In the true spirit of Kip’s truth that all politicians are moral defectives, we have Anthony Weiner. When asked about the New York City health department’s (weak) effort to regulate metzitzah b’peh, a ritual that has led to herpes infections that have killed at least two infant males and left at least two more with brain damage, Weiner said:
“You know, I’ve been criticized a lot of places for my position on metzitzah b’peh, on the ritual bris,” he said last night. “My instinct as a liberal is the libertarian sense of that word, is that we have to be very, very careful when we in government decide to step in, even if we’re 100 percent sure. Remember, government always is about the rule of the majority. … You have to be extra careful to protect the rights of people that are in the smallest of minorities.”
Anthony Weiner doesn’t understand his instinct. He is not a libertarian. His position is not libertarian. Even the health department’s inch-high speed bump (i.e. a “consent” form) is not liberatarian on this issue. That is not because it has the government stepping in, but because it does almost nothing. As practiced today, metzitzah b’peh – and child circumcision, more generally – violates basic human rights. There are dead and brain-damaged children already. The same risk exists in every instance in which it’s performed, just as objective harm results from every circumcision.
Libertarianism recognizes the primary purpose of any legitimate government to protect the rights of its individual citizens. This includes the individual’s right to bodily integrity and autonomy. Hence, valid laws against all other forms of non-therapeutic, unwanted physical violence exist without contention. Since children are also people, an obvious fact that too many self-proclaimed libertarians miss, government may enact and enforce laws to protect their rights, too. This includes protecting children from objective physical harm inflicted for reasons unconnected to objective need. Without need, the individual must consent. Proxy consent forms for objective harm do not protect children. They are not an acceptable standard. The libertarian position on non-therapeutic child circumcision is prohibition, as any other form of unwanted, unnecessary objective harm is prohibited.
Weiner manages to provide some insight in his words. The smallest minority is the individual, and the most vulnerable smallest minority is a child who can’t defend himself. We have to be extra careful to protect them. That includes not being too cowardly to acknowledge something we’re 100 percent sure about. Oral suction of an open wound is unsanitary and should only be done with the individual’s consent. Ritual or “medical” circumcision of a healthy child removes normal, functioning tissue and should only be done with the individual’s consent. There is no parental right to this rite.
Link via Janet Heimlich.