From Abortion To Circumcision - Democracy Won't Save Minorities From The Majority

Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

The UK Independent reported last week that legislators in Iceland have proposed a ban on circumcision of boys. In practice of course, a ban on male circumcisions essentially outlaws Judaism. Anticipating opposition from advocates for religious freedom, the legislation "insists the 'rights of the child' always exceed the 'right of the parents to give their children guidance when it comes to religion'."

Iceland is not alone in considering laws that pit the majority against the allegedly barbaric practices of a minority group. 

In the Netherlands, for example, animal rights activists are hard at work trying to outlaw kosher and halal meats. 

Meanwhile, in Quebec, lawmakers have recently prohibited the use of head coverings by — presumably Muslim — women in certain public places. 

Nor is the circumcision debate limited to Iceland. Male circumcision has been on shaky legal ground in Germany in recent years where a court banned the practice in 2012. Perhaps recognizing that banning Judaism could look bad for German "tolerance," lawmakers intervened to allow the practice again. 

For the subjects of this regulation, the activities being targeted are no mere preferences. They touch on fundamental values, and they present a clear conflict with other value systems. In cases such as these, where there is no apparent room for compromise, whose values ought to prevail?

Democracy Doesn't Always Work

Throughout most of the West, of course, we're all taught from an early age that "democracy" will allow everything to work itself out. The parties in conflict will enter into "dialogue," will arrive at a "compromise" and then everyone will be happy and at peace in the end. 

But, that's not how it works in real life. While there some areas for compromise that can be found around the edges of issues such as moral values and ethnic identity, the fact is that in the end, kosher meats are either legal or they're not. Circumcision is either legal or it's not. Abortion is either legal or it's not. Muslim head coverings are either legal or they're not. 

After all, if one group of people believe that a 3-month-old fetus is a parasite that has trespassed against the mother, those people are going to find little room for compromise with a group of people who think the same fetus is a person deserving legal protection.

Indeed, we see the shortcomings of democracy at work every time this latter issue comes up. One side calls the other killers who are complicit in the killing of babies. The other side calls their opponents rubes and barbarians, probably motivated by little more than crazed misogyny. Similar dynamics, of course, are present in cases involving animal rights, circumcision, and headscarves. One side thinks that their side is the only acceptable option for virtuous people. "Virtue," of course, can be defined any number of ways. Some are so blinded by their cultural biases, in fact, that they even conclude that no "civilized" person could possibly believe that, say, circumcision is anything other than a barbaric practice.Those who continue to believe in such things must therefore be forced "into the 21st century" by the coercive power of the state. Their religious beliefs, as Hillary Clinton demanded in 2015, "have to be changed." 

These problems also exist under authoritarian, non-democratic regimes. But anti-democrats usually admit that the state is using force to support one side over the other. Democrats, on the other hand, often prefer to indulge in comforting fictions. What many supporters of democracy refuse to admit is that there is no peaceful debate that will solve this conflict. The conflict is philosophical and moral in nature. And, so long as both sides are forced to live under a single legal system, any "compromise" will take the shape of one side imposing its position on the other by force. In the end, the losing side will be taxed to support the regime that disregards its views and forces compliance with laws made by the winning side.

Majority Rule: Conquest and Colonialism by Other Means

In his work on nationalism, Ludwig on Mises examined the fundamental problem that comes from various groups with different value systems living under a single unitary state. Even when there are certain theoretical guarantees for minority groups, the political reality is that groups with minority beliefs are at the mercy of the majority. This is true in matters of conflicting ethnic groups and religions, but is also applicable to any number of groups with conflicting values. 

Joseph Salerno ably sums up Mises's thought:

Mises maintains that two or more “nations” cannot peacefully coexist under a unitary democratic government. National minorities in a democracy are “completely politically powerless” because they have no chance of peacefully influencing the majority linguistic group. The latter represents “a cultural circle that is closed” to minority nationalities and whose political ideas are “thought, spoken, and written in a language that they do not understand.” Even where proportional representation prevails, the national minority “still remains excluded from collaboration in political life.” According to Mises, because the minority has no prospect of one day attaining power, the activity of its representatives “remains limited from the beginning to fruitless criticism . . . that . . . can lead to no political goal.” Thus, concludes Mises, even if the member of the minority nation, “according to the letter of the law, be a citizen with full rights . . . in truth he is politically without rights, a second class citizen, a pariah.”

Mises characterizes majority rule as a form of colonialism from the point of view of the minority nation in a polyglot territory: “[It] signifies something quite different here than in nationally uniform territories; here, for a part of the people, it is not popular rule but foreign rule.” Peaceful liberal nationalism therefore is inevitably stifled in polyglot territories governed by a unitary state, because, Mises argues, “democracy seems like oppression to the minority. Where only the choice is open oneself to suppress or be suppressed, one easily decides for the former.” Thus, for Mises, democracy means the same thing for the minority as “subjugation under the rule of others,” and this “holds true everywhere and, so far, for all times.” Mises dismisses “the often cited” counter-example of Switzerland as irrelevant because local self-rule was not disturbed by “internal migrations” between the different nationalities. Had significant migration established the presence of substantial national minorities in some of the cantons, “the national peace of Switzerland would already have vanished long ago.”

Those on the winning side, of course, don't see any problem here. What the minority thinks of as "oppression" is really — according to the winners — just "modernization," "progress," "decency," "common sense," or simply "the will of the majoirity." The fact that the enforcement of that will of the majority is founded on state violence is of little concern.

The Solution: Secession and Decentralization

Mises, who was himself a democrat, offered a solution to the problem of democratic majorities: self-determination through secession and decentralization

For Mises, populations must not be forced perpetually into states where they will never be able to exercise self-determination due to the presence of a more powerful majority. On a practical level then, populations in regions, cities, and villages within existing states must be free to form their own states, join other states with friendlier majorities, or at least exercise greater self-government via decentralization. 

Moreover, in order to accommodate the realities of constantly-changing populations, demographics, and cultures, borders and boundaries must change over time in order to minimize the number of people as members of minority populations with little to no say in national governments controlled by hostile majorities. 

In Mises vision, there is no perfect solution. There will always be some minority groups that at odds with the ruling majority. But, by making states smaller, more numerous, and more diverse, communities and individuals stand a better change of finding a state in which their values match up with the majority.  Large unitary states, however, offer exactly the oppose: less choice, less diversity, and fewer changes to exercise self-determination. 

The Option of Decentralized Confederations

Nor do all political jurisdictions need to be totally independent states. Mises himself advocated for the use of confederation as a solution to problems of cultural and linguistic minorities. Confederations might be formed for purposes of national defense and diplomacy, Mises noted. But in any country with a diverse population, in order to maintain internal peace, self-government of domestic affairs must be kept localized and so as to minimize the ability of a majority group to dominate a minority group.

Mises didn't invent this idea, of course. This sort of confederation was justified on similar grounds by the founders of the Swiss Confederation and the United States. Moreover, while not planned out ahead of time, the government of Austria-Hungary was by necessity decentralized to minimize internal conflict.  In cases such as these, matters of language, religion, education, and even economic policy must be handled by the local majority, independent of any nationwide majorities. Or else democracy becomes little more than a tool for the winning coalition to bludgeon the losing coalition. 

For decades, this worked at various times in the United States. On the matter of abortion, for instance, Americans agreed prior to Roe v Wade to allow abortion laws to be determined at a local level and be kept out of the hands of the national government. Public schools — and what was taught in them — were governed almost exclusively by local school boards and state governments. Even immigration policies and linguistic issues were decided by local majorities, and not by national ones. So long as these matter remained local matters they were irrelevant to national politics. Under these conditions, a victory for one party or another at the national level has little impact on the daily practice of one's religion, moral values, or schooling. 

As localized democracy turns into mass democracy, however, majorities exercise increasing power over minority groups. Each election becomes a nationwide referendum on how the majority shall use its power to crush those who pose a threat to the prevailing value system. Even worse, when there is one nationwide "law of the land" there is no escape from its effects, save to relocate hundreds of miles away to a foreign land where the emigrant must learn a new language and a new way of life far from friends and family. 

Needless to say, as this sort of democratic centralization increases, the stakes become higher and higher. The potential for violence becomes greater, and the disenfranchisement of minority groups becomes ever more palpable. 

Mises understood well what the end game to this process is. It's political and social unrest — followed by political repression to "restore" order. War may even follow. For Mises, the need to guarantee localized self-determination was no mere intellectual exercise for political scientists. It was a matter essential to the preservation of peace and freedom. We would do well to take the matter as seriously as he did.  


jefferson32 Déjà view Wed, 02/14/2018 - 00:46 Permalink

There are thousands of botched male circumcisions every year. This means thousands of handicapped - or grotesquely disfigured sexual organs. The percentage is an order of magnitude higher when the mutilation isn't carried out in a medical setting, but by a "mohel" (who happens to put the infant's penis in his mouth to suck the blood out, I'm not joking, Google it).

Yet such an attack on the individual liberty and natural rights of children is supposedly justified by "religious freedom"? What about female genital mutilation, an *even more* barbaric practice? What if my religion instructs me to decapitate handicapped babies?

Mises Institute, what the fuck is going on with you? Why are all libertarian outlets turning totalitarian? First Infowars, recently Zerohedge, and now you??

