their enormous intellectual contribution to science and the intellectual pursuits (if marred by rather too many marxists) makes it all the more bizarre that they persist with this nonsense, to me anyway. But we cannot say that criticism of it is off limits for fear of being thought anti-semitic, any more than criticism of the female version is inherently racist against, say, the Sudanese. Frankly, anyone of any culture who thinks this act of petty barbarism is essential to their cultural life is the one with the attitude problem.

    “I demand the right to cut bits off my babies, because God wants me to.”

    I mean, come on. What century is this?

  • > But we cannot say that criticism of it is off limits for fear of being thought anti-semitic

    I don’t think anyone’s said that. I for one am more than happy to criticise circumcision on all sorts of grounds, and I’m half-Jewish myself. I don’t like it; I think it’s unnecessary. I’d never allow it on a son of mine.

    But what Johnathan has said is this:

    > In the UK, it is a criminal offence, as far as I know, to cut off body parts of a child. If it is not against the law, it fucking well should be.

    He’s unambiguous. He considers circumcision to be assault, believes it should be illegal, and wants anyone who commits it to be prosecuted for assault.

    And then he says:

    I fail to see why this idea makes people assume that I am arguing for the end of civilisation as we know it, the explusion of Jews/others from the UK, or other paranoid nonsense.

    Johnathan, you are arguing for the introduction of legislation which would make it illegal to be Jewish in the UK and would therefore lead to the mass emmigration of Jews from the UK. If you wanted to split hairs, you could argue that you’re not actually wanting to chuck them out the country, it would be entirely their choice whether or not to leave, so, no, it’s not technically expulsion. And you’d have a point. But you’d still be living in a Judenrein state, and you’d still be one of the causes of that, whatever your intentions.

    Which is why Gabriel’s entireley correct to say that the problem with modern libertarians is that they haven’t a clue what’s important to people. If you know what’s important to people, then you either get rid of the Jews deliberately or you don’t get rid of the Jews. It takes a libertarian to get rid of them by accident.

    What pisses me off the most about this sort of crap is that this is exactly why we stand no chance whatsoever of having a libertarian government. And I’d quite like one, please.

  • Doing so because of some ancient book is bonkers, and in my view, should be off-limits.

    Why? Can you prove that it is not a health measure encoded as a religious observance developed before science could sort it out?

    What Libertarians don’t get is that most of life is not rational. I’d estimate the rational is less than 10%. And I make my living in that 10%.

    I FEEL like a pint. Is that a rational decision? I feel like a smoke. Where is the rationality in that? If Libertarianism does not make accommodation for the irrational in life it will be just another interesting theory. Like Scientific Socialism.

  • Gabriel

    I cannot let this outrageous comment pass. The thuggees, as they were called, were people who beat up and killed folk for money, etc, in India. India was also a country where widows were burned alive with their dead husbands. Those wicked, liberal imperialists, the British (sarcasm alert) banned this practice. Quite rightly so.

    Are you high? You called me a thug and I countered by providing a humorous definition to counter such a charge. I seem to remember that an inability to understand even the slightest of oblique comments is a hallmark of debates with you.

    I fail to see why this idea makes people assume that I am arguing for the end of civilisation as we know it, the explusion of Jews/others from the UK, or other paranoid nonsense.

    Plainly you fail to see. In the second case such a prohibition would require all practising Jews (including Reform) to emigrate so it’s just obvious really. In the first it is beacuse you propagate an ideology of Child’s Rights which is inimacable to civilized existence as traditionally conceived.

    Ian B

    Gabriel accuses libertarians (or at least anti-circumcicion ones like myself, it seems) of being “on the side of the Left” by wanting to prevent him cutting bits off his children.

    In educated society it is considered poor form to use quote marks when one is not quoting. What I said was that the important political battle of our times is between Conservatives and everyone else and it is.

    Your job is to do the greater good and the minimal harm

    I am.
    I prefer this, rather than this or this for my child. You disagree? Bonne Chance. But keep your Enlightenment the fuck out of my house you Jacobin bastard.

    The requirement to do the best for your children is not a modern leftie construction but a basic requirement of parenting, just as it always has been

    No, no, no this really won’t do at all. It has not always been understood that “doing the best by one’s children” involves some moronic concept of asking consent. In families that function well it still isn’t. The best I can do for my children is to initiate them into the civlization I inherited.

    Anyway it “always has been” understood to be perfectly acceptable to circumcise infant children. You are the innovator attempting to introduce alien concepts into English Law not me.

    I mean, come on. What century is this?

    In what universe is this an argument?

    I am rather reminded of the essay “Rationalism in Politics” in particular Oakeshott’s observation that what links Rationalists of different stripes is their inability to tolerate anything that doesn’t conform to their impoverished logic. People like you make the world a less noble, interesting and rich place to live. That you think you are rebels is what is most pathetic.

  • Gabriel

    Doing so because of some ancient book is bonkers, and in my view, should be off-limits.

    I hadnt really noticed this first time around, but, that’s some damn interesting intentionalist ethics JP is getting into. Perhaps in his and Ian B’s Libertarian Society he can send round the Freedom Inspectors to check whether the happy citizens of Libertopia are really performing circumcisions for health reasons or if they have superstitious intentions in mind. Will the Liberty Police inform the children that their parents are abusers who will no doubt brand them before cutting off limbs if given the chance? Perhaps mass confiscation and re-education is in order for all those who cling to the old ideas that this brave new world disbars?

    Do JP’s dreamns of a Panopticon society know any bounds?

  • Or suppose it was encoded as a religious measure because males have to work harder at sex so that women get more pleasure thus insuring a stronger pair bond.

    It would seem to me that there is value in that over and above “health”.

    Mutilate the male. Strengthen the family.

    BTW slavery went with the invention of mechanical power and intelligent (with only a few bits of intelligence) machinery.

    Women were emancipated by labor saving machinery. The change in custom and law followed.

    One should not just chuck the old because we haven’t discovered the utility of old practices.

  • Or suppose it was encoded as a religious measure because males have to work harder at sex so that women get more pleasure thus insuring a stronger pair bond.

    It would seem to me that there is value in that over and above “health”.

    Mutilate the male. Strengthen the family.

    BTW slavery went with the invention of mechanical power and intelligent (with only a few bits of intelligence) machinery.

    Women were emancipated by labor saving machinery. The change in custom and law followed.

    One should not just chuck the old because we haven’t discovered the utility of old practices.

  • My apologies.

    I got an error message that said: wrong spambot code.

    I got the code right and a double post.

  • Ian B

    Plainly you fail to see. In the second case such a prohibition would require all practising Jews (including Reform) to emigrate so it’s just obvious really.

    No, Gabriel, it would require no such thing. It would simply require them to not circumcise their babies. Various non-British cultures have various practices which are not compatible with British law and culture. Female circumcision is an example, as is forced marriage, or marriage of girls below our age of consent, or polygamy. A prohibition on female circumcision is not forcing Somalis to emigrate; it is saying that they cannot do this thing in Britain. You are attempting to portray such a prohibition as racism, effectively, which it is not.

    You talk a lot about culture. If we look at it from a cultural perspective, then we see that circumcision is not a British cultural value and never has been. If you are really so obsessed with doing it then sadly you would have to go somewhere else to do it but that would be your choice as an individual, not part of a “racial club” as a Jew, just as you would have to go elsewhere to marry three wives and cut off your daughters’ clitorises or murder them for family honour. The law does, and always has, trumped religion in Britain; our cultural heritage is Christendom, which is based on a distinction between Church and State rather than the theocratic model of ancient Judaism and Islam. If you want to be culturally conservative about it, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism are all guest cultures here anyway, and have never been free to act beyond the law of (English) man. Even Christianity isn’t allowed to do that, and that’s the home religion. So a cultural conservative argument is useless to you anyway.

    The thing you fail to address is the difference between the freedom to private belief and the “freedom” to inflict it on others. No law would prevent a legally responsible (adult) Jew electing to be circumcised, and no law ever would. It would simply prevent one Jew such as yourself imposing it on his offspring, who are ethnically Jewish but in British culture have as much right to choose their religion as anyone else. You can force them to carry out the rituals of the religion, just like my parents dragged me to Church, but what they may believe as they grow up is not within your power to decide, though you may do your best to persuade them. In British culture, western culture, freedom of belief is a central cultural value and has been for many centuries now. That applies to everyone who lives here. Muslim parents may make their daughter wear the hijab. They cannot force her to remain a muslim for life as this brave, admirable girl (NSFW) demonstrates. (She gets death threats from angry muslims. That’s not acceptable in this culture either). So your desire to brand your children as religiously Jewish for life doesn’t fit there either.

