One Cheer for Kahlon, and A Word on Protectionism

Moshe Kahlon, chairman of some party called “All of Us” and as the Finance Minister for some reason has the power to get rid of certain taxes singlehandedly, will be getting rid of all import taxes on products that are not produced in Israel. I’m pretty sure this means products where a tariff on them does not protect any industry in Israel.

The tagline of the article is this though, and it’s pretty stupid:

היום הוכרז המהלך שיביא להורדת יוקר המחיה על ידי הוזלת מאות מוצרי צריכה שאינם מיוצרים בארץ. שורת המוצרים עליהם בוטל המכס כלל לא מיוצרים בארץ – ולכן אין שום סיבה שהמדינה תטיל עליהם מכס

Today it was announced that a process will begin that will bring down the cost of living by cheapening consumer products that are not produced in Israel. The products that will no longer have tariffs are not produced in Israel at all – therefore there is no reason for the State to place tariffs on them.

The fact that tariffs on these products will be taken down is great, but the reasoning is idiotic. Tariffs are just a cash grab that uses protectionism as an excuse. They are not there to “protect Israeli industry”. They are there to take money away from you and put it in the hands of the government.

First of all, if the government wanted to protect domestic industry, it would just forbid imports from other countries of products that compete with Israeli industry. But it doesn’t do that. It just takes a cut from you if you buy the competition, because what the government really wants is not protected industry, but money, however it can get it and from whoever it can get it, with any excuse it can use to do so.

Second, the whole idea of protectionism is asinine. It’s easy to see if you take the extreme case. Let’s say an Israeli company can only produce widget X at a cost of a billion shekels a widget because the company produces widget X by hand and does not have the know-how to produce it via capital equipment like machines.

A Japanese company, or whatever country, can produce the same widget X for one shekel a widget, because they have a machine that can do it really quickly and cheaply. The problem with “protecting” the Israeli widget X industry by slapping a tariff of 999,999,999 shekels per Japanese widget X becomes obvious.

If any Israeli company can only produce X expensively versus a Japanese company that can produce X cheaply, it means that the Israeli company is bad at doing what it does and it should stop doing it and go out of business, and the people who worked for that bad company should do something else with their time that is more efficient, something that they are better at than the rest of the world.

To protect an Israeli producer by taking money from consumers means harming Israeli consumers.

But yeah, good for Kahlon. Even though he’s not the sharpest butter knife in the drawer, he’s doing something good here.


How Judaism Solves the Male Sexual Harassment Problem: Assume All Men Do It

Ever since Harvey Weinstein broke, sexual harassment claims have been spilling out against powerful men faster than I’ve ever seen. That it’s happening now is just a historical accident, but the fact most of it (I assume, minus a few copycats) is true is not inherently surprising.

If everyone (especially women) observed the halachos of yichud (being alone with a woman) strictly, sexual harassment wouldn’t be a big problem. It would be a minor issue only. I say this is the woman’s responsibility in secular society because they are the ones who don’t want to be harassed, so they need to take the precaution, and never be alone with a man, for any reason, that they do not want to have sex with.

Attractive women must understand this about men. All of them want sex, all the time. If men become powerful enough they lose their inhibitions, so don’t ever be alone with any man you do not want to sleep with. If you are alone with any man, assume your chances of sexual advances, wanted or not, are greater than 30%. So just don’t do it.

While that does not totally end the problem, it greatly curtails it into something more manageable.

Why I Oppose the French Law to Grant Immunity to a Prime Minister

Never give the state any more power than it already has. It will always come back to hurt you, every time. No state official should be immune to any investigation, least of all a Prime Minister. Pretty much the only respite we simple Jews have from constant government harassment is when the state stops spending our money and regulating our behavior and instead fights itself, blissfully forgetting about us for just a moment.

Consider, the only time in recent history there has ever been a government surplus in the US was under President Clinton, who spent most of his time dealing with investigations and impeachment proceedings.

Whether it’s serious harassment like forced evacuations and destruction of Jewish property, or minor harassment like filling out some bureaucratic form or other in order to do construction on your own house, when the State fights itself, the simple people win. So why make it harder for the state to attack itself?

