Working for a free and prosperous world
The Jews owe an enormous debt to free enterprise and competitive capitalism. Two 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. Jews prospered in it for that reason and also because they had a comparative advantage arising from the Church’s views on usury, the dispersion of Jews throughout the world, and their usefulness to ruling monarchs precisely because of the isolation of the Jews from the rest of the community. Compare the experience of the Jews in banking, that I have referred to, with their experience in retail trade, which has been almost a prototype of the textbook image of perfect competition and free entry. How can we reconcile my two propositions? Why is it that despite the historical record of the benefits of competitive capitalism to the Jews, despite the intellectual explanation of this phenomenon that is implicit or explicit in all liberal literature from at least Adam Smith on, the Jews have been disproportionately anti-cap- italist? Lawrence Fuchs, in a highly superficial analysis of The Political Behavior of American Jews, argues that the anticapitalism of the Jews is a direct reflection of values derived from the Jewish religion and culture. Wrote Sombart, “Throughout the centuries, the Jews championed the cause of individual liberty in economic activity against the dominating view of the time. The individual was not to be hampered by regulations of any sort. I think that the Jewish religion has the same leading ideas as capitalism …. The whole religious system is in reality nothing but a contract between Jehovah and his chosen people …. God promises something and gives something, and the righteous must give Him something in return. Indeed, there was no community of interest between God and man which could not be expressed in these terms-that man performs some duty enjoined by the Torah and receives from God a quid pro quo.” A more balanced judgment than either Fuchs’ or Sombart’s with which I am in full accord is rendered by Nathan Glazer, who writes, “It is hard to see direct links with Jewish tradition in these attitudes;… One thing is sure: it is an enormous oversimplification to say Jews in Eastern Europe became socialists and anarchists because the Hebrew prophets had denounced injustice twenty-five hundred years ago…. The Jewish religious tradition probably does dispose Jews, in some subtle way, toward liberalism and radicalism, but it is not easy to see in present-day Jewish social attitudes the heritage of the Jewish religion.” A second simple explanation is that the Jewish anti-capitalist mentality simply reflects the general tendency for intellectuals to be anti-capitalist plus the disproportionate representation of Jews among intellectuals. Competitive capitalism has permitted Jews to flourish economically and culturally because it has prevented anti-Semites from imposing their values on others, and from discriminating against Jews at other people’s expense. Cohn’s argument goes far to explain the important role that Jewish intellectuals played in the Marxist and socialist movement, the almost universal acceptance of “Democratic socialism” by the European Jews in the Zionist movement, particularly those who emigrated to Palestine, and the socialist sentiment among the German Jewish immigrants to the United States of the mid-nineteenth century and the much larger flood of East European Jews at the turn of the century. To justify itself by more than the reference to the alleged role of the Jews in Christ’s crucifixion, anti-Semitism produced a stereotype of a Jew as primarily interested in money, as a merchant or moneylender who put commercial interests ahead of human values, who was money-grasping, cunning, selfish and greedy, who would “Jew” you down and insist on his pound of flesh. As Jews left their closed ghettoes and shtetls and came into contact with the rest of the world, they inevitably came to accept and share the values of that world, the values that looked down on the “Merely” commercial, that regarded money-lenders with contempt. Can this record not be interpreted as an attempt, no doubt wholly subconscious, to demonstrate to the world that the commonly accepted stereotype of the Jews is false? I conclude then that the chief explanations for the anti-capitalist mentality of the Jews are the special circumstances of nineteenth-century Europe which linked pro-market parties with established religions and so drove Jews to the Left, and the subconscious attempts by Jews to demonstrate to themselves and the world the fallacy of the anti-Semitic stereotype.
Capitalism & Racism
The very concept of “Race,” and the ideology and practice of racism are relatively modern. The whole concept of “Races” within the human species is not based on physical reality, but is rather a purely ideological construction. Over the past 50 years biologists have come to the conclusion that there is no scientific means of categorizing human beings by “Race.” What are taken as distinct “Races” are in reality arbitrary divisions of humanity on the basis of skin color and other secondary physical features. “85 percent turns out to be between individuals within the same local population, tribe, or nation; a further 8 percent is between tribes or nations within a major ‘race’; and the remaining 7 percent is between major ‘races.’ That means that the genetic variation between one Spaniard and another, or between one Masai and another, is 85 percent of all human genetic variation….” -Stephen Rose et al. The absence of any scientific basis for distinguishing one “Race” from another makes the whole concept meaningless. As Richard Fraser, a veteran American Trotskyist, pointed out in “The Negro Struggle and the Proletarian Revolution,” a document written in the 1950s and recently republished, race remains “a reality in spite of the fact that science reveals that it does not exist.” Fraser wrote that: “The concept of race has now been overthrown in biological science. But race as the keystone of exploitation remains. Race is a social relation and has only a social reality.” The influence, clarity and sophistication of these “Reasons” increased over the next several centuries, until by the 19th century, “Race” was widely seen as the key determinant of human history. ‘Scientific’ Racism in the 1800s…. By the end of the 19th century, the proposition, “Biology determines destiny” was scientific orthodoxy, and prominent scientists such as Louis Agassiz, Samuel Morton, Robert Knox, Herbert Spencer and Ernst Haeckel were busy devising hierarchies of the races in which the “European,” or often more specifically “Anglo-Saxon”, were placed at the top, with the other “Inferior” races ranked beneath them. Agassiz, a Harvard professor who was America’s foremost zoologist of the 19th century, claimed that “The brain of the negro is that of the imperfect brain of a seven months infant in the womb of the white.” A whole range of quack sciences such as phrenology and craniometry arose to measure and quantify the differences among individuals as well as races. “The race called Hottentots [are] a simple, feeble race of men, living in little groups, almost in families, tending their fat-tailed sheep and dreaming away their lives. Of a dirty yellow colour, they slightly resemble the Chinese, but are clearly of a different blood. The face is set on like a baboon’s; cranium small but good; jaws very large; feet and hands small; eyes linear in form and of great power; forms generally handsome; hideous when old and never pretty; lazier than an Irishwoman, which is saying much; and of a blood different and totally distinct from all the rest of the world.” -Robert Knox. The Races of Man: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Influence of Race over the Destinies of Nations. While there was a definite ordering of “Races” among whites, in general the “Fairer races” were destined to conquer and supersede the “Darker races”: “Before the go-ahead Dutchmen it was easy to see that this puny, pygmy, miserable race must retire….” To Knox and his contemporaries it was axiomatic that race was a determining force in history. “According to the anthropologist McGrigor Allan in 1869, ‘The type of the female skull approaches in many respects that of the infant, and still more that of the lower races.”‘ As an example of the pervasiveness of such attitudes the authors of Not In Our Genes quote Charles Darwin, the greatest scientist of the 19th century, as remarking: “Some at least of those mental traits in which women may excel are traits characteristic of the lower races.” Liberals, who dismiss such absurdities as evidence of the scientific backwardness of that age, and comfort themselves with the thought that such vicious ignorance has been transcended, fail to see how, at every stage, science is conditioned by the prejudices of the existing social order. Today mainstream science tends to reject race as anything other than a social construct. The Japanese capitalists are no better with their depiction of North American workers as lazy and indigent, and their tendency to attribute the decline of U.S. capitalism to race mixing.