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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Irena Sendler the Unknown Holocaust Hero (guest post)

A guest post:

Irena Sendler the Unknown Holocaust Hero

Just when we think that there's nothing new to learn about the Holocaust, a new incident comes to light to give us a new perspective. This is particularly true regarding the story of Irena Sendler. Sendler was a non-Jewish woman who was responsible for saving over 2500 Jewish children, yet her story was almost lost to history.

Irena Sendler was a young social worker when the war broke out in Poland in 1939. She joined the "Zagota," the Polish underground which was committed to assisting Jews. When the Warsaw ghetto was established, Sendler succeeded in obtaining a pass that allowed her, as a social worker, access into the ghetto. Sendler quickly surmised that the Nazis intended to murder the Jews who were living in the ghetto. She took it upon herself to begin smuggling children out of the ghetto. Some of the children were orphans but others still had living parents and Sendler "talked the parents out of their children," as she later said, convincing the parents that the only opportunity that their children had for survival was to be placed with a gentile family for safekeeping.

Sendler and other Zagota volunteers smuggled the children out of the ghetto, sometimes through the Old Courthouse which sat on the ghetto's border but at other times through the sewer pipes which ran below the city or by hiding the children under tram seats or in workboxes. Once the children had been safely removed from the ghetto Sendler found families who agreed to foster the children for the duration of the war. This act, in itself, could bring a death sentence to all members of any family and finding such families was very difficult, but Sendler managed to find families for all of the children that she had smuggled out of the ghetto. Sendler carefully archived all of the children's real names and hid them, along with a record of the families with whom she had placed them for safekeeping, in jars which she buried in her yard. She hoped that she would be able to reunite the children with their families after the war but this was not possible for the vast majority of the children. At the very least though, she ensured that they could be reunited with their community.

IN 1943 Sendler was captured by the Nazis and interned in the Gestapo prison where she was tortured, but she never revealed where any of the children were. After Zagota obtained her release Sendler went into hiding till the end of the war. Sendler's acts are depicted in a moving project, Life in a Jar an initiative of the Lowell Milken Center, an organization created by a Jewish businessman which runs a number of Holocaust related projects.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"Critical theory" and "privilege"

I just sent the following as an open letter, about the notion of "privilege" (e.g. "white privilege", "male privilege", etc.) in "critical theory". To quote my own summary from the conclusion:
So far, then, we have seen several problems with "privilege" rhetoric:
(1) It is tactically ill-conceived, in that it diverts attention away from blacks and women, and towards whites and men, thus helping to perpetuate abuse by concealing it.
(2) The very word "privilege" implies placement of blame.
(3) It illegitimately aggregates and relies on Marxism, thus ignoring that all value is subjective, all profit is psychic, and all individuals are unique. Furthermore, it thereby places blame even on those who were not party to the affair; for example, by speaking of "male privilege", a man in Mexico is somehow made responsible for what happens to women in Saudi Arabia, merely because he is a man.
(4) It treats rights as government-granted rather than government-protected, thus giving rise to the fallacy that human welfare is zero-sum, that all benefits must come at someone else's loss, and that disadvantaged parties cannot simply be elevated to the rank of the advantaged, but that the disadvantaged must *take* rights *away* from the advantaged, so that the advantaged loss as much as the disadvantaged gain. Instead of increasing the total sum of welfare, positive-sum, human welfare is treated as zero-sum.


Hello.

I wish, please, if it is possible, to engage you in a short discussion of the "critical theory" subject of "privilege". I only just came across this subject in a conversation yesterday with some friends, but they were unable to competently answer some of the objections and misgivings I had with the subject. Meanwhile, the subject is foreign to me as well, so I do not know where - if anywhere - my objections and misgivings have been dealt with. Perhaps you can help. What I would like to see, please, is either an answer to my objections, or to be pointed to appropriate literature which has already dealt with the issues I shall raise in a moment.

You may consider this an open letter, and distribute it as you see fit, as long as it is not edited in any way whatsoever.

There are a few issues, it seems to me, with the rhetoric of "privilege". Firstly, as a purely tactical move, it seems ill-conceived. If, for example, blacks or women are disadvantaged, what is the purpose of focusing on whites or males? This will only deflect attention away from where it is needed; instead of blacks and women receiving the attention they deserve, instead, whites and males will be accorded that attention. So the rhetoric of "privilege", by deflecting attention away from those who are disadvantaged, probably actually makes their situation worse.

Secondly, the focus on those who are not disadvantaged, seems peculiarly calculated to place blame upon them. After all, if women or blacks are being disadvantaged, why focus attention on a man or on a white, who wasn't even involved, who didn't even do anything, if not to place blame on him? The natural human reaction of someone, upon being told he has "privilege", is to reply with indignation. Furthermore, why speak of his "privilege" instead of her oppression and abuse and disadvantage, if not to place blame upon him? The goal seems not to help her, but to hurt him. Let me illustrate with a hypothetical situation:

I am sitting on my porch, in my rocking chair, suckling honeysuckle. Suddenly, some people come up over the hill, and start hooting and hollering at me, "Don't you know you have male privilege! Women are raped all the time, and you, as a male, benefit from this! You have privilege because women are raped, and you are a man!" How do I respond to this? Naturally, I retort, "How dare you! How dare you suggest that I personally benefit from women being raped! I would never wish such an unspeakable evil upon anyone! How dare you suggest something so vile about me, that I benefit from rape!" But if, instead, those same people had come to me, and said, "Hey, over that hill, some women are being raped. You must help us!", how would I have responded? With, "Oh, that's horrible! Let me get my shotgun!" In the first scenario, by speaking of my "privilege" of being a male who is not raped, you seem to suggest that I am blameworthy, that it is my fault, and that I have done something wrong. But if instead you speak of the women who are being abused, then not only is the focus being put where it is required to be (see my first objection, about tactics), but no blame is being implied, either.

So I am not at all clear why we need this rhetoric of "privilege". At best, it unintentionally but ruinously deflects attention from where it ought to be; at worst, it is conspiratorial. Why do we need this terminology? We can already speak of how women are abused; why do we need to talk about how men are "privileged"? What does this add? A man can already recognize that women are abused, and he can already work to combat this. All that is lacking is a confession of guilt on his part, and therefore, it stands to reason that "privilege" *is* guilt. That is, he has already given everything he can, short of a confession. He is then asked to "check his privilege". Therefore, to "check his privilege" *is* to admit guilt. Or, to quote my friend Kyle B., in response to someone's assertion that an admission of inequality is tantamount to a "check of privilege": "No, it [viz. admitting that inequality exists]'[i]s admitting that inequality exists. You don't need another word for it, like 'privilege', unless you intend it to mean something beyond the mere existence of inequality, something about *me*. That you leave that part out on one hand, then attempt to smuggle it in later is flat out dishonest. My only real question now, is: do you know this and are lying to us, or are you lying to yourself?" When I said that we already have the categories of "oppression", "abuse", etc., and do not need the additional one of "privilege", Kyle responded, "Michael, all those categories are about the victims and the oppressors, not about you. They need that extra cetagory to make it about you, because they cannot drag you down into the collective identity without a way to get their hooks in you." In other words, "privilege" is needed in order to drag uninvolved third parties into the conflict, in addition to the victims and oppressors who are already there, so that blame can be placed on the uninvolved parties as well.

After all, "privileges" are typically used to denote advantages which have been obtained by political lobbying. (This is contrary to Peggy McIntosh's claim that the word "privilege" has a positive connotation. On the contrary, the connotation of the word is decidedly negative.) For example, if I am a drug company and I succeed in getting Obama to ban cheaper, foreign drugs in return for my funding his reelection campaign (just to take one example from recent news), then I have obtained a "privilege". Thus, privileges typically indicate advantages secured via government-cartelization and cronyism; e.g., monopoly privileges, such as those granted to the East India Company, giving it a monopoly on tea. So to say that men have "male privilege" implies that they personally lobbied the government to secure their advantages. It implies that the men are part of a cartel that has deliberately fostered and secured their own privileges. In short, the word "privilege" has a connotation of ill-gotten spoils, of unjustly gotten gains at someone else's expense, implying guilt. Furthermore, as I said, why else would one speak of the men at all, except to place blame? If women are being raped, then why would one speak of the men who are privileged in not being raped, unless one meant to say that these men have deliberately contrived a culture of rape for their own benefit? If one does not seek to blame the men, then one should not speak of them at all, but one should speak only of the women. After all, if the men are not to blame, then they are not even part of the entire affair, and they do not merit any discussion. The only people who merit discussion are those who are parties to the transaction: the raped women and the men who rape them. The men who do not rape anyone, they are not parties to anything, and they do not deserve any mention. If they are, however, mentioned, then this implies the placement of blame, because there is no other possible reason to mention them other than to blame them. "Privilege" *must* be blame, because there is nothing else it could possibly be, because everything else already has a term for it.

For example, one of my friends told me that I have "male privilege" because women cannot drive a car in Saudi Arabia. I responded that I have never been to Saudi Arabia, and that I do not personally benefit from women's inability to drive there, and that I never did anything to foster their disadvantage. Therefore, I said, I am not a party to the entire affair. If one wishes to speak of the evil of Saudi women being denied the ability to drive, fantastic, this is a worthy discussion, but do not dare speak of my "privilege". I do not benefit at all from their inability; their loss is *not* my gain, and to speak of my "privilege" implies that I have gained at their expense, and that I somehow approve of or even actively support their disadvantage for the sake of my own advantage. To quote Kyle, "[H]ow does 'A mistreats B' have any relevance to saying anything about C? I don't get a job because women are oppressed, I get a job because I'm qualified. Some women *don't* get jobs they are qualified for because they are oppressed, or at least *dis*privileged. Life is not a zero sum game. Other's losses are not my gains." And when Kyle was asked to "check his privilege", he responded, "I don't. I acknowledge that there are things women can't do that human beings should be able to do, because they are women. It says *nothing* about me." He added, about Saudi women, "[I]f I disappeared, or disguised myself as a woman, she would still not be driving the car. My maleness has *nothing* to do with her oppression." When Kyle was told that he is in the "right side" of privilege, he responded, "I'm not on either 'end' of it, *I'm not part of it*."

Therefore, we see two further fallacies that are committed in this "privilege" rhetoric: firstly, we have illegitimate aggregation. I am coming from the perspective of economics, which is the the study of every individual, unique, autonomous human being acting according to his own personal, individual, subjective value scales. According to economics, then, aggregation is illegitimate whenever disparate human beings are grouped together when their characteristics do not warrant this. (To quote a certain rapper, "That simple equation: too much aggregation / Ignores human action / And motivation.") Secondly, according to economics, all value is purely subjective and all profit is purely psychic. Therefore, if you have two men, one a rapist and the other not, you cannot - according to economics - group them together, because their value scales are entirely unalike. One man psychically profits from rape, while the other man is either indifferent or even suffers a psychic loss (pain) every time he hears of a case of rape in the news. To group these two men together as members of the same group is, from an economic perspective, illogical and irrational. These two men are not only engaged in different concrete behaviors, but their subjective value scales are entirely unalike, as well. It is impossible to speak of the man who abhors rape and is disgusted by it, as benefiting from rape and as securing some "privilege", when, according to his own value scale, rape incurs for him a psychic loss, not a psychic profit.

A friend of a friend of mine's, Brett M., gave a trenchant criticism of this aggregation: "You know, I grew up at the end of dirt roads at the end of dirt roads in Appalachia -- using an outhouse, only one (cold) running water tap in the house and infested with worms. I have a really hard time accepting the notion that by virtue of my sex or race I somehow was born more privileged than President Barack Obama's daughters who have never known a hungry day in their lives."

Thus, "privilege" rhetoric actually seems based upon fallacious Marxist class-interest and polylogism, i.e. the belief that all humans are inexorably and fatalistically shaped by their (alleged) interests. Since someone is a male, it is assumed that he must benefit from rape. Obviously, of course, this is tantamount to blaming him for rape. Whereas an economist would look at every individual human being as a universe unto himself, and ask whether this particular person takes actions to support rape or not, and whether he psychically profits from rape or not, by contrast, the rhetoric of "privileges" seems to illegitimately aggregate disparate individuals into arbitrary groups (e.g. "males") and then assume, as per Marxism, that they *must* support or oppose this or that by virtue of their inborn natures.

It is actually quite similar to Christian Original Sin. Men are told that by virtue of an accident of their birth, they are irredeemably tainted. No matter how much a man opposes rape and even fights to wipe it off the face of the earth, he is told that he supports rape, that he benefits from rape, and that he is "privileged" by rape. No matter what he does, he is guilty of abetting rapists and he is an accomplice in their crime, being that he benefits therefrom. He may as well be told that he is literally a member of a cartel that deliberately secured explicit privileges from the government. When I made this Original Sin argument, my friend Jacques V. added that at least Christian Original Sin was democratic, in that everyone was equally a sinner. With "privilege" rhetoric, white males alone are part of the pariah class that is tainted irredeemably with sin. The only solution is to confess one's sins, to admit that one is "privileged", that he personally enjoys it and benefits from it when women are raped, and that he is personally to blame whenever women are raped. Then, and only then, by confession of his sins, is his soul cleansed. Heads, women win; tails, men lose.

Kyle also noted that the whole "privilege" terminology actually elevates the advantaged and give them inordinately undeserved attention. He said, about a hypothetical woman being stabbed, "And is she any worse off if I didn't walk by her that day, and didn't know about it? Am I just as guilty if I feel good about my life that day? Sorry, the world doesn't revolve around me." In other words, a woman suffers somewhere, whether or not a man elsewhere in the world knows about her, or feels bad about her. The world does not revolve around this man. To speak of his "privilege", implies that somehow, he is always relevant to her, that everything that ever happens to her, somehow involves him too. It grants far too much to the man. The world does not revolve around him. This is not quantum mechanics; if a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, it *does* make a sound, and to suggest otherwise demeans the woman. The woman's suffering does not depend for its existence on the man's cognizance. The woman has a dignity of her own, and she does not require the man, and it is horribly misogynist to suggest otherwise, akin to saying that black slaves needed their white slavemasters and could not have subsisted without them.

Furthermore, the entire enterprise is afflicted with a fallacious notion that government grants rights, and because of this, a universe where "privileges" rhetoric succeeded would resemble the world of Harrison Bergeron. (I am indebted to Kyle for this comparison.) Let me explain: the truth is that all humans inalienable possess certain rights. Government cannot grant rights, but at most, it can only protect preexisting rights. For example, women have the inalienable, immemorial right to drive a car. In Saudi Arabia, this right of women is frustrated, while this same right of men is protected. Therefore, women lose, but men do not gain. Men remain at the point of origin, (0,0), while women lose, being pushed back to (-1,-1). The solution is obvious: not to blame men for "privilege", but only to eliminate the abuses of women, and return them to the point of origin. But according to "privileges" rhetoric, rights are something granted, ex nihilo, by government, from itself, from its own. Therefore, there is only a finite number of rights to give, and everyone's gain is someone else's loss. If men can drive, they must have taken this from women. There is only a finite amount of "right to drive", and if men have this right, they stole it from women. Therefore, we must take this right away from men, and give it to women, until such time as compensation shall be made. At that point, the right to drive will be split in half, with men given half and women given half. For example, suppose that it has been 50 years that women have been unable to drive. To solve this problem, men must be denied the right to drive for 50 years, with women granted that right, so that at the end of another 50 years, the two will be equal. At that point, the right to drive can be split in half and apportioned equally among men and women. Therefore, the whole notion of "privilege", relying as it does on the fallacious notion that government grants rights, creates the myth that males must have taken their advantages from women, and that these advantages must be taken from men and given to women. If women have been raped, then the solution is for men to be raped too. Thus, because of a mistaken notion of the source of rights, we end in the universe of Harrison Bergeron. (On the other hand, compensation may not be the goal; to quote Kyle, in response to my argument about compensation, "Michael, you're missing a vitally important point here. It's not compensating the loss that counts, its that you sacrifice your gain as an expression of your guilt. The material value is irrelevant.") Notice that this also incites conflict between men and women, because the men are told they must lose their right to drive so that women can gain it. The result, of course, is that the men and women fight with each other, while meanwhile, the government, the source of the abuses and oppressions, looks down happily, beholding that both of its serfs are fighting against each other, rather than against it. I shall return to this theme later, and discuss whether "privilege" rhetoricians are deliberately conspiratorial, in cahoots with the powers-that-be, or whether they are only useful idiots.

Under this system of government-granted rights in lieu of government protected-rights, instead of men being viewed at (0,0) and women at (-1,-1), men are viewed at (+1,+1) and women at (0,0). That is, rather than say that men, with their ability to drive, are at the point of origin, and women, with that right denied, have moved negatively, instead, women, without the ability, are at the point of origin, and men, with the right, have moved positively. That is, instead of viewing rights as natural and immemorial, and protesting denials of those rights as unnatural, instead, lack of rights is viewed as natural and immemorial, and rights are seen as something given, not as something taken away. The result is that when a man is simply living his ordinary life, operating at the point of origin, (0,0), he is fallaciously treated as if he were at (+1,+1). The result is a basic mathematical fallacy, and I quote Kyle: ‎"'Privilege' is like trying to multiply or divide by zero. You're taking an absence - of oppression, or of being downtrodden, or not being treated unfairly - and turning it into a something, then plugging it into formulas and expecting a meaningful result." Because the mere absence of oppression of men - i.e. zero - being treated as something - i..e as a positive number - one attempts to perform mathematical operations which can be performed on positive and negative numbers but not on zero. Kyle referred to the "reification of zero" of Ayn Rand, which I had never heard of.

But the truth is, as I said, a (hypothetical, individual) man in Saudi Arabia did nothing at all to deny women the ability to drive; that was the act of the government, not of himself. He never wanted women to be abused, and in fact, he fights every day against this abuse. But what he refuses to do is to admit guilt, to admit that he played any role in abusing women. And the loss of women was definitely not his gain; in fact, according to his own subjective value scale, it causes pain to him whenever women cannot drive, and so their loss is his loss as well, from an economic perspective. According to any typical notion of morality, this man is upstanding: he rejects injustice against women, and he actively opposes it. But from the perspective of "privileges rhetoric", he is a sinner solely by virtue of being a man, and he is a partner in crime to the whole abuse of women, and no matter how much he protests that he is not one of the men who originally established the sexist abuse, he is told that merely because he is a male, he is part of the same group he abhors and detests, namely the men who established the system against his own personal wishes. Because of Marxist notions of fatalistic interest, the man is told that no matter what he believes, no matter how much he protests that he abhors sexism, that he is actually as sexist as the men who actually established the system. The only solution is for him to confess his guilt, his sin.

