Milton Friedman on Israel and Jewish Support for Socialism:

David Bernstein's post on the excesses of Israeli socialist ideology remind me of Milton Friedman's 1972 essay, "Capitalism and the Jews: Confronting a Paradox," (I haven't been able to find an online link, but it's available in Kurt R. Leube ed., The Essence of Friedman at 43-57 (1987)). Friedman addressed the interesting question of why Jews tend to be hostile to capitalism and sympathetic to socialism despite the fact that, historically, Jews have been most successful and most tolerated in those societies where free markets and civil society were relatively unfettered, and suffered most from anti-semitism in highly socialized and statist economies (worst of all under Soviet socialism and, of course, Hitler's National Socialism).

He argues that Jewish support for socialism was partly a reaction to the fact that in 19th and 20th century Europe, the right-wing parties tended to be nationalistic and anti-semitic, so that Jews were naturally drawn to their political opponents (at the time mostly socialists and statist liberals). More interestingly, Friedman suggests that Jewish socialism was in part a reaction to the stereotype of the Jew as a greedy capitalist, an attempt to "prove" the stereotype wrong. He specifically references Israeli attitudes as the most extreme manifestation of this mentality. And in fact early socialist Zionist ideology emphasized the need to reject the stereotypes associated with Diaspora Jews; socialist Zionists called for what they called "Negation of the Diaspora." They especially decried the association of Diaspora Jews with trading and capitalist commercial enterprise, but also (to a lesser extent), private philanthropy and civil society organizations of the kind foolishly denounced by Israel's socialist Defense Minister Amir Peretz, quoted in David's post.

Despite Peretz's idiotic comments, my impression is that "Negation of the Diaspora" and its associated anti-capitalism is a less powerful force in Israeli political culture today than it was early in the state's history. Hopefully, attitudes like Peretz's are on the way out.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Milton Friedman and Israel:
  2. Milton Friedman on Israel and Jewish Support for Socialism:
  3. Talk about your tired Socialism: