What Judaism Has to Say about Capitalism

Dec. 11 2019

Of late, critiques of capitalism have proliferated on both left and right, so that it is commonplace to write and speak of its failure as a foregone conclusion. Jeremy Rosen, skeptical of such assumptions, turns to traditional Jewish texts, among them a passage from the talmudic tractate Avot that contrasts four attitudes to private property:

“What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” is a balanced attitude. But some say that was the attitude of the men of Sodom.
“What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine” is that of a simpleton.
“What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours” is that of a saint.
“What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” is that of a wicked person.

Rosen comments:

The first line asserts an individual’s freedom to accumulate wealth. But this could also imply selfishness and disregard for the others. When used that way it was regarded as morally corrupt, like the city of Sodom. The second one illustrates stupidity. If we are going to approve of material possessions, and the right to accumulate, then it stands to reason that each person should be able to choose how, and how much, they want to accumulate. To have people decide for each other is just silly. That is what gangsters, dictators, and ideologues do.

The third proposition says that a rejection of materialism is saintly. But it does not necessarily disapprove of those who cannot adopt such a selfless attitude. And finally, accumulating for oneself by taking what belongs to others is obviously the worst ethical position. One might argue that socialist dictatorships do this as much as capitalist governments: they decide how much you can keep.

In this passage, as in many others, the [Jewish tradition] implies that there is no perfect political solution. In the Bible, there are different models of leadership, governance, and economic systems. Each state—each community—needs to adapt to survive and thrive. A solution that works at one moment in time, or in one situation, may not be the right one forever. Flexibility is essential. Otherwise, systems atrophy. The beauty of democracy, despite its limitations, is that it allows for change.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Capitalism, Democracy, Judaism, Socialism, Talmud

Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria