Saturday, November 18

The king is dead, long live the king?

Milton Friedman died. I'm not an economist and didn't study much beyond an introduction "101" course in economics.

However, I'm a trained photographer, i have good eyes, i'm an observer (some will say a peeping Tom) by nature. I watch, i see, i wonder and i ask questions.
The enthusiastically embraced so-called free market economy introduced by Bibi and co has done very well for co (read: owners and shareholders of big companies).
But rather less so, for those who are no part of "co". Indeed, the "co's" freedom has increased. Freedom to move money where ever it is most worth while, freedom from paying taxes cooked up by their accountants and wisely invested in offshore easy tax economies. When they need government investment in their business (in the form of grants and tax exemptions as well as a very easygoing policy of disregard of ecological problems, labor agreements or selling their products to regimes with bad human rights records etc.) they have their close friends high up the political ladder.
Whenever it becomes cheaper to manufacture elsewhere (Egypt, Jordan, China where ever) they are also very free: the productions lines are quickly replaced, all temporary employment agency employees sent home with or without their last payments. Goodbye to the investments, made by the government with your and my money. It's a free market after all. And it is more profitable to produce elsewhere.
Of course there should be no taxes on imports, so the cheaply now elsewhere produced products flood the local market and local manufacturers close down. On the short run, some of us even have a feeling of wealth, as suddenly we can buy foreign elsewhere cheaply produced stuff for low prices.
For else where read e.g. China with its lovely employment conditions and "green" ecology record.

Previously nationally owned companies (meaning yours and mine) have been sold to "big money" for a fraction of their true value. The new owners, all friends of our politicians, earn fantastic amounts of money, while doing what they want, disregarding the law on 101 ways, because they can (e.g. see the movie "Shvita" "Strike", on what happens at Dimona's chemical factory).
On the run they also waste terrific amounts of Israel's national resources, water, clean air, phosphates etc., but no one seems to care very much.

The income gap is ever increasing, more and more people live below the poverty line and services previously provided to all by the government are more and more privatized, thereby becoming less and less available to an increasing group of people.

The Lebanon war showed this clearly: the weak, elderly and poor were left on their own (read lack of food, lack of medical care etc. etc.) , in badly equipped or non existing bomb shelters) while the more wealthy had to find their own way to evacuate, and the poorer ones among them ended up in Gaidamek's private tent camp.

This is not a temporary by-product, but the direct and planned outcome of the economic "free" market policy of the last several governments.
Free? Free for whom?

When one out of every three children in Israel live below the poverty line, that is NOT freedom.
Being poor implies spending most of your time and energy on mere survival. Not having enough money for very basic things, such as decent housing, food, good schooling.
Poverty in Jaffa is staggering.
Lately i assisted a few families by accompanying them to the court in order to go bankrupt (i do some assisting in a Jaffa community advocacy project)
One of the limits of a bankruptcy procedure is that you cannot leave the country for at least a few years. Nor can you normally operate a bank account, meaning no credit card, no cheques etc.
For many of us these would be serious limitations on the way we live and our freedom to move. Yet for those few poor families it means nothing. They have never been abroad and do not expect to go there in any case. Many have never even owned a credit card. They are so poor they think twice about taking the bus downtown. They haven't seen the inside of a cafe or restaurant for years (unless it was as cleaner or waitress). They are forced to work through employment agencies (yes, many of our poor are employed and work in fact very hard) for often below legal wages and under bad conditions.

Every now and then their houses are invaded by the hotza'a lapoal who carry away their few belongings, to be sold in order to cover their ever increasing debts. Sometimes they are even arrested, for a debt of 2000 NIS (but that is a lot of money when you have to feed yourself with an income of 770 NIS a month). Is that "freedom"?

"Why do they have debts?" you ask. Because their wages are to low to survive. Their social security payments have been cut again and again. Yet housing. electricity, water, food, health and education cost more and more and more.
There is no way they cannot go into debt. Is that freedom?

They are the "see through" people, their freedom is so limited by their poor conditions, the "freedom limiting conditions" of a bankruptcy process don't limit them at all, they never had those freedoms.

Poverty is a crime committed against the poor by the affluent decisions makers and corporate world in our society. The poor lack basic freedom, the freedom to live a normal healthy life. That lack of freedom is perhaps one of the worst forms of social injustice prevalent in today's Israeli society.

Milton Friedman died, I truly hope his ideas will die with him, but i know that won't be the case. Freedom exists for the wealthy, and they are the new kings.


ee said...


Of course Milton Friedman is just a symptom of the syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Yes,very sad that the number of poor families in Israel has increased in last three years and this is where support from the community in providing charity to the less fortunate comes in .

I saw a wonderful article in YNET about Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, one of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani's three wives who heads the Qatari Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development giving money to ORT school in Akko.Splendid.Maybe the rich Arab countries in Gulf will donate a few dollars to Jaffo ;)

On a side note Yehit,you mentioned that "when you have to feed yourself with an income of 7770 NIS a month" .I assume that is USD $1800 per month ??

yudit said...

sorry, that should have been 770 NIS a month, i'm talking about a specific case
770 NIS is more like 170$