I’m nobody’s chassid. I listen to differing opinions from all sides, but I don’t consider any of them holy, not even the opinions straight from the mouth of the leader of my party. A Prime Minister should never have immunity from investigation.

This new law is called the “French Law”. The point of the “French Law” is to make it almost impossible to indict a sitting Prime Minister. Moshe has his reasons to support the law, I understand them, but I disagree with them. Here is Moshe’s main claim verbatim, which I’ll translate loosely and then object to.

“הרבה יותר משאני מפחד משחיתות המנהיגים, אני מפחד מדיקטטורת חבורת שלטון החוק. את המושחתים בצמרת יש לי כוח להחליף כל ארבע שנים. את הכנופיה אין לי”

Says Moshe, “More than I fear the corruption of our leaders, I fear the dictatorship of the rule of law gang. Corrupt leaders I can vote out of office every four years. Unelected leaders, I can’t vote out.”

He’s referring to what Americans call the Deep State. Supreme Court justices are unelected in Israel, and so are part of the Deep State, as are most of the powerful bureaucratic positions referred to here offhand. It’s the unelected leaders, the Deep State, that mess around with the system to undermine the elected leaders, and therefore this law will be better for the balance of power.

Respectfully, I get it, but don’t agree. Making any part of the government stronger means they will be even worse than before.

Elected leaders and unelected leaders are on the same team. They don’t oppose each other. There is no difference between them. A sitting Prime Minister, immune to investigation, will be much better able to fulfill the goals of that unelected Deep State. Whether that’s destruction of settlements, freeing murderers in a good-will gesture, raising taxes, aggravating businesses, etc. the government will be more powerful than otherwise. Nothing good comes of powerful government.

In what sense is Bibi an “elected” leader anyway? Because 20% of voters dislike him slightly less than everyone else who ran? And then he builds coalitions with the people that these 20% dislike even more, and calls it a “government”? How do you replace him? His replacements will do the same thing he does. We all know this. So what’s the difference?

We can see the futility of “elected leaders” by the direction government goes in, all the time, no matter who you vote for. Consider the direction we are headed, not just in Israel, but globally. Government everywhere is growing – all around the world. Government budgets take up more and more of GDP by percentage, and with ever-growing budgets, government debt all over the world just keeps rising. States everywhere, globally, keep eating more and more and more of our wealth, no matter who we vote for.

Trump, for example, hasn’t cut a dime. He’s only increased spending, made airport travel even more miserable than before, he wants to raise all kinds of taxes, and any “tax reform” he proposes will be “revenue neutral”, meaning the government will, at best, still get the same amount of money from us, just in different slices from different people.

In Europe, despite a continent wide debt-crisis, not a single EU government has cut any debt. Not even Greece. It just doesn’t happen. Elections cannot change it. The unelected Deep State runs the show.

In Israel, no government ever changes policy. They just use different catchphrases that poll well in focus groups for a “demographic”. Nobody ends Oslo, nobody lowers taxes, nobody lowers spending, nobody increases freedom or shrinks government. Not Labor, not Likud, not anyone else. There are the unelected people in charge, and the elected puppets. You can change the puppets. But the puppet show must go on.

So why bother trying to get Moshe Feiglin into the Prime Minister’s seat at all? Because Moshe is not just another candidate puppet. He’s a revolution. He and the Deep State are incompatible. They can’t infect him.

Besides, look at it this way. When Moshe becomes Prime Minister, he will have already won the hearts of the people. With the people behind you, no investigation can ever hurt, French Law or not. Zehut does not need this law to be passed. It won’t help. Bibi being investigated is simply a result of the people of Israel not liking him.

If anything, we should make it extremely easy to indict and evict any Prime Minister from office for any reason reason no matter how small. Like for jaywalking, or sticking gum on the bottom of a public bench. For any Prime Minister who does that, the punishment should be not impeachment, but simply a publicly televised degumming of the bench by the Prime Minister himself. After that spectacle, he’d have no power anyway.


The Catastrophic Consequences of Banning Cash

I’m about to give you some very good and very sound investment advice, so take this down.

My good friend at the Esser Agoroth blog sent me this post on the new editions of cash bills to be printed by the Bank of Israel. He links to Ynet, which makes a big deal about the nice little pictures of dead people that will be on the new bills, and because they are women we are all supposed to clap about how amazing and equal the world has become.

For the record, I don’t want any person created in the image of God on any government bill. Make it dots, or stick figures, or whatever. In fact, I consider it a dishonor to have one’s face on a government cash bill. Someone who really cares about the status of women should insist that no women appear on any cash bill. To delve into this specific narrow issue for only a single sentence, since that is all I can bear of this nonsense of who is on a bill, they plan to have Leah Goldberg and Rachel the Poetess on the 20 and 100 shekel bills. These are both Jewish women and good writers who I admire, who wrote beautiful poems.

Because I admire them, the last thing I wish for them is to have their likenesses printed on inflationary government money.

Anyway, the point of my friend’s repost of the Ynet news blurb was to emphasize the last paragraph of the sneaky monstrosity and journalistic serpentine trickery. Here’s the last paragraph:

Economic officials have estimated this would be the last series of paper bills issued in Israel, as paper money is only changed once every few decades, as has been the case in this instance, and in 10-20 years payments are more likely to be made using smart phones, computers and credit cards, all but nullifying the need for cash.

This way, the article is set up to focus the attention of the masses on women being featured on government paper as the important item. The very last paragraph of the article mentions a seemingly bedieved (after the fact) consequence that most people do not read at all, that is structured to make it sound like there is no consequence to it, namely that this “happens to be” the last cash that the bank of Israel will ever print.

Well, here are the consequences of a cashless economy. Before you read my extrapolations for Israel, here’s what happened in India when only high-denomination bills were banned there. Cash is still legal, just not the highest denomination bill there. The results for people’s lives were still catastrophic.

The first thing that has to be understood about a cashless economy is that banks now control 100% of the money supply, and all of it is within the banking system at all times. The banking system is built on fractional reserve, meaning only about 10% (depending on the specific insistence of your local central bank) of your bank deposits are available in the form of physical tangible cash at any given time. The only thing that keeps banks from continually loaning out 90% of your money, from bank to bank, is the fact that theoretically, you can legally withdraw your money in the form of physical paper at any time from any ATM in the country.

The fear that any and all of your deposits theoretically can be withdrawn out of the banking system in the form of physical cash is the only thing that keeps banks from inflating the money supply continuously through infinite loans to other banks and making profits off the interest and enslaving you even further. If every single transaction is electronic, then everything remains in the centralized banking system at all times, with loan volume exploding. The money supply goes sky high and price inflation gets out of control. In the absence of real, physical cash, prices skyrocket. Real assets like gold, oil, food, real estate, skyrocket.

That’s the main, theoretical point. But let’s get down to things that are more specific and concrete.

Think about cash transactions that happen in the economy. Normal, legitimate ones, not drug deals, which these mainstream media government shills are obsessed with you focusing on. Say your kid does some babysitting for cash. Your wife does a private lesson and is paid in cash. The guys at the shuk in Machaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem sell fish or fruit or whatever for cash.

Now, all that cash is gone. All transactions are now digital and therefore recorded. That means they are all recorded by government. And government taxes every single one of those transactions. What does that mean?

It means that every transaction that used to be finalized in physical cash and which may or may not be taxed because the sellers can hide some of the cash, will now be taxed fully at the legal limit set by idiotic politicians in the knesset who can dictate how much money from each transaction they feel like taking for themselves. Let’s assume, reasonably and conservatively I think, that 30% of the cash earned by the simple Jews at the shuk is not delcared as income. That means in a cashless world, taxes rise on shuk food purchases by 30%, because now it would all be taxed. Profits fall by 30%, marginal producers are forced out, supply gets lower, demand stays equal, prices go up.

But worse than that. I’d be willing to bet that 90% of babysitting services in the entire country are undeclared. It’s 90% under the table, because it’s done mostly by kids. With no cash, it’s all taxed. Profits for babysitting plummet. Which means, by supply and demand, that the cost of babysitting services skyrocket by around the same price as the tax. More for food, more for babysitting. At least.