Then, he can pay compensation to women, by losing as many rights as they lost, until everyone is equally impoverished, and we are all equals in suffering. It treats human welfare as a zero-sum game; instead of elevating women until women are equal to men, it seeks to degrade men until they are as degraded as women. Instead of increasing the total sum of human welfare for all, as a positive-sum game, it treats welfare as a zero-sum game, in which anyone's gain is another's loss. If men are at (0,0) and women are at (-1,-1,), the solution is obviously to just stop taking from women, so that they naturally rise back to (0,0). But if men are wrongly perceived as being at (+1,+1), and women at (0,0), then the apparent solution will be to take (+0.5,+0.5) from men and give to women, so that both are at (+0.5,+0.5), but this actually ends them up at (-0.5,-0.5): you took (+0.5,+0.5) from the (0,0) men and gave it to the (-1,-1) women, thinking you were taking (+0.5,+0.5) from the (+1,+1) men and giving it to the (0,0) women. Because of a mistaken notion of what the point of origin is and who has moved positively or negatively therefrom, the proper solution of ceasing to take from women and leaving men alone is eschewed, and instead, men are robbed to reward women, with the result that everyone occupies a negative position with respect to the point of origin, while the "privilege" rhetoricians will wrongly believe that everyone occupies a positive position. Everyone will be slaves, but they will be equal in their slavery, and the "privilege" rhetoricians celebrate this as a victory. Thus, the mistaken notion of government-granted rights perpetuates and legitimizes class-warfare, by discouraging cooperation and instead encouraging competition and envy. Instead of having men and women work together for mutual benefit, it tells them that men and women are engaged in eternal class-warfare, and that no one can win unless the other loses. The men and women fight each other, and the oppressive power looks down happily, beholding its victims warring amongst themselves.

Let me refer to Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" and her "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies", simply because I happened to have read those essays. McIntosh's words seem to reinforce my interpretation; to wit:

"My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor" --- McIntosh takes it for granted that she *is* blameworthy. She herself is an oppressor, even though she has never personally done anything to harm anyone. Just by virtue of being white, she is guilty. Her skin color itself makes her a sinner. But myself, I would rather side with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., that we be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character. She says, "I was taught to see myself as an individual whose moral state depended on her individual moral will." Oh, what a tragedy! Well, then, upon whom does one's own moral state depend? The moral wills of other people whom I have never even met? That is absurd. Somehow, because some man in Saudi Arabia oppresses women, *I* am guilty by association. Somehow, my genitalia are conduits of spiritual impurity, or perhaps my genitalia are in quantum entanglement with the genitalia of all other men on earth and with my own soul?

"I have often noticed men’s unwillingness to grant that they are over privileged, even though they may grant that women are disadvantaged." --- It is not enough for men to recognize that women are disadvantaged. Men must admit that they took something from women, that they are the guilty possessors of ill-gotten spoils. A man can work all his life to combat injustice against women, but until he confesses his own personal guilt, he is a sinner. It does not matter what you do (Judaism), but only what you are (Christianity). But at least Christianity was democratic in placing blame.

"They may say they will work to improve women’s status, in the society, the university, or the curriculum, but they can’t or won’t support the idea of lessening men’s." --- Indeed, these men are willing to work to improve the total sum of human welfare for all, but they refuse to treat it as a zero-sum game, or to reduce us all to the lowest-common denominator, as in Harrison Bergeron. Therefore, they are guilty. No wonder, then, that "even the most thoughtful and fair-minded of the men I know well tend to reflect, or fall back on, conservative assumptions about the inevitability of present gender relations and distributions of power, calling on precedent or sociobiology and psychobiology to demonstrate that male domination is natural and follows inevitably from evolutionary pressures. Others resort to arguments from "experience" or religion or social responsibility or wishing and dreaming." After all, if you treat welfare as zero-sum, and demand that men lose in order that women gain, instead of letting both gain, then of course men will object!

"which men gain from women’s disadvantages." --- Again, the subjectivity of all individual value scales, as per economics, is replaced with Marxist class-interest. Men are told what their interests are, and they are forbidden to protest that no, their value scales are different. If a man claims he abhors rape and is pained in his heart whenever a woman is raped, he is told that no, he personally derives benefit from women being raped. Rather than being asked what his value scale is, he is dictated to and told what his value scale is. And the man who sits in Australia or Canada or Brazil, he is told that he personally benefits from the fact that women in Saudi Arabia cannot drive, just because he is a man. It does not matter that he has never been to Saudi Arabia, nor does it matter that the loss of a woman's is *not* his gain, that he gains nothing from their inability to drive. In fact, it might be that his heart is pained by the fact that Saudi women cannot drive. No, he is told that just because is a man, he personally benefits from every injustice every committed to any woman on earth, even if he was not a party to the affair, even if he was personally pained by the affair. No, as a male, he is irredeemably guilty.

"As we in Women's Studies work reveal male privilege and ask men to give up some of their power" --- So if Saudi women cannot drive, the solution is for us not to extend the protection of that immemorial right to women, but rather, for men to give up their ability to drive, so that men and women are equally impoverished. Rather than empower women and allow them to drive, we must deprive men of that ability, as per Harrison Bergeron.

McIntosh is also guilty of gross aggregation and Marxist class-interest theory, ignoring personal, individual, subjective utility and value scales: "I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented." So what? Why does this matter? Why does she assume that a white person benefits from seeing white people in the media? I myself am Jewish, for example, but I do not benefit when Jews are prominent. Some obnoxious people claim, for example, that I personally somehow benefit from the presence of Jewish justices in the Supreme Court. No, a thousand times, no! Just because they are Jewish does not mean they represent me, not at all! In fact, if anyone represents me on the Supreme Court, it is probably Clarence Thomas - I do not agree with everything he says, not by a long shot, but of all the people on that court, he is the closest to me, despite the fact that I am not black and he is not Jewish. My interests are not determined solely by the fact that I am of the Jewish people (race and religion combined). I find it offensive and repugnant and racist when people claim that somehow, a Jewish justice necessarily represents me in any way, and yet McIntosh seems guilty of this sort of bigotry. We see more aggregation from McIntosh when she says, "I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world's majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion." In what way are "colored" people the world's majority? I do not believe that half the world's population lives in Africa. Apparently, she includes anyone who is merely not white, and thereby, she can say that colored people are the world's majority. But that means she is lumping together Africans, Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, you name it, all into one group called "colored" or "not white", and treating this group opposite the group of whites. How dare she?! How dare she treat Japanese people and Egyptian people as identical, just because they are both non-white?!

McIntosh reveals more aggregation when she says, "In my class and place, I did not see myself as racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth." But the fact is, only individual humans act. It may be convenient at times to deal with the abstraction of "society", the same way that biologists deal in shorthand with molecules rather than calculating everything in terms of subatomic particles. But the same way that in truth, the reaction of caffeine on the brain is really just the reaction of some subatomic particles with other subatomic particles, so too, everything that ever happens in society is really just the interaction of individual human beings. There is no such actually existing thing as a "system"; in society, on people exist. Therefore, to say that she saw racism only in the acts of individuals and not in systems, betrays the fallacy of methodological holism. To deal in "systems" may be at times convenient, but one must remember this is an unrealistic abstraction useful only for convenient approximations, akin to treating 51/100 and 49/99 as equal to 1/2 when doing mathematics in one's head without a calculator. She says, "Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems." But if so, then ending these problems is impossible, because ultimately, the only real thing in society is actual, living, breathing human beings, every single one of them unique, each of them performing individual, independent actions. This is why a Jew, upon seeing a crowd of people, says the blessing, "Barukh atah hashem, elokeinu melekh ha-olam, hakham ha-razim", "Blessed are you Hashem our G-d, King of the universe, Knower of secrets." Because every single human being in a crowd has totally unique thoughts, unlike those of anyone else. In Sanhedrin 4:5, the Mishnah observes that when a human king mints a coin from a single mold, every coin comes out the same, but when G-d mints a human being from the single mold of Adam and Eve, every person comes out completely different.

So far, then, we have seen several problems with "privilege" rhetoric:
(1) It is tactically ill-conceived, in that it diverts attention away from blacks and women, and towards whites and men, thus helping to perpetuate abuse by concealing it.
(2) The very word "privilege" implies placement of blame.
(3) It illegitimately aggregates and relies on Marxism, thus ignoring that all value is subjective, all profit is psychic, and all individuals are unique. Furthermore, it thereby places blame even on those who were not party to the affair; for example, by speaking of "male privilege", a man in Mexico is somehow made responsible for what happens to women in Saudi Arabia, merely because he is a man.
(4) It treats rights as government-granted rather than government-protected, thus giving rise to the fallacy that human welfare is zero-sum, that all benefits must come at someone else's loss, and that disadvantaged parties cannot simply be elevated to the rank of the advantaged, but that the disadvantaged must *take* rights *away* from the advantaged, so that the advantaged loss as much as the disadvantaged gain. Instead of increasing the total sum of welfare, positive-sum, human welfare is treated as zero-sum.

So far, then, what we have seen is that "privilege" rhetoric is counter-productive and full of fallacies. But this does not necessarily imply that "privilege" rhetoricists actually intend all this. It may simply be that there are unintentional consequences and implications of their thought which they never foresaw. They may be the regime's useful idiots.

