What Judaism Has to Say about Capitalism

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

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security