When Politicians Condemn the Evils of Finance, Even Jewish Leftists Should Be Wary

Nov. 12 2019

In an essay published this summer outlining portions of her economic program, the senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren wrote that “far too often, the private-equity firms are like vampires—bleeding the company dry and walking away enriched even as the company succumbs.” Elyse Wien, although admittedly sympathetic to Warren’s politics, detects a sinister note:

Warren shows no evidence of being . . . an anti-Semite, but she does seem to be a party to the left’s growing reliance on outrage in their search for a bogeyman in the financial elite—a search that invariably appeals to conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites. . . . [I]t’s necessary to step back and examine the roots of the left’s contempt for finance when that contempt extends beyond the specifics of policy to the nature of finance itself. The idea that finance is “vampiric,” that it feeds off the honest productivity of hard workers to extract unmerited earnings, is a sentiment that has direct roots in a long history of anti-Semitism.

The idea that money derived from finance is parasitic because it is not from “productive” labor was developed by medieval Christian natural-law theology but has even older origins in the work of Aristotle. . . . While the political radicals of the 19th century did not explicitly extol natural-law theology, . . . they nevertheless betrayed the influence [of medieval economic thinking] in their emotionally charged distinction between productive and parasitic labor, and the particular vitriol they showed toward both finance and Jews.

For [19th-century] anti-Semites of both the left and right, . . . the political emancipation of Jews was, [to paraphrase Karl Marx], the result of turning the world “Jewish”; the Jews’ freedom was purchased through the immiseration of others. The template created by Marx and other 19th-century thinkers who connected their opposition to finance and capitalism with the purported “Jewishness” of those practices would proliferate in subsequent decades, taking root in cultures outside Europe, as financial capitalism also spread across the globe.

William Jennings Bryan’s 1897 “Cross of Gold” speech is a classic of 19th-century American populism, yet the historian Richard Hofstadter notes . . . that perhaps nothing did more to reinvigorate American anti-Semitism than the frequent allegations that the “Shylocks” and “Rothschilds” controlled the banks that controlled the farms.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Aristotle, Elizabeth Warren, Finance, Socialism

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy