A Libertarian Reading of Joseph

A friend and I have been back-and-forthing on various biblical themes with a libertarian lens. One of the characters we keep coming back to is Joseph. In a mainstream read, he’s a hero, a character that changes for the good, does teshuva, saves his family, rises to glory. A complete success story. He is referred to by Chazal as Yosef Hatzadik, Joseph the Righteous. But I have since been rereading the Joseph story in a libertarian light and have come to more complicated conclusions. Not that they necessarily contradict the read that Joseph was basically a good guy who succeeded in life, but a perspective that has liberty at the forefront tells me that Joseph was a much more limited and narrow person than people generally think.

In broad strokes, Yosef is the master socialist, statist, economic central planner. These are all bad words in libertarian-speak, but it is not that simple. The first thing we know about Yosef is that he has dreams of power and he seeks to control, without necessarily being in control of himself first. This initially got him into trouble when he was sold by his brothers to Egypt. There he is humbled and gains some self control, working hard to make his way to the top wherever he is, and not being sidetracked by feeling sorry for himself and depressed all day, as I’m sure many of us would feel if we were one day sold by our own family into slavery in a foreign country.

At some point, his own self control is tested, and he passes the test so well that it sets him back. He refuses to sleep with his boss’s wife, who then ironically accuses him of attempting to rape her, and he is then sent to prison.

But even then, he refuses to wallow in self-pity and does his best, rising to the top of the prison and eventually getting out by interpreting a few dreams.

Then he finally has his opportunity. He impresses Pharaoh with his interpretation of the cows swallowing cows and corn swallowing corn. And here’s where we come to a serious libertarian rereading. According to mainstream thought, Yosef saved the entire region from starvation by executing an ingenious plan of storing food. Without Yosef, the thinking goes, the entire middle east and western Africa would have been dead from hunger.

But is that really true? My contention is no. Yosef didn’t save anybody. All he did was some central economic planning through which he was able to give Pharaoh near absolute power in Egypt. The Otto Von Bismarck of his time, so to speak.

Had not Yosef interpreted Pharaoh’s dream correctly, what would have happened? There would have still been plenty of surplus food produced during the seven years of plenty. Instead of it all being monopolized in Pharaoh’s royal granaries through either coerced sales or probably outright theft, the supply would have remained decentralized.

My evidence that it was outright theft of the surplus comes from the word שילש used to describe how Egypt was divided when Pharaoh put Yosef in charge to begin collecting the surplus food. שילש is a very belligerent term, which also describes the head of an Egyptian war chariot, as in ושלישים על כלו. It is a term also used in the קדושה, as in יחד כולם קדושה לך ישלשו, describing how the angels praise God in heaven. The phrase the angels use is the famous triple קדוש, as in קדוש קדוש קדוש ה׳ צבאות, or Holy Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts, in other words the commander of an army, with the angels being God’s army. So it is probably that Yosef sent soldiers in to simply confiscate the surplus.

There was little resistance because there was so much surplus that nobody wanted to put up a fight about it. But the key is that had Yosef not appointed thugs to confiscate the surplus, it would not have simply been wasted. All major cities had stockpiles of grain in case of a siege, and it’s not like famines were uncommon things those days. The food would have been stored, but instead of monopolized by Pharaoh with Yosef as his agent allowing him to charge an arm and a leg for it later, the price would have been competitive as many sellers would have competed for buyers during the famine years, lowering the price to something more reasonable than everything you own plus a 20% income tax for eternity, which is what Yosef ended up instituting.

So all Yosef did was give Pharaoh the window of opportunity for the greatest power grab in history up to that time. And Pharaoh took it. 3 years into the famine, Pharaoh owned all the silver in the entire economy. 4 years in, he owned all the cattle. 5 years in he literally owned the entire country. ותהי הארץ לפרעה. And it was Yosef that instituted the income tax on the Egyptian people.

