Saturday, August 20, 2011
those tent protesters whining about "piggish capitalism" and yearning
for "Scandinavian socialism" when what they really want is free
handouts, rent controls with the housing in consequential shortage
being granted to them, and a comfortable standard of living without
having to work too hard. And then, when Israeli leftists denounce
the "occupation," insist that the "occupation" is the root of all
evil, demand an end to the "occupation," what do they REALLY mean?
What they all really mean when they demand an end to the "occupation"
is the duplication of Gaza to the West Bank.
Once they end the "occupation," events like those near Eilat last
week will be daily events in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
2. You might have seen that famous movie "The Terminal" with Tom
Hanks, where the character played by Hanks gets stuck in an airport in
limbo for a long period, living there, because of bureaucratic idiocy.
Well, that ain't nothing compared to what Israel's pointy-headed
bureaucrats are capable of doing!
I thought that the following story is probably the best
illustration of what is REALLY wrong with Israeli economic policy.
As you know, there are a handful of Jews still in Yemen, and every
once in a while a few manage to get out quietly. Well, according to
the weekly "Shvi'i" this week, a religious magazine, one such Yemenite
Jew named Yosef Hamadi managed to make it all the way to Ben Gurion
Airport near Tel Aviv from Yemen. The problem was that the local
Israeli customs officials wanted to refuse to allow him in. Why?
Because Hamadi had brought with him a Torah Scroll from Yemen, and
there are high tariffs or import taxes on Torah scrolls brought into
Israel, probably to protect the wages of the local Sofrim. There are
also high import taxes on food, designed to make it expensive for
Israelis to eat, and on some construction materials, making it
expensive to build housing.
In fact, the new arrival from Yemen almost played Tom Hanks. He
was ordered to pay 7200 NIS in customs taxes to bring the scroll in
with him. Otherwise the scroll would be blocked from entering, as
would be he, unless he left it behind. Israel, you see, still has a
mercantilist 18th century set of policies from before the British Corn
Laws governing imports. These contribute to the high cost of living
and the perpetuation of monopolies and cartels inside of Israel and
even to the gross distortion of the exchange value of the shekel.
Eventually Gilad Mizrachi, the Deputy Minister of the Environment
in Israel, personally paid the import tax so that the Torah scroll and
its owner could enter Israel.
3. Remember when the slogan that summed up the American elections and
the collapse of the Republican Party at the end of the Bush
administration was, "It's the economy, stupid."
Well, I wish I could take credit for this quip, but I think the best
comment so far on the Woodstock on the Yarkon tent protests in Tel
Aviv is in the column by Uri Elitzur in Makor Rishon this weekend. He
describes how he would sum up the tentster protests if he were writing
a memo to Manuel Trachtenberg, the head of the committee on "social
change" appointed by Netanyahu to try to buy off the tentsters.
Trachtenberg is a professor of economics, with specialization in the
economics of technology. Elitzur sums up the tent protests with the
quip, "It's the stupid people, economist!"
4. There is one other item in this weekend's Makor Rishon which I
wish I had written. Actually it is written by Rabbi Haim Navon. He
is mocking the tentster protesters and their demands. He suggests
that in the next round of protests they issue a series of demands
related to the hot summers in Israel. According to Navon, these
1. A law that limits how hot it can get in Israel in August.
2. In order to make productive use of solar energy Israel needs to
destroy all settlements in the West Bank at once and replace them with
large solar panels.
3. Israel will officially cut July and August down to 15 days each
and insert a new month in between them – the month of chill and
4. All factories in the Israeli periphery that emit pollution will be
converted into igloo manufacturers.
5. Tens of thousands of igloos will be distributed for free to
Israelis living in hardship, especially to Negev Bedouin squatters
living illegally on lands that do not belong to them.
6. Since greenhouse gases are causing global warming, all Israeli
power plants will be shut down in August, making it a cooler month.
7. Being realists, the protesters understand that Israel would still
need a source of power and so they are proposing that it be generated
by conscripting tens of thousands of unemployed Israelis and assigning
them to peddling stationary bike exercise machines attached to a
generator to generate electricity, while earning high wages
8. Every Israeli citizen will receive an organic air conditioner unit
that generates its own energy with compost and love.
9. The government will be asked to provide subsidized air tickets for
young Israelis wishing to go to cooler countries in August.
10. And the most important way to make August cooler is to get rid of
Bibi and his government.