The Jews and Capitalism

The Jews and Capitalism: A Love-Hate Relationship


Abstract or summary:This paper attempts to understand why the Jews, who have benefited so much from capitalism, nevertheless, in the main, reject it in favor of its polar opposite, socialism and government intervention into the economy; why is it that this group of people, whose socio economic status might be expected to incline them in the direction of the Republican political party in the U.S., instead vote in overwhelming numbers for the Democrats.The following explanatory theses are discussed: the role of intellectualism in pushing in this direction; early educational experiences; motives and purposes vs. empirical effects; jealousy and envy; the causal role of great participation in the culture of Broadway and Hollywood; contempt for Jews, intellectuals, and thus intellectual Jews, on the part of the larger society; purely religious considerations; historical experiences in Europe; persecution as a minority living with hostile majorities; income maximization; and last, and perhaps most controversially, as an attempt to preclude a repetition of the Nazi experience.

I. Introduction

There is no doubt that at least in some sense, there is a love hate relationship between Jews and Capitalism.

On the one hand, there is a strong tradition of support for socialism, communism, labor unionism, feminism, affirmative action, within the Jewish community.As well, according to the political aphorism, u201CJews have the income of Presbyterians, and yet vote like Puerto Ricans.u201D Jews have a strong tradition of casting ballots for the Democratic Party [1] and have long taken a supportive interest in groups such as the National Association to Aid Colored People, which is also solidly in the corner of this political party.

On the other hand, there can be little doubt that capitalism has been very good to Jews.Many members of this faith have prospered as businessmen.This would tend to incline most people in such a situation in the direction of support for the marketplace. Nor can it be denied that several of their numbers have taken on high profile roles in defense of this system.

Nevertheless, despite these slight exceptions, the overwhelming preponderance of opinion within this community lies in the direction of government interventionism, and dirigisme economics. What accounts for this rather exceptionable behavior? Various theories have been put forth in an attempt to explain this phenomenon.The present paper is devoted to discussing and evaluating several of them [2] .

Before embarking on this task, however, we do well to remark on the fact that ordinarily, in most analyses of group of individual behavior, the analyst does not go too far wrong in relying upon the doctrine of quo bono. That is, most human action can be explained in terms of self-interest.But the Jews, it would appear, offer evidence of being a counter example to this general rule.

Support for affirmative action and gun control on the part of the Jewish community are particularly difficult to understand in this regard.When a plan of coerced racial preferences in education is implemented, it benefits groups such as blacks and Hispanics.But who are the people who lose out when such people are chosen?It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Jews are over-represented in this category [3] . As for guns, who has not heard of the Warsaw uprising, and of the vicious treatment these people have suffered at Nazi hands.Surely, if the Jews of Germany, Poland and other eastern European countries were heavily armed in the late 1930s, their fate would have likely been less horrific [4] . And this is to say nothing of attacks suffered by Hasidim in neighborhoods such as Crown Heights in Brooklyn, New York.Surely pistols would be of help in quelling such disturbances.Despite the foregoing, Jews as a group have been adamant in championing policies that, it would appear, are directly incompatible with their own self-interest.

2. Intellectuals

2.1. Overrepresentation

Jews are over-represented amongst intellectuals (Seligman, 1994) [5] , and intellectuals tend to take on left wing views on economics [6] .This undoubtedly gives at least some impetus to support for socialism from this segment of the population.

There are several plausible ways in which to define intellectuals. One possibility is to include those who earn a living through the use of abstract reasoning, or as wordsmiths, or as u201Csecond hand dealers in ideasu201D (Hayek, 1990, p. 5). Examples of this category would be professors, journalists, clergy and writers — those who directly or indirectly mold public opinion. A more inclusive definition would add professions in which a high degree of intelligence is required, but where such people are not typically the source of ideas for others.Mises (1972, p. 16) includes u201Cphysiciansu201D under this rubric.Others in this category might be physicists, engineers, pharmacists, accountants, architects, etc.An even wider definition would add to this list all of those who think deeply about current events, read widely, keep themselves informed, etc.An operational definition of this third rung of intellectuals would be those who purchase books, keep them at home, frequent libraries, watch news shows on t.v., etc.

Hayek (1990) takes great pains to distinguish intellectuals, in any of these three senses, from experts.The latter are in effect the originators of ideas; the former, the megaphone, or transmission device, with which these ideas are transferred to the general public.His illustration of the economics profession is a telling one.States Hayek (1990, p. 8): u201CYet is it not the predominant views of the experts but the views of a minority, mostly of rather doubtful standing in their profession, which are taken up and spread by the intellectuals.u201DAlthough he does not mention him, reading between the lines one can almost see the name u201CGalbraith.u201DIt is the ideas of this worthy which are transmitted to the average man on the street, even though his are in a small minority within the economics profession, most of which strongly disagrees with his perspective on socialism, protectionism, and the evils of the capitalist system [7] .

Whether we choose the narrow, the medium or the wider definition of intellectual, it cannot be denied that Jewish people are disproportionately represented in these numbers.As for the first category, they are the u201Ctalking headsu201D on television, the professors, the editorialists — in numbers far in excess of their proportion of the population.As for the second, they dominate the professions of medicine, dentistry, psychology, science, etc.And even in the third, when they have jobs as the proverbial u201Cbutchers, bakers and candlestick makers,u201D they are still well read, involved in current events, etc., to a greater degree than their counterparts who follow other religious beliefs.

2. Early educational experiences

Why is it that intellectuals, defined as those who engage in the manipulation of political and economic ideas, oppose free enterprise?Nozick (1997) maintains this is due to the fact that these people, when they were in high school, had the highest grades, and the greatest official recognition, but the job market relegates them to a far lower position in the pecking order than at that time.The result: resentment of the system responsible for not giving them their due.

Van den Haag (2000/2001, pp 56-57) rejects this thesis on the grounds that one, the business world does reward people on a basis that is proportional to intelligence and two, u201CNozick is quite wrong in believing that superior intelligence is readily rewarded in high schools.u201DInstead, he contends, bouquets are tossed on the basis of athletic prowess.

In my view, Van den Haag’s criticisms fall short of the mark. While it cannot be denied that most high school students extol athletics over academics, this is not at all the case for teachers.Further, it is equally true that the brainiacs, nerds and geeks also get their due (if not, perhaps, in inner city high schools, which must be counted as an exception to this rule).There are scholarships, trips to the student versions of the U.N., chess and mathematics tournaments, the debating club, etc.What with the advent of Bill Gates who earns far more than Michael Jordan, the smart kids are coming into their own even the more.Van den Haag is of course correct that athletes, and u201Ctough kidsu201D command more respect in some sense, but this is irrelevant to the point Nozick is making, that the highly intelligent high school student is given a strong ego boost by the adult world. Even when the nerd is being physically bullied, he still has a strong sense of entitlement based on his grade scores and other such recognition.

It of course cannot be denied that there is indeed a positive correlation between intelligence and business success (Murray, 1998), but there are enough exceptions to rile intellectuals.Consider only those in this regard earning a relatively modest salary as an associate professor of literature, while the ex high school class bozo makes it big selling toys or burgers and drives around town in a car far more luxurious than theirs.There can be little doubt that Nozick is telling an important part of the story of the disaffection of the intellectuals when he bases it on their high school experiences.

3. Purposes vs. effects

Then, too, intellectuals, particularly those not involved in economics (Frey, et. al., 1984, Block and Walker, 1988) often confuse accomplishments with motives. [8] The goal of the businessman may well be to maximize profits, something unsavory in the view of the great (economic) unwashed.But this should be seen as distinct from the effects of his actions, which are altogether very salutary, particularly to the poor in advanced capitalist nations.This tendency is exacerbated by Jewish, and indeed most religious, focus on intent, not only accomplishments.There is ignorance of Adam Smith’s (1776) great finding of the u201Cinvisible hand,u201D which leads people to do good for others even though it was no part of their intention to do so.

Further, intellectuals labor under the implicit premise that the morality of the deed ought to be matched by economic reward.That is, the callings of nurses, theologians, doctors, firemen, moralists, clergymen — and of course academics — are all thought to be imbued with a particular moral grace.And yet with the exception of physicians, they are not particularly highly paid.But this too plays into Jewish and indeed all religious precepts, where morality is given a particularly central role.

4. Too accurate a mirror

Mises (1972, pp. 11-16) puts forth a theory to the effect that intellectuals resent capitalism because it is merciless in revealing their failure to make a greater contribution to society.In days of yore, when a man’s accomplishments were severely reined in by his place in society, those who failed to garner great wealth or position had a readily available excuse: they were born into the wrong caste, or class, or social position; it was thus not their fault that they rose no higher than they did.None of their fellows, with the same birth disadvantages, likely did any better.States Mises (1972, p. 11, 13): u201CIn a society based on caste and status, the individual can ascribe adverse fate to conditions beyond his own control… Everybody is aware of his own defeat and insufficiency.u201D

Under markets, however, in sharp contrast, none of these excuses held true any longer. u201CIt is quite another thing under capitalism.Here everybody’s station in life depends upon his own doing,u201D in the view of Mises (1972, p. 11). A Bill Gates could move from a position of no special prominence to become the richest man in the world.What must his childhood chums think of this meteoric rise?

The stupid ones, Mises (1972, p. 15) tells us u201Crelease these feelings in slander and defamation.The more sophisticated do not indulge in personal calumny. They sublimate their hatred into a philosophy, the philosophy of anti-capitalism, in order to render inaudible the inner voice that tells them that their failure is entirely their own fault.u201DBut u201Cthe more sophisticatedu201D are precisely the intellectuals we have been discussing. Not for them, merely, a personal attack on the Bill Gateses of the world [9] .In addition, the weaving of a philosophical system which has at its core the evils of the market place, where some, e.g., Gates, rise to heights which are clearly u201Cunfair,u201D insofar as they very much put these u201Cintellectualsu201D into the shade.In summarizing this point, Mises (1972, p. 18) states: u201CHis passionate dislike of capitalism is a mere blind for his hatred of some successful u2018colleagues.’u201D

5. Broadway and Hollywood

It is something of a stretch to consider the denizens of Broadway and Hollywood as u201Cintellectuals,u201D even with the broad definition of that term we are employing [10] .Truth, accuracy and facts are not their stock in trade, as it is, at least ideally, for the intellectual; rather, imagination, communications skills, emotion and beauty serve as the coin of the realm in these places.Yet, it cannot be denied that quite a high level of intelligence is required to produce movies and plays successfully.In any case, these industries are dominated by members of the Jewish faith, and thus come under our consideration for both these reasons.

Mises (1972, pp.31-32) explains the communist leanings of these two communities on the basis of the intrinsic risk of the entertainment industry: u201CPeople long for amusement because they are bored. And nothing makes them so weary as amusements with which they are already familiar.The essence of the entertainment industry is variety.The patrons applaud most what is new and therefore unexpected and surprising. They are capricious and unaccountable.They disdain what they cherished yesterday.A tycoon of the stage or the screen must always fear the waywardness of the public…

u201CIt is obvious that there is no relief from what makes these stage people uneasy.Thus they catch at a straw.Communism, some of them think, will bring their deliverance.u201D

This has all the earmarks of a good explanation.There is no truer statement than that u201Cno other American milieu was more enthusiastic in the endorsement of communism than that of people cooperating in the production of these silly plays and filmsu201D (Mises, 1972, p. 33).This was no less true at the time Mises wrote than at present.Hollywood and Broadway in many ways represent a crap-shoot, with great losses and great profits for different projects, based on an always fickle public.Say what you will about Communism, at least it cannot be denied that those who remain in the good graces of the rulers never need fear bankruptcy.

And yet, if it were really true that industries facing high risk would be inclined toward economic adventurism because of that fact, then this ought to apply to others as well.For example, wild-cat oil drilling is a notoriously risky business; there are many dry holes found for every wet one.There have been many business failures amongst the start up companies. However, the predilection toward socialism correctly pointed to by Mises in the entertainment industry by no means carries through to oil exploration or new computer firms.Thus, the risk of a business appears to be a poor predictor of left wing ideological support.

6. Contempt

Another factor that at least in part explains the fevered criticisms of capitalism by most intellectuals is the contempt with which they are held by the leaders of this system, the businessmen.The derisive u201Cpointy headed intellectuals with a briefcaseu201D hurled by former Alabama Governor George Wallace at the bureaucrats of Washington D.C. during his presidential election campaign, is only the tip of the iceberg in this regard.The leaders of large firms hold in little esteem the intellectuals, and this perspective has percolated into the society at large.In literature, in films, on the stage, the intellectual is often depicted as absent minded, ineffectual and physically weak.

In Hayek’s (1990, p. 10) view: u201CIt is not surprising that the real scholar or expert and the practical man of affairs often feel contemptuous about the intellectual, are disinclined to recognize his power, and are resentful when they discover it.Individually they find the intellectuals mostly to be people who understand nothing in particular especially well and whose judgment on matter they themselves understand shows little sign of special wisdom.u201D

It is only human nature, under these conditions, for intellectuals to play u201Cpay backu201D with business leaders.If the latter hold the former in contempt, then this sentiment can be returned, with interest, in the form of rejection of capitalism.It is no accident that in the academic and Hollywood worlds, captains of industry should be portrayed as greedy, grasping, avaricious, and immoral. [11] What with strong u201Cpolitical correctnessu201D sentiment opposed to characterizing in a poor light u201Cprotectedu201D groups such as blacks, Jews, women, the handicapped, and other such, it is rare that the villain in most movies and t.v. shows is other than a white male, pre-eminently a white male businessman.

States Mises (1972, pp.19, 20, material in brackets supplied by present author) in this regard: u201CWhat is called u2018society’ in the United States almost exclusively consists of the richest families.There is little social intercourse between the successful businessmen and the nation’s eminent authors, artists and scientists…(the former consider the latter) as people with whom they do not want to consortu201D and then refers to the u201Cresentment with which the intellectuals react to the contempt in which they are held by the members of u2018society.’u201D

III. Alternative explanations

The reason we focus so heavily on the effects of intellectualism in determining Jewish criticisms of free enterprise is that there is a serious question as to whether or not this is a sufficient explanation of the phenomenon.That is, does the intellectualism of the Jewish people swamp their religion, insofar as implications for political philosophy are concerned? To put this in other words, once we have noted that a person is an intellectual, and a Jew, does the impetus of the former toward left wing views exhaust that of the latter?Or, does being a member of the Jewish faith add any more explanatory power to socialist beliefs that are already there, supplied by intellectualism?

It is to these questions that we now turn.We will attempt to discern, when we add u201CJewishnessu201D to a person who already is an intellectual, does this further incline him in the direction of socialism? [12] If so, then Judaism supplies an added impetus to dirigisme leanings that is not already in place on the part of intellectuals.If not, then these religious beliefs do not make an independent contribution to market opposition that is not already present in the thinking of the typical leftist intellectual [13] .

1. Religious considerations

One hypothesis that could be used to account for Jewish bias against laissez faire capitalism is that it is based upon religious considerations.The theory is that the Old Testament, the Bible, the Talmud and other formal written aspects of the religion impart a receptivity toward the left side of the political economic spectrum to its adherents [14] .For example, the admonition to be charitable, tzedakah, might be used to justify the welfare system.Or the commandment not to u201Ccovetu201D the possessions of others might be considered a warning against u201Cgreed,u201D which, in turn, might be seen as the organizing principle of the market.Or the injunction to observe ona’ah might be interpreted as opposition to earning profits above a certain level. [15]

However, the claim that the Talmud is responsible (directly for the religious, and indirectly for the less so) for elevating socialism and denigrating capitalism in this community is countered by the fact that one of the Ten Commandments proscribes theft.If stealing is illegal, it can only be because there is such a thing as a valid system of private property rights; if there were not, it would be logically impossible to engage in any such activity as theft.But private property rights are the bedrock of the capitalist system; if Jewish law promotes this concept, and it most certainly does, then its criticism of markets cannot be a fundamental aspect of the religion.

