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The Oldest Hatred
Does Anti-Semitism Make You Poor?

Hatred, it turns out, costs money, and just as hatred can be handed down from generation to generation, so can its financial costs. The Economist reports on the legacy of anti-Semitism in Germany:

A new academic study finds that people who live in areas of Germany where persecution of Jews was most intense are less likely to invest in the stockmarket, even today.

The relationship has very strong historical roots. People who live in districts from which Jews were likeliest to be sent to concentration camps under the Nazis are 7.5% less likely to invest in stocks than other Germans; those who live in districts where pogroms occurred during the Black Death (back in the 14th century) are 12% less likely to do so. Surveys also show residents of such districts are less likely to trust the financial sector. […]

The effect of this distrust is that German savers in such districts earn lower returns, because they have lower exposure to the stockmarket. “The legacy of Jewish persecution—distrust of finance—has hindered generations of Germans from accumulating financial wealth,” the authors argue. In other words, “Persecution of minorities reduces not only the long-term wealth of the persecuted, but of the persecutors as well.”

This news shouldn’t surprise. Anti-Semitism appears and flourishes among those who don’t quite get modern life, who jump to simplistic but powerful seeming generalizations about cause and effect in a complex world. The world of the anti-Semite may be dark, with all-powerful, string-pulling Jews controlling everything behind the scenes, but the simplicity and clarity of that picture outweighs the darkness: the anti-Semite thinks he understands the world, and that helps ease the pain of feeling tossed about by incomprehensible forces.

But the clarity is false. The anti-Semite is still baffled, confused and at sea; he or she just doesn’t know it. It’s not surprising that someone laboring under these conceptual handicaps would make foolish life choices and bad investment decisions. Even more alienated and embittered because those poor choices have real consequences, the anti-Semite feels more victimized than ever, and attributes the natural result of his or her poor choices to the scheming Jews who make sure that no gentile will ever get an even break.

The linkage of anti-Semitism with a general distrust of finance could also explain one of the mysteries of our time. Radical jihadi groups boast about their intention to purge the Islamic world of the decadent legacy of Europe, but they’ve made an odd exception. There is one kind of ‘boko’ (western knowledge) that is not ‘haram’: the anti-Semitic filth spewed by European tyrants and demagogues in the last 150 years has found a ready audience among the most radical and anti-western of jihadi groups. It’s an anomaly that we don’t think enough about; why is this piece of western ‘knowledge’ so attractive and compelling while everything else coming from the west is suspect?

The ‘suspicion of finance’ that the researchers found in the historically most anti-Semitic areas of Germany may offer a clue. A common idea among jihadis is that the pervasive role of finance in the west is one of the worst things about it; lending at interest, forbidden in many forms of Islam, is after all the basis of modern commercial life. The association that anti-Semites make between “the Jews” and the role of finance would be the kind of simplification that would appeal to jihadis trying to analyze a world that they can’t understand but that frightens and, they fear, dominates them. Linking “the Jews” with western finance helps jihadis build an all-embracing picture of a shadowy and powerful enemy, and offers the illusion of insight and mastery.  The radical (and in some cases, not-so-radical) Islamists who swallow Western urban legends about Jews feel, as so many anti-Semites have felt in the past, that they have discovered a hidden key that opens the door of understanding. It is an expensive and disabling error, but an attractive and glittering one. In any case, the unreflecting credulity which makes crude forgeries like the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion so widely popular in Islamist circles today is itself a sign of cultural decadence and intellectual blight. 

The popularity of such ideas among large swathes of Middle Eastern opinion has many more consequences than making peace between Israel and its neighbors more difficult. It makes both economic and political success less likely; in the Middle East as in Europe, failure and anti-Semitism go hand in hand.

Interestingly, in the times when Islamic societies were wealthier and more technologically advanced than Christian Europe, those societies were noted for their tolerance of and openness to Jews. It is both sad and revealing that Islamists seeking a return to this ‘golden age’ of Islamic power and prestige think that they should adopt the anti-Semitism of the European Dark Ages rather than the urbane tolerance of their own glorious past.





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  • Kevin

    Interesting – especially the very long time frames.

    Which comes first – anti-Semitism or bad experiences in the market?

    Or is it a spurious causation and there in fact is some third factor which causes both?

    Does this behavior (applied to other commercially minded minorities) also occur in regions with no Jews -East Asia for example?

    • Andrew Allison

      Could it be that certain people want to blame somebody for their dissatisfaction and Jews (like the US citizens of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor) are an easily-identifiable “other”?

      • CailinM

        Absolutely. From such dissatisfaction came Marxism and the sinister “equalization of suffering.” (Of course, the proponents of the latter have no intention of taking their share)

    • Corlyss

      Jews are frugal and clean and smart. That works against them in primitive societies and most definitely in times of trouble when tribalism abounds. They will always be The Other everywhere but their homeland, and now the world elites have turned them into The Other even in their own homeland. Their lot is not a happy one. We should all be relieved that they are as stubbornly loyal to their adopted lands as they are. If they ever got as sick of us as they must be of their predictable persecution, we’d be in a foul way. I’m reminded of an incident recounted in Justice at Nuremberg, the book by Robert Conot. It concerns the German Army’s tribulations trying to produce military goods in one of the captive nations. The Abwehr went to the SS and pleaded with them to stop rounding up the Jewish factory workers carting them off because they were the floor bosses and the management in the factories. Without them, factory production tanked. The Jews kept a lot of people alive and working under incredibly difficult circumstances.

  • Uncle_Dan

    “Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools,” and “socialism is the anti-Semitism of intellectuals.” Envy and resentment are as old as Cain and Abel, and the hatred of the “moneychangers” has a long history. Moreover, timid people who
    do not take risks will naturally resent those who succeed by doing so. It’s still the same old story, and they’re still falling for it.

    • ontheleftcoast

      And National Socialism combined the two, appealing to fools and intellectuals both. Götz Aly’s recent book, Why The Germans? Why the Jews? proposes that another seed of envy and resentment was the desire for equality of outcome which is how the Socialist elites sell the program to the fools.

      • KimJongUn

        The great Bismarck was a salon anti-semite. You think he was envious? Of Bleichröder?

        • ontheleftcoast

          Being a Lutheran aristocrat, some form of antisemitism would have been the norm in his family. Did he attach that to individuals he disliked? Probably; was it a major motivation for him? Was he a serious religious, ideological or Volkisch antisemite? Probably not. He was a political opportunist who used antisemitism as a weapon against his political opponents.

    • KimJongUn

      “socialism is the anti-Semitism of intellectuals.” So why are so many Jews socialists then?

      • ontheleftcoast

        One good attempt to answer your question:

      • Loader2000

        He is not saying that socialism is anti-Semitism. What he is saying is that they both have their root in envy and that the envy which manifests itself as anti-Semitims in the less educated, manifests itself as socialism in intellectuals. I think there may be some truth to that, but, buy and large, he is incorrect. Socialism is rooted in that fact that we evolved (or at least act as if we evolved) from tribal hunter-gather societies in which socialism WAS the most efficient method running the tribe. In other words, even though socialism is a terrible way of running a huge, division of labor, non-tribal, art producing, space-faring, hyper-specialized society, we still have instincts in that direction. That is why is just ‘feels’ right to a lot of us.

  • Corlyss

    “it is evidence of an inability to understand a complex world.”
    Interesting. I’ve always thought of that as a definition of cynicism about politics, esp. when conspiracy theorists thrive.

  • lukelea

    Correlation does not mean causation. Poor people are generally dumber than average. Maybe being dumb is the source of anti-Semitism?

    • Rabbi Burns

      maybe anti-semitism and idiocy have a common root?

      • CailinM

        Idiocy knows no bounds 🙂 Substitute “brainwashed” or the like.

    • CailinM

      The article cites an academic study supporting this conclusion; the better the data, the greater the credibility (probability). What data supports your assertion that poor people are dumber?

  • RD

    This is all well and good, but it misses the most fundamental and important point, that God hates antisemitism (couldn’t have anything to do with Jesus being a Jew, what?!), and He controls all things, including all wealth. God save us, Soli Deo gloria! Fools forget their arms are too short to box with Him, not to mention far too powerless

  • steve baker

    WOW! Is that a stretch, or WHAT?

    • KimJongUn

      “Households in counties that experienced at least one pogrom in 1349 are two percentage points less likely to invest in stocks.” Talking about a stretch.

  • David Tiffany

    Anti-Semitism makes you cursed.

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