A healthy dose of skepticism

September 19, 2007 21:35

If Israelis are losing faith in government politicians and their spinmeisters, all the better.

4 minute read.

A healthy dose of skepticism

olmert 298.88. (photo credit: AP)

If, in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, there is a silver lining in the political cloud enveloping us, it is that people have learned not to blindly trust the government or its politicians. The war finally revealed - and at what terrible cost - that our politicians are neither saints nor even caring "parents," whose chief concern is the welfare of their children, the citizens. Government was exposed for what it usually becomes, when left unchecked: an unstable and harmful institution, a coalition of convenience among quarrelsome self-serving cynics, some corrupt. They exploited our childlike trust in their ability to deliver on pre-election promises, instead wasting our hard-earned (and heavily-taxed) money to bolster their power and privilege, sometimes at the cost of our ruin. SHOULD THIS sea change in public perception and expectations of government gain strength it might finally liberate us from years of indoctrination in our universities by post-modernist and neo-Marxist professors. They made our elites believe in ill-defined and ill-conceived utopian ideals, and inculcated them with intolerance for alternative views. Consciously and subliminally our elites were made to believe that government is the sole vehicle for messianic social transformation, for the attainment of "social justice" and the quick elimination of poverty. Perhaps the deflation of such false expectations will make us wary when types like Ehud Olmert, Haim Ramon or Ronnie Bar-On, with their facilitators and spin-doctors, try to sell us peace plans or welfare programs whose consequences can prove as dangerous as their past records indicate. Healthy skepticism may immunize us to the poison spread by the spin-doctors. Their lies and innuendos have been destroying the little good that remains in public life, so that no alternative survives capable of defeating the dastardly candidates the spinners manipulate like marionettes. These spin-doctors are already sharpening their knives in preparation for the next elections, when they will again "try to murder" - as they put it in the eye-opening documentary All the Campaign's Men - any decent candidates who stand in their way. OUR NEW-found skepticism may also help the public dismiss the preposterous claims of Olmert, former finance minister Avraham Hirchson, and current Finance Minister Bar-On that they are the ones responsible for current economic prosperity. We remember how these politicians did everything in their power - the full story is yet to be told - to undermine the bold financial market reforms then being launched by finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Since we now know how trustworthy they are, we have reason to be wary of their promises to foster peace and eliminate poverty. Their peace moves have so far resulted in the abandonment of the citizens of Sderot. The peace talks they advance, with no real mandate from the people, seem like PR exercises designed to bolster their dismal public standing, even at very high cost to Israel's security. Their anti-poverty programs and the Negev and Galilee development schemes they hatch have in the past funneled billions into the pockets of corrupt politicians and their constituencies. They have enriched the cabal of families whose monopolistic firms dominate the Israeli economy, pillaging the Israeli consumer. After wasting billions of taxpayer shekels, these schemes have done little to improve the lot of the periphery or of poorer Israelis. They have arguably made it worse. THERE IS hope that the phenomenal performance of the economy will finally make Israelis realize the crucial role it plays in their lives. Once this is internalized, they may vote next time, not for another Mr. Security father figure, but for those who will continue vital reforms that will have a dramatic effects on public and private life. Our next elected representatives had better be good. Formidable tasks face them. Financial markets - whose partial liberation from the ruinous bank duopoly delivered such spectacular growth - will have to be protected from the bankers' incessant attempts to whittle them down. At least two other major factors in the Israeli economy, land and labor markets, will also have to be reformed. The government's land monopoly and the monopoly of the regulating authorities and of the building industry are not only cesspools of corruption. They are also major drags on economic growth. They delay by years, and make extremely costly, not only housing but also industrial construction. They impoverish young Israeli families who have to mortgage their life-savings to buy a small apartment. Talented and dedicated Israeli workers cannot manage to raise their productivity above half that of American workers, or get paid a decent wage, enabling them to make ends meet. Productivity and wages are so low because our labor markets are perverted by a Histadrut representing voracious public monopoly unions who enjoy inflated salaries and huge perks at the expense of all other workers and the unemployed. So if we manage in the coming year to use our new-found skepticism to good purpose and tackle these iniquities, the year to come will indeed be a happy one. The writer is director of The Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, an independent policy think tank at www.icsep.org.il

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