Despite the Claims of Anti-Semites, Financiers Play a Useful and Productive Role in Society

From the early Middle Ages until the present day, Jews have been associated with banking and financing—often because they played an outsized role in this economic sector. The best-known explanation blames the Christian prohibition on usury, but more recent research has pointed to the advantages and necessities of being a diasporic people, the requirements of Jewish religious life, Jewish involvement in trade during the transition to cash-based economies, and Gentile governments’ prohibitions on Jews engaging in other areas of economic activity. Whatever the causes, the result was the intertwining of anti-Semitism with the belief—rooted in both classical sources and certain readings of the Hebrew Bible itself—that finance and moneylending are intrinsically corrupt.

Drawing on such sources as Theodor Dreiser’s 1912 novel The Financier and Aristotle’s observation that usury is justly “the most hated” of occupations, James E. Hartley examines this attitude toward economics and exposes its intellectual poverty:

Underneath [contemporary] discussion about wealth distribution is an often-unstated belief that high levels of wealth were not earned in an appropriate manner. One avenue of this discontent is the latent belief that merchant activity is immoral, violating the principle that goods should always sell for their “just price.” The belief that a good has an inherently just price has vanished, but the implications of that belief still linger a bit.

Dreiser paints a bleak picture of finance. Yet, on closer inspection, it is hard to see what is so particularly immoral about bankers. For one thing, other professions can lead to riches, too: why does a rich banker’s wealth seem more inappropriately acquired than a rich computer programmer’s, for example?

Furthermore, everyone benefits from banking and finance. Some people want to save and others want to borrow, and the financier comes along to help the savers and borrowers find each other. There are enormous cost advantages to their work. Suppose you want to buy a house and need to borrow a few hundred thousand dollars. To whom would you go? Your friends or your family? If you asked complete strangers, would they lend to you? At the very moment you realize you would never be able to buy a house, a friendly financier comes along and lends you funds borrowed from people you have never seen. The same thing happens for a business that wants to expand its operations or someone who wants to go to college or buy a car. Financiers seem so useful. So why such hatred for the ones that are successful?

Read more at Public Discourse

More about: Anti-Semitism, Aristotle, Economics, Finance, Jewish history


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7