Can Jews Be Trusted?

Most Jews I know would say no, Jews cannot be trusted, no group can be trusted, only individuals can be trusted, but if non-Jews say the same thing, they’re anti-semitic and must be destroyed.

In other words, the label “anti-semite” is a bully club.

The most polite, law-abiding and ethical Jews I know generally come from England, Germany and Western Europe.

Most Jews in the West love their gentile countries and they do not act like such radical Jewish organizations as the ADL. Few Jews in the West want more Muslim immigration.

We have International Holocaust Remembrance Day but no remembrance day for the victims of communism? Are Jewish lives more important than Gentile lives?

Do you think rabbis can be trusted? If so, read this book Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History by Marc B. Shapiro where you will learn that lying for the greater good (whatever the rabbi decides is the greater good, the glory of Torah, communal cohesion, etc) is often considered kosher.

In my experience, religiosity among Jews does not currently correlate with ethics.

Chaim Amalek: “Most people do not trust most people, not even their own kind. High trust societies are the soon to be extirpated exception, just ask Angela Merkel, goy-killer Hammer of the Goyim.”

According to this study: “45% of European Muslims believe that Jews cannot be trusted.”

Israel is the Jewish country and it is also a low-trust society.

I suspect a higher percentage of Jews believe that Jews can’t be trusted than Muslims believe Jews can’t be trusted.

Life is competition. Resources are scarce. All groups are in competition for these scarce resources and hence have different and often competing interests.

I am not arguing that any group is bad. Every group is the product of genes and environment and choices. Another people with the Jewish genetic mix who went through the Jewish historical experience (living as a tiny minority for thousands of years in the diaspora, sometimes oppressed and sometimes oppressing) would behave like Jews do today.

The Anglo-Saxon genetic mix is very different from the Jewish genetix mix and the Anglo-Saxon historical experience is very different from the Jewish one. Judaism and Protestantism are very different religions and they develop different cultures. White Anglo countries are consistently high-trust, low-corruption societies. Jews are more like Asians in their in-group vs out-group distinctions. For instance, the East Asians I’ve known tend to be intelligent, hard-working and sometimes duplicitous when it comes to dealing with outsiders (the Japanese are the least duplicitous).

Jews from Germany and Western Europe tend to be nicer to the goyim than Jews from Eastern Europe who lived in a situation of mutual loathing with the goyim for centuries. You can read Shalom Aleichem for many stories of Eastern Europe where Jews tended to a skeptical view of their fellow Jews, not to mention the goyim.

Many Christians and Muslims do not believe that God listens to the prayers of Jews, but a far higher percentage of Jews believe that God does not listen to the prayers of Jews.

Gene Expression says:

Jews are among the most wealthy groups in America, with a median income close to $100,000 a year.

Naively, you might expect Israel to be about as wealthy. Israel is, after all, a country filled with Jews. Yet Israel is far poorer than a hypothetical “Jewish-America,” and is also poorer than America in general. Israel’s wealth is a little difficult to parcel out due to the presence of a large Arab minority. Yet even if you assign an income of non-Jews of 0, you arrive at an Israeli per capita GDP of $36,000. By comparison, both Ireland and America are in excess of $45,000 per capita. Corrections for Purchase Price Parity correct for some, but not all, of this difference.

This is part of a general phenomenon. As Tino has calculated, virtually all hyphenated-Americans do better in America than their home country.

With respect to European countries, this makes sense. As has been argued elsewhere, America/Europe income differences are due in no small part to different taxation policies. Lower marginal tax rates do have long-term effects on standards of living, even if they don’t “pay for themselves.”

Figuring out what’s going on in Israel is a bit trickier. This country looks more free-market than European standards. There are two crucial issues here:

1) Trade is very low. For its given level of wealth, Israel has a very small export sector. For instance, it has about an eighth as many exports as Belgium, a country with an economy less than twice as large. This should come as no surprise—the largest determinant of trade volume is geography, and Israel faces a far rougher neighborhood than Belgium. This forces Israel to produce more products domestically, rather than specialize.

2) Israel is a low trust society. I caught a lot of flack for this in the comments, but I stand by this statement. There is an enormous literature tracing the effects of trust and cooperation on firm size and GDP. In general, where social trust and cooperation is low — corruption is higher, and firms tend to be small-scale organizations built on kinship links. Managers must actively monitor their employees, rather than being able to scale up.

Somewhat surprisingly, Israel stands out as a country with high IQ but low levels of trust. Some 56% of Israelis report that you cannot trust others, which is a figure comparable to other low-trust societies like South Korea or Italy. Think of Israel as a Mezzogiorno with nuclear weapons.