On the other hand, I can imagine that there is actually a deliberate conspiracy at work here. I gave my friend - the one who was relying on "critical theory" in an argument with me and introduced me to this theory in the first place - the following example: suppose we have two slaves, a man and a woman, both working beneath one slavemaster. The male slave begins working to overthrow their master and to free them both, but the female slave protests, "No, you have male privilege! The slavemaster prefers you, a male slave, to me, a female slave. You must admit your privilege!" This move by her is obviously counterproductive, because she would be better off joining with him and working with him to overthrow their master, rather than inciting against him, he who is after all working for her freedom from slavery too. It is so obvious that her act is counterproductive, that I would suspect her of conspiracy: in fact, she and the slavemaster are in cahoots, and she is inciting against the male slave with rhetoric of "male privilege" precisely because she wishes to remain in slavery and support the slavemaster, and therefore, she makes a false and spurious claim "male privilege" against the male slave fighting for her freedom, in order to weaken him and strengthen the slavemaster. Therefore, I am suspicious that rhetoric of "male privilege" or "white privilege" is actually a conspiracy, meant to strengthen the hegemonic powers by deflecting attention away from the hegemonic power (the slavemaster) and towards the one attempting to overthrow that power (the male slave fighting against the slavemaster). If so, then rhetoric of "privilege" is actually a "superstructure", meant to conceal abuse and thereby legitimize and perpetuate it. Those who speak of "privilege" may be, I suspect, be in conspiracy with the powers-that-be. When I told Kyle this, he responded, "That's no accident. Maybe among your friends, it's innocent, but the people that push this idea from above know exactly what they are doing (and your friends here got the idea from somewhere). Solving problems undermines the leverage of those who benefit from the existence of them." In other words, according to Kyle, the authors of the "privilege" doctrine do not want social problems to be solved; they want the problems to be perpetuated, because they profit off them (for example, bureaucratic administrators of welfare programs benefit from poverty, because once poverty is solved, they lose their cushy jobs). Therefore, claims Kyle, the "privilege" doctrine is meant to perpetuate conflict and oppression, in order to ensure the reliability of the future income-stream of the authors of that doctrine. I earlier quoted the rapper, that "That simple equation: too much aggregation / Ignores human action / And motivation." But he crucially continues, "And yet it [viz. aggregation] continues as a justification / For bailouts and payoffs / By pols with machinations / To provide them with cover to sell us a free lunch." The female slave is the slavemaster's whore, and she does not want slavery to end, and so she invokes "male privilege" against the male slave fighting for her freedom. She is erecting a superstructure to justify and/or conceal oppression, and using "male privilege" to deflect attention away from slavery.

On the other hand, as I said, the "privilege" rhetoricists may be honest and ingenuous, and not in conspiracy. They may simply be using ill-conceived rhetoric that undermines their own effort. To quote my friend Kyle B., when I suggested that "privilege" rhetoricists may be honest: "They might, but they've swallowed a pitcher-full of koolaid premises that will be used to support something far beyond that, and when they protest about it later it will be too late."

Ultimately, then, my question is: do you have any responses to my objections, or can you recommend any good literature which deals with the issues I have raised? In other words, what I am ultimately hoping to see is a "critical theorist" either responding to my objections, or pointing me to some literature which does.

Thank you, and sincerely,
Michael Makovi
I am a BA student in political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, but I am transferring to the BA program in economics at Loyola University, New Orleans.

P. S. I will say, however, that I found a one of McIntosh's statements to be insightful. She says, "Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me
now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist." Indeed, to quote Hans-Hermann Hoppe (http://www.lewrockwell.com/hoppe/hoppe4.html), "Nor is it an advantage of democracy that free entry into every state position exists (whereas under monarchy entry is restricted by the king's discretion). To the contrary, only competition in the production of goods is a good thing. Competition in the production of bads is not good; in fact, it is sheer evil." Hoppe continues (http://mises.org/daily/2265 & http://mises.org/daily/5270), "The liberal answer was by opening participation and entry into government on equal terms to everyone via democracy. Anyone — not just a hereditary class of nobles — was permitted to become a government official and exercise every government function. However, this democratic equality before the law is something entirely different from and incompatible with the idea of one universal law, equally applicable to everyone, everywhere, and at all times. In fact, the former objectionable schism and inequality of the higher law of kings versus the subordinate law of ordinary subjects is fully preserved under democracy in the separation of public versus private law and the supremacy of the former over the latter. Under democracy, everyone is equal insofar as entry into government is open to all on equal terms. In a democracy no personal privileges or privileged persons exist. However, functional privileges and privileged functions exist. As long as they act in an official capacity, public officials are governed and protected by public law and thereby occupy a privileged position vis-à-vis persons acting under the mere authority of private law, most fundamentally in being permitted to support their own activities by taxes imposed on private law subjects. Privilege and legal discrimination will not disappear. To the contrary. Rather than being restricted to princes and nobles, privilege, protectionism, and legal discrimination will be available to all and can be exercised by everyone." McIntosh continues, "It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturate in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already." Hoppe adds (in "Marxist and Austrian Class Analysis", in Requiem for a Marx, ed. Yuri N. Maltsev, p. 65), "As an exploitative firm, the state must at all times be interested in a low degree of class consciousnessness among the ruled. ... Furthermore, the redistribution of state power itself through democratizing the state constitution and opening up every ruling position to everyone and granting everyone the right to participate in the determination of stae personnel and policy is a means for reducing the resistance against exploitation as such. ... [T]he state is indeed, as Marxists see it, the great center of ideological propaganda and mystification. ... All of this is part of the ideological superstructure of designed to legitimize an underlying basis of economic exploitation."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Torgerson: GOP Convention 'Overrun by Ron Paul Libertarians'

Lynne Torgerson, Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, of the 5th Congressional District of Minnesota, posted the statement below, on her campaign blog (http://torgersonforcongress.blogspot.com/2012/04/republican-5th-congressional-district.html#comment-form), and it was reposted elsewhere (http://stlouispark.patch.com/articles/torgerson-republican-convention-that-endorsed-fields-overrun-by-libertarians). I reproduce her statement in full:
On Saturday, April 14, 2012, I attended the Republican 5th Congressional District Endorsing Convention.

There was a stage at the front of the room. Approximately 6 people were seated on the stage. Every person seated was a Ron Paul Libertarian. The Convention was overrun by Ron Paul Libertarians. More than 2/3 of the delegates were Ron Paul Libertarians. When I mentioned that we were at a Republican Convention, they laughed out loud.

They began the Convention. There was no opening prayer. Not even a mention of it.

There was also no Pledge of Allegiance to the US flag.

Then, a man up front stood up and requested that we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. But alas, upon looking around, there was not a flag to be seen.

Then, a clown came forward, dressed in garb, with a very large hat, that somewhat resembled a flag. In Wikipedia, wearing a flag is a form of flag desecration. Wikipedia states the following:

It is increasingly common to see clothing with the image of the flags forming a substantial part of the piece. Views vary as to whether some of this is an act of disrespect.

Such actions may be undertaken for a variety of reasons:

- As a protest against a country's foreign policy.
- To distance oneself from the foreign or domestic policies of one's home country.
- As a protest at the very laws prohibiting the actions in question.
- As a protest against nationalism.
- As a protest against the government in power in the country, or against the country's form of government.
- A symbolic insult to the people of that country.

So it appears that this person was wearing the US flag in order to desecrate our flag.

The clown in the flag suit then went up front and stood on the stage. We were then led in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Stunning. To me this seemed a further desecration of the US flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. I refused to participate.

Later, a vote was taken as to whether any endorsement of any Congressional candidate was going to take place. A decision was made to do so.

There were going to be 3 candidates allowed to speak. I was told a couple of days before the Convention by Adam Weigold, Chair, that I would be allowed an unlimited amount of time to speak. The first candidate allowed to speak, Chris Fields, a Libertarian, was allowed an unlimited amount of time. I was then asked by Chris Sinn, a Libertarian, how long my speech would take. I had prepared a 30 minute speech. I told Chris the length of time I expected my speech to take. They knew that I was going to criticize the Libertarian platform, and expose that Chris Fields is actually a Libertarian, and expose his positions, etc. Chris Fields has been trying to pass himself off as a moderate Republican, and has avoided taking any positions in public or on his website. Juliette Jordahl, a Libertarian, then quickly brought a motion to limit my speech to 10 minutes. It passed. I am currently reading a book, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. One of the first things the Nazis did was to outlaw speech criticizing the Nazis. I have been contacted by Libertarian Adam Weigold telling me not to expose Chris Fields, etc. I told Adam that he was infringing upon my liberty - freedom of political speech. One would think that the Libertarians would encourage critical thinking, freedom of speech, and expression of political speech.

Thus, instantaneously, I had to cut out 2/3 of my speech. During my presentation, as mentioned above, they laughed out loud when I mentioned that we were at a Republican Convention. The mention that the Constitution did not protect homosexual behavior brought jeers. I also mentioned that Chris Fields has said that Saddam Hussein got a bad deal, that he applauds Keith Ellison's representation of Muslims, that he thinks our cherished US Constitution is not perfect, that he supports gay rights legislation, and that he would not protect Life with legislation. When I then mentioned that Chris Fields had been advocating, to our Republican college youth, the legalization of pot smoking, this brought loud, lengthy cheering and clapping, and then the announcement that my time was up. I mentioned that President and General George Washington did not advocate pot smoking and that if he did, we probably would not have won the American Revolutionary War.

This is what is going on in your Republican Party folks.

Please note that Libertarians, who actually have PROGRESSIVE positions:

- want to eliminate the TSA

- want to eliminate the Patriot Act

- are anti-war

- are pro gay rights

- don't want to protect Life with legislation

- have a pro Muslim agenda

- are generally anti-Christian

- don't want to support Israel

- don't want to prevent a nuclear Iran

- want to legalize illegal drugs

- want to legalize prostitution

Adam Weigold, a staunch Ron Paul Libertarian supporter, re-ran for Chair of the 5th Congressional District. He ran un-opposed. I do not understand why no Republican ran against him.