That’s the bad part. The good part is that Yosef the Socialist Economic Central Planner did get his family a privileged spot through all the turmoil. There was no income tax on Bnei Yisrael. How do we know this? Because the income tax only applied to people who were forced to sell their land. The Torah clearly says that the Egyptian priests did not pay the 20% tax because they didn’t to sell their land because they got free food from the Egyptian Crown as part of the deal of being priests of Amun, or Aten, or On or whatever Egyptian god they were priests of. You know who else got free food during the famine? We did. From Yosef. So we never got taxed. And that’s why the Egyptians got really pissed off and turned on us later, enslaving us. Because our Statist brother Yosef enslaved them first with taxation.

This helped me answer a burning question I’ve always had about one little thing Yosef did in the aftermath of revealing himself to his brothers. At one point before he reveals himself, he gives Benjamin, his only full brother, 5x more food than everyone else. This is easily explainable as a test to see if it stokes their jealousy. But what always bothered me was that even after Yosef reveals himself to his brothers, he still gives Binyamin 5x more changes of clothes than everyone else for the way back!

Why? Because deep down, despite all the improvements in his persona which are undeniable, Yosef is still the same power-hungry crony capitalist who, just like government and big business, picks his favorite and showers him with gifts. He can’t help himself from using his power. It’s beyond his personality to be able to control it once he has it.

This, I believe, is why Mashiach ben Yosef has to die (non violently!), why Yosef cannot lead in the end, why the 10 tribes led by Efraim ben Yosef had to split off from Yehuda, which only happened when Yehuda, in the form of King Rechavam, took power to his head and became too much like Yosef, attempting to raise taxes too high and become a powerful nationalist state. And finally, why the true Mashiach has to come from Yehuda, the one who finally breaks Yosef down to crying when he offers himself in Binyamin’s place. In the end, Yehuda is the one who really knows how to treat Binyamin – as an equal, not as a favorite. Yosef treats him as a favorite and he cannot change his constant power-playing, the same mistake that led to his sale and enslavement in the first place.

Yosef is the force of Jewish nationalism. It is the force that drives classical Zionism, and it is a good catalyst for getting the nation together. It gave rise to the State of Israel which, as bad as it is, does keep the nation together. Yosef-minded Zionist people got together and put together a benign dictatorship, a Jewish State to run every aspect of Jews’ lives here, to tax them way above and beyond Joseph’s 20% rate, to indoctrinate their children in state schools and kidnap them into their army, expel them from their homes when they feel like it and all the other horrible stuff we all know about.

It is also useful to note that, just as Yosef is not a bad guy, but actually a good guy with a serious limitation, so too the current Israeli leadership, despite being evil at times, is also essentially good, but only within its own failed context and limited scope. It cannot complete the task, but it cannot be blamed either. It simply does not have the ability to even see what the task is.

Mashiach Ben Yosef has already come. He is just a catalyst for the next phase, which is liberty. It is time for Mashiach Ben Yosef to dissolve (through nonviolent means of course), and to make way for Yehuda, who, just like he did when he offered to take Binyamin’s place, will have to bring classical Zionism to its knees in some sort of catharsis.

The next step is for Yosefian Zionist nationalism to dissolve, making way for true liberty, חירות, at the hands of Yehuda. We’re getting closer. Stay tuned. 

The Zero State Solution – The Libertarian Answer to the “Arab/Israeli” Conflict

In this post I will try to give the libertarian answer to a problem that has been nagging at all of us incessantly. The answer will probably shock you, so be prepared. There’s a problem. There’s this thing called the Jewish democratic State. It needs a majority of Jewish persons in it in order to maintain its Jewish character. There are these Arabs in territories that the military of this Jewish State governs. If those territories are annexed as officially part of this Jewish State, then Jewish persons will no longer be the majority in the State.

Here are the general solutions offered by the major political forces in Israel:

  1. The Extreme Left Wing – Annex everything and give citizenship rights to everyone. Forget about a Jewish majority. Arabs are awesome.
  2. The Left Wing – Give the Arabs their own State so you won’t have to give them voting rights, thereby maintaining the Jewish majority.
  3. The Center – Don’t do anything. Just keep staying in power and hope nobody notices.
  4. The Right Wing – Annex everything, give human rights but no citizenship rights to any of the Arabs, and instead pay them to leave, thereby maintaining the Jewish majority.
  5. The Extreme Right Wing – Annex everything and kick all the Arabs out of the country. Jews are awesome.

