Why are so many Jewish libertarians uncomfortable with their Jewishness?

A question from a reader:

I just encountered your website, it looks most interesting. I was curious as to whether you have explored the issue of why so may Jewish libertarians/anarcho-capitalists are uncomfortable with their Jewishness. Two prominent examples would be Ayn Rand (even though she eschewed the libertarian label) and Murray Rothbard. One example of Rand’s refusal to confront her Jewish origins was her treatment of the Kira character in We the Living. The novel’s protagonists was by Rand’s description largely autobiographical, yet she was Russian Orthodox, not Jewish. Rand was able to bravely depict the consequences of the Bolshevik revolution on a “bourgeois” family, but ,apparently, not on a Jewish “bourgeois” family.

Rothbard is a psychologically even more interesting case. He was ,in many ways, the favorite Jew of a number of anti-semites. This was particularly true towards the end of his life when he was closely allied with ,amongst others, Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran. Rothbard even went so far as to endorse the gubernatorial candidacy of David Duke.
In short many Jewish libertarians ,like many Jewish Marxists, experience extreme discomfort vis a vis their ethnic and religious origins. Any thoughts as to why this is so?
Best wishes,

A Reader

Thanks for asking. First, let me get some stuff out of the way. Murray was not friends with any anti semites. David Duke, Joe Sobran, and Pat Buchanan do not hate Jews. They hate Jewish lobbyist groups, as they hate most other lobbyist groups that advocate spending money in places where they, Duke Sobran and Buchanan, would rather not spend it. All lobbyists hate all other lobbyists, and all libertarians should hate all lobbyists, save the liberty lobby which actually lobbies for less government. The myth that these people are anti Semites is perpetuated by ADL whiners whose incomes are in proportion to how loudly they whine about non-issues. They also hate the Israeli government. So do I, so we’re cool on that.

Second I have no magical answer, but I have some suspicions. Ayn Rand didn’t hate Judaism. She hated religion and the idea of worshipping a deity in an organized way with authority figures telling you how to do it and what to think whey you do the worshipping. She actually was an Israel supporter, a position I don’t tend to vocally take. I have only read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, not We the Living, though someday I may get to it. I would simply say she was obsessed with her ideas of selfishness and objectivism and whatnot that she constantly hammered and just didn’t want to be associated with Judaism. I understand that.

As for Murray, he has many a talk denouncing anti Semites, particularly Keynes. That he was the favorite Jew of a number of anti Semites only proves that those people were not anti Semitic, but only hated Jewish efforts at manipulating government for their own purposes. Murray did in fact hate the State of Israel, with a fiery passion. I’m involved in co-authoring a paper debunking his infamous “War Guilt in the Middle East” article as we speak. His hatred of the State of Israel in particular over other states is far beyond my own. I do hate the State of Israel, but not any more than any other State government. Murray had a special hatred for Israel as a State particularly. I don’t understand exactly why.

I can only really answer as to why I embrace my Jewishness and libertarianism. To be a libertarian and embrace your Jewishness takes a lot of flexibility, not in terms of libertarianism which is not all that flexible, but in terms of Judaism, which is much more flexible. To encounter the economic ignorance and annoying Israel activism of mainstream Jewish people is a lot to take, and if you don’t have a flexible background in Judaism, you’ll leave it because other Jews are so off base and totally confused.

I come from a background of Maimonidean rationalist yeshivishness, hard liberal modern yeshivishness, with several Haredi friends who are classical frummies. I have one main assumption about God and his plan for the Jewish people. I assume that God’s plan is to lead human history to choosing a libertarian path. My reading of Tanach supports this, as I see Abraham as the first activist libertarian as well as the first Jew. Noach was a libertarian but he wasn’t an activist.