Mark Johnson, a Libertarian, SD 60 Chair, ran for Deputy Chair, and was elected. Red Bartholomew, a long time Republican ran against him. The vote was 100 to 40, in favor of Libertarian/Progressive Mark Johnson. Please note that Mark Johnson participated in Occupy Wall Street, at the Hennepin County Government Center.

Jacquelyn America proudly mentioned more than once that she has been working with the Somali community.

I recently read an article in Mother Jones. It reported that the Libertarians did a study and concluded that given its form of government, that the State of New Hampshire would be the easiest State in the Union to take over. Then, 14,000 Libertarians moved to New Hampshire. It appears that a similar strategy is being employed in Minneapolis, and the State of Minnesota.

This is your Republican Party folks. Do nothing at your peril.

I responded on her blog (pending moderator approval):
This is fantastic! I will not waste your time reiterating the libertarian position, as I am sure you already know it, but I will say this:

As an Orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem, I support Ron Paul. The Republicans in Congress support "aid" to Israel the same way that Democrats support Lyndon Johnson's "aid" to the poor. In other words, American aid to Israel is every bit as damaging to Israel as government aid is to the poor. I often like to say that we here in Israel expelled the British from Israel, and we'll expel America too. But it may be that a Ron Paul presidency - please God - will spare us the trouble, and he'll do our work for us, ending the imperialistic American domination of Israel for us.

The fact is, American "aid" to Israel is as helpful as white slaveholder "aid" to black slaves was. (After all, didn't the slaveholders provide food and shelter and clothing to the slaves?) Not to mention that this "aid" to Israel is provided only by robbing honest and unfortunate American taxpayers. Israel is merely American's pawn, a Cold War-style proxy to serve America's Middle Eastern interests, not to mention a money-launderer for the military-industrial complex (all "aid" to Israel must be spent on American military equipment). Well, guess what? Israel is not happy being America's prostitute, and we'll soon be fighting back against our pimp - that is, unless Ron Paul beats that pimp for us.

See my own "Ron Paul and Israel" (http://www.tomwoods.com/blog/ron-paul-and-israel/), published by Tom Woods, an excerpt of a letter I wrote to Walter Block in response to his "An Open Letter to the Jewish Community in Behalf of Ron Paul" (http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block88.html). There my letter, as excerpted, cites several articles showing that a cessation of American aid to Israel would be beneficial to Israel, and that right-wing Zionists in Israel have not been quiet about exposing this fact. (As I note there, one lecturer at the right-wing Zionistic yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) where I learned, openly endorsed Ron Paul as the Zionist choice for president.) Since I wrote my letter, an additional piece of evidence for me has come out, namely Ron Paul's response to the Republican Jewish Coalition, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGsETE1-ZoI. There, Ron Paul says that Zionism calls for Israeli independence from America, and he is absolutely right.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it. You say you are a "pro-Israel Christian", which I assume means you are actually an anti-Israel imperialist who seeks to dominate Israel. Well, if Ron Paul does not win, then someday soon, a video like this will be coming out, only instead of being about an offensive foreign Chinese presence in Texas, it will be about an odious American foreign presence in Israel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKfuS6gfxPY. The days of Republican imperialism in Israel are numbered.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, and Purim

So I had fun with my devar torah at Rav Machlis's this past Shabbat. Rabbi Machlis had given a devar torah about how the half-shekel, equal for everyone - rich and poor alike - symbolized that we are all "half", and need to cooperate with each other to make a whole.

Then he invited everyone to speak, as long as they eschewed politics and anything opposed to Judaism. So I stood up and said the following:
Well, the rabbi told us to avoid politics, but he didn't say anything about economics. So in a few minutes, he'll be kicking me out of the house and amending his rules for the future.

What he said about the half-shekel being equal for all, reminds me of something my favorite economist, Murray Rothbard, said. Rothbard said that the beauty of a flat tax is that it is equal for everyone, and must be set for all - including the rich - at whatever rate the poor are able to pay. [Making Economic Sense, chapter 62 ("Mrs. Thatcher's Poll Tax" and chapter 63 ("Exit the Iron Lady"), at http://mises.org/econsense/econsense.asp] But for the record, I am not advocating anything politically; I am just speaking value-free economics.

Anyway, speaking of Rothbard, I am reminded of something I heard in a lecture given by his wife, JoAnn Rothbard. ["The Good Life of Murray N. Rothbard" at http://mises.org/media/2824/] Rothbard was an atheist, but his wife was religious, but Rothbard was not militantly atheist, so he didn't mind. But a certain famous, very militantly atheist [viz. Ayn Rand] told Rothbard that he had better divorce his wife and marry a more 'rational' wife. Anyway, this same famous atheist accused Rothbard of plagiarizing her, when in fact the ideas that Rothbard had allegedly stolen from her, were in fact commonplaces. Well, Rothbard sent his friend Ralph Raico to the library to find some references to these same ideas that predated her, just to prove the ideas weren't hers at all, and to make it fun, Raico went out of his way to make sure all the references he found were by Catholic theologians, just to poke fun at her, the militant atheist.

But it is obvious that her behavior was not the ideal way to regard ideas and their propagation. She was engaging in what economists call 'rent-seeking', in which one seeks to acquire unjust and undeserved profit off the work of others. This Purim, we read in the book of Esther that 'Esther told the king in Mordechai's name', and Pirkei Avot quotes this and say that anyone who cites another, brings the redemption. But why is this so? Rabbi Joseph Telushkin explains that there are two reasons for anyone to say anything: either he wants to look smart and get honor, or else he wants to improve the world with knowledge. If the former, then he will not cite his sources, but if the latter, he will. In such a world, where people spread knowledge not for personal glory but instead to improve mankind's condition - and therefore, they do cite their sources - then, Rabbi Telushkin says, we are well on our way to the redemption. This famous militant atheist, she was using knowledge to rent-seek, and not for the proper purpose which we learn in the book of Esther.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Derrick Bell in 1994: ‘Jewish Neoconservative Racists’" by John Podhoretz in Commentary

I just had some fun writing this letter:

Hello. I write in response to John Podhoretz's "Derrick Bell in 1994: ‘Jewish Neoconservative Racists’", at http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/03/09/derrick-bell-jewish-neoconservative-racists/. My response is rather off-topic, and not exactly relevant to Podhoretz's subject, but I wish to make some remarks which I nevertheless feel need to be said.

Podhoretz condemns Bell for writing about "all the Jewish neoconservative racists who are undermining blacks in every way they can". Well, actually, I would say Bell is exactly right, although he himself probably lacks the faintest clue why. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, in "The Intellectual Incoherence of Conservatism" (http://mises.org/daily/1766), quotes Irving Kristol: "[T]he basic principle behind a conservative welfare state ought to be a simple one: wherever possible, people should be allowed to keep their own money—rather than having it transferred (via taxes to the state)—on the condition that they put it to certain defined uses." Hoppe comments, "This view is essentially identical to that held by modern, post-Marxist European Social-Democrats." I forget where, but I recall seeing a Neoconservative somewhere argue that thanks to Otto von Bismarck, the socialist leviathan welfare state is perfectly legitimate in the eyes of conservatives. The fact is, Neoconservatives are socialists, not only in their policy advocacy, but even in their lineage, as they are all Trotskyites. Now then, what does the welfare state do to blacks? As Walter E. Williams shows us, it does nothing to blacks but impoverish them. So Bell is correct: Neoconservatives are in fact "undermining blacks in every way they can", via their support of socialism.

I cannot help but notice that Neoconservatives are not only anti-black, but antisemitic as well. (As we know, Jews have no compunctions against being antisemitic.) How else can we possibly interpret their constant clarion call for the United States to imperialistically dominate Israel? True, they do not put it in such words, but few villains ever openly state their true intent. Instead, they must obfuscate by euphemism if not by outright lie. See, for example, George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language". With Hanukkah, we learn that when two brothers vied for the office of high priest and invited a foreign power to adjudicate their dispute, the result was a foreign power conquering Israel and attempting to erase Judaism. Not long after, two Hasmonean princes, vying for kingship, invited Rome to adjudicate their dispute, and the rest is history. In essence, Neoconservatives today demand the United States behave towards Israel in exactly the fashion that Seleucid Syria and Rome did. Ron Paul was correct when he said, in his interview with Jack Hunter following his (Paul's) exclusion from the Republican Jewish Coalition Forum, that true Zionism means self-independence and a cessation of infantile reliance on a foreign imperial dominator. Well, as an Orthodox Jew living in Israel, I say, we expelled the British Empire from Israel and we shall expel the American Empire as well, no matter how many Neoconservative Jews side against Israel. See Dr. Thomas E. Woods, Jr.'s article "Ron Paul and Israel" (http://www.tomwoods.com/blog/ron-paul-and-israel/), which is in fact an except of a letter I sent to Dr. Walter Block in response to his An Open Letter to the Jewish Community in Behalf of Ron Paul (http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block88.html). Long story short, America's imperialist domination of Israel shall soon end, if no other reason than that the Keynesian economics endorsed by the Neoconservatives (among other political factions) shall, if not altered, soon lead to runaway hyperinflation in the United States. Enjoy the mess you've created for yourselves, because you deserve every punishment conceivable for the crimes committed by the welfare-warfare leviathan state you advocate on behalf of. Here in Israel, we shall we heartbroken to see the American people destroyed by Neoconservative national-socialism, but we not shed a single tear when the Neoconservatives collectively fall into the pit they have dug for themselves with their crimes against humanity in general and against blacks and Jews in particular. (Not to mention your flagrant violation of the laws of economics. But the laws of economics can really be no more violated than the laws of gravity. Your socialism shall come back to rob you of everything you have.)

Oh, and I cannot resist adding: if I did support Neoconservatives, I would vote Barack Obama. He is twice the Neoconservative Bush ever was. (My brother has been saying for years now that Obama is like Bush's little brother, who strives to show his big brother that he can follow loyally in his footsteps. But see also Glenn Greenwald, "Vote Obama – if you want a centrist Republican for US president" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/27/vote-obama-centrist-republican).)

Thank you, and sincerely,
Michael Makovi
I am an alumnus of the Machon Meir yeshiva in Jerusalem, and I am presently studying for a BA in political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Jerusalem Post: "What does the Torah say about social justice?": Abysmal economics

A friend of mine posted (at https://www.facebook.com/groups/164893083528659/301368179881148/) a link to the Jerusalem Post's "What does the Torah say about social justice?" (http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Opinion/Article.aspx?id=235398), by Barry Leff of Rabbis for Human Rights, advocating obedience to the Talmud's economic regulations. This is the reply I wrote there on Facebook, and also on the Jerusalem Post's own website:

We read, "Would the rabbis of the Talmud be out on the streets – and in the tents – with the protesters? Or would they be defending the government and the status quo?" This is a false dilemma. You don't have to be either a socialist (protestor) or a fascist (defender of the status quo - fascism/corporatism means governmental regulation of the economy, in which private ownership is nominally maintained while the government controls the actual use of that property). You can be a capitalist (laissez-faire, in which the government does not regulate or intervene at all).

We further read, "It is well known that the Talmud favors a strong 'safety net' for taking care of the poor." It also favors bloodletting and incantations to demons. We do not appeal to outdated Talmudic medicine or superstitution or science, says Maimonides, so why should we appeal to outdated economics? I don't get it. The same people who reject the Talmud's advocacy of bloodletting and astrology, suddenly consider it the apogee of economic science. I prefer the view of Maimondes (Rambam) and Rabbi Avraham ben ha-Rambam (son of Maimonides); Maimonides, regarding the Talmud's reliance on, and belief in, astrology, in his letter to Marseilles/Montpelier (http://www.scribd.com/doc/27122444/Moses-Maimonides-Letter-on-Astrology): "What we have said about this from the beginning is that the entire position of the stargazers is regarded as a falsehood by all men of science [madda]. I know that you may search and find sayings of some individual sages in the Talmud and Midrashoth whose words appear to maintain that at the moment of a man's birth the stars will cause such and such to happen to him. Do not regard this as a difficulty, for it is not fitting for a man to abandon the prevailing law and raise once again the counterarguments and replies [that preceded its enactment]. Similarly it is not proper to abandon matters of reason that have already been verified by proofs, shake loose of them, and depend upon the words of a single one of the sages from whom possibly the matter was hidden. Or there may be an allusion in those words; or they may have been said with a view to the times and the business before him. (You surely know how many of the verses of the Holy Law are not to be taken literally. Since it is known through proofs of reason that it is impossible for the thing to be literally so, [Onqelos] the Translator rendered it in a form that reason can abide.) A man should never cast his reason behind him, for the eyes are set in front, not in back." And his son, about aggadah (Talmudic homiletics), in the introduction to the Ein Yaakov (http://en.wikisource.org/w/index.php?title=Ein_Yaakov%2FIntroduction): "According to this preamble, then, we are not in duty bound to defend the opinions of the sages of the Talmud, concerning medicine, physics and astrology, as right in every respect simply because we know the sages to be great men with a full knowledge of all things regarding the Torah, in its various details. Although it is true that in so far as knowledge of our Torah is concerned, we must believe the sages arrived at the highest stage of knowledge, as it is said (Deut. 17, 11) In accordance with the instructions which they may instruct thee, etc., still it is not necessarily so concerning any other branch of knowledge."

Then, "The rabbis of the Talmud understand this verse as telling us that prices should be fair. A seller cannot charge more than one-sixth (15 percent) more than the market price. If he does, the sale is considered illegal and can be voided." The Talmud guarantees that poor people will starve. Prices are a signal of supply and demand, and when prices are high, it indicates that demand exceeds supply, and this encourages entrepreneurs to enter the market and satisfy that demand. When you impose price ceilings, you thwart this signal, and you falsely convey the message to entrepreneurs that demand is lower and supply is higher than they really are; by reducing their profit margin, you remove the incentive for entrepreneurs to enter that market. Thus, price ceilings also cause shortages; just look at the Soviet Union. See Walter Block, "Jewish Economics in the Light of Maimonides", http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block_jewish-economics-maimonedes-1990.pdf.

Furthermore, it is absurd to say, "A seller cannot charge more than one-sixth (15 percent) more than the market price.", because whatever the seller charges ipso fact *is* the market price! You are essentially telling the seller that he cannot charge more than 1/6 of what he himself charges. It's absurdly recursive; see again Block.

It also makes no sense to say, "...the maximum profit should be 15%." In a free-market, the rate of profit *is* the interest rate; profit and interest are the same. So to mandate 15% profit when the interest rate is higher than that, is to steal from the producer, and to mandate 15% profit when the interest rate is lower than that, is to steal from the consumer. Either way, to arbitrarily fix the rate of profit independently of the rate of interest is to rob *someone*.

This is again absurd: "As the great 18th-century economist Adam Smith said, 'People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.' The rabbis recognized this problem, and ruled that prices for staples, like wine and oil, should be fixed by an official superintendent of prices. Only for luxury goods, like spices, should prices be solely set by the market." What the author of this article has just said, is this: entrepreneurs and producers will meet together to conspire to defraud consumers by way of seeking government protection (Smith), so the solution is to have government stop this (Talmud)! The government is the one who provides the cartelization that the conspiratorial producers want, so the solution is to empower the government? Sheesh, let's just ask Hamas to stop terrorism and ask the Vatican to promote Maimonidean monotheism while we're at it! Also, as Block notes, price-fixing of essentials and laissez-faire for luxuries perversely assures that essentials will be in short supply while luxuries will be in ample supply; the Talmud is ensuring that people die of starvation well-adorned in jewels.

The Talmud was "opposed to middlemen", we are informed. Again, the Talmud ensures that we starve. Without middlemen, who will transport goods for us? If you live on one side of the country and the food is grown on the other, then the middlemen do the valuable service of transporting the goods for you, so that you do not have to travel yourself. If they did not do a valuable service, then you would not pay them! If middlemen made goods more expensive than necessary, without benefit, then you would eschew the middleman and buy direct! The fact that you buy from the middleman willingly, shows that you benefit from him more than if he did not exist, because *any* time *any* economic transaction occurs, it shows (according to Condillac) that this transaction was superior to its own absence, and that this transaction entailed mutual benefit, because without mutual benefit, it would not occur in the first place. And let us quote John Witherspoon, "An Essay on Money":

Economic regulations, "so far as they are executed, they have the most powerful tendency to prevent, instead of promoting, full and reasonable markets.

"As an example of our own skill in that branch, a law was past in Pennsylvania in time of the [Revolutionary W]ar [in America] precisely upon that principle. It ordained that in all imported articles there should be but one step between the importer and consumer, and therefore that none but those who bought from the ship should be allowed to sell again. I cite this instance by memory, but am certain that such was the spirit of the law.

"The makers of it considered that every hand through which a commodity passed must have a profit upon it, which would therefore greatly augment the cost to the consumer at last. But could any thing in the world be more absurd? How could a family at one hundred miles distance from the seaport be supplied with what they wanted? In opposition to this principle it may be safely affirmed, that the more merchants the cheaper the goods, and that no carriage is so cheap, nor any distribution so equal of so plentiful as that which is made by those who have an interest in it, and expect a profit from it."

The author of this article works to ensure we all suffer from poverty.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Road to Serfdom and Omnipotent Government: "Hotovely: Bill will stop foreign cash to political NGOs"

I just wrote the following letter to MKs Hotovely (zhotovely@knesset.gov.il) and Akunis (oakunis@knesset.gov.il), regarding the Jerusalem Post's article, "Hotovely: Bill will stop foreign cash to political NGOs" (7 Nov 2011, by Lahav Harkov, http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=244723), subtitle, "PM supports bill to prevent governments from donating to organizations that seek to influence policy, Channel 2 reports."

Hello. I am writing regarding the Jerusalem Post's article, "Hotovely: Bill will stop foreign cash to political NGOs" (7 Nov 2011, by Lahav Harkov, http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=244723):

If "foreign governments should not meddle in Israeli internal matters", then how about we start with ending Israel's acceptance of American money? There is a problem if there ever was one, and I believe Ron Paul puts the matter well, at 4:25 until 5:57 of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_be9XZ_4_c; Ron Paul says, "They [Israel] shouldn't give up their sovereignty to us [the United States]", and that, I believe, is the great desideratum. When the Israeli government accepts foreign money, it not only ties the hands of Israel and prevents it from doing what it needs to do for its own safety, out of fear for the response of its donor; but also, it makes the Israeli government have a dual-loyalty, one loyalty to its own taxpayers but another loyalty to its foreign donor. This we cannot tolerate. The taxpayers alone should be the ones calling the shots, and no one else.

So if we want to find a problem to solve, let's start there: a bill outlawing the Israeli government's accepting any donations except from citizens of Israel.

Now then, as for this bill outlawing foreign governmental donations to Israeli NGOs: the Likud Constitution says the party is dedicated to the "establishment of a self-sustaining free economy based on competition and free enterprise, and reducing insofar as possible government intervention in the economy". I ask, does this bill make the Israeli economy more free? Does it encourage free enterprise? Does it reduce government intervention in the economy?

And what happened to liberty and human rights? These anti- and non- and post-Zionist NGOs, I of course reject their views as repugnant, but I respect their right to advocate whatever views they wish, as long as they hurt nobody. The United States Supreme Court recently held - quite rightly - in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010) that any campaign finance restrictions were unconstitutional violations of "the" (meaning preexistent, prior to any government) right to freedom of speech. To restrict how one may spend his money on certain speech, is to restrict the speech itself.

But if the government restricts liberty and human rights, then wherefore the government? Is not its very purpose to protect these rights? "The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish! ... For truly, how can we imagine force being used against the liberty of citizens without it also being used against justice, and thus acting against its proper purpose?" (Frederic Bastiat, "The Law", trans. Dean Russell for the Foundation for Economic Education, Inc.).

I am reminded of a passage by Ludwig von Mises, the teacher of Friedrich Hayek, in his book Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War (similar to his student's The Road to Serfdom, except Mises was himself a Jew and escaped from the Nazis to Switzerland): "It is vain to fight totalitarianism by adopting totalitarian methods. Freedom can only be won by men unconditionally committed to the principles of freedom. The first requisite for a better social order is the return to unrestricted freedom of thought and speech."

If the Israeli government may restrict the use of foreign money to fund certain speech, then it may restrict the use of any money to fund any speech. The Israeli government may arbitrarily decide to restrict any speech whatsoever it doesn't like, and contrive any arbitrary restriction on funding it desires. I invite you to use your imagination to conceive of the possibilities, and then realize that the government always exceeds our imaginations' limits when it comes to trampling liberty and human rights. Whatever tyranny we imagine, the government will do double that. "This may serve to teach us the danger of allowing to any mortal man an inordinate measure of power to speak great things: to allow to any man uncontrollableness of speech; you see the desperate danger of it. Let all the world learn to give mortal men no greater power than they are content they shall use--for use it they will. ... And they that have liberty to speak great things, you will find It to be true, they will speak great blasphemies. ... It is necessary, therefore, that all power that is on earth be limited, church-power or other. If there be power given to speak great things, then look for great blasphemies, look for a licentious abuse of it. It is counted a matter of danger to the state to limit prerogatives; but it is a further danger not to have them limited: they will be like a tempest if they be not limited. A prince himself cannot tell where he will confine himself, nor can the people tell; but if he have liberty to speak great things, then he will make and unmake, say and unsay, and undertake such things as are neither for his own honor nor for the safety of the state." (John Cotton, "Limitation of Government", http://www.flatheadreservation.org/index.php/texts/limitation_of_government/.)

In the end, these NGOs remain private individuals. They have a right to receive their own money from whatever source it may be - assuming there is no theft or fraud, i.e. assuming there is nothing intrinsically unjust according to natural law - and they have a right to spend that money on whatever speech they wish. If they wish to receive money from the UN and the EU and spend it on lobbying the Israeli government to pursue the so-called "Peace Process" (sic.), then that is their prerogative. If we are afraid that the Israeli government will capitulate, then that is the problem we must deal with! Your (MKs Hotovely's and Akunis's) bill is like a drunk man who cannot control his habit lobbying the government to ban liquor stores. If the Israeli government is so weak and pathetic and immoral that it cannot resist the temptation to aid its enemies, then that is the sad reality we must face and deal with. But to punish those who commit no crime or injustice in lobbying the Israeli government? That is tyranny. To punish the innocent provider of an innocent commodity just because one of his customers is weak-willed? That is despicable.

Don't get me wrong: I find the views of these NGOs to be repugnant. But if we restrict their speech, then...

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Paul Krugman Has Learned Some Undergraduate Economics, but Only Halfway

Regarding Paul Krugman's Markets Can Be Very, Very Wrong:

Krugman, discussing air pollution caused by coal-burning power plants, says,
It does not necessarily say that we should end the use of coal-generated electricity. What it says, instead, is that consumers are paying much too low a price for coal-generated electricity, because the price they pay does not take account of the very large external costs associated with generation. If consumers did have to pay the full cost, they would use much less electricity from coal.
To this, I say:

Wow, Krugman has discovered the tragedy of the commons[1]! I'm glad he's finally learned some undergraduate economics.

So far, everything Krugman has said is perfectly true, if rather banal. But then, he goes to make a crucial error, which will occupy the rest of this essay:
At one level, this is all textbook economics. Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right.

...

So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you’d be all in favor of pollution taxes, right? Hahahahaha. Today’s American right doesn’t believe in externalities, or correcting market failures; it believes that there are no market failures, that capitalism unregulated is always right. Faced with evidence that market prices are in fact wrong, they simply attack the science.
The truth is, no one denies that externalities (i.e. the "tragedies" of the commons, i.e. the "public goods" which lack private ownership and personal incentives) exist. No free-market economist says that externalities are nonexistent, and that the tragedy of the commons is a fiction. Krugman creates a straw-man, by discussing a position that no one believes in.

The issue is this: Krugman says the externalities should be solved by taxes and regulations. The problem is, who will impose these taxes, and how will the tax-rate be set? It's very easy to say, oh the government should tax air-pollution so that the nominal price of coal rises to include the true cost of the externality-pollution that coal imposes. That's right nice, but it fails to answer the question of who will impose those taxes, and what the rate will.

First, as for who: Public Choice school economist James Buchanan notes that far too many political philosophers will specify what the government ought to do, but fail to ask, what will make the government do this? Great, so the government ought to impose taxes to make the cost of coal include its externality, i.e. to make the market price of coal-supplied power pay not only for the cost of the coal itself (which is not an externality, because everyone pays personally, on his own electric bill, for his own personal usage, meaning that incentives and prices will be internalized, not externalized), but also for the cost of the pollution (an externality / public good / tragedy of the commons). Okay, very nice. So go make the politicians do this, and maybe 500 years from now, you'll succeed in convincing them. In the meantime, the politicians will use energy-taxes as a means of enriching their friends and despoiling their enemies. We will get graft and corruption and cronyism. Great, so we've replaced tragedy-of-the-commons with theft. Thank you, Dr. Krugman!

In fact, it is more ironic and pathetic than that: Krugman has merely replaced one commons (with its attendant tragedies/externalities) with another! The air we breath is one commons, that is clear. But government is also a commons. The whole problem with government is that politicians can act with others' money, creating a moral hazard (lack of personal incentives for responsibility) in which they will not use the money carefully or responsibly, because it is not their own. In other words, in the eyes of the politicians, the government's money is a commons.

Meanwhile, the politicians themselves are a commons from the perspective of the voters: the entire government affects every citizen whether he wants it to or not, but he does not own the government, and he is bound not only by his own electoral decisions, but also those of his neighbors. Just as the air I breath is polluted not only by myself but also by others (and so one has either the ability or the proclivity to fix the problem, because someone else will go off and ruin all your hard work), so too government. This tragedy of the commons reduces incentives (moral hazard): why should I do my best to keep air clean, with onerous labor, when someone else will sully it anyway? So we get a race to the bottom, or, in game theory, a prisoner's dilemma and the voter's paradox.[2]

So again, we have two commons: the money is a commons to the politicians, and the politicians are a commons to the people. So in trying to solve one commons (polluted air), you created two in its place!

Krugman has learned about externalities and the tragedy of the commons, and he is so giddy to apply his new knowledge, and advocate government intervention, that he has failed to heed Frederic Bastiat's lesson, in "That Which is Seen, and that Which is Not Seen", that "Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference - the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen and also of those which it is necessary to foresee." Government can eliminate the commons that is the air we breath: that is seen. But exactly such a government intervention, introduces new commons just as morally hazardous as the one just eliminated: that is what is unseen. Krugman would do well to learn Bastiat.

Secondly, as for the tax-rate: how, just how, will you set the rate for the tax on air pollution? How do you price clean air? In a free-market, economic calculation is possible, because consumers demonstrate their subjective values by paying prices. A consumer will pay only that price which does not exceed his own personal subjective value for that commodity. Thus, for example, if a consumer wants clean air in his own home, he will spend money on an air filtration system, but only if the cost of the system is less than his desire for clean air. But in an un-free market, this is impossible. The government has no way of knowing how much consumers value clean air, so it has no way of knowing how to set the rate for the tax on pollution. Is the pollution of a given coal-burning power plant worth $1 million to the consumer? $1 trillion? Only a penny? The government has no way of knowing. Thus, in a socialistic system, the entire economy shuts down, as all prices, as set by the government, become entirely arbitrary, as Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises shows in his book, Socialism, which predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union decades before it occurred (originally published in German in 1922, in English in 1936), while everyone else was proclaiming socialism as the wave of the future.[3] By contrast, Krugman has not yet learned about the marginal revolution of Austrian School economist Carl Menger (as well as others simultaneously, namely William Stanley Jevons and Marie-Esprit-Léon Walras), which showed that all value is subjective, and that it is therefore impossible for the government to calculate economic value. According to the marginal theory of value, all government intervention into the economy is fruitless and destructive. The marginal theory of value is a subject of undergraduate economics, but apparently, Krugman has not yet reached that part of the curriculum.

In short: Krugman has learned well about market failure, but he has not yet reached the part of the curriculum where one learns that every attempt to solve market failure, merely introduces a government failure every bit as - if not more - disastrous as the market failure it attempted to solve. It is like trying to eradicate one invasive species with another. Krugman errs in stating that his opponents deny the reality of externalities and market failures. No, that would be like saying they deny the existence of foreign, invasive species. It is only that unlike Krugman, they realize that government failure, introducing a second invasive species to eliminate the first, is hardly a suitable solution to an admittedly very real problem.

But okay, I have pointed out Krugman's flaws, and showed that his solution is none at all. But do I have an alternative? Well, notice: the tragedy of the commons is solved by eliminating commons, by privatizing them. What worked for the farmland of England, works for everything else. The solution is more private property rights and more privatization. If commons are exploited, and externalities result, due to moral hazard, then privatization, by incentivizing responsibility and long-term planning, solves the tragedy of the commons. I confess, I do not know how to privatize air, but the point is, privatization is the only solution. It may not work in every case, but there is no alternative.

[1] The tragedy of the commons, is the observation that publicly-owned grazing land is overgrazed, because no one farmer has an interest in preserving the value of the land. He realizes that even if he takes care to preserve the land and avoid overgrazing, his fellows will not do so. Likewise, if one coal-burning plant stops polluting, the rest will keep on polluting. However, the tragedy of the commons observed, as soon as grazing land was fenced, i.e. de-commonized and instead privatized, the tragedy ceased. When someone has his own private property, for which he alone is responsible, and of which he alone eats the fruits, he guards it more carefully. If everyone had his own private air supply, no one would pollute the air. (return)

[2] In the prisoner's dilemma, two prisoners cannot communicate, and both are offered the choice of either being silent or ratting out the other. If both are silent, both do relatively well, say +5. If one is silent and the other rats him out, then the silent one loses immensely, say -10, and the ratter-out gains immensely, say +10. If both rat each other out, both lose a little bit, say -5. Now, logically, they both ought to be silent, and each get +5, right? The problem is, they cannot communicate! Each one, fearing the other will rat, himself rats, so they both get -5. After all, if you don't rat, he will. So the problem is essentially the same as the tragedy of the commons. But just as the tragedy of the commons is solved by privatizing land, so that it is not common anymore, so too, the prisoner's dilemma is solved by restoring communication between the two prisoners, so that they can cooperate. As for the voter's paradox, that states that voters will not have an incentive to vote wisely, because for all the effort it takes to learn the issues at stake, you get only one paltry vote. Should you spend 10 hours every day, for years on end, learning politics, just so you can contribute one vote? Of course not. You will instead have "rational ignorance". But if your vote were to affect you and only you, meaning your vote would be one vote out of one vote, instead of one vote out of millions, then you would indeed take the time to learn. Again, it is a tragedy of the commons. (return)

[3] Mises's friend, Historical School economic Max Weber, also conceived of his same problem of economic calculation, and likewise doubted socialism for the same reason as Mises. Weber was an odd fellow: his own Historical School was pro-government and pro-bureaucracy, the opposite of Mises's own Austrian School, but Weber himself was a methodological individualist, recognizing - as the Austrian theory of praxeology, "human action" does too - that as an objective fact, all of society comes down to individuals. Weber was anti-liberty, but he still knew that economic science comes down to individuals, not collectives and aggregates. (return)

Just what is the Jewish claim to the land of Israel?

Obviously, one can make a religious claim to the land of Israel. On the first verse of the Torah, Rashi asks why the Torah begins with "In the beginning, God created" (Genesis 1:1), rather than, "This month shall be to you" (Exodus 12:2), the first commandment (mitzvah) in the Torah. After all, wouldn't it make sense for the Torah to begin with the commandments? Rashi answers, so that when the nations of the world dispute our claim to Israel, we can say, God created the earth, and can apportion it however He wants. The sense of the passage of Rashi, however, is not that we shall tell the world this, but that we shall tell ourselves this. That is, the point is not to convince the world of our rectitude, but only to convince ourselves. We take Genesis 1:1 seriously, and if they do not, that is their problem, not ours. So what argument do we make to the world?

Today, a friend of mine claimed that Jews are a genetic people, and I replied,
We're an ethnic group, but a cultural one, not a genetic one. Saadia Gaon says we are a people due to the Torah. Thus, Jewish peoplehood is about Sinai. Of course, there are citizenship requirements, and so you can be a Jew without believing in the Torah, and you can believe in the Torah without being a Jew. But putting the technical citizenship requirements aside, being Jewish is about following the Torah.

Now, Jews will happen to have a genetic commonality, but that's not what makes us Jewish. Jews marry other Jews, so you'll form a self-contained genetic pool, but that's not what makes person Jewish.
Studies show that Jews from around the world (Europe and the Middle East alike) have more in common with each other than with their neighboring gentiles, but
it's coincidence. We merely happen to have common ancestors, but that is not what makes a person Jewish.

Imagine a Jewish man marries a gentile woman. They have a daughter. She marries a Jewish man. They have a daughter. She marries a Jewish man. And so forth, ad infinitum. In the end, you have a gentile with 99.99% Jewish blood.

Conversely, imagine a gentile man marries a Jewish woman. They have a daughter. She marries a gentile man. They have a daughter. She marries a gentile man. And so forth, ad infinitum. In the end, you have a Jew with 99.99% gentile blood.

My friend said to me,
dont you feel like our not being an ethnic group semi-legitimizes arab claims? like if israel isnt the birthplace of our ethnic group, what do we have? i feel iffy about using religious claims

I responded,
We are still a people. Just because you're not a genetic relative, does not invalidate your being a cultural relative. We are a peoplehood. It's just that the criteria are different.

Why should ownership of land be genetic? Why not cultural? See http://spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=1726 [ = "The Gene Wars" by Diana Muir Appelbaum and Paul S. Appelbaum, AzureWinter 5767 / 2007, no. 27]. The authors argue that even if the Palestinians do have a genetic relationship to the original inhabitants of Israel (which is a very doubtful claim, they show, but they temporarily accept it, for the sake of argument), that even so, Israel belongs to those who believe in the Biblical religion of Israel. That is, blood or no blood, it is Jews, not Palestinians, who have a cultural relationship to the land of Israel. In other words, who says everything comes down to genetics? Maybe it depends on culture.

Or, if you want to take a libertarian property-rights tack, then the land of Israel belongs to anyone who has a deed of ownership. Well, the Jews who were expelled by the Romans, they never renounced their ownership. Palestinians are squatters. Now, we cannot always determine which contemporary Jew is a lineal descendant of which Roman-era Jew (meaning he has inherited the deed of ownership), but the least we can do is say that the whole Jewish people have inherited those deeds of ownership, whether by blood-descent or by culture. Every convert who converts to Judaism, is regarded by the Jewish people as a valid member, and so the blood-Jews let him join in their property claims.
She asked, but doesn't genetics show precisely who is a lineal descendant, who has inherited the property? I said,
Okay, perhaps, yes. The problem is, most of the people who make the genetic argument, are not libertarians, and they do not believe in staunch, absolute personal-property rights. So they don't really have the credentials to argue that the Palestinians deserve the land by virtue of being the lineal descendants and inheritors of the deeds of ownership. If you generally do not believe in absolute personal property, you cannot suddenly invoke personal property claims when it is convenient.

For these people, who do not believe in personal property, cultural is as good a criteria as genetics. They have no basis to prefer genetics, because genetics presumes a libertarian take on personal property. Karl Marx, for example, advocated the abolition of inheritance. So anyone with socialist or social-democrat leanings, cannot use the genetic argument, because they already believe in the abolition of inheritance.

Only the libertarian who believes in personal property, can make the genetic argument. For everyone else, the cultural argument is as valid as the genetic one.
I neglected to say to my friend, that another crucial claim by Appelbaum and Appelbaum, is their precise justification for why culture should trump genetics: their claim is that property ownership (or rather, they speak of "national identify") is a cultural identification. If a group of Poles voluntarily moved to Germany, and married other Polish immigrants to Germany, would anyone claim these Poles deserve to be given Poland? Of course not. Or, in their words,
For example, no one would argue that the descendants of the several hundred thousand Poles who migrated to the Ruhr Valley at the end of the nineteenth century are anything but German, even those among them who have married only the descendants of other Polish immigrants. Nationality is a matter of culture, not genetics.
Sure, they have Polish blood, but they no longer identify as Poles, but rather, as Germans. To maintain a national (or property-ownership) claim, requires not just blood, but also the explicit identification and articulation of yourself as the legitimate heir. The problem with the Palestinians would be that, even if they have Biblical Jewish blood, they nevertheless came out of nowhere, and suddenly, in 1967, began making a claim they had never made before. For 2000 years, while in exile, Jews would constantly speak of a return to Zion, several times daily in the daily prayer liturgy. Where were the comparable Palestinian claims? How is it possible that someone in 1967 suddenly makes a claim to a land lost in 70, and claims that blood alone compensates for the cultural identification as heir which he neglected to previously make? The problem is that being someone's heir requires some sort of maintenance of that inheritance right. Jews have been claiming for 2000 years to be the exiled descendants of the Biblical Jews; the Palestinians have not.

I added,
Also ... if anyone says the Palestinians own Israel, tell them that apparently, it's because Mohammed's army conquered Israel. If so, then Israel's conquests are valid too! That is, if the Palestinians own Israel, one must either claim that (a) they are the descendants of the Biblical Jews or the Canaanites (a preposterous claim with no genetic or historical evidence), or (b) that conquest makes ownership. If (b) is true, then Israel's conquests are just as valid.

And, if one claims that property is owned by its original owner, then fine, it's the Canaanites, but please, find me a Canaanite, and I'll gladly hand over all of Israel to him. In the meantime, the second owner is the Jews. Whether Israel goes to the original owner or to its latest conqueror, either way, it's the Jews.
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