Further, the private tutoring economy will be destroyed. Very little of that cash is declared. It will all be taxed. Private tutors make less money for their services, marginal players exit the market, supply of private tutors shrink, prices for them go up, and the middle class will be less able to hire private tutors for their kids. Only the rich will be able to afford it. Contributing to that dreaded “inequality” that the left fears so much.

Private tutors, babysitters etc. though are just the tip of the iceberg. I only mention these examples because I am personally familiar with them. Can you think of any other legitimate services that are mostly cash transactions that will be destroyed by the lack of cash? Ah, I can, here’s another, and this has to do with a situation that Moshe Feiglin has spoken out about as the child of divorced parents. (This is public information.)

I have a friend in Katzrin in the Golan where I live who is a divorced father. Through some stupid mishap the government still thinks that he needs to pay alimony, when his own ex-wife has agreed that he owes her nothing. But since there is a computer error somewhere, his bank account is frozen. He can only eat and live if paid in physical cash.

Without cash, he would starve. Literally. He gets his salary through some convoluted path ending in cash. Without it, he’d be screwed. He would rely entirely on tzedaka to stay alive. The government controls the banks, and therefore all the bank accounts. If there’s an error, it’s your problem, not the government’s. That’s the reality.

Now think of anything in your personal lives finalized in cash that will now be taxed because it will all be recorded. All of those prices will go up because marginal providers are forced out of those markets, constricting supply and raising the price.

This will cause severe disruptions in the economy and will make those people’s lives who are just making end’s meet in Israel absolutely miserable, even more so than they are now, and add on top of this the exploding price inflation by the fact that there will be no check on factional reserve bank loans. It will be a disaster. People’s lives will be ruined.

But at least tax evasion will be a thing of the past in Israel.

הודו לה’ כי טוב, כי לעולום חסדו.

The investment advice I have? This will happen. Zehut cannot stop it. We will only stop it when Moshe Feiglin is Prime Minister. Before that happens, load up on commodities and physical assets of your choice. Provided they are still needed to make stuff, anything that humans need or want, they will rise in price dramatically when physical cash is no longer available.

Respect Cannot Come From Force

It seems self-explanatory but it isn’t. It is impossible to force another human being to respect something or someone. So what is the point of forcing anyone to stand, sit, or twerk for the flag?

What are people angered and insecure about when someone kneels for a flag? What are they angry about? Why do they care? That whoever it is does not “respect the country”? What does “respect the country” mean? How does one “respect a country”? I understand respecting people. But what is “respect a country”?

I understand that not standing for the flag disrespects people who invaded foreign countries and planted that flag in those countries. But what if you really do not respect the people that did that? To paraphrase Louis CK, if you go into another country with a gun and start shooting people and you get shot and killed, it’s really not so weird. Maybe it’s a tiny bit your fault?

Do you really have to respect everyone who invaded a foreign country because they were “just following orders”? We’ve heard that one before. I don’t respect them. Forcing a person who does not respect them, to stand for the flag, won’t force him to respect them.

If a person doesn’t steal from anyone, lives his life without bothering anyone else, and fulfills all his commitments, but kneels for the flag, does he still “respect the country”? Must he really be ostracized because he doesn’t like the flag?

I don’t stand for the prayer for the State of Israel. If I am the shliach tzibur for Musaf, the gabbai knows I will not say the prayer and he will have to do it if he wants to. He’s OK with that. I’m OK with that. We don’t fight over it. We get on with our lives. We don’t freak out over doing or not doing the prayer because the people in the shul respect me and I respect them. I just don’t do the prayer, and people are mature enough not to take it personally, because really, it has nothing to do with them.

Can one respect a country but not its government? Why can’t people make this distinction ? For someone who sees unjust wars when he looks at the flag, must he still stand? What will his standing accomplish?

Someone who just doesn’t like the flag because he doesn’t like red and blue together because it makes him nauseous or his father beat him with a red, white, and blue whip as a child, what is the purpose of forcing him to stand?

Who cares why people don’t stand for a flag? Why does it matter? Nobody can explain this to me in any way that makes sense.

Something about a culture war. That’s what people say. They immediately go to war war war. If not standing for a flag can start a war where people kill each other over it, the culture of everyone in that country is a תרבות רעה, or a bad culture. They will kill each other over something if it isn’t a flag, and this will happen in the USA when the money runs out and the run on bonds begins.

Forcing people to go through the motions of an act of respect when they do not respect the thing in their own minds, is counterproductive and just childish. America is led by a child and he’s riling up the other children into a giant national temper tantrum over a flag.

Catalonia Proves Democracy is a Sham – What Would Honest Abe Lincoln Do?

Spanish police are beating Catalonians in the streets and shooting them with rubber bullets for “illegally” voting in a referendum to secede from Spain.

All this proves is that when people want to vote on something that really, actually, can make a difference, the government does not allow it. They only allow voting when your vote will change nothing. When your vote threatens the centers of power in any fundamental sense, they’ll beat you. Democracy is a joke, as an idea, as a regime, as a form of government. There is no democracy. When people try to actually vote on something that will change something, they get beaten. Some will probably get killed.

We saw the same thing with Feiglin’s protests of the Oslo Accords here. Feiglin threatened the regime – not any specific government, but all of them and their potential replacements. That’s why they beat his Zo Artzeinu followers in the mid 90’s and why the establishment (left and right) never let him get far in politics.

The question can be raised, why even attempt anything with Zehut? The answer is for the same reason that I am running on its ticket. Because we have a religious obligation to try, and leave the rest up to God. I’m running for religious reasons, not for any practical reason. I will vote Zehut for religious reasons, not for practical ones.

If God wants us to succeed, we will, but not if we give up or don’t try.

Back to Catalonia though. What would Abraham Lincoln have done as Prime Minister of Spain? Send a few policemen in to beat voters? No, he’d send his generals in to slash and burn Barcelona to the ground. A Spain divided, after all, cannot stand.

Or to put it another way, a Madrid government without its biggest province for tax loot, cannot survive. The regime is fighting for its life. That’s why it’s beating voters with batons and shooting them with rubber bullets.

When a regime is really threatened, all the meaningless politician talk goes out the window and they start beating you.

Have the courage, Catalans, to get out, and bring the Eurozone and EU down with you!

A Personal Thank You to Donald Trump

Dear Mr. President,

Your attack on athletes choosing to go down on one knee for a song has engulfed the office of the presidency in almost as much national disrespect as during the Watergate Nixon years. Now, the American people have woken up to the fact that they need not respect their political leaders, and this is a very good thing. If this was your intention, I thank you. If it wasn’t, I thank you just the same.

Thanks to you, people realize that just maybe, the man at the top is not a role model. Perhaps they will realize that he never is.

Sit for the Star Spangled Banner and Put Trump In His Place!

Demanding that football players stand up for the national anthem or get fired is absolutely creepy. This is the chance for all people in every stadium this NFL Sunday to proudly sit down and keep their hats on and show this (and I don’t use this hackneyed word often) fascist sicko Trump that he does not dictate the lives of NFL players.

How about this idea: Stop singing the banner song at all sporting events! You want to keep politics out of sports, just ban the song! Here’s some historical context before we all get our panties in a bunch about how that is sacrilege.

If I were an NFL player I would definitely sit down, as I sit down for the prayer for the welfare of the State of Israel. I implore all NFL players not to stand this week, just to spite that son of a bitch.

If Trump is widely disobeyed here it would be a very healthy thing for the country. America is not some Mussolini dictatorship just yet. It’s getting there but there is still some liberty left in the place. This is the time to prove it. People have the right to express themselves even if, especially if, their opinions are wrong, or right, or in between, or total non sequiturs.

Trump should be impeached for threatening first amendment rights.

Here are the two national anthem renditions I’d cheer and stand for, proudly!

On My Immunity to Politics, or Why Trust Me?

Click Here to Vote in Zehut International PrimariesThe two most unctuous words a politician can say to a voter are, “Trust me.” Politicians can never be trusted.

But I’m not a politician.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from the 1987 classic The Princess Bride. The Man in Black challenges the Sicilian Vizzini to a battle of wits to rescue Buttercup. The Man in Black tells Vizzini that one of two wine cups is poisoned with iocane powder. Vizzini switches the cups when he’s not looking, and waits for the Man in Black to drink his own cup first. He does. Vizzini then drinks, certain that his cup was not poisoned.

