August 9: It’s a free market

Is it possible for tiny Israel to have a freemarket economy without monopolies?

It’s a free market
Sir, – Two of my favorite columnists, Caroline B. Glick (“The media revolutionaries,” Our World, August 2) and Michael Freund (“Israel’s misguided revolution, Fundamentally Freund, August 4), sorely disappointed me last week. Both blindly praised the free-market system in their critical responses to the current social protests taking place across Israel.
Similarly, Uri Savir (“A new deal for Israel?,” Savir’s Corner, August 5) stressed that we must have a free-market economy, with an end to monopolies.
Likewise the Likud, as well as Kadima.
The question I have not seen addressed is whether it is possible for tiny Israel to have a freemarket economy without monopolies.
Israel is an extremely small market without much room for competition. Furthermore, Israel is essentially a small island in the midst of a sea. We have no cross-border trade, so a competitor cannot simply truck or train products across borders to compete, but must ship them across the sea.
Are we simply too small of an economy to rely on free-trade to protect the consumers from irrationally high prices without governmental protection? Before we Likud advocates commit to a totally free economy, this question must be effectively answered.

Sir, – Maybe the problem is that folks don’t understand what a free-market economy is. You don’t need to buy a bottle of chocolate milk at NIS 20. Make the chocolate milk yourself for a quarter of the cost. If enough people are like-minded and refuse to pay the price, the price will go down – as with rentals in Tel Aviv.
It’s the youth themselves who caused the rise. Ten people, all willing to pay whatever exorbitant rent the landlord requests – why shouldn’t he raise the rent? I am also middle class but I live within my means. If I don’t have the money I don’t buy. I save up first. This generation wants it all, and right now. It reminds me of spoiled kids crying in the mall.
Yes, the cost of living has gone up but we, the public, are to blame. If we refuse to buy when the price is high, the cost of living will go down.
Petah Tikva
Sir, – It seems the path the people who are demonstrating for “social justice” want Israel to take is the path leading to Athens, Madrid, Lisbon and Rome.
Though there is good reason for the frustration that exists among the middle class and young, demanding free this and free that is not constructive.
Instead, markets that are currently controlled by an oligarchy that forces the consumer to pay more and get less should be open to free competition. Land that is controlled by the government must be made available for development and low-cost housing with tax incentives. These are the type of demands that should be made, along with cost studies and time tables.
Populism rarely succeeds. If Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street becomes another Tahrir Square, the results may unfortunately be the same.
Israel has become an economic miracle that needs refinement, but not destruction. The demonstrators must be careful, for they may get what they wish for.

New York/Ra’anana
Sir, – Do the owners of our supermarkets take us for complete fools? Having seen the sales of cottage and white cheese decline when the dairy protest was at its height, they generously reduced prices to bring back customers while still presumably making a profit. Yet the other day I found that the price of cottage cheese had risen to close to its preprotest price, and the white cheese from NIS 11.99 to NIS 13.45.
Surely, this was not through government intervention.

So many zeros
Sir, – Wow! A 300,000-person protest! That’s a lot (“Protest draws 300,000 in largest show of force yet, August 7). And in Jerusalem 30,000! I suppose that’s a lot, too.
And what does Bibi do? He’s appointing a group of his friends to “check out” the protest, as if there’s a doubt! Surely, if 300,000 people turn out to protest, this must be something very, very important.
Yes, Mr. Prime Minister, this is real. As real as it gets. No need for experts, just do something.
Give people the sense you really care!

Instinctive solidarity
Sir, – Writing as a resident of the periphery and as a doctor whose strikes have been continuing for over 130 days, I believe I can reflect some of the thoughts of my colleagues and community.
We feel instinctive solidarity with the frustration given vent and voice – so ineloquently – by the tent city people, who know what they dislike but struggle to articulate it coherently and fail to provide any rational or realistic analysis. Slogans are not solutions.
Likewise, journalists have so far failed, in my opinion, to grasp the message of the hour. Endless discussions about the free market, government involvement and brainless bureaucracy are akin to the physician treating pneumonia with Acamol. These are mere symptoms.
It is the root cause of our condition that must be sought and addressed – and that is a dysfunctional state governed by an antiquated and outmoded political process. This is the heart of the crisis.
The protest movement, indeed the whole people, should arise as one with one demand: new politics and a new political system.
Electoral reform and political reform, these are the imperatives of our times. Nothing less will do.

Rosh Pina
Sir, – To offset the bias of the media promoting the nebulous “social justice” agenda of the demonstrators, it would have been helpful had you more prominently featured the August 5 column by Martin Sherman (“Come to the carnival, comrade!,” Into the Fray) depicting the attitudes of the other side, the thousands of Israelis who do not choose to take to the streets.


Not the time
Sir, – It looks like the majority of the people who are protesting in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities expect Israel to become a socially progressive country like Norway.
There is, in principle, nothing wrong with that. The only problem is that Norway has vast oil revenues and is not surrounded by incredibly hostile neighbors.
The truth is that at this stage, Israel cannot afford guns and butter simultaneously.
Actually, and considering the circumstances, Israelis are doing quite well from an economic point of view. Any social protest should be deferred until the survival of the country is no longer at stake.
Villahermosa, Mexico

Not totally broke
Sir, – I find it amazing that people who don’t have money for housing seem to have money for cigarettes! In “The hopeful homeless” (Editor’s Notes, August 5), we hear about Oshrit Ben-David, 28, a mother of two who declares, “We are all homeless.”
Then we are told about a “long drag” she takes on a her cigarette as she scolds someone who interrupted her.
It seems to me that it would behoove the press to begin looking into the backgrounds of these protesters and find out who is truly in need of help and who simply does not know or care how to prioritize the money at their disposal.
I am less inclined to be sympathetic to those who have money to burn (literally) instead of using it for more necessary things.