Fundamentally Freund: Israel’s misguided revolution

Rather than relying on rational decisions, protesters instead prefer to put power in the hands of nameless, faceless, coffee-slurping bureaucrats.

South Tel Aviv tent city 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
South Tel Aviv tent city 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The sight of Israel’s youth taking to the streets to protest against the established order has captured the public imagination.
With their simple tents and simplistic demands, the protesters have touched a chord in society, evoking widespread popular support and terrifying the politicians.
It is, the media would have us believe, an Israeli Les Miserables moment – one where the downtrodden and exploited storm the barricades of injustice, seeking to reshape society and correct its inequities.
The only thing missing is an Andrew Lloyd Weber soundtrack and the revolution would nearly be complete.
But don’t let all the drama fool you. Israel’s wouldbe revolutionaries are as misguided as they are naïve. Giving in to their motley assortment of demands will not contribute one iota to making this country a better place.
Now don’t get me wrong: the object of their anger is right on target. There is no reason why the Israeli consumer should be taken advantage of every time he fills his tank, purchases dairy products or makes a down payment on an apartment.
But the sad fact is that the solutions the protesters seek would only aggravate the very problems they are trying to solve.
As Haaretz reported on Tuesday, the protesters would like the government to get back into the business of housing construction, impose price controls on rental apartments, and compel contractors to build “affordable housing.”
In other words, they want still more governmental intrusion into our lives and daily affairs, as though that is the missing piece of the puzzle.
Their fundamental error is glaring. The protesters assume that when there is a problem in society, the best way to solve it is to turn to the government.
But government is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. Anyone who has been to a government office lately, or had any dealings with Israel’s vaunted bureaucracy, can see that quite readily.
Rather than relying on the millions of rational decisions made by millions of our fellow citizens – which are what make up the free market – the protesters instead prefer to put the power in the hands of nameless, faceless, coffee-slurping bureaucrats.
Frankly, I don’t want some clerk tinkering with the pricing mechanisms of the market and dictating what people should charge, and neither should anyone else. Does our government really function so efficiently that they can be entrusted with such power?
Moreover, there is simply no reason for the public sector to get involved in constructing “affordable housing” or anything else, for that matter.
Dissatisfied with the present situation, The protesters seem to be under the illusion that this enchanted entity known as “the government” can just step in and foot the bill.
But as anyone who has studied even 10 minutes’ worth of economics can tell you, the truth is that the ones who will be paying are you, me and all the other Israeli households.
Naturally, both the Israeli and international media have had a field day with all this, going so far as to compare it to the unrest that has swept various Arab countries.
But this isn’t the green Arab spring, it’s the red Socialist summer!
It’s not an attempt to throw off the suffocating chains of overbearing government. Rather, it is a drive to make the bureaucratic Leviathan even larger.
The United States is undergoing its own revolution, with large majorities seeking to cut government down to size because they realize that less government = more prosperity. Why on Earth are we trying to go in the other direction?
The protesters and the left-wing movements that stand behind them know that labeling their program ‘socialist’ won’t sell; these days, socialism is so passé. So they now call it “social justice.” But it is just more of the same thing. They want to redistribute wealth by taking from one sector and giving to another, in the process promoting class warfare and envy. There is nothing “just” about that.
Government, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, is the problem, not the solution. Israel’s challenge is not that we have too little government – we have far too much of it.
What the protesters should be demanding is a reduction in red tape, greater privatization and a smaller public sector. This country is blessed with so much brainpower, initiative and entrepreneurial energy that if its government would just get out of the way, the economy would take off.
I have no doubt the protesters mean well, and their hearts are in the right place, even if the political Left is exploiting them to try and revive their diminished fortunes. But their demands are simply inane, and it’s time for the tent-dwellers to realize that the best a society can hope to achieve is equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.
True “social justice” emanates not from government nor even from societies. It comes from the virtue and generosity of each and every one of us.
I think Thomas Paine was correct when he wrote, more than 200 years ago, that “We have it within our power to begin the world over again.”
By all means, let’s revolutionize Israel and its government. Not by expanding its reach into our lives, but by finally cutting it down to size.
The writer is Chairman of Shavei Israel (, a Jerusalem-based organization that assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people.