    Simply put, British values mean not preventing you from practising whatever religion you choose within the wider context of our laws and values. Your argument is multiculturalist in nature- that you should get a free pass by waving the culture card in our faces, to do things which would be otherwise unacceptable. That’s not conservative, or libertarian. It’s the same rot that the left use to dismantle western society. Pretending that you are a cultural conservative is thus ridiculous. You’re a multiculturalist, which puts you on the side of the left. Congratulations.

    On another issue, you compared abortion with circumcision, suggesting that aborters, who carry out “infanticide” have no right to lecture circumcisers. But here again you are inconsistent. Your argument is based entirely on the idea that you have complete ownership of your offspring and the state has no right to intervene on their behalf (you haven’t suggested any limit to what you may do to them, though you have been asked). A foetus inside the body is clearly much more “property” of the mother than your son, living outside your body, if materially dependent on you, is yours. An unexpected/undwanted baby is a considerable practical burden on the parents. We may in comparison wonder what burden is placed upon you by your son having an intact penis until his age of legal responsibility. It’s hard to see any. What suffering would be imposed upon you by your son’s ownership of a foreskin? None. (As an aside, you may remember me arguing at considerable length on this sight a while back that being anti-abortion is libertarian anyway, and on much the same grounds that it is one person harming another, even if that other is inside their body at the time). The case for abortion at least has practical merit beyond the moral question of the foetus’s right to life. The case for circumcision has no such practical considerations to consider. Your son’s foreskin will not affect your life in any way. Your desire to remove it is simply a religious whimsy.

    Whatever. British culture, western culture, subordinates religious views to the law and that has been a central plank of it for centuries. Even the state-sponsored Archbishop Of Canterbury cannot claim his Bible has precedence over the law. The Bible tells me that I should not suffer a witch to live, but that gives me no right to kill the Wiccans next door. If you commit a religiously motivated assault, you are breaking the law and should be punished. We thus see that allowing circumcision is an anamolous exception in law enforcement, a holdover from more ignorant historical times, just as violent assault has always been illegal but we used to “overlook” people beating their wives. Any other such non-medical operation on your child would be an assault. One wouldn’t even need a new law to prohibit it- simply the recognition that this practise is an assault. To do so would not be a radical move, but an affirmation of the principles on which our society is based, and thus rather, if anything, “conservative”. It would be disappointing if some Jews, Muslims or others could not live with their sons’ penises in the natural state, but any who chose to leave would not be being “expelled”; it would be more akin to storming out in a huff, like a wife-beater leaving to live somewhere that would allow him to batter his wife.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    You called me a thug and I countered by providing a humorous definition to counter such a charge. I seem to remember that an inability to understand even the slightest of oblique comments is a hallmark of debates with you.

    I called you a thug because the cap fits. Your response was not obviously meant to be funny. Perhaps all of your remarks should be seen as tongue-in-cheek, then. After all, if half of what you write is serious, then you are a dimwit.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Squander Two writes:

    He considers circumcision to be assault, believes it should be illegal, and wants anyone who commits it to be prosecuted for assault.

    If done on minors unable to give their consent, the answer is yes. If an adult wants to pierce their body parts, have parts of their genitals adjusted, have tattoos done, whatever. Fine.

    I really am quite surprised that the basic concept of consent, as it can apply to adults but not fully to children, especially little babies, is something that Squander Two and Gabriel cannot, or will not, grasp. The evasion of this point is not very impressive.

  • > No, Gabriel, it would require no such thing. It would simply require them to not circumcise their babies.

    Ian, this is the perfect illustration of the fact that you do not understand what is important to people. Circumcision is important to Jews. They would therefore leave the country. You want to pass a law that would see them all leave and then protest “It’s not my fault! They could have stayed! All they had to do was change to suit me!” Yeah, good luck with that.

