Israel is a lesson in what makes nations thrive

Israel is a lesson in what makes nations thrive, by Marian Tupy.

Few independent nations have been born under less auspicious conditions. Yet, Israel flourished. …

Israel’s early flirtation with socialism needs more explanation. After independence, the country was dominated by European Jews, many of whom were socialists. The Ashkenazi infatuation with socialism may have originated in the attempt of the Jewish intelligentsia to integrate into largely anti-Semitic European society that conflated Judaism and capitalism. Poignantly, the Jewish State became an undeniable success story after economic reforms, which started in the 1980s, made Israel more capitalist.

Unlike most of the Arab states, Israel had to struggle for survival. Yet, on most measures of human well-being, the Jewish State outperforms its Arab neighbours. Aside from political freedom exemplified by free and fair elections and frequent changes of government, Israelis enjoy a great deal of personal freedoms. Discrimination against women is rare and gay Israelis enjoy most extensive rights in the region.

Average income per capita dwarfs those in the neighbouring countries, allowing for superior social outcomes, including higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality, and universal provision of drinking water and electricity. The Israelis are better educated, own more computers, and have more access to the Internet. The Israeli agricultural productivity is the highest in the region and its people are the best fed. Finally, the Jewish State is a very innovative society, with Israeli patents easily outpacing those in the rest of the region combined.

Therein lie important lessons for Israel’s neighbours. Israel succeeded because it embraced political, personal and economic freedoms. Most Arab nations have none of those. The good news is that policies can be changed and institutions can gradually improve over time.

Unless the Arab regimes maintain that their people are fundamentally different from the Israelis and, somehow, less deserving of the blessings of freedom, they should learn from the Israeli experience and implement policies that enabled a tiny and unpromising patch of the Middle East to turn into the region’s most prosperous society.

Interesting last point. Statistically, peoples differ. Maybe the unwelcome truth is that some peoples enjoy and cope with freedoms much better than others. A lot of experiments have been tried in the last century or two, and the evidence is becoming undeniable.

hat-tip Matthew