2. Historical political considerations

Friedman (1985, p. 403) couches the problem we are addressing in terms of a paradox: u201CTwo propositions can be readily demonstrated: first, the Jews owe an enormous debt to free enterprise and competitive capitalism; second, for at least the past century the Jews have been consistently opposed to capitalism and have done much on an ideological level to undermine it.u201D

He offers two explanations for this paradox. The first one stems from historical conditions prevailing in Europe, and especially France, at time of its revolution: only the left, not the right, was willing to tolerate Jewish participation in public life.And second, the Jewish reaction to the stereotype of them by the population at large, that they were grasping, greedy and concerned with commerce and money-lending.States Friedman (1985, p. 412) of the Jewish reaction to this: u201C… to deny that Jews are like the stereotype, to set out to persuade oneself, and incidentally the anti-Semites, that far from being money-grabbing, selfish and heartless, Jews are really public-spirited, generous, and concerned with ideals rather than material goods.How better to do so than to attack the market with its reliance on monetary values and impersonal transactions and to glorify the political process, to take as an ideal a state run by well-meaning people for the benefit of their fellow man.u201D [16]

I have no doubt that both of Friedman’s explanations contain more than just a grain of truth.However, the historical one must be taken with a grain of salt: many other groups, besides Jews, have also benefited from free enterprise and yet oppose it.Thus, the historical antecedents relied upon by Friedman can hardly be generalized.For all that, it is not easy to dismiss this as part of the explanation, precisely Friedman’s point.

Second, Friedman posits that the Jews could have accepted the stereotype imposed upon them by society as a whole, and attempted to demonstrate that a concern for money, commerce, profits, etc., contrary to the prevailing view, was actually beneficial to society.He (1985, p. 413) replies: u201CBut this reaction was hardly to be expected.None of us can escape the intellectual air we breath, can fail to be influenced by the values of the community in which we live.As Jews left their closed ghettos and shtetls and came into contact with the rest of the world, they inevitably came to accept and share the values of that world…u201D

But this response, while a reasonable generalization, is not definitive. Friedman himself is a counterexample.He has for the most part not been u201Cinfluencedu201D by the socialist values of the community in which he lives [17] .If he could do it, why not others, many others, particularly Jews, who have more than average intelligence, and thus at least the potential to see through the popular socialist nostrums?Second, this answer is incomplete, for it leaves open the question of why the Jews, when they emerged from their ghettos [18] , found rampant socialism?Why were they not met with prevailing capitalist ideas?

3. Minority status, persecution

Sowell (1994, p. 231) notes the u201Cremarkable historic achievements of the Jews — a relatively small group of people, spread thinly around the world, and yet so prominent in so many countries and in so many fields that it hardly seems credible that there are fewer Jews in the entire world than there are Kazakhs or Sri Lankans.u201D

There is no doubt that Jews are a minority in virtually every country they reside.Even Israel, the obvious counterexample, is only so on a superficial basis.For while Jews are a majority of this country, it is tiny compared to its neighbors, amongst whom the entire nation is in effect a small minority.

Nor is it rare that minorities would be persecuted.Indeed, Sowell (1998) is replete with cases wherein small populations are brutalized by larger ones [19] .

A thesis, then, which emanates from these considerations [20] is that the Jews have been victimized more often and more deeply than other high earning and intellectually advanced groups, and this biases them in the direction of criticizing markets.

But it is unclear as to why a victimized minority would cleave to the left.Why not to the right, as have the Mormons, who are also a minority, and also have a history of suffering from persecution.Moreover, while to be sure the state of Israel is a minority among its larger national neighbors, this by no means holds true within that country itself.There, Jews are a majority.And yet the internal economic policies of Israel can hardly be considered market oriented (Gwartney, Lawson and Block, 1996).

4. Income maximization

According to Rothbard (1973, pp. 66-67): u201C… why do the intellectuals need the state?Put simply, the intellectual’s livelihood in the free market is generally none too secure; for the intellectual, like everyone else on the market, must depend on the values and choices of the masses of his fellowmen, and it is characteristic of these masses that they are generally uninterested in intellectual concerns.The State, on the other hand, is willing to offer the intellectuals a warm, secure and permanent berth in its apparatus, a secure income, and the panoply of prestige.u201D

And, further, Rothbard (1973, p. 69) declares: u201CThis is not to say that all intellectuals everywhere have been u2018court intellectuals,’ servitors and junior partners of power.But this has been the ruling condition in the history of civilizations…u201D

This would definitely incline people of the Jewish faith toward statism, not so much because of anything intrinsic to their religion, but simply because they are so heavily over-represented amongst the intellectual classes, and the latter have a predilection in favor of matters governmental.If intellectuals, in general, are drawn toward dirigisme out of considerations of income maximization, and Jews are disproportionately to be found among intellectuals, then this phenomenon alone could account for the leftist bias of that group.

Of course, it cannot be maintained that all employment enjoyed by intellectuals is in the formal civil service, implicit or explicit. This consideration would lead us, presumably, to the conclusion that even if the direction of causation pointed out above were correct, it would not explain much of the phenomenon under consideration.But there are other governmental jobs besides those in the bureaucracy.Teachers and professors, for example, are intellectuals whose paychecks are based on tax revenues.And even those working in private universities are not totally unconnected to the state.For one thing, academics are dependent upon government largesse for fellowships, grants, contracts, etc.For another, given that with the exception of places such as Hillsdale College and Grove City College, a significant percentage of the budget of most ostensibly u201Cprivateu201D institutions of higher learning are accounted for by government, it is only a slight exaggeration to say there are no universities not in the public sector.

But the rot spreads further than this, far further.If this explanation imparts to the weltanschauung of academia a leftist bias, it will tend to percolate to other intellectual redoubts, even if there is no direct connection between wealth maximization and the espousal of socialist nostrums.For example, take journalism, both reporting and editorial writing.If most academics favor dirigisme policies, then this applies, too, to professors in schools of journalism.If so, then their graduates likely reflect this political economic perspective.And they, in turn, introduce the general newspaper reading public to this slant [21] .

5. Nazi avoidance

There can be little doubt that the Jews have been seared by their exposure to Nazism.As a result, the rallying cry u201Cnever againu201D has become the motto of this community.There is one thing that distinguishes the Nazi society from many if not all others: it was a homogeneous, Christian, white country; as a result, the Jews have determined that whatever else the U.S [22] is and becomes, it shall not resemble that demographic make up (MacDonald, 1998).It is in this context that Jewish support for immigration from non-white European countries, for multiculturalism, for institutions such as the NAACP, for affirmative action (which comes largely at the expense of male white Christians as well as their own group) can be explained.

There is of course no necessary connection between this concern and socialism [23] .The world might well have been a place wherein the desire for race mixing had little or nothing to do with pro or anti free enterprise sentiment.To explore the reasons why this should have become a rallying cry of the left, not the right, would take us too far afield.Suffice it to say, however, that in the modern political context, there is little doubt that supporters of socialism favor such policies, while opponents do not.Thus, this is yet another phenomenon that impels Jews in the direction of anti capitalism, even though it stems from issues far removed from economic freedom.

What can be reasonably said about this hypothesis?In my view, we can only say at this point that the jury is still out.It has at least superficial plausibility, in that it accords with the strictures of quo bono.?That is, if it were true, this thesis does at least point to a gain that could be garnered by the Jewish community by acting in a such a manner.

On the other hand, not a single shred of evidence has been adduced in its behalf.Speaking as a Jew myself, one who is reasonably cognizant of the events occurring in this community, I can say that I have never heard any reason to believe that it is true.This hypothesis will be rejected by some, out of hand, as anti Semitic.That is not at all the position I am taking.As a disinterested observer, as a social scientist, my role is to get that extra one-inch closer to the truth.It is incompatible with this role to reject out of hand any hypothesis, no matter how despicable it may sound.All that can be said for this one, at the present time is that while Jews may conceivably have this motive, there is no evidence that they do, or have acted upon it in this manner.

