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by George Gilder


Israel has become one of the most important economies in the world, and is second only to the United States in its pioneering of technologies benefitting human life, prosperity, and peace.

Israel Is Hated Not For Her Vices But Her Virtues.

Like the Jews throughout history, Israel poses a test to the world. In particular, it is a test for any people that lusts for the fruits of capitalism without submitting to capitalism's imperious moral code. Because capitalism, like the biblical faith from which it largely arises, remorselessly condemns to darkness and death those who resent the achievements of others.

At the heart of anti-Semitism is resentment of Jewish achievement. Today that achievement is concentrated in Israel. Obscured by the usual media coverage of the "war-torn" Middle East, Israel has become one of the most important economies in the world, second only to the United States in its pioneering of technologies benefiting human life, prosperity, and peace.

But so it has always been. Israel, like the Jews throughout history, is hated not for her vices but her virtues. Israel is hated, as the United States is hated, because Israel is successful, because Israel is free, and because Israel is good.

As Maxim Gorky put it: "Whatever nonsense the anti-Semites may talk, they dislike the Jew only because he is obviously better, more adroit, and more capable of work than they are." Whether driven by culture or genes — or like most behavior, an inextricable mix — the fact of Jewish genius is demonstrable. It can be gainsaid only by people who do not expect to be believed.

Charles Murray distilled the evidence in Commentary magazine in April 2007.[1] The Jewish mean intelligence quotient is 110, ten points above the norm. This strikingly higher average intelligence, however, is not the decisive factor in overall Jewish achievement.

The three-tenths of 1 percent of the world population that is Jewish has contributed some 25 percent of notable human intellectual accomplishment in the modern period.

What matters in human accomplishment is not the average performance but the treatment of exceptional performance and the cultivation of genius. The commanding lesson of Jewish accomplishment is that genius trumps everything else. Whatever the cause of high IQ, as Murray explains, "the key indicator for predicting exceptional accomplishment (like winning a Nobel Prize) is the incidence of exceptional intelligence... The proportion of Jews with IQs of 140 or higher is somewhere around six times the proportion of everyone else" and rises at still higher IQs.

The great error of contemporary social thought is that poverty must result from "discrimination" or "exploitation." Because Jews tend to be overrepresented at the pinnacles of excellence, a dogmatic belief that nature favors equal outcomes fosters hostility to capitalism and leads inexorably to anti-Semitism.

The socialists and anti-Semites have it backwards. Poverty needs little explanation. It has been the usual condition of nearly all human beings throughout all history. What is precious and in need of explanation and nurture is the special configuration of cultural and intellectual aptitudes and practices — the differences, the inequalities — that under some rare and miraculous conditions have produced wealth for the world. Inequality is the answer, not the problem.

In his book Human Accomplishment[2] Murray focused on the fact that the three-tenths of 1 percent of the world population that is Jewish has contributed some 25 percent of notable human intellectual accomplishment in the modern period. Murray cites the historical record:

In the first half of the twentieth century, despite pervasive and continuing social discrimination against Jews throughout the Western world, despite the retraction of legal rights, and despite the Holocaust, Jews won 14 percent of Nobel Prizes in literature, chemistry, physics, and medicine/physiology.

He then proceeds to more recent data:

In the second half of the twentieth century, when Nobel Prizes began to be awarded to people from all over the world, that figure [of Jews awarded Nobel Prizes] rose to 29 percent. So far in the twenty-first century, it has been 32 percent.

The achievements of modern science are heavily the expression of Jewish genius and ingenuity. If 26 percent of Nobel Prizes do not suffice to make the case, it is confirmed by 51 percent of Wolf Prizes in Physics, 28 percent of the Max Planck Medailles, 38 percent of the Dirac Medals, 37 percent of the Heineman Prizes for Mathematical Physics, and 53 percent of the Enrico Fermi Awards.

Jews are not only superior in abstruse intellectual pursuits, such as quantum physics and nuclear science, however. They are also heavily overrepresented among entrepreneurs of the technology businesses that lead and leaven the global economy. Social psychologist David McClelland, author of The Achieving Society,[3] found that entrepreneurs are identified by a greater "need for achievement" than are other groups. "There is little doubt," he concluded, explaining the disproportionate representation of Jews among entrepreneurs, that in the United States, "the average need for achievement among Jews is higher than for the general population."

"Need for achievement" alone, however, will not enable a person to start and run a successful technological company. That takes a combination of technological mastery, business prowess, and leadership skills that is not evenly distributed even among elite scientists and engineers. Edward B. Roberts of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School compared MIT graduates who launched new technological companies with a control group of graduates who pursued other careers. The largest factor in predicting an entrepreneurial career in technology was an entrepreneurial father. Controlling for this factor, he discovered that Jews were five times more likely to start technological enterprises than other MIT graduates.

For all its special features and extreme manifestations, anti-Semitism is a reflection of the hatred toward successful middlemen, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, lenders, bankers, financiers, and other capitalists that is visible everywhere whenever an identifiable set of outsiders outperforms the rest of the population in the economy. This is true whether the offending excellence comes from the Kikuyu in Kenya; the Ibo and the Yoruba in Nigeria; the overseas Indians and whites in Uganda and Zimbabwe; the Lebanese in West Africa, South America, and around the world; the Parsis in India; the Indian Gujaratis in South and East Africa; the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire; and above all the more than 30 million overseas Chinese in Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Capitalism overthrows theories of zero-sum economics and dog-eat-cat survival of the fittest. Thus, as in the United States (outside the academic arena), anti-Semitism withers in wealthy capitalist countries. It waxes in socialist regimes where Jews may arouse resentment by their agility in finding economic niches among the interstices of bureaucracies, tax collections, political pork fests, and crony capitalism.

Socialist or feudal systems, particularly when oil-rich and politically controlled, favor a conspiratorial view of history and economics. Anti-Semitism is chiefly a zero-sum disease.

As Walter Lippmann eloquently explained in The Good Society,[4] capitalism opened a vista of mutually enriching enterprise with the good fortune of others creating opportunities for all. The Golden Rule was transformed from an idealistic vision of heaven into a practical agenda. From Poor Richard's Almanack to rich Andrew Carnegie's autobiographical parables, all were rediscovering the edifying insights of the author of Proverbs.

Judaism, perhaps more than any other religion, favors capitalist activity and provides a rigorous moral framework for it. It is based on a monotheistic affirmation that God is good and will prevail through transcending envy and hatred and zero-sum fantasies. Judaism can be plausibly interpreted as affirming the possibilities of creativity and collaboration on the frontiers of a capitalist economy.

The incontestable facts of Jewish excellence constitute a universal test not only for anti-Semitism but also for liberty and the justice of the civil order. The success or failure of Jews in a given country is the best index of its freedoms. In any free society, Jews will tend to be represented disproportionately in the highest ranks of both its culture and its commerce. Americans should celebrate the triumphs of Jews on our shores as evidence of the superior freedoms of the U.S. economy and culture.

The real case for Israel is as the leader of human civilization, technological progress, and scientific advance.

In a dangerous world, faced with an array of perils, the Israel test asks whether the world can suppress envy and recognize its dependence on the outstanding performance of relatively few men and women. The world does not subsist on zero-sum legal niceties. It subsists on hard and possibly reversible accomplishments in technology, pharmacology, science, engineering, and enterprise. It thrives not on reallocating land and resources but on releasing human creativity in a way that exploits land and resources most productively. The survival of humanity depends on recognizing excellence wherever it appears and nurturing it until it prevails. It relies on a vanguard of visionary creators on the frontiers of knowledge and truth. It depends on passing the Israel test.

Israel is the pivot, the axis, the litmus, the trial. Are you for civilization or barbarism, life or death, wealth or envy? Are you an exponent of excellence and accomplishment or of a leveling creed of frenzy and hatred?






EDITOR'S NOTE: George Gilder has written a later essay entitled "How market capitalism saved the Jewish state," in which he explores in detail Israel's very creative advances in innovative technologies. Instead of succumbing to the romance of the socialist kibbutz, he writes of the freeing of Israel's creative spirit when it was able to bypass Israel's deadhand socialist bureaucracy and practice capitalism. It has become a world leader in marketing these new technologies. You can read this article here. If that is unavailable, there's a copy here.

UPDATE: Gilder: "The Israel Test in Ten Questions," August 25, 2009,
( the-israel-test-in-ten-questio.php).

1) What does it mean to pass the Israel Test?

You must admire and emulate those who surpass you in achievement and excellence rather than envying them and resenting them and trying to tear them down.

2) This is a moralism applying to everyone. Why do you focus on the Jews?

Throughout the 20th century, the world's tiny minority of Jews has led the world in excellence and achievement, whether measured in Nobel Prizes, fundamental inventions, or wealth creation. Thus they arouse the envy and resentment of anti-Semites, who fail what I call their Israel test.

3) But what does this have to do with Israel as a country?

Israel now concentrates the genius of the Jews. Of all the nations in the world, Israel ranks first in per capita achievement and excellence, whether measured by technological innovation, venture capital investment, share of GDP produced by high tech companies, scientific papers, or numbers of companies on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Most of that is per capita. But even more impressive, Israel ranks second only to the U.S. in absolute terms in such fields as telecom, microchips, software, biotech, medical instruments, and clean-tech. Anti-Zionism today is just another form of the anti-Semitism of the past, resenting excellence and achievement.

4) This "achievement" and "excellence" all seems to come down to measures of capitalist wealth. But doesn't much wealth come at the expense of the poor and the environment? Wasn't Israel launched as a socialist country attempting to escape the economics of selfishness, greed, and imperialism?

The golden rule of capitalism is that the good fortune of others is also your own. Israel's creativity and entrepreneurship has opened opportunities for others around the world, particularly in the United States. For just one of many examples, the world leading American microchip company Intel Corporation has been so deeply dependent on Israeli research and development centers and factories that its products should be stamped Israel Inside.

Until Israel transcended its socialist beginnings, though, it failed to achieve real wealth and power. It was heavily dependent on help from outside. As a socialist country it might well not have survived.

Socialism — whether in Russia, Hungary, or Germany--has always been a disaster for Jews. Socialism focuses on gaps rather than on achievements; on equalizing excellence rather than nurturing it. Historically, equalizing excellence has meant beating down and restricting the achievements of Jews.

5) If Israel is so creative and generous why does it have to exploit and oppress the Arab Palestinians?

The Arab Palestinians are the greatest single beneficiaries of Israel. Between 1967 and 1991, for example, when Israel inherited the territories after Arabs rejected offers of land for peace after the 1967 war, the West Bank and Gaza were world leaders in economic growth. Their GDP and investment rose by close to 30 percent per year for more than two decades. During this period the territories grew far faster than Israel itself, which was still bogged down in socialism.

6) But didn't all these statistical gains come from a brutal process of occupation and settlement, displacing Arabs from their homes and farms?

During this period from 1967 to 1991, the total number of Israeli settlers was 250 thousand, while new Arab settlers numbered close to 2 million, or at least eight times more. So there was no net displacement at all. Quite the opposite. Israeli investments in infrastructure, electrification, irrigation, healthcare, education and industry attracted the migration of millions of Arabs. Not only did the Arab population nearly triple in 20 years but their per capita incomes also tripled. Their lifespans rose on average from 40 years to 70 years. Their educational levels soared. It was nothing short of a golden age for the Palestinian Arabs.

7) But isn't that claim ridiculous? Like saying that the United States provided a golden age for the native American Indians, or that the British empire provided a golden age for the American colonials, or even that bringing slaves to the U.S provided a golden age for African blacks in America?

That's changing the subject to very different historic eras and events. But if you insist... Unlike the African blacks, the two million Arab Palestinians settled freely and in general prosperously on the West Bank and in Gaza, as the Israelis improved conditions there. And unlike the Indian tribes indigenous on the American continent who at first suffered displacement and deadly diseases, the Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule drastically improved their health and wealth. Unlike the U.S. colonials, moreover, if the Arab Palestinians had desired a state, they could have created one peacefully at any time. From 1948 to 1967, for example, the territories were ruled by Jordan and Egypt, but there was no move toward statehood.

8) Doesn't the huge growth of the Arab population in the territories portend a day when Jews will be a minority in the area, unable to reconcile majoritarian democracy with a Jewish homeland?

If the Arabs wish to live in peace with Israel, they can negotiate many different forms of federation and self rule. I agree with historian Benny Morris that the eventual solution should be a federation of the Palestinians with Jordan. It is only Arab unwillingness to accept an Israeli state that makes it essentially impossible to create an Arab Palestinian state.

9) Isn't all this argument beside the point when Israel is surrounded by millions of enemies devoted to the destruction of the country, including an Iranian power moving rapidly to acquire nuclear weapons? And how can Israel, which already possesses nuclear weapons, complain when Iran seeks them?

By publicly declaring an intention to use nuclear weapons against Israel, Iran made itself a nuclear outlaw. Israel and its allies must do what they can to save the country from such an attack. As for the Arab advantage in numbers, in this age military defense is a function more of technological capabilities than of military manpower. Israel is steadily and decisively increasing its military and economic advantage over its adversaries. Time is on the side of Israel. But in the short run the U.S. government confronts an Israel Test. As Israel faces attack, the U.S. — still overwhelmingly the world's greatest military power — should come to its defense with any aid necessary. The U.S. needs Israel perhaps as much as Israel needs the U.S.

10) How can you say such a thing? Israel is a tiny nation while the U.S. is a global leviathan. Isn't it way overreaching to say that the U.S. needs Israel?

During the 20th century, just a few score Jewish scientists saved the West by leading and manning the Manhattan project that created the atomic bomb. Jewish scientists played a key role in the rise of the computer industry, with all computers based on the essential architecture invented by John von Neumann. In recent years, U.S. technological leadership has been heavily based on Jewish inventions and Israeli designs. Today, while the U.S. suffers from economic turmoil, Israel commands what is perhaps the world's most creative and promising economy. It is led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the world's most knowledgeable and experienced warrior against terrorism and most learned economic leader from his early days at the Boston Consulting Group. Israel is vital both to the future of American capitalism and to its defense.


George Gilder is the world's foremost technology futurist. His analysis and predictions synthesize politics, economics, science, education, and history to forecast the impact of emerging technologies on markets and on society at large. For the past two decades, Gilder's insights have influenced virtually every segment of the high-technology arena. He is author of 15 books, including the best seller Wealth and Poverty. He is a contributing writer for Wired and Forbes magazines.

This essay is based on George Gilder's new book, The Israel Test. It was published July 27, 2009 in The American, the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute. capitalism-jewish-achievement-and-the-israel-test


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