Buying Votes on the Backs of the Public – It Happens over There Too

“I’m a proud member of the rabble” – Benjamin Netanyahu

In politics it is not at all uncommon to see special interest groups that vote consistently one way or another as long as the party-of-choice backs their position on their number-one issue. It is also not uncommon to see special interest groups whose number-one issue is self-preservation, self-interest, or even self-indulgence. We think of otherwise-conservative union members who vote consistently liberal because liberal politicians will improve their bargaining position at the negotiating table, or African Americans who don’t tend to be “liberal” in their political positions but consistently vote Democrat – the party of government handouts and largess. I’m sure one can find “right-wing” American examples as well. I caught an article last week with a fantastic right-wing example, though not American.

It has long been the case in Israel that ultra-orthodox Jews get special treatment from the government. They receive significant government assistance and are exempted from military service (I oppose the draft in general, but if you have a draft perhaps everybody should be on the hook). Their contribution to the deal? Consistent voting patterns.

These benefits are coming under fire: “Culture War in Israel Targets Ultra-Orthodox Jews,” Some quotes from the article:

“If hundreds of thousands of healthy people do not work, and live on pensions arranged for them by means of immoral political agreements, then we have sold the interests of the working man, and we must change this” …

According to a draft of planned reforms viewed by The Associated Press, the Finance Ministry has proposed cutting in half government subsidies to religious schools that do not teach a core curriculum including math, science and English, and boosting funding for schools that do. It also seeks to allow subsidies for child day care only if both parents work – an effort to entice ultra-Orthodox men who study religious texts full time to join the job market. …

“The body that is responsible for funding children is called their parents”

The first and last quotes are taken from one of the sparring political factions (opposing the lavish handouts). I included the middle to take a look at some of the particular funding aspects in question.

As one can imagine, I heartily side with the party opposing handouts (to the extent that I care at all about Israeli government policy). “We have sold the interests of the working man” … tell me about it.

It does seem from some of the positioning in the fight that the Israelis are struggling with some of the “responsibility implies authority (and vice versa)” issues regarding responsibility for one’s life and children. Should parents be the responsible party in providing support for their children, or the state? I think the question begs another question: who owns the future production of the children? If the state (and by extension the voters) wants to own the production of the children, and use it to pay off promises from today, then the state does indeed hold the responsibility to provide for those children. If the state wants the parents to pay for the children, then perhaps the state needs to stop making claims against their future production.

Ownership questions aside, it is good to see other nations (a) struggling with the same “vote yourself a larger share of your neighbor’s paycheck” issues and (b) starting to pull down long-standing arrangements in favor of personal responsibility.

I had a preacher once who stressed the importance of “over-communication.” In that spirit, I want to point out that I am not against orthodox-Jews, just as I am not against minorities or unions. What I am against is using the power of the voting booth and the power of government to extract for yourself a small portion of your neighbor’s life and livelihood.

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