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?
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.
14 thoughts on “Why are so many Jewish libertarians uncomfortable with their Jewishness?”
P.S. For your delectation.
If you were intelligent you would already have realised that supporting Feiglin and being Rothbardite are incompatible, but even someone as dense as you will get it eventually.
Your comments always put a smile on my face. Like this 🙂
Did you know you could make a smiley face with just a colon and a close parentheses? That’s awesome! My my, the things you can do these days with technology. What will they think of next!?
“David Duke, Joe Sobran, and Pat Buchanan do not hate Jews.”
I quite like Joe Sabran, anti-Semitism and all, and have a certain amount of time for Buchanan, but you are genuinely an unalloyed idiot who compares murdered liberal cartoonists to Der Sturmer but defends a real, living breathing Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Seriously, take some meds, you are an embarrassment to both Jews and Libertarians.
I also quite liked Joe Sobran “anti-Semitism and all”. One of the things I liked about him was the light touch contained within his writing style. I would gently suggest that you might do well to try to emulate that light touch. Let’s not refer to others as “unalloyed idiot(s)” in need of medication. A good rule for online dialogue is not to write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face over a cup of coffee.
I don’t feel competent to respond to the above comments concerning Jewish law. David Duke does hate Jews, a cursory visit to his website should make that clear. Buchanan and Sobran are more complicated. Both men counted many Jews among their friends. However, neither man limited his critique to Israel or the “Jewish lobby”. Buchanan is perhaps the most prominent American figure to at least dip a toe in the waters of Holocaust “revisionism”. Sobran went so far as to give a talk entitled “For Fear of the Jews” at a conference of the Institute for Historical Review, the premier “revisionist” organization in the country.
As for Ayn Rand, she and her acolytes may not have hated Judaism, but they were far from comfortable with it. At the most basic level this is demonstrated by the fact that both Rand (nee Rosenbaum) and her originally designated successor Nathaniel Branden (nee Blumenthal) found it necessary to anglicize their names.
Even if he does hate Jews, that’s fine with me, as long as he doesn’t commit any violence against us. I would bet you he wouldn’t hate me though.
“If the world does become libertarian it still won’t be perfect, so no utopia.”
“But when Halacha conflicts with libertarianism I ignore halacha assuming it is simply wrong.”
A strict reading of this would indicate that you are not shomer Shabbat. Am I correct that this is not the case?
I am shomer Shabbat. How does not working on Shabbat conflict with the NAP?
You can’t choose not to be. You are not at liberty to do so. According to Halacha. Its obligatory nature is truly in conflict with libertarianism (if you’re Jewish). You can claim to observe Shabbat voluntarily. But I doubt you would ever prove the point by voluntarily violating it (publicly).
I don’t accept that argument. It applies to all Mitzvos. What makes something voluntary is not what a book stays God says I can and can’t do. God is outside the NAP. It doesn’t apply to Him. It only applies to human beings. Keeping Shabbos is voluntary because the Torah mandates no punishment by man for violating it. There’s rhetoric of the death penalty, but it never happened in history. The Mekoshesh Etzim was put to death by God who gave explicit instructions in that one case, not by man deciding in a court.
If God says he’ll punish me for breaking Shabbos fine. Or not keeping kosher or not putting on Tefillin or whatever. But “halacha” by which I mean how I read halacha, does not enforce activities outside of NAP violations. If someone says it does, he is wrong. Or Halacha is wrong. Whatever you’re more comfortable saying.
Sounds like a good argument.
I understand where you’re coming from regarding your reading God’s plan, but I think it’s a mundane view.
“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.”
It sounds better to me that the intent for the Jews is that we, collectively and individually have a direct and personal relationship with our Creator comparable the relationships the avot had. When we achieve that, a libertarian utopia would follow as a natural consequence.
If the world does become libertarian it still won’t be perfect, so no utopia. However we see the plan, whatever motivates us, however we see the world, we should use our view to continue to do good. What we decide is good vs evil comes before the way we develop our own eschatology. It doesn’t matter how you view it or what sounds better to you as long as it motivates you to do the right thing.
There might even be an objectively right way to read God’s plan, but I doubt we’ll be faulted for reading it wrong if we are doing the right thing anyway. I’m pretty sure Ron Paul for example was motivated by Avodah Zarah aspects of Christianity. Matters not at all to me, nor to God I would imagine.
Certainly. Regarding RP, he rarely, and seemingly reluctantly from what I saw, spoke about Christianity and his religious views. Unlike all other US politicians. (Even Trump felt obliged to give it lip service.) He certainly followed the deeds over words mindset.