    > Various non-British cultures have various practices which are not compatible with British law and culture.

    Ah, so now the Jews, who have been here since before the Normans, are a non-British culture. I always thought that they were one of the influences that had built British culture. Shows what I know.

    Furthermore, you’re being completely disingenuous here. Various non-British cultures (and some British ones) want to do things in Britain which are against British law. But that’s not what we’re discussing here. We’re not having a debate about whether immigrant Jews should be allowed to do something illegal because they’re immigrants and they demand it. We’re having a debate about whether to change British law to ban something that native Jews have been doing here legally for centuries. The alien culture here is you.

    As a libertarian myself, it annoys me that people like you keep proving the fucking Socialists right about this: scratch a libertarian, find an extremist maniac.

    > the basic concept of consent, as it can apply to adults but not fully to children, especially little babies, is something that Squander Two and Gabriel cannot, or will not, grasp. The evasion of this point is not very impressive.

    No-one was evading any point: Gabriel made the counterargument perfectly well right at the start, when he said:

    > Do you think a parent can’t confiscate their children’s toys because it violates their property rights?

    Any decent parent can see the absolute correctness of that argument immediately. I have a 21-month-old daughter, and have to do things to her everyday that would constitute assault and/or kidnapping if I tried them on an adult, such as changing her nappy and putting her to bed. I understand consent perfectly well, thanks.

    I meet parents who think their kids have the same rights as adults, and who think the way to discipline a child is to have a discussion with them about their motivations and think they should always get their child’s consent. Their kids are fucking awful little brats. The widespread popularity of this belief has also crippled our schools — any teacher can tell you that the classes are now full of kids who think the teacher needs their permission to do anything, including teaching, and whose parents will back the jumped-up little shits to the hilt. Should we educate children? What, even when they don’t want to be educated? Isn’t that like indoctrination or brainwashing or kidnapping? Grow up.

    Human children are devious violent little apes. It is a parent’s job to make them fit for society, not to ask them what they want to do. What they want to do is hit smaller kids and take their stuff.

    As for infant cicumcision, I’ve alread said that I oppose it. But banning it? Well, thing is, it’s been going on for millenia now, so we have no idea whatsoever what its consequences are. To look at it in the hopelessly simplified terms of merely whether a bloke has a foreskin or not is exactly the sort of stupid mistake all utopians make when they decide to chuck out a tradition simply because they can’t see the point of it. Socialists rightly get the piss taken on this very site when they try these experiments and run headlong into the Law of Unintended Consequences. If you don’t know why a tradition exists in the first place, you should on no account be allowed to ban it, as Megan McArdle said in the single best explication of political conservatism ever, which I think ought also to be the bedrock principle of libertarianism: don’t go introducing new laws without understanding the old ones.

    Human society is cultural. We don’t use instinct much anymore, except for stuff like sweating. All the societies around us exist because of the accumulated efforts of thousands of generations of our ancestors in passing stuff on to their kids. If you think the only way to pass stuff on to your kids is by patiently explaining things to them, you are hopelessly naive. What would the UK look like today if circumcision had been banned in, say, 1600, or 600? You have not the faintest idea. Not a clue.

    We rightly ban things from time to time when we have evidence of how harmful they are. So go on, provide us with your evidence of the damage infant circumcision is doing to the human race. It’s the standard in the US, which seems to be doing pretty well: American men are OK. The Jews don’t appear to be, broadly speaking, homicidal maniacs or anything, and keep stubbornly insisting on punching above their weight in the contributing-to-the-progress-of-humanity stakes. You want to change the law, so the onus is on you: prove the cons outweigh the pros. You’ll need to start by figuring out what the pros are, of course. And you haven’t got a clue.

  • Gabriel

    Shocking portrayal of child abuse on daytime TV.

    I had forgotten that roughly half of Americans still circumcise their children. You’re going to need some pretty big NewFreedom Re-Education Centres for all those babies rescued from the clutches of blood-crazed abusive parents if you’re going to take your plans stateside. No doubt in the next episode she’ll be stubbing out cigarettes in the poor child’s eye, as there’s obviously no difference.

    (Exactly when are you going to realise that, simply by normative standards, you two are the weirdos in this debate?)

  • Gabriel

    The classic profile of a childabuser? What shocking act of depraved act of violence will he inflict on this helpless child next before she is rescued by the state in the name of liberty?

    If you weren’t making such a plonker of yourself your libel upon billions of loving parents would have me pretty riled.

    It would be disappointing if some Jews, Muslims or others could not live with their sons’ penises in the natural state, but any who chose to leave would not be being “expelled”; it would be more akin to storming out in a huff

    It would be the same as a country with a christian minority banning baptism. (The same in its importance to those concerned, not the same in what category it fits into your inadequate and banal political-philosophy.)

  • Ian B

    Gabriel, I appreciate that you’re a bit of a berk but you could at least have the decency to try to answer some of the points; I appreciate that you don’t have any arguments that hold water, but you could at least try.

    I am at a loss as to what kind of “love” it is that would inflict pain and suffering on a baby.

    It would be the same as a country with a christian minority banning baptism.

    Except that baptism causes no discernable harm. A much closer example is clitoridectomy. Do I take it that you don’t think the law should prevent that, and a law that does is discriminatory? So far as I can tell, the loonies who inflict that on their children for cultural and religious reasons are just as certain of its necessity as you are of your little ritual. Am I a “Jacobin” for saying that clitoridectomy is not acceptable? Am I libelling billions of loving parents if I voice my disapproval?

  • Gabriel

    One more thing. Jews have been around in Europe a good long time; it’s not really how anyone wanted it, but it’s how it is and we’ve built up as much right to call it home as anyone else. Now, thank G-d, the State of Israel exists and if some or all European countries decide to make it illegal to practise Judaism, I guess we’ll leave, but its still pretty rum and I don’t appreciate being told I’m an alien presence in the country my great ^10 grandfather called his home and where three generations of my descendants served in the army.
    Nor do I much appreciate being called a child-abuser for doing what my parents did to me and giving him the greatest gift I know. The covenant of Abraham is a million times more wonderful than anything your Rothbard addled brain can even conceive.

    But, whatever, my feelings are really neither here nor there. At the end of the day this is the fact:
    It is impossible to practise Judaism without infant circumcision. Get used to it, because it’s true and 99% of Jews will say exactly the same. If you think that is abhorrent and infant circumcision must be banned then man up and have the guts to say what you mean. Judaism is abhorrent and it must be banned. I’m not going to accuse you of anti-Semitism before you get paranoid, but, heretofore, it’s not me practising evasion.

  • Gabriel

    Gabriel, I appreciate that you’re a bit of a berk but you could at least have the decency to try to answer some of the points; I appreciate that you don’t have any arguments that hold water, but you could at least try

    I did a long post detailing your massive factual errors; it got zapped and presumably it will come up eventually.

    In the meantime

    I am at a loss as to what kind of “love” it is that would inflict pain and suffering on a baby

    I am at a loss as to what sort of love would let their children act like contemporary teenagers and, if I wanted to be a jerk, I’d call that child abuse. But I’m not a jerk, I just want to be left alone to raise my family in peace. If you want to know, though, I suggest you go to a Bris and fucking see for yourself. Try calling the mother a child-abuser as well for a laugh.

    Am I a “Jacobin” for saying that clitoridectomy is not acceptable? Am I libelling billions of loving parents if I voice my disapproval?

    1) Any respectable doctor will tell you there is absolutely no comparison between the two operations. Either in what they are intended to achieve (i.e. complete inabilty ever to feel sexual pleasure) or their likely side-effects (i.e. death).
    2) What you said wasn’t “disapproval” you serially-dishonest ignoramous. As to the word you actually used, either it is assault in which case no, or it isn’t in which case, yes. Obviously.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I had forgotten that roughly half of Americans still circumcise their children.

    So. I had forgotten that half of Americans/other believe in the Creation, witches, astrology. How does X% of the population doing something make it right? Of course not. Try thinking in terms of principles, for once, Gabriel.

    It would be the same as a country with a christian minority banning baptism.

    I prefer adult baptism because the adult gets to choose to be baptised. Also, a child who is baptised does not have his/her body operated on as proof of their religion. When I was baptised, my vicar put some water on my head, rather than cutting parts of my genitalia.