In the end, Vizzini dies, and the Man in Black lives. How?

“Both cups were poisoned,” the Man in Black says to Buttercup. “I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

This, my Zehut International friends, is politics. The most pure-hearted with the best possible intentions go in idealistically, and invariably come out dirty. If you go into politics and you want to stay clean, you have to know that every cup is poisoned and you must spend years building up an immunity to it.

I spent the last few years building up an immunity to politics, and that’s why I choose to drink the cup.

How am I immune? Let me tell you a personal story. Years ago I was working in Tel Aviv in marketing. My manager and I actually were quite friendly and we got along well. We’d argue a lot, him a secular Tel Avivi, me a dati American Oleh, immigrant. One day we argued about Ma’aser, giving a tenth of our incomes to tzedaka.

I told him that while I do slip up in other areas of religious practice from time to time, I am super machmir, very strict, about giving Ma’aser. This is my mitzvah, and if there’s one mitzvah I am going to do right, it’s this one. I make sure I give a tenth of my income every month to the Tzedaka of my choice.

Why am I so strict about this Mitzvah specifically? It’s not because I’m some pious man of faith or anything. In fact, my faith and religiosity are quite lacking. I am strict about Ma’aser for quite selfish reasons actually. Because this is the only Mitzvah that we are halachically permitted to test G-d on, and I needed to test Him. In other words, we are allowed to give Tzedaka as a test to see if G-d returns the money to us in some way.

In many ways, my faith in G-d is anchored in this practice, and it has been ever since I started earning my own living. But what really cemented it as the basis for my own faith in G-d is the challenge I made to my boss in 2012. He told me he didn’t earn enough to give Ma’aser every month, though he tries. So I said the following to him, perhaps irresponsibly, but I said it. (Sometimes I’m too confrontational.)

“I bet you that before the end of the year, I’m going to get a better job and you’re going to be laid off.” He laughed. that was our type of banter. But I was serious.

In the meantime, I applied to a new job that I wanted, one that would let me stay home and write about economics. On my birthday that year, I got the new job, and went out to a nice breakfast to celebrate with my wife before I went to work. I was going to tell my manager that day that I was quitting, but since I was coming in late, he actually called me first.

He called me at breakfast and told me the company was shutting down. I was absolutely dumbfounded. And I remembered the wager I made him, but didn’t bring it up. I told him, what a coincidence, I was just going to tell you that I’m quitting.

Here’s the point though. I have been a libertarian since 2012, even before that crazy day. But ever since that day, I became religious about it. Blending religious libertarianism with halachic Judaism has not been without its challenges I admit, but my life philosophy – my immunity to politics essentially – is this:

The Gemara in Shabbos 31A says that the first question we will all be asked when we die is נשאת ונתת באמונה? Were you honest in business? Did you steal money? Did you avoid paying debts? Did you swindle people?

I am not the most machmir – halachically strict – of observant Jews, and I have my own religious shortcomings. But I have chosen this aspect of halacha as my forte, my personal mitzva that I have chosen to fulfill as perfectly and as strictly as I possibly can.

It is the bedrock of my personal Judaism and I am a fanatic about it. When I am no longer here and I have to answer that question, I will answer it with absolute confidence. I am honest with money, I am a religious Jew and a religious libertarian and I believe in redemption, geulah. These are the pillars of my life on Earth that G-d has given me and I take them seriously.

I will not be bought, I will not be corrupted, bribed with position or anything else, and I will not be bent.

I will always vote not for what will secure my political career (I don’t even want one truthfully), but for what I know is right. I will be honest with money, so I will never vote to increase taxes or government spending, but always to shrink it, in any way that becomes available to do so in the Knesset, in any realm, in any part of life, for anyone in Israel, period.

I spent the last few years building up an immunity to politics. That immunity is the basis of my identity, both as a Jew and as a human being in general.

That’s why I’m telling you, trust me, and vote for me. Because I’m honest, because I’m immune, becauseI’m not a politician, and because I will do what is right.