Lessons from Economics in One Lesson

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					  Are Classical Liberalism and
Traditional Judaism Compatible?
                   By

            Robert M. Sauer
  Hebrew University of Jerusalem, IZA,
  Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies
             Introduction

Understanding the connection between
 traditional Jewish thought and classical
 liberalism may be very important for
 finding new ways to communicate liberty to
 Israelis as well as Jews in many other
 countries
             Research Results
• Surprisingly, there are few writings that explicitly
  consider the compatibility issue
• Exploring common ground appears to still be in its
  infancy
• Happily, few writings that do exist, point to
  common ground in a number of important areas
• Can back up claim of common ground by
  mentioning a few general principles in Judaism
  that will be quite familiar and acceptable to the
  classical liberal
    Judaism and Private Property
• Halacha (Jewish Law) explicitly recognizes right
  to hold private property – doesn’t endorse
  philosophy of “what’s mine is yours, and what’s
  yours is mine”
• Sees profit motive and desire to retain created
  wealth as human nature, if try to deny legitimate
  desires, corruption and distortion results
• In Kings 21, written that the Jewish King does not
  have right to appropriate private property
• Prophet Micha dreams of a day in which “every
  man will sit under his own vine and under his own
  fig tree and none will make him afraid”
          Judaism and Wealth
• Accumulation of individual wealth is a blessing
  from G-d, and perhaps more importantly it is seen
  as a responsibility
• Because wealth creation goes hand in hand with
  helping the poor
• The highest form of charity is to use one’s wealth
  to help the poor gain employment
• Jewish patriarchs were wealthy men so can argue
  that this shows that wealth is not a sin
     Judaism and Social Justice
• The obligation to give charity is central to Judaism
• Maimonides (Rambam) says that one is obliged to
  give to the poor, but not to make a poor man rich,
  just to sustain him
• Bibi recently said that it is not enough to be a
  Thatcherite, you should be a Maimonidite, it is
  better to give offer a loan than a handout and even
  better to offer employment
• In short, receiving charity is a right, but not a
  badge of honor or good citizenship
• Re-distribution of wealth is not a Jewish concept
          Judaism and Limited
              Government
• The government should be strictly limited in its
  scope of activity, Jewish Kings are answerable to
  G-d’s laws
• Kings are not allowed to dictate where individuals
  are to live and what job they are to take
• Part of the reason is that intrusive government is
  equated with inevitable corruption and oppression
• Tax money is not to be wasted and not to be used
  for personal benefit of the governors
                 Conclusion
• Important areas of overlap between traditional
  Judaism and classical liberalism
• Areas of compatibility need to be further
  elaborated upon through targeted research
• Think tanks could use results of research to
  communicate in a new “religious” way with the
  Jewish public
• Bottom line is that there is no contradiction
  between being a believing and/or practicing Jew
  and a classical liberal
• This new approach has not been sufficiently tried

				
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posted:4/6/2010
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