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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Liberal Jews and the Failure of the Oppressed

Arnold Kling has an interesting essay on why Jews tend to support centralized government "solutions" as the better, if not sole, alternative to individual responsibility. He calls it the "Moses Complex".

For instance, Kling says Jews ask: Why did not more Jews flee Germany during the Nazi run-up rather than ask why did some Jew not shoot Hitler during his many open-air rallies? The Exodus story is one of escape rather than a story of the oppressed overcoming a tyrant. He says the idea of the "bad Pharoah" controls their thought-process and overcomes the idea that any government leader lacking checks and balances will eventually oppress. He says Jews "ascribe bad government to the accidental result of having wrong leaders". There is almost the "attribution of God-like qualities to government".

This belief of Jews in the propriety of a government solutions is found in their liberal opinions on healthcare, schooling and retirement benefits.

I agree with his argument and particularly liked this quote:

Usually, problems are more complex and systemic than a simple oppressor/oppressed narrative can describe. Sometimes, the best solution is to increase, rather than to diminish, personal responsibility. Often, government programs can exacerbate problems, with no built-in correction mechanism.

The positive effects of even a failed personal attempt to solve a problem or create something is significantly better than a failed governmental attempt to cure the same problem. One obvious difference is that the failed government "solution" continues for decades due to its wealth while a personal failure is short run. Another is the individual's failure is limited to one person or family while the government failure harms millions of people for generations.

But most important, the individual who has failed has learned something valuable that can become a source of wisdom for better results in the future. The entrepreneur that has failed now has learned personal lessons (never to be forgotten) to likely insure success in the next endeavor. But, government rarely learns from its failures. And the best chance of creating a better society starts with each person and their individual acts.

And that is the essence of Judaism.


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