Are Jews Honest In Business?

WASPs are the most honest people I’ve met, closely followed by Mormons, Germans (including German Jews), Japanese and Koreans. Chinese in China strike me as duplicitous in business. Catholics seem to be all over the place. In my life experience, latinos have been more honest than blacks.

Dealing with tribes has been more tricky for me than dealing with whites.

Jewish honesty in business seems to fall according to historic lines. Jews from Western Europe and Germany (which tended to have comparatively efficient and honest governments) seem to me to be more honest in business than those from Eastern Europe, where cheating a nasty regime was a way of life for centuries. According to the people I know, Israelis and other Middle Easterners don’t have a reputation for honesty.

Every group but those who spring from Northern Europe tend to have strong kinship ties. By contrast, whites evolved in a place where reputation was more important than familial ties. People with strong in-group identities, be they black or Jewish or Chinese or latino or Armenian, will regard outsiders, in general, differently from those in the tribe. Tribes are extensions of families and you are allowed to do whatever it takes to provide for your family.

When my Persian therapist asked me how close I was with my family, I said, “About average for white people.”

The stronger your in-group identity, the less you’ll be concerned with the welfare of outsiders.

Many parts of the Torah extol honesty in business but people don’t live solely by religious text. They also operate according to their genes and according to other norms (usually those they learned from their families). In my experience, Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox rabbis spend more time preaching honesty in business than do traditional Orthodox rabbis who have stronger in-group identities than their more assimilated peers.

Modern Orthodox Jews tend to be in professions (such as doctor, dentist, accountant, lawyer, etc) that have ethics code and they thus have to live by them to survive. In most businesses, there’s no similar ethics code.

Jewish behavior in business and in most things becomes explicable once you start factoring in strong in-group identity (which waxes and wanes), high intelligence (particularly verbal), a history of persecution, familial traditions and strong kinship ties, ethnic solidarity, a penchant for verbal violence instead of physical violence, a religion that focuses on behavior rather than belief and on getting the most out of this life rather than worrying about the next, and the high value that Jews put on social and economic success.

Because Judaism is a religion of law, Jews are more free to tell you how they feel (Protestantism is a religion of faith and so there’s more incentive to keep quiet about impolite parts of yourself) and they will shock more circumspect non-Jews. Jews tend to talk more frankly about the natural passions for money, sex, fame, etc, and so this can appall more discrete groups and cause them to think that Jews are animals (while Jews will view WASPs as uptight and fake). These cultural and personality differences between Jews and non-Jews can cause Jews to be perceived as outside the pale when in fact their behavior, including in business, is the same or better than non-Jews.

Have you heard of the phrase “Jewish lightning?” According to Wikipedia, it is offensive. “Supposed cause of a fire which is in fact deliberately lit by the property owner in order to benefit from insurance or similar such as destruction of documents.”

I don’t know if Jews committed such insurance fraud at a higher rate than did non-Jews with similar IQs but I think people expect more from Jews, are more interested in the behavior of Jews than in the behavior of low-class people, and are quicker to resent Jews (as Jews tend to be around the top of the socio-economic spectrum).

Does Jewish behavior affect how non-Jews view them? Common sense suggests to me yes.

I wonder if those Jews who want to participate in the wider culture tend to behave better in business than those who want to stick to their own kind and only deal with goyim out of necessity?

From FailedMessiah:

Why did Jews get expelled from England and parts of France? Simple antisemitism?


At least not according to the Maharam mi-Rothenburg (c. 1215 – 2 May 1293), the leading rabbi of Germany and the general area surrounding it at the time of the expulsion from England and an earlier expulsion from part of France who was asked what the halakha is for Jews who are forced to swear on a Sefer Torah that they would not “clip money” (i.e., shave bits pieces of silver off coins to lighten their weight while collecting the silver bits and melting them down into ingots, or for use as jewelry, or even as counterfeit coins).

The men swore the oath on the Sefer Torah, but they had in mind that the oath they swore should not really be valid.

The Maharam mi-Rothenburg answered (Siman 246 in the Lemberg 1860 edition, page 20-21) that without question the oath is valid, and it is a terrible sin to steal from Gentiles.

But the Maharam mi-Rothenburg added something else.

He says that clipping money caused the expulsion (the “actual word he uses is destruction”) of the Jews from France and England.

The most relevant excerpt: “וכמה דמים נשפכו על ידי אלה וכאלה פוסלי מטבעות היינו דאחרבינהו לאחינו יושבי צרפת והאי,” “How much blood was spilled on account of these clippers of coins, causing the destruction of our fellow Jews who lived in France and the Island [England!]”

To be sure, the Maharam mi-Rotenburg is also cognizant of antisemitism among the Gentile poulation and does not at all consider them to be blameless. Far from it. But he isn’t blind to the misdeeds of his own people who helped provoke the expulsion.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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