One manifestation of this is that there are very few large Israeli firms. Teva, a generic drugs manufacturer, is a notable exception. By contrast, high-trust Switzerland is home to several national superstars like UBS, Novartis, TAG Hauser, etc. Israel’s economy is dominated by small-scale firms, many of which are founded by people who formed close bonds in the IDF. Even in America, there are host of large Jewish-founded firms, like Google.

Of course, a lack of large, productive multinationals may play a role in explaining Israel’s relatively poor economic performance. Firms with scale and branding are able to tap into the tail ends of a “smiley curve” economy by focusing on the value-added activities of branding, design, and distribution. Smaller firms operating in heavily competitive industries, by contrast, earn few economic rents.

It’s in this vein I want to revisit Helen Thomas’ comments that the Jews should return home. Set aside the Ashkenazi bias implicit in this question (where would Jews from or Iraq go?). A simple calculation would suggest that a mass relocation of Jews to other Western Democracies (particularly free market ones like America) would allow them to plug into a high-trust societies with more robust institutions.

More broadly, though we frequently assume that individuals are the same everywhere and growth should be possible for all — this just doesn’t look to be the case. The roots of post-Malthusian explosive growth are deeply rooted in a particular institutional form which was innovated in the Netherlands and exported to England in the Revolution of 1688. From there, it spread to a group of Anglophone settler nations and colonial dependencies like Singapore and Hong Kong (and by further American tutelage to countries like Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan). Alternative reforms were innovated in France after the French Revolution and spread by force throughout Europe.

We really have few examples of countries doing successfully economically without borrowing heavily from these models. For instance, Chile is the really successful part of South America, and they have also done the most to mirror First World institutions through the imposition of reforms led by the Chicago boys. China is a potential counter-example, yet the lesson here remains ambiguous as long as the country remains as poor as El Salvador. Again — look at the enormous success of Chinese transplants in more Anglo environments like Singapore, Taiwan, or Hong Kong. That is presumably indicative of Chinese potential GDP; and by that standard China is doing abysmally. Its institutions are to blame. (Interestingly, though China reports itself a high-trust society, it is also home to few large brands. Those that come to mind — like Huawei — are frequently state-supported. By contrast, poorer India already has several well-known brands like Tata, Infosys, Wipro, etc.)

There’s not a lot we can do to fix this. Moving the Jewish or Palestinian population out of Israel en mass isn’t a feasible option. Yet transforming these into high-trust societies overnight isn’t an option either. Paul Romer has advocated establishing charter cities around the world which would set up top-notch institutional enclaves in poor areas, yet he has found few backers.

Chaim Amalek: “But this piece notes that South Korea too, is a low trust society. And yet the South Koreans have built up a number of gigantic, world-embracing corporations (e.g., Samsung). It seems that high trust societies are uncommon, and that they must be either overwhelmingly Nordic or Japanese and that’s it.”

Comments to Gene Expression:

* All of the above is fascinating to read (I’m Israeli but was born in America and lived there for more than 20 years).
About the trust issue here, this is really a zero-sum society. People go through life with the attitude that you have to lose in order for me to win. This is applied to everything – like driving on the highways and negotiations in business – in a way that dramatically lowers the quality of life here. It makes dealing with Israel difficult for outsiders who are viewed as “frayers” (suckers or marks) because they aren’t cutthroat. I can’t imagine how much foreign investment we’ve lost because of this.
The business mentality here is also remarkably unlike in western countries. In America, they say that the customer is “always right.” A typical Israeli approach to customer service is that the customer must be proven wrong. Attitudes like that cost everyone in the society a lot.
Besides the above, it’s not having friendly neighbors and the relatively high cost of trading with other parts of the world; it’s having to direct resources to absorbing and resettling Jewish immigrants from many poor countries like Ethiopia; it’s being at war and diverting such a large portion of GDP to defense; and it’s the stifling socialism of the founders’ generation that still lingers.

* I believe Israel’s relative wealth has shot up since massive reform and privatization 10-15 years ago. Give them time.
As for inter-country comparisons of elite groups, the smaller the elite community as a proportion of the general population, the richer they are. Cf. Indians in colonial East Africa compared with their relatives back home. Chinese in the US compared with Chinese in China. Jews in countries with small Jewish communities (Venezuela, Colombia) compared with those in the U.S. Within the US, the mass Jewish community in New York has much larger lower-middle and working-class populations than the smaller Jewish communities around the country.
In other words: how many doctors, lawyers, and real estate developers can a state or country possibly support?

