Sunday, August 5, 2012

During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it. In some quarters, that comment became the subject of controversy.
But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth. Many significant features come to mind: our work ethic, our appreciation for education, our willingness to take risks, our commitment to honor and oath, our family orientation, our devotion to a purpose greater than ourselves, our patriotism. But one feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out above all others: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality.
The Founding Fathers wrote that we are endowed by our Creator with the freedom to pursue happiness. In the America they designed, we would have economic freedom, just as we would have political and religious freedom. Here, we would not be limited by the circumstance of birth nor directed by the supposedly informed hand of government. We would be free to pursue happiness as we wish. Economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty. It is the only principle that has ever created sustained prosperity. It is why our economy rose to rival those of the world’s leading powers — and has long since surpassed them all.
The linkage between freedom and economic development has a universal applicability. One only has to look at the contrast between East and West Germany, and between North and South Korea for the starkest demonstrations of the meaning of freedom and the absence of freedom.
Israel is also a telling example. Like the United States, the state of Israel has a culture that is based upon individual freedom and the rule of law. It is a democracy that has embraced liberty, both political and economic. This embrace has created conditions that have enabled innovators and entrepreneurs to make the desert bloom. In the face of improbable odds, Israel today is a world leader in fields ranging from medicine to information technology.
As the case of Israel makes plain, building a free society is not a simple task. Rather, it is struggle demanding constant courage and sacrifice. Even here in the United States, which from our inception as a nation has been blessed with freedom, we faced monumental challenges in harmonizing our ideals with our institutions. We fought a bloody civil war against slavery and it took a nonviolent civil-rights movement to bring political and social equality to all Americans. In these epic struggles we changed our “culture” and vastly improved it.
I have just returned from a trip abroad. I visited three lands — Israel, Poland, and Great Britain — which are defined by their respective struggles for freedom. I met with some of the greatest heroes of those struggles. I am always glad to return to American soil. On this occasion, I am only strengthened in my conviction that the pursuit of happiness is not an American right alone. Israelis, Palestinians, Poles, Russians, Iranians, Americans, all human beings deserve to enjoy the blessings of a culture of freedom and opportunity.

   07/31/12 20:15
Of course culture matters. If your culture can't self-criticize or stop molesting its children or stop projecting the resulting rage on a demonized Other, it will remain an outpost of hell forevermore
For those cultures that aren't as messed up, there's still hope: Hernando de Soto Polar, a Peruvian economist, put his finger on the difference between the banana republics and the prosperous ones. External Link 
Property rights, it turns out. Simple property rights.
Would that the Muslim world could rid itself of its pathologies and come into the light of prosperity.

   07/31/12 20:34
When Palestinians are being forced out of homes they and their families have lived in for generations by the Israeli military, it must be acknowledged that the reduced protection of property rights faced by Palestinians compared to their Israeli neighbours is not just the result of Islamic culture.
As a recent example: External Link 

   08/01/12 06:43
Well, all the Palestinians had to do was not shoot at Israelis nor support and cheer for those who do. Such a difficult concept.....

   08/01/12 10:06
Not a difficult concept at all. Especially when somebody kicks you out from your house and takes your land in order to build settlements for European Jews.

   08/01/12 12:42
You'd be fine with Native American terrorism and support for terrorism against the American government then? Right?

   08/01/12 15:34
Why not? Are you suggesting it would be unjustified?

   08/01/12 22:01
It would be unjustifiable. The US beat the Indians. Hence, we get to make the laws. That the left wants to refight countless wars from the last couple hundred years for purely anti-capitalist reasons is one reason why libs are only 20% of the population and shrinking.

   08/01/12 13:26
European Jews? Are you by any chance related to Helen Thomas? Likely, about 1/3 of Jewish Israelis come from North Africa. (In many cases, they were forced to leave placed where they lived for centuries with just a couple of suitcases, but this is beyond the point.) I understand, they should go back to Africa, right?

   08/01/12 21:56
Your embrace of leftist sound bites and ignorance of Middle East history is astounding.

   08/01/12 08:37
All the Jordanians living on the West Bank had to say was we think it is just fine to have a Jewish state in the neighborhood.
The arab muslims want to kill all Jews, not just the Jews in what is now, or was at partition, Israel. I have never heard a Jew say kill all muslims, but it is a common statement in the muslim world for them to say kill all Jews. And they are not saying kill Zionist-Jews but all Jews.
You are quite dishonest or ignorant to think muslim homicidal tendencies will go away if Israel is gone.

   08/01/12 10:35
Lester have you ever been to the Middle East? The MUSLIM Middle East? As a Jew living very openly in Jordan for a few years, I have not ONCE heard anyone say "kill all Jews" or even "kill all Israelis". I have on the other side, been to Israel to visit family a few times, and have seen a lot of graffiti saying "death to all Arabs" and "put the Arabs in the Gas Chambers" and have heard a lot of ignorant comments about how they wish they could wipe out all the "animal palestinians" from their land.
You are quite ignorant to generalize all Arabs and Muslims and their homicidal tendencies.

   08/01/12 11:16
I must strongly disagree with your comment. I am Arab and Jewish. Numerous times, Muslims in the Middle East, presumably mistaking me for a Muslim Arab, have said to me that the time will come when we can kill all the Jews and free the land. This is not an isolated sentiment. In fact, the Jews of Israel are viewed by the Muslim Arab world as invaders, who must be annihilated (not merely expelled from the region, but destroyed). It ties back to the culture argument - paraphrasing Golda Meir - Muslims hate Israelis more than they love their own children.

Theodore Toothman
   08/02/12 09:56
Somehow, you do not seem authentic. You just conveniently are a jew who happened to live in muslim lands and Israel both, and heard nothing bad about jews from muslims and nothing good about muslims from jews? I think you post with a forked tongue.

Vikram Gokhale
   08/01/12 08:41
Umm ... which Islamic culture has done well? They are all retrograde. Romney is right. The Jewish people excel in virtually every field - science, research, law, business, sports, academia, medicine, government - you name it. The muslim people (as a whole) have fallen far behind in virtually every sphere of human development.
Let's not shy away from the truth in the name of political correctness. Let's be honest and accept the reality for what it is. Only then can change even be possible.

Craig Perrier
   08/03/12 15:08
Romney is way off and so are you. Culture is not a packaged, static, essentialized unit that you get from birth. making broad claims about groups of people is over simplified, weak binary thinking.
As far as contibutions from Islamic people, see National Geographics new exhibit 1001 inventions.

   08/01/12 09:30
The Palestinians are their own worst enemy. They support leaders who have instituted a culture of death among them. Restrictions imposed on them by Israel are there to protect Israelis from this culture of death. If the Palestinians want peace and prosperity, they simply need to elect leaders who will eliminate this culture of death and accept the continued existence of the State of Israel. They have shown no desire to do that. So, they will continue to have restrictions placed on them that keep them in poverty. They can choose a better alternative, but perpetuation of their ancient hatred of Israel is more important to them. Israel is not to blame for the destructive Palestinian culture.

karl anglin
   08/02/12 18:08
Sometimes the culture of victimhood
is learned helplessness.

   08/01/12 11:47
You obviously are not familiar with either the past or present history of Arabs in the area of Israel, the West Bank or Gaza.

   08/01/12 12:53
Apparently you are also not familiar with Palestinian history. Fact: From 1967 to 2000 life expectancy in the West Bank and Gaza rose from 48 to 72. Fact: From 1967 to 2000, the Palestinian economy in both areas constituted the 4th fastest growing economy in the world (Just slightly behind Singapore). If you don't believe me, you are welcome to check the World Bank and UNDP reports for those years.

James Solbakken
   08/01/12 14:08
Everyone can now see how unintelligent you are because you failed to miss the point that it is not so much how the Israeli's treat the philistines, it is how the philistines treat each other, which happens to be horrible. I guess I'm the only one who remembers how Hamas guys shot Fatah guys in the head and threw them off the roofs as their method of electing new representatives. Why should the Israelis treat the philistines any better than the philistines treat themselves?

   08/01/12 21:54
It's always those darn Jooz making life hard for Palestinians without rationale except for hatred and racism, right?
Here's a clue sickle-swinger: once the Muzzies stop advocating for the extinction of Israel and lobbing missiles against civilians, the work of the IDF can relax. Until then, Israelis should do everything in their might to protect themselves against the irrational hatred borne of religious extremism.
Since the Olympics are relevant, do you recall what happened in Munich 1972? Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes in cold blood. Those peace-loving Gazans would do it again, every single day if they could, for no other reason than the Israelis are not Muslim. Their culture of violence, conquest, and anti-semitism is the sole reason for their predicament.

   08/01/12 23:02
"...the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity." And Israeli culture is one of some 60 years of choices to prosper at the expense of another people and culture through brutal military occupation, theft (of land, no less), and constructing physical and policy walls that leave the best chances for Palestinian prosperity as anywhere but in Palestine. Romney doesn't get it that this is precisely what his good 'ol pal Netenyoohoo and the rest of these Zionist thugs want. The irony is, that even when Palestinians from Gaza want to go and study abroad - in the US no less, Israel denies them transit. It denies them the opportunity to be educated, And, education is a key aspect of Palestinian culture and prosperity. Just not in Palestine. Israel sucks the prosperity of Palestine with is offensive and immoral tactics to insure Palestinians have no hope. And why, candidate Mittens, would you ever think to put another country's interests before your own country, before you know all the facts, and alienate the chances of peace for two, and an entire region. Israel has done nothing to help Palestinians. And even when we, and the rest of the world help Palestinians, Israel just bombs the water treatment plants or roads, and doesn't bother to clean up and rebuild. This, is Israeli culture. And if unchecked, it poses serious risks to itself, its neighbors, and peace in the world. No thanks, I'll take my chances with Obama who puts OUR interests above Israel!

   08/02/12 16:32
Please tell me you are sterile, and have no children.
Ignorance such as yours needs to be kicked out of the gene pool.