    Of course, in practice, it may be difficult for the law authorities to ban forced genitalia-alteration/etc by religious parents. And of course 99.9% of parents, be they Jews, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, etc, want the best for their kids and I personally regard state interference with such things as worse, in practice, than the problem. But in principle, I think it is vital, and overdue, that our culture understand that parents do not own their children’s lives. Why cannot you get this point, Gabrie? If you are a dad, do you want your offspring to grow up and think and act for themselves? My father wanted that for me. He has strong views about certain things, but has never forced his views on me, certainly not by leaving his “signature” via surgical operations.

    In decades past, of course, people had such operations done for health reasons, or, as Ian B said, to prevent “vice” or whatever other considerations bothered people at the time. But Gabriel is making some basic mistakes of logic here. For example, giving a nasty-tasting medicine to a small baby to prevent the baby getting ill is hardly the same as cutting off his/her body parts because of a religious tradition. Now, if it turned out that such operations were necessary because of a life-threatening illness, such operations would be justified. If it turned out that there was clear evidence that circumcised boys and girls were healthier and less ill than their opposites, you would have some justification. But you don’t have such evidence. Circumcision is nowadays a symbolic issue, not a health one.

    Back to Hayek: traditions have values, so long as they are not accepted blindly.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    If you think that is abhorrent and infant circumcision must be banned then man up and have the guts to say what you mean. Judaism is abhorrent and it must be banned.

    Rubbish. There is far more to such a great faith than insisting that the skin of a baby boy’s cock is cut off in fear of eternal damnation. If little Jewish boys want the operation done if they are able to give their consent when they are say, 10 or older, well, fine. As for tiny babies, no. Absolutely not. This is an outrage. The same goes for Muslims who want to cut off parts of the body parts of tiny girls, or whatever. You cannot argue that some forms of genitalia operations are okay and others are not, unless you can provide clear, medical evidence. If Baptists, Mormons, Jedi knights, Quakers, or whatever, want to pierce, cut, adjust, or otherwise change the bodies of their babies, it should be banned. I have no qualms stating that. Such behaviour is an outrage. It makes me feel quite ill to think that people like you think this is acceptable.

    You have not wrestled at all with the issue of consent that lies at the heart of this comment thread – which goes right back to my original post about Hayek, tradition, etc.

    Ian B is right: your’e a berk.

  • Ian B

    I am at a loss as to what sort of love would let their children act like contemporary teenagers and, if I wanted to be a jerk, I’d call that child abuse.

    Maybe, but that’s misdirection, nothing to do physical operations on infants. Circumcision neither assists nor hinders parents in properly raising their children.

    If you want to know, though, I suggest you go to a Bris and fucking see for yourself. Try calling the mother a child-abuser as well for a laugh.

    Well, I’ve never been to one, and if I did I’d feel morally obligated to protect the child somehow. But I have seen one on the telly, thanks to a (Jewish, FWIW) documentary maker who persuaded a couple to let him film. A pain specialist later looked at the film and described that the baby was clearly in extreme pain, and then went into clinical shock; and as a gift to the filmmaker the baby went down with blood poisoning as a consequence- but then God moves in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? On watching the film, the father, with a shocked look on his face, said if he’d known that was what would be happening to his son, he’d never have allowed it. I can’t imagine any man watching the mohel hacking off the baby’s foreskin with his thumbnail with anything but sympathetic horror and tightly crossed legs.

    Oh, and here’s some more of your joyous non-weirdo behaviour.

    Any respectable doctor will tell you there is absolutely no comparison between the two operations. Either in what they are intended to achieve (i.e. complete inabilty ever to feel sexual pleasure)

    Are you going to get around to telling us what the heck it is supposed to achieve? I presume from the above that you would let the Jacobins intervene to prevent the “complete inability to feel sexual pleasure”, so why is inflicting the partial inability acceptable?

    or their likely side-effects (i.e. death)

    See above link, and consider also disease and severe mutilation, sexual non-function and even complete loss of the penis, all of which are risks which have occurred.

  • Gabriel

    Seeing as my post still hasn’t come up I’ll desist from answering all the points I’ve already answered.

