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I think the Amish are others who are able to create a society with a social net. They reject most government help (they are not part of social security system)but do create a form of private insurance for members. Since they define themselves based on a faith that requires some social isolation, they fall back unto their own resources.

While Amish society has many problems(genetic problems, under-reporting family abuse, wasting human potential, women have secondary stature, etc) their religious faith creates bonds that have survived longer then the kibbutz system.

It is not a life I would choose, but it is a semi-socialist system that is able to survive within the larger culture.

They seem to encourage entrepreneurial activity (construction, furniture, lumber, tourist trade) and I think they allow the retention of farm profits to overcome free rider problems. Although displaying the material gains of these profits are discouraged.

As far as the families ties go, the Amish seem to reject the notion that family ties are inimical to communal ordering. Of course child labor is a valuable resource for many Amish families. (Perhaps Judge Posner is talking about how communal the communal is.)

All these groups seem to be willing to accept a great deal of control from a ruling center based on some deeply held core belief.


I always thought the Kibbutz system demonstrated the inherent superiority of the capitalist system with respect to individual preference vs the compulsion and coercion of communist systems.

For in a system of free-enterprise, free markets, and freedom of contract, a group of individuals who believe in the superiority of socialist living can, with only a few reasonable limitations, simply elect to pool their resources and labor and voluntarily form a collectivist community within the greater system.

The competitive pressures of the external capitalist environment provide the incentive for adaptation, improvement, and reform on the kibbutz - and it is the force-imposed resistance to these changes which dooms the populations of doctrine-obsessed communist governments to their frequent sorrow.


I share Judge Posner's wonderment at "the mysterious Jewish enthusiasm for communist and socialist movements," which history shows are often dedicated to the extinction of Jews.


Posner concludes: "Probably, then, human beings have both collectivism and individualism in the genes, enabling us to adapt both to environments in which collectivism is welfare-promoting and environments in which individualism is welfare-promoting."

Aha! And THE problem is finding the right balance and getting the terms right.

Recently a short article "asked" why we seem to have a "good Samaritan gene" or why one soldier would fall on a grenade to protect others he's know only since boot camp. The answer, or speculation, was that tribes having brave members who would sacrifice their safety for the tribe survived over those lacking such members.

Bad capitalism runs on pure "Gordon Gecko" greed and doing the least for the most return, good capitalism combines a pride in craftsmanship and giving good value for one's return. Let's hope we can return to the latter. Jack


It's interesting that the two examples in this thread -- the Amish and Kibbutz -- only survive in nations such as the United States, Canada and Israel.

Were/are there examples of other societies such as the Kibbutz and Amish in other nations, specifically communist nations? My gut tells me these went the way of the Kulaks. It's telling that the Amish, for example, are extinct in Europe...

George M


You have left out a major motivating force in Kibbutz work. Traditional farms in Palestine hired local labor as farm workers. Kibbutz were "self-reliant" which meant no local farm workers were hired. Meaning the owners of the farm were Jewish, mostly European, and no Arabs (Christian or Muslim) were hired. It would be analogous to buying land in Oaxaca state and refusing to hire Mexicans. It obviously was not the most cost effective way to run the business; efficiency was not the goal.


To Joe:

The initial idea for the Israeli Kibbutz was the Russian, Kolkhoz, but there was also the Chinese People's Commune, the Tanzanian Ujamaa, and the Mexican Ejido.

To Richard Posner (and Becker):

Children in the Kibbutz grew away from their parents for a reason. Many ideas for the Kibbutz were burrowed from the Russian Kolkhoz. At that time it was common, in Russia, for grandparents to rear the kids while the parents were working. This idea was expanded in the Kibbutz: have the kids reared by a professional educator.



If you read the writings of St Paul to the early Christians he warned them to be vigilant and to keep themselves away from the corrupting influences of other groups.

This need to be isolated from an outside enemy and to turn inward for protection seems to be a part of many of these collectives. Of course the cost, in terms of opportunities lost, only become clearer with time. Often when the outside danger fades the cost of the sacrifices are reevaluated.

Clearly some people will continue to make sacrifices to join a group that shares some values. Catholic priest and nuns still accept their calling. Some people are attracted to a socialist lifestyle. But as other have mentioned, trying to recruit people to share your vision is very different from using force to impose it.

Big Ben

I suggest that Professor Becker and Judge Posner devote one of their exchanges to this "mysterious Jewish enthusiasm for Communist and Socialist movements."
I have several suggestions:
- Reform, Reconstructionist and Humanistic Jews would vote strong majorities against Communism and Socialism, and strong majorities in favor of high tax rates, high federal and state spending and a vigorous regulatory environment;
- No one at shul ever discusses the difference between Tzedakah with your own money and Tzedakah with money gathered through taxes;
- I speculate that the Orthodox would vote against higher taxes and spending, but be willing to accept money for faith based initiatives and similar programs;
- Much of it may go back to the 1930's and the New Deal, when FDR apparently won the Jewish vote for Democrats for several generations to come.


Ben sez: "I speculate that the Orthodox would vote against higher taxes and spending, but be willing to accept money for faith based initiatives and similar programs;"

........... Ben who do you think they would be willing to accept money from??? The Government?

I find it a bit "curious" not to mention a tad edgy in Constitutional terms to raise money (by force) from taxpayers and have politicians dole it out to those religious groups who strike their fancy.

Rather than have a dollar make that costly round trip to DC and back again, wouldn't it be far more efficient (and legal) to raise money for "faith-based" programs through the faith-based institution?

(BTW the "accounting" of the Bush admin's faith based slush fund seems quite vague.) Jack

Big Ben

Jack - Indeed, the faith based money would come from the taxpayers via Washington. Most effective Trojan horse ever.


The main reason children aren't raised communally in Kibbutzes is the Westermarck effect: the biological mechanism that prevents incest works by making people sexually unattractive to those with whom they were raised. Children raised together in a kibbutz would be unable to marry one another.


Ben: Does your reply mean that you think taking money from all so that pols in DC can give it to churches they favor is A. Good policy? B. A fine example of Constitutional government? C. Likely to be an efficient use of scarce resources? D. Better used to reduce the massive D E B T?

Also, Is your answer likely to change with the change of of the Admin? Thanks, Jack

Big Ben

Yo Jack - Good questions and I answer "no" to all of them. Ben


Ben, Great, other than "missing" D you seem to be among the very scarce "principled" conservatives on this one. What DO you guys think about pawning off $Nine $Trillion, and counting, of D E B T to those coming behind us? Jack


Whoops!! In our checking on the health of our "capitalism" and its ability to "compete" in the global economy, I've been using the, outdated, trade deficit figure of $600 billion, but it's over $505 Billion tonite with several months to go. Looks like $700 billion plus will be a cake walk! Geez our deficit is getting nearly as large as Mexico's entire GDP!

BTW The D E B T clock topped the $9 TRILLION mark this week too! $ 9 , 0 1 1 , 5 9 8 , 5 9 3 , 0 8 7 . 4 3 Champagne anyone? Jack


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