So God made a promise to Abraham that his kids would continue his philosophy. I have no evidence this promise was ever made other than the fact that Jews as a distinct entity still exist. I have no evidence that God exists or that Judaism is a definable thing with boundaries. I don’t really care if it is or not. So I am extremely flexible regarding my own Jewishness. I follow Halacha generally because I see some value in it and that’s how I grew up. Without Halacha there would be no Jews, and without Jews there would be no chance at global libertarianism. But when Halacha conflicts with libertarianism I ignore halacha assuming it is simply wrong. I am flexible enough to say that without having a major crisis of religious identity. And since I see all Jews as one family together responsible for converting the world to libertarianism, I can withstand supreme idiocy from within my own family without disowning it and becoming estranged. I see no Rabbi as above me, and look up to nobody but myself.

So to be comfortable with your Jewishness as well as libertarianism, you need to be comfortable with molding Judaism into libertarianism and assuming that the former is meant to reflect the latter.

My end belief is that without the Jewish people, libertarianism on a global scale would be impossible. First it’s us, then it’s the rest of the world, with the Beit HaMikdash at the center.

Read my Manifesto of Torah and Faith for a further breakdown of my philosophy.

Devorah, a Fiery Woman, a Private Court

I was reading the Devorah and Barak story to my kids the other week. It was the Haftarah for Parashat Beshalach. She’s in Shoftim 4:4. What struck me about her is that she was the accepted judge for the whole people. She mediated disputes for a living. That was her job. People would have a fight, they’d go to her for arbitration.

Did she have a humongous ostentatious supreme court building with marble statues chiseled with self-righteously “deep” quotes from past dead government heroes? Did she sit on a huge bench 10 feet above the people she pompously looked down on from her high horse? Did her court cost millions of dollars of other people’s money to build?

No. She just sat under a tree and judged cases there. That’s it. The Israeli court system is filled with crony gangsters who sit on high and pontificate about nothing while they determine the course of people’s lives from their posh chairs that somebody else paid for. And then they are paid gargantuan tax-funded pensions when they stop bloviating their nonsense opinions on anything they choose to go off about.

Libertarianism is not All or Nothing

This was written almost 6 years ago by a friend of mine, who has allowed me to repost it here. He’s a gentile who knows more about the ideal Torah system of government (anarchy with privately chosen judges) than the average Gadol HaDor. Sometimes it just takes reading the book itself to remember what it actually says.

I agree with the main point of the article. I only disagree with some nomenclature. I would say that libertarianism is not really a political theory at all. It is an antipolitical theory. Every political theory suggests different degrees of force to organize society. Libertarianism eschews all of it.

I would also add that, from a Jewish “chosen people” perspective, my view is that the role of the Jewish people is first to free themselves and the rest of the world will follow. Without the Jews global freedom will never happen. I don’t know how we will free ourselves here exactly, but I trust God will enable it somehow. Just hoping to be a part of it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It’s Not All or Nothing

There was a long piece in the Daily Kos this week that ‘exposed’ libertarians and their goofy-subversive-dangerous ideas. Outside of the general snarky patina of the article, it was actually a pretty good survey of libertarian positions on most issues. There were some key, and common, characterizations that were, I felt, wide of the mark. I have chosen to highlight one that I feel is fundamental to the overall misunderstanding of the libertarian philosophy.

I am often accused of being an idealist. Unable to deal with the ‘real world,’ they say, I adhere to an ideology that has no practical application. There is no constituency to abolish the FDA, SSA, CIA, IRS, or DEA. Also, a libertarian society would provide no safety net and people could starve, or be homeless, or die without all these government programs. Imposing the libertarian system on a modern society would require everyone to accept it, and that ain’t going to happen. Idealism never works, they say, which is why all ‘isms’ fail. Libertarianism is no different from Communism. Pie in the sky, impractical, doomed to failure.

Perhaps the critique of Communism is correct. It does seem to require a violent revolution to wipe away the old bourgeois regime and replace it with a worker’s paradise in one fell swoop. If the program is not adopted in its’ entirety, it fails. Let one bourgeois remain in power and he will ruin the Communist stew. Root them out! Kill them all! Purge society of the wreckers so Communism can flourish and create a worker’s paradise. So when critics of Communism say it doesn’t work, and Communists reply that it hasn’t been tried, the Communists have a point. (Forget for a moment that successful small scale communist experiments have been carried out in the U.S. since the early 1800’s, in towns such as New Harmony and New Economy.) Both the critics of Communism and the supporters of Communism agree: what has been tried in various nations around the world has lacked the requisite purity, and they have all failed miserably. Maybe it would work if pure, but we know it won’t work if it is impure.

While Libertarianism tries to be a comprehensive political philosophy, like the Marxist and Communist theories, it does not run afoul of the same purity problem as other ‘isms.’ Impure libertarian societies have existed on a national scale, and they have been highly successful. I’m thinking of the U.S. prior to World War I. The Roman Republic before Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Hong Kong. Even the ancient Hebrews lived in a kind of libertarian world with no kings or rulers (the Jews were warned not to get a king because he would tax their wealth and send their children off to war…oh how prophetic!) In each case, the relative freedom enjoyed by individuals in those societies resulted in stable and wealthy communities. As their freedoms were curtailed, each of those societies experienced a decline in wealth, stability, and vitality (Hong Kong has not yet seen a decline, as it remains one of the freest places on earth despite belonging to a ‘communist’ country). Libertarian theory endorses the idea that more freedom means more wealth, stability, and security, while less freedom means more poverty, discontent, and conflict.

Taken to its’ logical extreme, Libertarianism calls for an entirely voluntary society. A century and a half ago, that might have been imaginable. Today, from the perspective of people who are taxed, licensed, mandated, regulated, and subsidized by a 360 degree government that alternates between kind paternalism and nasty scold, this is a ridiculous thought. Surely the Libertarian ideal is so disconnected with the world as it exists that it is not worthy of serious consideration. Problems today must be fixed with practical solutions, not pie-in-the-sky theories.

Actually, this is where Libertarianism excels. Since Libertarianism does not require perfect execution to generate positive results, it can be taken in small pieces. Example: When the airlines were “deregulated” in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, there was loud complaining that air travel would become more expensive and unsafe. Libertarian theory said it would become more affordable, flexible, and safer (if that was important to consumers). Indeed, that is exactly what happened. Air travel boomed. Over the next ten years fares dropped by some 50% and the number of carriers and routes doubled, making air travel affordable and practical for millions of Americans who otherwise would not have considered flying. The entire economy did not have to be deregulated, just a portion of a portion. More freedom was better, however limited.

The same thing happened with the trucking business at about the same time. The result was lower freight rates for industry and lower merchandise prices for consumers.

Alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s resulted in a wave of violent crime as gangs battled over the black market while doing little to decrease drinking. Making alcohol legal again was another step in the direction of freedom, and the unintended consequences of prohibition disappeared overnight. A similar approach is needed with marijuana, and for the same reasons: it is practical and it is the right thing to do in a free society. Theory says that society would benefit from legalizing all drugs, but it will benefit from just the first small step with marijuana.

Libertarianism is not all or nothing. In general, freedom is good, more freedom is better. It is not necessary to have a pure Libertarian system to experience the benefits of freedom. Libertarian theory can be taken to the extreme…if you want…but it can also be taken in small pieces if that is all your society can handle. No need for a violent revolution. Just the steady drip, drip, drip of ideals and practical compromise. Then, one day, we may all be free. Perfectly free.

And it will seem perfectly reasonable.

Posted by It’s Always Something

What if Government Reported Bad Earnings and Investors Could Dump the Stock?

It’s earnings season on Wall Street. Companies report how much money they made and lost and every nook and cranny of the business, and then traders trade the stock and prices change. Sometimes dividends have to be cut or people laid off or pay raises frozen or capital equipment sold in order to stay liquid. And the stock price will always reflect the reality at any given moment.

If government reported earnings it would be negative every quarter. The combined earnings of a company over its history is its retained earnings. The United States Government has retained earnings of negative $19,000,000,000,000. Its equity would be below zero. Its stock would have no value.

But government cutting expenses? HA! All the whiners will whine. Sequestration! Sounds so violent! The whole economy will collapse! The bureaucrats will all be unemployed and we’ll all be doomed! Cutting government spending is immoral! The last time there were any serious cuts was after War War II. Since then there have been no cuts. Government is never cut until it collapses. Like a cancer that can’t stop growing, eventually it kills its host, thereby killing itself. The rest of the body stays in equilibrium with itself. Cells live, cells die, conditions change, body adapts, growth and shrinkage keeps it in balance.