As a libertarian, I say all these solutions are wrong, and all of them are immoral to some extent because all of them assume that citizenship rights are a good thing. They are not. Why? Because as a citizen of the State of Israel, I am forced to use State-controlled money that loses value every day instead of being allowed to use gold or silver. I am forced to pay the government money for services I do not want. I am forced to use government controlled banks that only carry 10% of the money I put in them because the government gives them special privileges. I am forced to send my child to state prison every day until my child is 18, to be indoctrinated with whatever the State Education Minister wants his employees to indoctrinate her with. Usually, these employees are not skilled enough to indoctrinate, so they just end up babysitting at best. If I don’t send my children to these school-prisons, I myself will go to prison. I am forced to pay for these school-prisons in payroll taxes and excise taxes and value added taxes. I am forced to pay 8 shekels a liter for gasoline (roughly $8.25 a gallon), more than half of which goes directly to the State in taxes, to pay for roads that are constantly backed up every single day. I am forced to pay property taxes even if I’m only renting. Worst of all, I am forced, as a citizen of Israel, to risk my very life for 3 years in an inefficient boondoggle of an army as a slave with virtually no pay. The list goes on and on and on.

In return for being robbed and having my children imprisoned and being forced into an army, I get the “right of return” as a Jew, which simply guarantees me the ability to move here without being kicked out or killed by the State. Essentially, the Jewish State guarantees me that, if I am about to be killed by a different State, I can go to the Jewish one and they promise not to kill me on purpose because I’m Jewish (though I may get killed in army service for the State). They won’t kill me, they will only enslave me and my children.

But, people will say, if I don’t like something about the State, I have a right to vote. Voting, essentially, is the right to have a tiny meaningless say about who will get a piece of my stolen money that will first be filtered through bureaucratic systems of government workers who will consume most of the money before it gets to anyone else. This is what makes every sector in Israel hate every other sector in Israel. The State, which pits everyone against everyone else and makes people hate each other for directing their stolen money somewhere else. Think Haredi public schools, Government stipends, Leftist public universities, army exemptions, funding for “settlements”.

Citizenship rights are not rights. They are liabilities, peppered with a tiny ray of hope that never materializes called “voting”. It reminds me of that line from The Hunger Games where Donald Sutherland explains why the Hunger Games take place. Why take one tribute from each district and make them all battle to the death, winner take all? Why not just kill them all? Because in order to control and enslave people, you have to give them hope. The hope that they will win the battle. Otherwise they will revolt. In statist terms, the hope that their vote will change something. Otherwise, there will probably be a revolution.

Being a citizen of a State means you will be stolen from and enslaved. So, the libertarian solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict is not to either grant citizenship or not grant citizenship to Arabs. It is to abolish citizenship itself for everyone.

Wouldn’t that lead to total anarchy? No. For readers that simply don’t believe this, I suggest Murray Rothbard’s book For a New Liberty. You can listen to it in full online for free here. It is not something I can deal with in one article. But here are a few key issues:

First of all, generally speaking, Israel  in the period of the Shoftim was basically a stateless libertarian society. So there is precedent, and it was the most peaceful period of Jewish history counting the number of years between skirmishes.

What about the right of return? The answer is, without a state, bringing Jews back to Israel will be a matter of private funding. If Jews want to come, they can come, just as before. No restrictions. Nothing changes.

What about keeping Arabs out, or other potential threats from flooding the country? It becomes a bidding war. If it is really important to keep Arabs or anyone else out, then the Jewish people themselves will be responsible for keeping private land in Jewish hands. (An interesting factoid is that almost all of the land sales to non-Jewish hands are through the Israeli Government itself, not private Jews. Surprise surprise.) Those that sell to Arabs can be voluntarily boycotted and expelled from the economy if people think it’s important to do that. Arabs that are here can be voluntarily bought out by rich Jewish interests, and there are plenty that would pay. It’s a question of who wants the land more and who can be bought out – the Jews or the Arabs?

If no one is a “citizen” of Israel, then every question – army, courts, land, roads, healthcare, immigration, emigration – becomes a question of whether you trust the Jewish people can voluntarily organize themselves through the free market to keep the nation together in their homeland or not.

In a free Israel, I would be proud to serve in the army voluntarily. It could be funded by voluntary contributions instead of taxes. The Jewish people could devise a system where those who pay get special card. The card could be required by private businesses who will only sell to people who contribute to national defense. Those who don’t would be forced into a corner and concentrated together geographically, as they would be expelled from all other local economies by private businesses refusing to do business with them.

In a free Israel, all roads would be private. They would be more expensive during rush hour and cheaper at other times, spreading out traffic by the price system and keeping things moving. This would also bring down the price of gas drastically.

In a free Israel, holy sites like the Kotel and Temple Mount would be privatized. People would pay a gram of silver (shekel is State money, there wouldn’t be any) to get in, and the owner would insure the policy that would make him the most money, such as special hours for Women at the Wall time, special hours for traditionalists etc., all parsed by supply and demand. The owner of the Temple Mount, whether all of Am Yisrael via shares of stock, or a single private owner or corporation, would decide whether he would allow Jews to pray there or not. He would probably allow it. He would be responsible for private security of the Mount.

There would be police companies hired by groups of people by geographic location. Haifa would have one police company. Jerusalem another. Those who did not pay the police bill would end up paying it anyway if they called the police for whatever reason, who would then charge them for services on the fly at a premium for not having a subscription. They would function as an insurance company.

The courts would be private people with reputations for being fair and fast. The fairest and fastest ones would be called upon the most and make the most money for judging the most cases. Say someone breaks into your house and steals your TV. You call the police company to investigate. They find the suspect and force him into a court of any judge both parties accept. If it turns out he is the culprit, the police did not violate the rights of an innocent person, and part of the cost of the police is paid by the culprit, as well as the salary of the judge. If the police got the wrong man, they are fined by the court for violating the rights of an innocent person.

The only law of the land would be, “Do not violate the person or property of any human being.” The job of any private court would be to apply that law to any and every case at hand.

Armed police or army cannot conquer the area and enslave other Jews because everyone is free to be armed individually.

Is this really possible? I believe it is. All the other annoying unsolvable questions melt away if you believe in freedom. We have plenty of money, plenty of will, and plenty of ingenuity. We don’t need a State to babysit us or imprison us or steal our money and pretend to solve problems we can solve ourselves.

God did not take us out of Egypt to be enslaved to a State. Am Yisrael Chai. Not Medinat Yisrael Chai.

A short lesson on the Gold Standard from the Bible

I’m planning a class on this for Jews for Ron Paul, but here are some initial thoughts on the subject.

Genesis 2:12 always took me for a loop, until I was introduced to Austrian economic theory and the gold standard. After God creates man in the second creation story (yes, there are two), the Bible goes off on a tangent about where the Garden of Eden is located. It maps the rivers that feed the garden, and then talks about the lands the rivers pass, and in case we cared at all, it says that the gold in one of these lands that the river that happens to flow into Eden flows past, is good.

Well OK, the gold in some land that has nothing to do with the man on the moon is good. So what?

Come on! It’s the Garden of Eden for the love of God! There’s no work, no toil, but you have to tell me about some gold and that it’s of good quality before God even puts Adam in the Garden of Eden?

The message, which I finally understand: There is no such thing as a fiat paradise. Back it up with gold.

To Ron Paul Supporters: Reflections from Israel on the Iowa Caucuses

To my dear American patriots and fellow lovers of liberty and freedom,

I’m writing this to you to give you what they call “chizuk” in Hebrew, or strengthening. Before I get on to it, Ron Paul came in third in the vote count last night, but he came in tied with Romney and Santorum for delegates to the convention, and possibly even first due to the dedication and love of our liberty soldiers in Iowa who volunteered to be delegates after the voting ended. We will know for sure in the coming days whether Ron Paul actually won the most delegates. Nonetheless, a third place showing is emotionally difficult for all of us. I will try to explain to you now why it should not be, and actually isn’t for me.

I am first and foremost a Jew. I am only an American in name in that I feel no national bond with America, though I do love the country as being one of the most spectacular to ever have existed, if not the most. And I want her to be healthy and strong and free. So I am telling you this as a Jew, not as an American, because I cannot separate my Jewish consciousness from anything I think about, as it is so integrally entwined with my psyche.

There is a Rabbinic lesson written in a book called Midrash Raba, which is basically a collection of Rabbinic exegesis on Biblical verses. Commenting on the story of Creation, the Rabbis note that redemption was preprogrammed into the universe. Redemption, meaning humanity being restored to its complete, most fully functional form. That form is freedom. The drive toward freedom is unstoppable and inevitable. This is the very first thing you have to keep in mind at all times. In pushing humanity toward freedom, you are literally partnering with God in furthering the very purpose of creation, because what you are fighting for is absolutely real and true, and nothing can change that. Nothing.

This is all nice and good, but how do we overcome a third place showing? The same way the Jewish people overcame virtually everything. You just have faith in God. And if you understand that you are doing the right and true thing, you do the absolute best you can while realizing you cannot control everything. We cannot control everything and we are not the masters of the universe. We are only subordinate partners with the True Master.

Remember, there are men who love power, and there are men who love freedom. Freedom is uncontrolled. Power is control. So if you do the best you can and understand and internalize the truth that freedom means you can’t control everything, then you inherently leave the final step to God. If you think you can control everything, you are treading into the dangerous alleys of the power mind. Your hard work and dedication and love of humanity did not go unnoticed in the heavens. Now have faith and keep going.

Going back to the Exodus from Egypt for a second, before the Israelites finally left, they were commanded to do the ultimate act of defiance against Egypt right in front of the Egyptian people. That is, tie a sheep – the Egyptian god – to a bedpost, leave it there for 4 days, then slaughter it, smear its blood all over their front doors, roast it completely whole over an open fire, eat it, and burn all the leftovers, bones and all – and only then could they get the hell out of Egypt.

That is, they had to demonstrate one act of complete freedom in defiance of the Egyptian establishment before they took the final step. And then they were out forever. Just one act of freedom, and that was enough to earn them a ticket out.

You, my friends, have demonstrated so many acts of freedom already. You deserve your freedom and you WILL win it, because unlike any other cause to get some soulless guy in the White House, your cause for freedom is the very purpose of Creation.

What you all need to do now is first, understand that you WILL win. It is programmed into the Divine fabric of the universe. Second, understand that you cannot control exactly HOW you win. If you could control it, you wouldn’t be free. In order never to be seduced by power as so many human beings are, in order to be truly free, you have to ultimately let go and have faith. You must realize you cannot control ANYTHING. The only one who can is God, the source of freedom itself.

And third, keep going full speed.

The ultimate test of our own liberty is when we are deflated and depressed, what do we do? Do we give up and say that since we couldn’t control this one event absolutely and it didn’t come out as we personally envisioned it, then we may as well give up on the whole thing? That would prove that our conception of liberty was only self-aggrandizement, only a form of power lust for absolute control.

So what are we going to do? Are we going to go home? Or are we going to take the lamb of slavery and government control where they can now arrest us without trial or charges, slaughter it, smear its blood all over our door posts and BURN the damn thing?

Not every soul will be activated. It will not happen. We WILL win, but we CANNOT know how. What we CAN know is that God is with us in our fight because it is TRUE.

We won the MOST delegates even though we didn’t come in first. And you know why? Because the people that voted with us are FREE! In Iowa, we didn’t have the most men. But we had the FREE men, and that’s why we won.

Now on to New Hampshire! God bless you all!

 

Ron Paul is to Government Spending as Moshe Feiglin is to the Oslo Peace Process

Ron Paul and Moshe Feiglin; both libertarian, both trying to change the course of history.

