The Welfare State

TYLER TOO

By Gus Tyler

Published February 23, 2007, issue of February 23, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When The Great Depression hit the United States, there were those who said that America’s government had the duty to take steps to counter the disaster. They pointed to the preamble to the Constitution that empowered the government to “promote the general welfare.”

On the other hand, there were those opposed to any governmental intervention. They applied Darwin’s philosophy of the “survival of the fittest.” They called it “rugged individualism.” Its critics called it a system of “dog eat dog and the devil take the hindmost.”

The ancient Greeks believed that humans came together to form social systems because a collective effort could accomplish what the loner could not. They put it succinctly as “Anthropos zoe politika.” (Man is a social animal.)

One of the most striking applications of the same principle is the means whereby ancient Israel saw to it that those who have wealth were obliged to contribute for the support of those who did not have the wherewithal to survive on their own.

It all revolves around a Hebrew word called tzedakah. It means charity, and it also means “justice.” Here is how it worked. The government had a central agency to which people were obliged to contribute in accordance with their wealth. If the governing body concluded that a man of wealth had not really paid his share, they informed him that he was delinquent and should increase his contribution. If he refused, he was flogged. If he was a tough cookie he still might refuse. If so, his estate was confiscated and the proper payment was made.

So, many centuries before the United States established a progressive income tax where those who had more were taxed at a higher rate as their income rose, the State of Israel had foreshadowed such a system.

In passing, a truly righteous person was called a tsaddik.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.