    To re-cap, let’s remember what you’re arguing.
    a) An activity performed by millions of law abiding Britons and considered indispensible by every major branch of both the Muslim and Jewish faiths must be banned.
    b) The relationship between child and parent in British law must be radically altered to square with an ideology of children’s rights based on the child’s consent, which was first mooted only 40 years ago.

    Wheras, I’m arguing that the law should stay the same as it is and always has been.

    Bearing this in mind,

    So. I had forgotten that half of Americans/other believe in the Creation, witches, astrology. How does X% of the population doing something make it right? Of course not. Try thinking in terms of principles, for once, Gabriel.

    I was merely pointing out the logistical difficulty of your totalitarian plans if you ever decided to export them to the States. Hopefully, you’d be shot.

    There is far more to such a great faith than insisting that the skin of a baby boy’s cock is cut off in fear of eternal damnation.

    Here’s a tip, YOU don’t get to decide what’s is integral to Judaism or what isn’t. Eternal damnation doesn’t exist in Judaism so that has nothing to do with it. If you think this

    . If little Jewish boys want the operation done if they are able to give their consent when they are say, 10 or older, well, fine. As for tiny babies, no. Absolutely not. This is an outrage

    You think Judaism is outrageous, so stop beating around the damn bush. (Or are you really as ignorant as you are making out?)

    It makes me feel quite ill to think that people like you think this is acceptable.

    Fine so Judaism makes you ill. Hip-Hop makes me ill, but again, you’re a Jacobin who wants everyone to be like him and I’m not.

    You have not wrestled at all with the issue of consent that lies at the heart of this comment thread – which goes right back to my original post about Hayek, tradition, etc.

    Fine, your conception of consent as applied to children is bonkers. Applied to the exent you wish it would make it impossible to raise anything other than spoilt brats, taken to its logical extreme it would make it impossible to raise any child past about 6 months at all.

    You cannot argue that some forms of genitalia operations are okay and others are not, unless you can provide clear, medical evidence.

    The evidence exists, indeed it exists in the life of almost every Jew alive today. Google it yourself.

    Ian B

    Maybe, but that’s misdirection, nothing to do physical operations on infants. Circumcision neither assists nor hinders parents in properly raising their children.

    Fine, raise your children how you want. I literally don’t care. I happen to think different.

    Well, I’ve never been to one, and if I did I’d feel morally obligated to protect the child somehow. But I have seen one on the telly, thanks to a (Jewish, FWIW) documentary maker who persuaded a couple to let him film. A pain specialist later looked at the film and described that the baby was clearly in extreme pain, and then went into clinical shock; and as a gift to the filmmaker the baby went down with blood poisoning as a consequence- but then God moves in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? On watching the film, the father, with a shocked look on his face, said if he’d known that was what would be happening to his son, he’d never have allowed it. I can’t imagine any man watching the mohel hacking off the baby’s foreskin with his thumbnail with anything but sympathetic horror and tightly crossed legs

    I’ve been to many. It’s probably a gateway acticity to shooting tramps just to watch them die.

    Your documentary is no different to any other stunning exposé created by progressives to whip up public opinion for prohibition.

  • Gabriel

    Because I’m not sure whether my post will ever come up, I’ll leave off tonight’s round by pointing out that Ian B’s claim that male infant circumcision is alien from the British tradition, is just another example of his crashing ignorance. Ask any member of the English upper classes, above the age of 40 if you don’t believe me.

    I can’t imagine any man watching the mohel hacking off the baby’s foreskin with his thumbnail with anything but sympathetic horror and tightly crossed legs.

    Thumbnail? Try again.

  • Gabriel,

    My post didn’t come up for ages either. The local spambot obviously has Views.

    Ian, Johnathan,

    It’s funny: at the start, you guys really looked like you were so stupid you’d ban Judaism from Britain by accident if you had the chance. But, the more the debate goes on, the more you just look like you have an objection to Jews. If that’s not how you intend to appear, try harder.

  • “Personally, if it were banned I would decide to emigrate away from Britain”

    And nothing of value was lost.

    (Also, Gabriel dear, they do make use of the thumbnail. For a defender of this tradition you certainly are ignorant as to what exactly it entails! Mohels sometimes use fingers, American doctors sometimes use safety pins. Its grim, grisly stuff.)