However, there is something that can be said against it.This hypothesis is rooted in Jewish experience with the holocaust.Therefore, at best, it can explain Jewish behavior after that event.But this group of people was highly suspicious and rejecting of free enterprise long before the 1930s.Presumably, there was some cause for this state of affairs, which, by the very nature of things, cannot be accounted for by a desire to avoid, or change, homogeneous Christian nations. Further, there are numerous countries that are at least as homogeneously white and Christian as Nazi Germany, and, also, Nordic for that matter, and have not spawned any anti Jewish holocausts. Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and especially Denmark immediately spring to mind. It is an interesting hypothesis, which cannot be rejected out of hand on a priori or u201Cracistu201D grounds, but that does not at all mean we must accept it.

IV. Conclusion

We have come to no firm conclusions concerning the genesis of the support of the Jews for left wing political economic philosophies. There can be no doubt as to the preference for this community of socialistic solutions to public policy challenges, but the causes thereof are less clear.This is an important issue for all those involved in such questions, since members of this religious group are leaders in the academic and intellectual activities concerned with domestic and foreign policy.Hopefully, these remarks will spark research into this fascinating area of study, and make some small contribution to eventually shedding more light on it.


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Mises, Ludwig von, The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, South Holland, IL: Libertarian Press, 1972

Nozick, Robert, u201CWhy Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism,u201D in Socratic Puzzles, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997

Rothbard, Murray N., For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York, 1973

Schumpeter, Joseph A., Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, New York: Harper, 1942, p. 198

Seligman, Daniel, u201COf Japanese and Jews,u201D in A Question of Intelligence: the IQ Debate in America, New York: Citadel, Carol Press, 1994, pp. 118-135

Sombart, Werner, The Jews and Modern Capitalism, London: Unwin, 1913

Sowell, Thomas, Knowledge and Decisions, New York: Basic Books, 1980

Sowell, Thomas, u201CRace and Culture: A World View,u201D New York: Basic Books, 1994

Sowell, Thomas, Conquests and Cultures: An International History, New York: Basic Books, 1998

Van den Haag, Ernest, u201CThe Hostility of Intellectuals to Capitalism,u201D The Intercollegiate Review, Vo. 36, Nos. 1-2, Fall/Spring, 2000/2001, pp. 56-63

Walker, Michael A., and Walter Block, Focus on Employment Equity: A Critique of the Abella Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, Vancouver:The Fraser Institute, 1985.

Williams, Walter, "On Discrimination, Prejudice, Racial Income Differentials, and Affirmative Action," Discrimination, Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, Walter Block and Michael Walker, eds., Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 1982.


[1] Lilla, 2001; Lefkowitz, 1993; Fuchs, 1956

[2] For previous attempts in this regard, see Block 1985, 1990, 1996.

[3] Seligman, 1994.

[4] Lott, 1998.

[5] Seligman (1994) attributes this phenomenon to the higher IQ scores of Jews. Hayek (1990, p. 19, ft. 3) demurs: u201C… there is little reason to believe that really first class intellectual ability for original work is any rarer among Gentiles than among Jews.u201DHowever, Hayek (1990, p. 19, ft. 3) continues:u201C… there can be little doubt that men of Jewish stock almost everywhere constitute a disproportionately large number of the intellectuals in our sense, that is of the ranks of the professional interpreters of ideas.This may be their special gift and certainly is their main opportunity in countries where prejudice puts obstacles in their way in other fields.It is probably more because they constitute so large a proportion of the intellectuals than for any other reason that they seem to be so much more receptive to socialist ideas than people of different stocks.u201D

[6] States Hayek (1988 p. 53): u201CThe higher we climb up the ladder of intelligence, the more we talk with intellectuals, the more likely we are to encounter socialist convictions.Rationalists tend to be intelligent and intellectual; and intelligent intellectuals tend to be socialists.u201D

[7] A more modern example of this is former President Clinton, playing the role of u201Cintellectualu201D publicly relying upon the u201Cexpertsu201D Card and Krueger (1994) to raise the minimum wage level in order to help unskilled workers, despite the fact that this is very much a minority position amongst economists.

[8] The typical sociologist or religion professor guilty of this confusion may have a Ph.D. in these fields, but is no genius when it comes to economic reasoning.

[9] Although it is indeed tempting to interpret the anti trust case of the late 1990s as spiteful acting out against the more successful.For an analysis that in part makes use of this motive, see Anderson, et. al. 2001.

[10] See footnote 8, below.

[11] As a case in point, see the movie u201CWall Street.u201D

[12] I am indebted to my friend and colleague, Bill Barnett, for impressing upon me the importance of this question.

[13] There are some who would be inclined to argue that u201Cleftist intellectualu201D is a veritable contradiction in terms.This is a very tempting interpretation. Given that the market is the most moral and economically efficient system known to man, it is hard to credit the good sense, let alone intelligence of anyone who opposes it.As intellectuals are quintessentially those noted for precisely these characteristics, we arrive at the point where we are tempted to disqualify all candidates from the honorific title u201Cintellectualu201D who persist in their rejection of laissez faire capitalism.But we do not use the term in this manner for the present article.One reason is the fact that a person could reject free enterprise not out of stupidity, but rather evil; this might well leave his claim to intelligence intact.Another is that were we to automatically disqualify all Marxists and their ilk from the rank of intellectuals, we would need another word to describe those who favor socialism and yet write books, give speeches, serve as faculty members of universities, or in any other such way earn a living through the promotion of these ideas.Thus, the term u201Cintellectualu201D is not a pejorative, indicating accuracy of analysis.Rather, if refers to those who, from any perspective, deal with social and economic ideas in their professions. Sowell (1980, pp. 331-332) defines intellectuals u201Cas the social class of personswhose economic output consists of generalized ideas, and whose economic rewards come from the transmission of those generalized ideas. This in no way implies any qualitative cognitive judgment concerning the originality, creativity, intelligence or authenticity of the ideas transmitted. Intellectuals are simply defined in a sociological sense, and a transmitter of shallow, confused or wholly unsubstantiated ideas is as much of an intellectual in this sense as Einstein." Precisely.

[14] For the view that the claims of liberation theologians to the effect that the Old Testament of the Jews was not receptive to markets and private property is mistaken, and that this mistaken analysis is due to a reading of these texts divorced from the economic and sociological conditions under which they were written, see Liggio, 1997.

[15] For an analysis of this concept, see Block, 2002

[16] For a critique of Friedman’s thesis, see Frankel (1985, pp. 429-442).Frankel (1985, p. 436) rejects Friedman’s mention of the makeup of the French parliament as u201Ca-historical,u201D and objects to his reliance on fighting stereotypes as based upon the Nazi Sombart’s (1913) analysis. Friedman (1985, pp. 443- 446) replies that he does not at all rely upon Sombart, and that Frankel provides no evidence to back up his u201Ca-historicalu201D charge.In this debate, I concur entirely with Friedman.

[17] For an exception to this statement, see Block (1999).

[18] This word is sometimes used to describe the home of the blacks in American inner cities in the northeast.But this is misleading.The Jews in Europe during those times were prohibited by law from living outside the areas specifically reserved for them.Nothing of this sort applied to blacks in northern American cities, certainly not after 1865.

[19] Although see Diamond (1999) where the exact opposite occurs; namely, small advanced populations overcome ones that are less well economically developed. For a critique of this book, although not on this ground, see Block (1999).

[20] I am not attributing this to Sowell.

[21] As but two small yet revealing instance of this phenomenon, consider the fact that about 90% of the journalists covering the Nixon-McGovern presidential election favored the latter, while the former won in a landslide.Further, there is the almost total refusal of crime reporters to mention the race of perpetrators.

[22] This also applies to other nations in which large numbers of Jews reside; e.g., Britain, France, etc.

[23] This does not apply to affirmative action when carried out on a coercive governmental basis, as opposed to being adopted by private interests, voluntarily.See on this Epstein (1992), Block (1982), Block and Walker (1985), Williams (1982).

Block, Walter. 2004. u201CThe Jews and Capitalism: A love-hate enigma.u201D The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies, Fall, Vol. 29 No. 3, pp. 305-326; reprinted as: Block, Walter, 2005. u201CThe Jews and Capitalism: A Love-Hate Relationship.u201D Business and Religion: A Clash of Civilizations? Nicholas Capaldi, ed. Salem, MA: M&M Scrivener Press, pp. 65-79.

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