There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to make a fundamental decision about the direction his life will take. This point can be called the “free will” turning point of a person’s life that happens very rarely, usually only once in a lifetime. It delineates a turning point when someone is finally faced with the decision about what kind of person he will be. Once made, the choice can only be changed with extreme difficulty.

The same can be said for countries. There comes a point in every country’s life when that country has to make a fundamental decision about which direction it will take, how the country will define itself.

As Ron Paul repeatedly states (for there really is nothing he says that isn’t repeated), America made her decision in 1913 as to what kind of country she was going to be, and that is a country with an unstoppable and ever expanding central government.

1913 introduced the income tax and the Federal Reserve to America, which established the precedent that not only could the government print money whenever it wanted, but it could actually take away whatever percentage of your income from you that it wanted as well. This paved the inexorable path to the erosion of the gold standard and the adoption of money backed by…the word of the Government.

Such was the road paved for big government in America, and now, not only are Americans OK with the fact that they don’t own their own incomes except by government benevolence; some actually expect, even DEMAND that the government take MORE of their money. And not only are Americans OK with the fact that a group of 12 people can conspire in secret meetings to print trillions of dollars in currency, effectively devaluing the money that people have in their bank accounts. Americans are actually THRILLED when the Fed says they are going to “do more” to “stimulate” the economy by running the printing presses.

America made a decision in 1913 on big government. To change that direction requires not simply a change in style. It requires a 180 degree paradigm shift in the way America thinks about itself as a country. It will require huge amounts of pain when the country realizes that it’s entitlement system is broken, that it is not all-powerful, that it can no longer pass out checks like water. This requires another free will decision about its own identity, and as we said at the beginning of this post, free will decisions are rarely made twice in a lifetime, be it of an individual, or of a country.

When America decided on Big Government in 1913, that paved the way for that government’s hubris in assuming that she runs the world and can meddle in global affairs with impunity, without declaring war, without consulting Congress, just on a presidential whim go in and do something.

As for Israel, our problem isn’t fiscal. Unlike America, Jews have a constant fear that they are about to be destroyed, so being fiscally irresponsible is not an option for us. Our problem is our sense of self.

In 1993, Israel made a free will decision. When she signed the Oslo Accords with a people that claimed we are living in its land and not our own land, she made the decision that Israel is not Jewish land. From that point on, everything Israel has done has been on the premise that every Jew here is an occupier of Arab land.

Every time we are attacked, we withdraw. Every time we withdraw, we are attacked. And then we tell everyone that we want to give the land away, but that we’re worried we’ll get killed if we do. Every political party in Israel is built on the premise that we have no choice but to give away our country. Right and Left strive together towards the same goal, for there is no alternative without a complete paradigm shift. Just as both Democrats and Republicans strive towards big government, Likud, Labor, and Kadima strive towards Oslo.

To change the Oslo perspective will take another free will decision by Israel as to the purpose of its existence as the Jewish State. The only one trying to make this paradigm shift is Moshe Feiglin.

Feiglin, like Ron Paul with the Republicans, is running in the main “Right Wing” party, the Likud, which once stood for Israel as the land of the Jewish People. Ron Paul and Moshe Feiglin are both despised and feared by their respective partys’ establishment. Both Ron Paul and Moshe Feiglin are trying to bring their parties back to their roots. Both Ron Paul and Moshe Feiglin even bike several miles every morning.

Both Ron Paul and Moshe Feiglin are trying to do the impossible and change the way their countries think about themselves.

And both Ron Paul and Moshe Feiglin want America to stop giving foreign aid to Israel. Read Feiglin’s position on this here.

Finally, both Ron Paul and Moshe Feiglin know this: If their respective countries continue in the paths that they are on now, the future of the free world is quite dim.

But I suspect that both know the following as well: At some point, both will wake up. The only question is, how much will we all have to lose before they both do.

Whether we like it or not, America and Israel are all that’s left of the free world, and both countries are in existential quandaries. Both, with God’s help, will get back to their roots and find themselves, with the help of Ron Paul and Moshe Feiglin, who I hope in the very near future will become very close friends.