How Kibbutzim Succeeded Despite the Laws of Economics

In the early 20th century, socialist Zionist zeal inspired Jewish pioneers in the Land of Israel to form collective farms known as kibbutzim. In them all property was held in common, children were raised communally, and the maxim “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” was strictly observed. Economic theory would seem to suggest that kibbutzim would fail, but they did not. And although no more than a small proportion of Israelis lived in them at any given time, although many have switched from agricultural pursuits to industry and high-tech, and although they have abandoned the most radical forms of collectivism, they continue to thrive and have played a major role in Israeli society. The economists Ran Abramitzky and Russell Roberts discuss the kibbutz’s history and the reasons for its success. (Audio, 67 minutes.)

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More about: Economics, History & Ideas, Israeli economy, Israeli history, Kibbutz movement, Socialism

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey