Last summer, when the social protest tents started popping up on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, I knew I was going to have to absent myself from the festivities — other than to become an observer for the purpose of anthropological, psychological, sociological, cultural and political analysis.
And it really bummed me out not to be able to participate.
I, too, have had a rough time of making a living. I, too, move from rental to rental like a wandering Jewess, as a result of not being able to afford a down payment and a mortgage on a place of my own. I, too, have had to manage living with an overdraft, due to the high cost of everything from cottage cheese to “free” education for my four kids. I, too, have found myself requiring parental subsidies well into adulthood.
I, too, have been a member of the “working poor” — particularly since my former long-time place of employment had a peculiar policy of lowering my salary every few years.
In addition to all of the above, I, too, could really have enjoyed hanging out on the streets of Tel Aviv, painting signs while listening to guitar music. (I’m not big on camping in the wild, but occupying a blanket at the foot of chi-chi cafes and sushi bars would be much to my liking indeed.)
But it was not to be, which is just as well; the current round of demonstrations have a much more menacing — and less hippy-dippy — flavor than last year’s. And fighting the police is simply not my thing. In fact, if there’s one population in this country that cannot make ends meet financially it’s the people in the police force. Furthermore, unlike the leaders of the “occupy Tel Aviv” movement — who have white-collar backgrounds — most of the men and women in blue do not even have affluent moms and dads on whom to fall back when the bills pile up.
None of this is at the root of my lack of solidarity with the protests, however. Nor is the fact that their real purpose is to topple the government. It is perfectly legitimate in a democracy to oust unsatisfactory incumbents.
No, the reason I cannot put my mouth where my lack of money is in this case is because I disagree with everybody on whom — and what — is at fault for our joint predicament.
Ever since immigrating to Israel from the United States 35 years ago, I have had to endure the same cockamamie attacks on free-market capitalism from all corners of the Jewish state (a nation filled with people who are supposed to be so smart when it comes to finance that we have aroused anti-Semitism wherever we settle and prosper), whenever socialist policies fail.
Frankly, I’ve had enough.
You don’t have to be an economist to know by now that the key hindrance to consumers and workers is a lack of competition. That native Israelis — including rich ones who have made fortunes in high-tech and other ventures — should continue to perpetuate the myth that greater government intervention is the only cure for socio-economic ills is beyond stupid.
To add insult to injury, they yammer endlessly about the widening “gap” between the rich and the poor, as though it’s the imbalance that has to be remedied. The last time I looked, stealing from the rich to give to the poor was Robin Hood’s modus vivendi. In the real world, all that gets you is stagnancy and high unemployment. It is the economics of envy, and it doesn’t work.
Which brings us to the “tycoons,” those billionaires we all love to hate for their being in bed with our politicians, and for paying lower taxes than the rest of us.
Here, too, the public doesn’t get what is really wrong with the picture — and it has nothing to do with the amount of taxes the “oligarchs” do or do not pay. On the contrary, the more capital they have, the more jobs they create for everybody else. So we shouldn’t be so perturbed about their yachts and private planes. Instead, we should be delighted that they need to hire lots of help.
The trouble with those guys is that they, too, live according to socialist — not capitalist — norms, by controlling the price of goods and services. This goes against the free market; it is not a product of it.
As for taxes, why are ours so high? Precisely because we expect the government to pay for, monitor, and regulate every facet of our lives. That costs a lot of money. Personally, I’d prefer to keep the utterly inefficient and wasteful “big brother” out of my business, both literally and figuratively. I’d rather make my own decisions about what my money is spent on, and have every school, shoe store, dentist and palm reader prove to me that his or her wares are worth my while and my hard-earned shekels — cash that would be considerably more forthcoming if the government weren’t redistributing my wealth at will. It would do better to enact and enforce anti-cartel laws to compel the billionaires to let the market “govern” our fiscal behavior.
Such freedom would not guarantee the ability of each and every one of us to purchase an apartment in the neighborhood of our choice. But, hey, who came up with the idea that owning a home is a civil right — the Realtors’ Union?
The point is that every area that is opened up to competition benefits the consumers. That is what I would be shouting from a tent if I were to pitch one. But I’d probably be lynched.
Ruthie Blum, a former senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’” soon to be released by RVP Press.