I started some Azure articles on Political Hebraism by Yoram Hazony and Fania Oz Salzberger, and then I moved onto Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and civil disobedience. This in turn brought me back to John Locke, which in turn brought me back to the Swiss Reformation. I was thus quite successfully able to refute, to my own satisfaction (most of my friends believe I am insane), the assertions that democracy demands making oneself a qorban (holocaust) for the state, as well as that Judaism and democracy contradict. After all, if democracy was satisfactory to the most Tanakh-ic of all Christians, then what difficulty ought Jews have with it? And I have been told - by hearsay - that Hakham Jose Faur has observed - an observation that accords with my own personal understanding - that the First Amendment in America was meant to secure a separation of church and state, not of religion and state. (After all, James Madison explicitly credited Martin Luther's doctrine of the two kingdoms as the source for the American separation, so we can hardly suppose that the American and French revolutions aimed at the same end in this regard.) I might add that Rabbi S. R. Hirsch presents Judaism as holding by ecclesiastical democracy, so I don't see it shouldn't be just as happy with civil democracy. As King James I wisely remarked, "No bishops, no king", meaning that a Puritanistic request to be rid of bishops would inevitably result in a similar demand regarding kingship.
An unintentional result was that I now hold by libertarianism in general, all the way to, for example, F. A. Hayek, and I have a decidedly more negative attitude towards the Israeli Rabbinut than I ever had before. What can I say? - you learn a few basic principles, and they inexorably are applied to one's entire life and thought, whether or not one meant this to be so. Just from reading Swiss Reformed political theory, I have come to hold by a theory of government that my brother has himself arrived at reading books from the Cato Institute and Ludwig Von Mises Institute. So while trying to reconcile Judaism and democracy, I had to redefine democracy, discarding 1789 as mostly irrelevant.
So that's what I've been studying recently, on my own, as a hobby.
A few days ago, I had a meeting with one of the faculty of a prominent political think tank in Israel, to ask him whether it would be worth my while to study any of this in university. We talked about whether it would be worthwhile for me to study political science, with my major question being, would it be profitable as far as earning a livelihood goes? He started to speak, fumbled a bit, stopped and thought, like he wasn't sure how to say what he wanted to say, and finally, he said, "Aww, heck, I'll go for it. You have this quality that I've only ever seen in Holocaust survivors. They find a potato, and wonder whether they should eat it now or save it for later. But you cannot blame them, after what they went through. But what are you worried about? It's not like you're going to starve."
I mentioned how my cousin got a degree in history and didn't know what to do with it, and he said it's because she didn't have any vision of why she was learning history, and nor do most people know why they're learning the humanities, he said. The vast majority of the people in the humanities - including professors, he said - have no idea what the purpose of their research is. So their research turns in on itself, and they'll write dissertations about a two-year period of history, covering every single tedious minute of that period, and they'll have no conception of how to use any of this to benefit society. However, he said, if my intention in studying political science - such as the Calvinists - is to produce tangible benefits for practical society, with a clear conception of how my learning can affect the world, then I should have far less difficulty finding something to do with my degree.
I told him that ever since I was a young child, I have always assumed I would study bioinformatics (i.e. computer science and biology) and he was visibly frustrated with the fact that I'd even consider doing anything other than political science. He told me that there are hundreds of competent people in Israel doing economics, for example (I guess he doesn't hate Keynesian economics as much as I do), but only a handful, at best, of people studying the things I want to study, things that could truly benefit Israel, if conducted by someone who - like me - has a clear conception of their practical import. On top of that, he said, the fact that I'm groping in the dark, and discovering all of this entirely on my own, writing high-level pieces on my blog on these subjects, following only from my own inspiration and desires, without anything more than a high school education, is truly exceptional, he said. Therefore, he said, the combination of someone studying the things I'm studying and someone who has a clear conception of how these studies are practically useful, is incredibly rare. He illustrated this by saying that when Shmuel first heard prophecy, he had no idea it was G-d, and kept running to Eli. He said that G-d has spoken to me, and told me what to learn, but I just don't realize it is Him speaking to me.
When asked him where I ought to study, he told me this: that I should try to find someplace with a professor or professors who would share my interests and be able to advise me. He said the undergraduate curriculum anywhere would be about the same, focusing on Plato and Aristotle and such, and that it didn't really make so much a difference where I studied, unless I found a particular professor somewhere to my liking. He also told me he'd put me in touch with other colleagues of his at his think thank, and that if I ever need a job, I'm always welcome to ask him/them if they have an opening (no promises, of course).
As things stand now, I am being advised by him to go to either the Hebrew University or Tel Aviv University. Apparently, my computer science teacher's advice to go the cheapest university you can find, for your undergraduate, and then spend all your money on the most prestigious graduate program you can find - based on his assertion that once you have a graduate degree, no one cares anymore where you got your undergraduate - doesn't apply to the humanities. He told me that even though he got his PhD decades ago, people still think he must be brilliant merely because he got his undergraduate at Princeton.
I cannot believe this. I am giving up my lifelong dream (since I was in kindergarten) to get a degree in biology and computer science, and follow my mother's footsteps as a scientist, to uncover new, heretofore unknown aspects of ma'aseh bereshit (the works of creation), asher bara eloqim la'asot ("which G-d created to do" - Genesis 2:2, with the sentence incomplete, for mankind to finish), just so that I can prove to the damn stupid world what G-d already told us 3500 years ago. And what do I get for it? I'll have to spend my time with stupid humanities people, who will pretentiously and arrogantly judge you based on which university you went to. A scientist would never stand for such foolishness. I could be helping to discover and as-yet-unknown cure for cancer or Alzheimer's, but no, I have to prove to people that it's wrong to coerce other people into doing things against their wills. Maybe I can publish an article about my newly discovered hiddush (novel innovation), the issur (prohibition) of geneiva (theft - in this case, taxation)? Think of the opportunity costs!
And G-d help me if I lose my inability to write in a technical manner, like the damn humanities people, who are paid for every violation of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language". It's all I have left of the original me.
*Update: My brother responded to this blog entry, saying,
My path was a bit more convoluted than what you suggest.
Perhaps your opportunity cost is allowing some other biologist to profitably (money/time) go about curing diseases without [government] mandates that limit the energies of these folks. But your quandary is one common to the freedom loving individual. I believe I have told you before, my interest in politics goes with my freedom. Something of a zero sum game. The more of one, the less there is of the other. [I.e. his interest in politics is inversely proportional to his possession of liberty, as a zero-sum game.]