How Kibbutzim Are Teaching Their Residents the Value of Free Markets

July 11, 2022 | Ilya Somin
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Over the course of several decades, kibbutzim have introduced limited private property, unequal wages, and other reforms of their once strictly socialist systems. According to a recent study, these changes have increased individual kibbutzniks’ appreciation for economic freedom. Ilya Somin comments:

The results of the study are notable because kibbutz residents are mostly either people who were raised on the institution’s socialist values or moved there out of ideological commitment. Thus, they are far likelier to be hostile to markets and property rights than the average Israeli, or for that matter the average person in almost any liberal democratic society. And social-science research shows that most people are highly averse to evidence that cuts against their preexisting political views. Nonetheless, the superiority of market institutions over socialism is so striking that people who have direct first-hand experience of both tend to prefer the former, even in a case like this one, where they started off as strongly committed socialists. . . .

[M]ost of these kibbutzniks did not become thoroughgoing enthusiasts for laissez-faire, and they continue to support welfare-state redistribution, sometimes even more than before. But the shift in their attitudes is nonetheless striking. It is notable not just because kibbutzniks are predisposed to be hostile to market institutions, but also because the kibbutz setting was an unusually favorable one for socialism.

By contrast, moshavim, Israeli agricultural settlements that reserve a much greater role for markets and private property rights, have proved far more durable and successful, even though, as one moshavnik lamented when I visited her community in 2016, “the kibbutz has better PR” than moshavim do. The kibbutz has become famous around the world. But few people outside of Israel know what a moshav is, other than a few experts on property rights.

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