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Israel, Capitalism, And Human Excellence: An Interview with Author George Gilder


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Well, there’s a lot of mysteries here but The Bell Curve, Human Accomplishment and other works by Richard Herrnstein, Charles Murray, and others indicate that Jews have higher IQs than others on average.

Also, my thesis is that the synoptic and integrative genius of Jews springs from their monotheist vision and their faith in a coherent and meaningful universe. Einstein was very willing to assert that connection, and so was David Bohm, another great quantum theorist. John von Neumann also reflected this demand for coherence, integration and synthesis.

The theory of relativity and quantum theory are insights that are not restricted to a narrow experimental base but reflect a kind of synoptic imagination that can integrate all sorts of different fields. I think this is essentially a religious impulse. It reflects the monotheist demand that the whole universe be in some way integrated, unified, coherent and meaningful.

The scientific vision reflects the religious vision and is enabled by it. And the abandonment of the religious, monotheist vision results in the tower of Babel that we now see in theoretical science, where the whole effort to unify the sciences has broken down pathetically.

In your book, you shower praise on Benjamin Netanyahu. Why?

Netanyahu is the Reagan of our era. He is a leading authority on supply-side economic theory, he understands it better than any American politician, and he just has the kind of intuitive mastery of economics that eludes most other politicians around the world.

He has advocated market-oriented policies and supply-side tax cuts, which really climaxed in 2004 when he managed to get the percentage of ownership of Israel’s leading corporations reduced from 60-80 percent down to 20 percent. He also managed to secure the privatization – over 20 years – of the pension system, which was run by Histadrut with heavy government subsidies. Today the privatization of this system is yielding some 400 million dollars a month of capital.

These developments are presumably good for Israel.

Well, it’s also good for the United States because we’re in financial turmoil. We have very little idea of what we’re doing with economic policy these days. Israel has become a haven for American capital and talent. Israelis are taking the lead under Netanyahu.

I think it’s a providential development to have Israel following aggressive supply-side policy at a time when the United States is debauching the dollar and socializing a lot of its economy. Israel is proving that the other line of policy is more promising.

Interestingly, in your book you demonstrate that Israel’s economic policies have benefited Arabs even more than Jews.

When Israel inherited the territories in 1967, it administered them, but much more loosely than it administered it own economy. And so the territories became the fastest growing economy on the face of the earth. Some 250,000 Israeli settlers moved to these previously Judenrein areas, and they attracted some two million Arab settlers. Eight Arabs moved in for every Jew.

This was a golden age for Arab Palestinians. Their numbers tripled, their per capita incomes also tripled, their educational levels soared, and their life expectancy rose from 42 to some 70 years.

My belief is that it was the manifest success of this collaboration between Jews and Palestinians that terrified Arafat and the PLO and precipitated the intifada, the return of Arafat from Tunisia, and the delivery by the international community of the territories to the PLO – who then brought to a screeching halt all the economic development. The PLO caused a 40 percent drop in GDP per capita incomes, and just generally reversed the huge achievements of the previous 20 years.

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About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.


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