Cancer keeps growing until everything dies. So does government. Cells don’t die. They keep multiplying.

The “economists” who say the economy depends on government spending? Whose money do they think the government is spending? Do they think that once the government spends money, that money becomes infinite? Are we in some jack and the beanstalk fairytale here? Is government money an everlasting gobstopper? Is it manna from heaven? Why are all resources finite but people have to think about whether government resources are finite?

The “economists” who say that consumption comes before production, how do you respond to such nonsense?

Shares in the US Government would have a market value of zero. The only thing that gives government, any government, any value at all is its ability to borrow, tax, and inflate. Once it cannot borrow or inflate, due to a debt default (which ends your ability to borrow) and hyperinflation (which ends your ability to inflate), it will only be able to tax. At that point, the people will not be confused by economic myths like the economy depends on government spending. They will know the spending comes from them, their work, because borrowing and inflation will be impossible. They they will understand that the economy depends not on government spending, but on their efficient use of their own money and resources.

People only believe economic myths when the costs of those myths are hidden through borrowing or inflation.

A New Jewish Look at US Skinheads and Neo Nazis – Are they reasonable people?

No, I am not a fan of Skinheads, Aryan Nation people, Neo Nazis etc. Let’s just get that out of the way. However, I did come across this 1988 clip of the Gerald Rivera brawl. If you listen to what the Aryan guys are saying, it’s actually quite reasonable. No, not when they use slurs and generally act like hateful idiots, but some of the points are reasonable.

Americans, and especially American Jews, have been conditioned and trained to demonize and totally deligitimize anyone who calls themselves Aryan. Anything they say is automatically foaming-at-the-mouth nonsense. But listen to what the guy is saying and how Gerald responds to it.

The first Aryan dodges a question about whether he endorses the murder of innocent people. The fact that he couldn’t answer the question is of course disturbing, but politicians do the same thing all the time. However, he sort of answers it by saying that blacks are not part of the Aryan agenda, whatever that agenda is, so they shouldn’t be worried. The Nazi’s name, Metzger, is ironically the same as the former Chief Rabbi of Israel, by the way.

Second, when challenged about the Holocaust, one of the other Aryan guys goes on about Stalin and the Ukraine, where Jews were also murdered. He quotes the number 30 million, not sure if it was that much, but he didn’t even mention Mao who clocks in at 45 to 55 million, and that’s not even counting the years outside ’58-’62, which would be ’48-’57 and ’63-’76.  When asked if the Holocaust happened, the Aryan asks, “Does it matter?”

Then Gerald pins him as a Holocaust denier and the whole thing descends into a brawl.

To wit, the guy responded, “I didn’t say it didn’t happen, I said it doesn’t matter,” and keeps reiterating that Stalin killed more and that nobody seems to care, or even acknowledge the point at all. Is that equally holocaust denial? Yes, it is.

I can’t call these Skinheads jolly people or anything like that. They are not nice people, that’s for sure. But neither is Gerald, Geraldo, or whatever he calls himself. I’m fairly certain that in a room with libertarians, there would be a levelheaded discussion with these Nazis instead of some dumb sensationalist fight erupting. I would agree that Hitler’s Holocaust is irrelevant to him as a non Jew, but very relevant to me as a Jew, and that Stalin’s Holocaust should be more relevant to him as a non Jew because it was directed against humans as economic beings, which is everyone. He would probably agree with that. We could go home, not necessarily liking each other, but at least understanding each other and agreeing to keep our distance.

I’m waiting for the comments calling me a Nazi sympathizer now, just because I don’t completely discount every single word coming out of their mouths. “If you listen to even a single word they say you’re guilty of committing genocide against your own people!” someone will undoubtedly say.

They are simply tired of Hitlerian Holocaust education to the detriment of Stalinist (and Maoist) Holocaust education. And if I were a non Jew, I’d probably be frustrated with that as well. Even as a Jew it annoys me.