* Several factors at play here:
1. American jews are mostly Ashkenazi. (probably the biggest factor).
2. Geographics – Israel is low on natural resources.
3. the Israeli-Arab conflict denies trade with a good part of the neighboring countries while international reputation probably hurts trading opportunities with the rest of the world.
3. infrastructure – Israel is a young country.

* Steve Sailer: The original Zionists didn’t intend for Israel to be a particularly rich country, they intended for it to be a normal country, with a lot of farmers, soldiers, and other low-paid people. They strove hard to change Jewish culture from being a middle-man minority culture to a less elite, less intellectual, and less capitalist one suitable for being a majority culture.
To some extent, they succeeded.

* Israel is a rich country on par with Europe. For a country at war for 60 years, where 8% of the GDP now (and up to 25% in the pst) goes to the army, where 10% of the population is ultra-orthodox Jews who do not work, 20% are Arabs whose women do not work and have low education, whit yor neighbors trying to kill you and going out of decades of semi-socialism – yes this is a huge achievement.
Per capita gdp ppp should be higher than France and Germany by 2015-2020. Not bad, no ?

* I was referring to PISA IQ – which is based on large population samples, and removes any obvious massaging of data – the results are as follows:
1 Hongkong 104
2 Finland 103
3 Korea (South) 103
4 Netherlands 102
5 Switzerland 102
6 Japan 102
7 Canada 101
8 Belgium 100
9 New Zealand 100
10 Australia 100
11 UnitedKingdom 99
12 Denmark 99
13 Sweden 98
14 Austria 98
15 Czech Republic 98
16 France 98
17 Iceland 98
18 Ireland 98
19 Germany 97
20 Norway 96
21 Slovakia 96
22 Hungary 95
23 Poland 94
24 Spain 94
25 United States 94
26 Latvia 93
27 Luxembourg 93
28 Russia 93
29 Italy 91
30 Portugal 91
31 Greece 89
32 Israel 88
33 Uruguay 86
34 Bulgaria 85
35 Thailand 85
36 Turkey 85
37 Chile 81
38 Mexico 81
39 Argentina 79
40 Indonesia 78
41 Tunisia 76
42 Brazil 75

* Israel is performing in the Greece/Portugal range instead of Ireland/UK exactly as one would expect. It is perhaps best thought of as a Southern Mediterranean country with a high-performing element, rather than a high-performing economy with a few problems.

* There’s a basic mistaken assumption here: Jews in Israel = Jews in America. Mizrachim are more numerous among Israeli Jewry, and are less intelligent than Ashkenazis. And, the Ashkenazis in Israel might not be as intelligent as those in America, due to selection effects, and the high birth rates of haredim.

Israel gets a lot of praise, but when you go there, it’s not all that impressive. You pay more for shittier things, and it feels like everyone is trying to swindle you. The strength of unions, which every American comments on, must have some effect as well.

* Regarding trust among Jews, I can only opine that it is not at all surprising for someone to suggest that Israel is low trust. I am the product of a mixed Jewish/Christian upbringing and there are significant issues of trust along the Jewish side of my family. During the last family get-together, my Jewish aunts openly discussed how much they thought could screw their brother in charges for the family beach house. When asked by my wife why they wouldn’t just give Andrew their portion of the home for a reasonable price, they replied “Honey, because we are Jewish.” Surely, just a single incident but hardly the first I have witnessed.

I have also worked with some of the most powerful Hasids in the USA and they too often discussed screwing someone over. Very strange indeed because they assumed it was just how business was done. Of course, they couldn’t be more wrong. Most successful enterprises rely upon actions that are less than charitable, but to build a large edifice in a low margin endeavor like manufacturing you cannot succeed if you people, to include your employees, think they might be screwed over. Everyday with the Hasids was an adventure and every day I saw the duplicity and/or indifference. Indifference is not limited to transactions, it is also includes how you run your internal processes and the process stability you value.

Maybe my experiences have abnormal, but I don’t see any evidence to support such a notion. From my family to the Hasids, every Jew was smart to brilliant, but that is not enough to create powerhouse manufacturing and R&D firms that will endure. Trading, finance and retail (barter) are all different animals compared to building a firm like 3M.

* My brother used to be a manager in the leather business in a Jewish area in Paris mostly involved in confection. He said he was dumbfounded by the inordinate amount of time and resources the Jews spent in trying to screw each other and over peanuts.

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 (
This entry was posted in Anti-Semitism, Israel, Jews. Bookmark the permalink.