Wallace Brand
   08/02/12 12:01
Both Jews and Arabs are forced out of homes that were built without the proper authorization. But you have it backwards. It is the Jews who have been subject to the most numerous evictions. The Arabs appear to be favored with far fewer evictions. See: Steven Plaut, Zionist Conspiracy Blog.
Recently, Jews were forced out of homes built on private land for which Arabs claimed title. The claim was filed for them by a hard left organization. The Arab withdrew his claim before the Court ruled but the Supreme Court acted on the claim of a non governmental organization that the United States would have no standing to sue as it had no interest in the property. The Supreme Court decided it would not assess the validity of the claim because it was not a trial court and decided in favor of the eviction. It could have remanded the matter to a trial court to determine what the facts of ownership of title to the property actually were. It did not. It decided the Jews should be evicted. Google Israeli evictions in Migron and Ulpana for the details.

   07/31/12 22:54
No one is arguing against his point that culture matters. The problem is the context -- he was holding up Israel and Palestine for comparison, and given their long, intertwined history, it's simplistic and inaccurate to look at their "cultures" as the deterministic factor in their fortunes. You're absolutely right: Property rights are significant. Is that a cultural issue in the Palestinian territories? Or is it something that is impacted by external forces like, say... Israel?
I'm not picking sides, only saying that it's dishonest for Romney to pretend that he can simply talk about "culture" in isolation when he's comparing these two states.

   08/01/12 09:02
But he's not just talking about culture in the context of property rights. Culture is also about the choices you make. The Palestinians own founding charter vows to destroy Israel. The Palestinians have a history of violence and intolerance, most of which stems from their own culture as Arabs and their outcast status among their own people. When the culture that has developed is one of death and hate and destruction, you simply do not deserve the economic freedoms that allow your culture to prosper. The Israelis have thrived, surrounded by enemies, with a hostile group of squatters killing their citizens, and yet have still reached out the Palestinians on numerous occasions, to try for peace. But the peace will be and should be on Israeli terms- their culture is superior and is built on liberty, freedom and the awareness that only Israel is responsible for its own safety from enemies, both foreign and domestic.

   08/01/12 23:45
"The Palestinians own founding charter vows to destroy Israel." Huh? What are you talking about? I think you mean Hamas. And I think that is politicking to the base in response to the occupation. Hamas's 1988 charter calls for the "replacement of Israel". After the elections in 2006, Hamas did not rule out the possibility of accepting a "temporary two-state solution” and Hamas signaled in a legislative document saying that it could refer the issue of recognizing Israel to a national referendum. It has also been stated that a (palestinina) state within the 1967 borders and a truce for many years could be considered Hamas' de facto recognition of Israel.
But let's look at Israel for a moment. You mention "Violence" Look up the King David Hotel bombing and see about violence - terrorism against civilians by the precursor to today's Likud party. As for "intolerance" you contradict yourself in the last paragraph saying that "the peace will be and should be on Israeli terms". Now there's tolerance for ya. Israel is a nation state with no internationally recognized borders and no written constitution. It's all ad-hoc in Israel and I fail to see how this country came to be considered the only "democracy" in the Middle East. Lebanon had a chance, until Israel attacked in 2006 (opening the door for Hezbollah) and with disproportionality only trumped by Israel against Gaza in 2008-9. Israel is the antithesis of the modern, pluralistic nation state.

   08/01/12 09:38
If Palestine didn't hate Israel so much that it is literally willing to use its own children as bullets and weapons, it wouldn't be mired in poverty.
If Israel hated Germany more than it loved its own children, it would have behaved like Palestine has behaved - steeped in grievance to the point of neglecting one's own people.
Any culture that uses Sesame Street-like television shows to teach its children how to be good weapons against the enemy is a culture that is dying from a disease from within. Israel suddenly committing suicide just to make Palestine happy would not cure what ails Palestine.

Dennis H
   08/01/12 09:59
I submit that the differences between the Israeli and Palistinian cultures are not only a valid topic for discussion, but a vivid illustration of the differences between a modern culture based on individual rights, equality, and freedom, and a theocratic culture stuck in the 7th century.

Steve Albertson
   08/02/12 01:06

   08/01/12 16:23
You appear to have mis-read Romney's references to culture and how it impacts the prosperity of any group. The main feature of culture he selected as the one with the greatest impact on the resulting prosperity of that culture was freedom of the individual.
I think he "nailed it" - meaning his assessment was spot-on.
Sure, there are many factors and variables that go into what the lives of individuals living within a given society are like - both external and internal factors. But when you want to build a society that has the opportunity for the individual to prosper, your best bet is to include freedom of the individual and the Rule of Law that applies equally to all individuals within that society (should apply equally, anyway - its not a perfect world, is it?) in your basic, foundational structure.
Aside from his mention of North & South Korea, along with East & West Germany, (who both have long, deeply intertwined histories), he used the prosperity of Israel as juxtaposed against their nearest neighbors, their cousins, the Palestinians, as another demonstration of how differences in individual freedom make a difference in the lives of individuals and, ultimately, their prosperity.
That was the point of his article and I believe he illustrated it very well.

No comments:

Post a Comment