In reply to by Déjà view

NoDebt TeamDepends Tue, 02/13/2018 - 19:57 Permalink

All the lies my parents told me over the course of my upbringing is staggering.  It started when I realized that I had been brutally indoctrinated to believe I should be honest and take responsibility for my own choices.  What a crock of shit that was.  I would have been a fucking FANTASTIC criminal, maybe even gotten elected to political office if my true abilities were nurtured and given time to properly develop.

After coming to grips with that gigantic lie, above, you would think accepting the relatively small lie they told me about why I was circumcised (because it is more "hygienic") would be an easy one to accept.  Strangely, it's not.  And I don't know why.


In reply to by TeamDepends

NoDebt new game Tue, 02/13/2018 - 21:22 Permalink

I played around the edges of that shit myself.  Enough to realize I had to either be all-in or all-out.  I chose all-out after a while.  

I still do the booze, but that's about it.  And the wife is the only woman but I'm thinking I might have limited myself unnecessarily with that one, in retrospect.



In reply to by new game

EternalAnusocracy OverTheHedge Wed, 02/14/2018 - 00:41 Permalink

Circumcision is just another scam.  It makes US doctors more money.  This totally useless surgery is something black tribals in Africa who stand around a bush staring at a rabbit with a spear in one hand, and a rock in the other.  They may have a fucking bone sticking through their nose.  How this crazy ritual got into the white race is truly bizarre.  How the the American whites decides to subject their sons to this Semitic and Black ritual is truly a mystery.  How the WHITE Christian Americans got bamboozled into this bizarre habit of cutting off the foreskin which they share only ith Muslims, Arabs and sub-saharan Blacks is beyond me.  

In reply to by OverTheHedge

stopEUSSR NoDebt Tue, 02/13/2018 - 21:02 Permalink

I just don’t understand it. American’s talk about freedom, personal liberties and human rights and are sceptical about things like governement, vaccines and medicines etc.; but they happily mutilate a baby boy who is unable to consent, causing suffering and putting them at an increased risk of infection; not to mention the decreased sensitivity. How can this be considered anything other than child abuse?

In reply to by NoDebt

NoDebt stopEUSSR Tue, 02/13/2018 - 21:35 Permalink

When you realize how much fucking baggage you get loaded on you before you're even able to make choices, it's kind of a mind-blower.  

Read the Bible and see if you can count how many times they circumcise infants.  None I'm aware of.  Baptism of infants?  None that I'm aware of.

Look, I'm not a fucking idiot, I realize the importance of indoctrination.  You have to do some of that shit to have a coherent society.  But I don't think we need to act like a bunch of sand niggers to have a coherent society these days.  I could be wrong about that.  Maybe acting like that is the only level at which we can be held together.


In reply to by stopEUSSR

stopEUSSR NoDebt Tue, 02/13/2018 - 22:45 Permalink

I was baptised as a child and brought up in a Christian family. However, I read the bible, researched other religions and religious practices and then became an Atheist very early on.

Everyone gets baggage loaded on them when they are young; it’s just that some people are able to deal with or rebel against it easily. For example, I was one of them individuals who got prescribed Ritalin because I was a bit boisterous.

With regards to what it takes to have a coherent society, I could probably talk to you for a week straight about that very subject.

In reply to by NoDebt

Trogdor NoDebt Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:07 Permalink

I was at dinner with a former girlfriend and her parents (years ago).  We were talking about the spate of bank robberies that had happened at that time.  I basically said that the robbers were getting caught because they were stupid.  My girlfriend - who at the time worked at a major bank - said "OK, smart guy - how would YOU do it?" - and I proceeded to lay out what I considered a fairly simple plan.  As I laid it out, her expression kind of went blank.  When I was done, she said, "They'd never catch you."

To think .... I could have been rich and infamous ... like most politicians, banksters, CEO's, and tech giants ... ;)

In reply to by NoDebt

stopEUSSR Laowei Gweilo Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:04 Permalink

Circumcision can cause irritation to the vagina because when the protective foreskin is removed the head of the penis goes rough.

Handjobs when circumcised require a shit load of lube or saliva, whereas uncircumcised requires nothing.

"Most chicks prefer the look of cut guys" That’s purely perception and caused by indoctrination, for example most men in Somalia prefer female circumcision.

I think I’ll keep my foreskin thanks, especially with the increased sensitivity and the thought that my parents didn’t mutilate me at birth.

In reply to by Laowei Gweilo

Crawdaddy stopEUSSR Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:19 Permalink

Live it up bub. Keep your skin and be happy. Many are misled in the idea that cutting your skin makes you better or worse before the big man upstairs. If I'm not mistaken what he cares about is the the circumcision of the heart above the circumcision of the flesh. To those people I say read your bible & make up your own mind.

In reply to by stopEUSSR

OverTheHedge Element Tue, 02/13/2018 - 23:57 Permalink

I think this article provides every reason for why the European union will fail, and is already a failure. Take any Scandinavian country: a few million people, a democratic process where every person gets a vote, and a feeling of being a part of the system. Take that same five or six million people, and lump them in with the other 500 million of the rest of Europe, and they have been instantly disenfranchised. Add to that the lack of accountability in the EU, and it becomes clear that there are NO benefits for the individual, and the monopoly of the "majority" becomes something brutal. 

I have always felt that the EU was a recipe for terrorism, as the disenfranchised turn to violence as their last recourse. 

Unfortunately Ghordius is on holiday, or he could make a heartfelt counter-argument.

In reply to by Element

whitedragon RedBaron616 Tue, 02/13/2018 - 20:02 Permalink

RedBaron616 would want you to believe there are long waiting lists of adult, fully-informed Christians just waiting to get their circumcision.

Circumcision is genital mutilation and I will bet big money that the vast majority of violent paedophiles are circumcised. They do the pedo thing because they can't get off like normal people, they lost half their nerve endings.

In reply to by RedBaron616

risk.averse Justin Case Tue, 02/13/2018 - 20:50 Permalink

yes, cutting off the foreskin DEFINITELY does affect performance. The foreskin protects the head of the penis. Over time, the head of the penis slowly becomes desensitized --if only from day-to-day rubbing against one's shorts. A desensitized penis is a less of a "fun tool". God knew what was He was doing: parents leave it alone!! Of course, because its cut off in infancy (well before puberty), a circumcised male doesn't realize what he's missing out on.

Doctors have long run this racket: get the mothers at a moment of weakness --just after giving birth -- and feed her some bullshite about what's best for their baby boy..."it's more hygenic" etc. Ka-ching! And some circumcised dads want their boys to look like them so there's no embarrassing questions from Junior when they're sharing a shower at the beach etc. I recall a local radio announcer declaring as much (the shower thing) when we last had a puiblic debate about circumcision. He ridiculed anyone who disagreed with him. Basically, he said, my son's dick has to look like mine. Bizarre.

A conspiracy theorist (hey, we're all conspiracy "realists" here on ZH!!) might run the argument that Chosenite doctors encouraged circumcision amongst the Gentiles so they were indistinguishable from Chosenite men, making persecution harder to carry out.

In reply to by Justin Case

stopEUSSR RedBaron616 Tue, 02/13/2018 - 21:27 Permalink

There are 20,000 nerve endings in the foreskin which are destroyed during circumcision, so you will never experience the same amount of pleasure as a male who is uncircumcised.

It also causes problems with masturbation as you need to use a shit load of lube, the tip of the penis dries out and can become hard and rough, because that's what the foreskin was meant to protect. It can also cause irritation during sex and result in less sensitivity, which means you might last longer, but you will never experience the same amount of pleasure.

The frenulum (considered to be the male G-spot) is also removed during circumcision, further reducing male pleasure.

The hygiene issue is frankly bullshit, as you can clean underneath the foreskin with relative ease and there are creams available to reduce the tightness of the foreskin if required. The female labia contains a load more bacteria, yet we don’t remove or cut that off.

As a British person, I consider the practice to be extremely barbaric and a form of child abuse. It causes unnecessary suffering to the child; they are at an increased risk of infection; not to mention the decreased sensitivity. Unless circumcision is required for medical reasons and there is no other option, it should be banned for under 18’s.  At least then, it gives the person the choice (Freedom! remember that America) of whether to be circumcised as part of their religion beliefs, rather than mutilated after birth with no choice in the matter.

I thank my parents that I was never circumcised and feel incredibly sorry for anyone that was (you don’t know what you’re missing out on); especially if it wasn’t performed for religious reasons. I also feel sorry for American pornstars, buying lube by the bucket load and pounding away for hours because they have limited sensitivity.

To say male circumcision causes no lifetime issues is being incredibly naive.

In reply to by RedBaron616

OverTheHedge stopEUSSR Wed, 02/14/2018 - 00:06 Permalink

As I mentione above, the nhs doesn't circumcise because it is an unnecessary drain on resources. In countries where doctors earn for each procedure, circumcisions are routine.

Life is a series of thefts and aggressions - some happen when you are too young to be able to fight back. That is why you have parents. The question is - where were the parents when the children were being mutilated for the financial benefit of the medical system?

Any parents of circumcised children care to comment?

(Cuturally accepted practices can be a complete bastard, sometimes)

In reply to by stopEUSSR