Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Sivan 5762 - May 29, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
The Cursed Economy

by Nosson Zeev Grossman

Reality as we know it is decreed solely on the basis of im bechukosai teileichu or ve'im bechukosai tim'osu, chas vesholom. This applies not only to the state of national security (venosati sholom bo'Oretz), but to day-to-day economics as well.

When we follow the Law, Hashem blesses us and all goes well. The rains fall in the winter (venosati gishmeichem be'itom), trees bloom in the fields (eitz hasodeh nosein piryo), the Land issues its bounty (venosno ho'Oretz yevuloh) and people have plenty to eat (ve'achaltem lachmechem losova, see Rashi).

But if chas vesholom our conduct degenerates, He causes Creation to degenerate and withholds His bounty. For if we do not hearken to His word (ve'im lo sishme'u li), the efforts we have made will benefit our enemies (vezar'eisem lorik zar'achem va'acholuhu oiveichem). Under such circumstances, not only do trees not yield fruit, but even what does grow will not sustain us (va'achaltem velo sisbo'u).


A new book has been making waves throughout the Western world. Written by a French writer named V. Forester, The Economic Curse shatters one myth after another, challenging assumptions prevalent in modern economics and warning of a social and moral holocaust liable to befall mankind.

The book, translated into several languages, has become an international bestseller with more than a million copies sold. Now it has been translated into Hebrew and published by Shocken, offering a new perspective to Israeli readers enchanted by New Economics, which promised to make a better, more prosperous world.

The book implicates the media and political apparatuses of developed nations in a great sham made up of false promises for a better economic future spewed forth by shameless politicians. Groundless visions of forthcoming, unlimited growth and a significant drop in the unemployment curve. This lie is one of the foundations on which the power structure of Western democracies is based. Global multinationals and financial experts who control the mysteries of virtual investment -- the barons of the new, global economics -- benefit from it, leaving national institutions in their dust and dwarfing entire nations. The masses remain in a state of ignorance since economic parlance is still based on Old Economics terminology, relying on industry, employment and the solidarities within a cultivated national economy.

The book calls for a shift in consciousness that would provide the unemployed not just financial assistance but would also acknowledge their value as human beings without conditioning this acknowledgement on their ability to rejoin the work force. This represents a revolution in thinking -- both by the public and individuals -- without which Forester claims entire sectors are doomed to founder.

In her opening remarks Forester writes, "We are trapped inside a deception. The world we live in is vanishing and we adamantly refuse to acknowledge it. Meanwhile the political agenda carries on, with artificial inertia, to perpetuate a reality whose time has passed. The fate of millions of people hangs in the balance. They are being erased, cast aside because of this anachronism sustained by anachronistic formulas designed to keep our most sacred taboo in place: the taboo of work.

"`Work,' often hiding behind the misleading concept of `employment,' forms the basis of Western culture, which controls the entire world. They are inseparable. Even at a time when work is in the process of disappearing, evaporating, no one is disputing its centrality or questioning its necessity.

"It is presumed to be the organizing factor for the entire system of economic distribution, the basis for our subsistence. It forms the first link in a long chain of barter and exchange that appears to us as vital as our circulatory system.

"Yet in truth work -- considered the driving principle in the fleeting game of life on earth -- has become an entity devoid of content."

People are speaking more and more about unemployment, she writes, but this term has lost its real meaning. Today it stands for a phenomenon very different from the phenomenon it pretends to continue to stand for. "Unemployment is a wide cushion for elusive, usually deceitful, promises of new jobs to be created, but their numbers are minute and their wages are meager. Their percentages are insignificant compared to the millions who lose their place in the job market, and amelioration of their circumstances is not visible on the horizon. What kind of society awaits us in the future?"

There is an obvious contradiction, writes Forester, between the poverty spreading in every possible direction and the lofty proclamations of growth everyone is supposed to anticipate and that are being touted as a panacea for every social ailment. "But will this type of targeted growth really eliminate such ills? And perhaps the intention is growth in financial speculation, growth in virtual markets, growth of `electronic capitalism,' which is completely divorced from the growth we are aiming towards?"

The book exposes the falsehoods and distortions of modern economics, which promotes endless consumption through a brainwashing advertising system and a label- loving culture that combine to empty the pockets of the little guy in order to enrich the affluent.

The same applies to the glimmering concepts of New Economics, the Global Village and all the myths of progress in the modern economy, which has merely increased the gap between growing masses of the poor and a limited group of prospering opportunists who have no concern for all those who the Economic Revolution left behind and decreed desperation as their daily fare.


This is not the place for a critique of the in-depth study's debatable conclusions, but the many questions it poses together form a single question we are hard- pressed to answer: What good has the New Economy done us?

The Jewish conclusion is nothing new. It was passed on to us at Mt. Sinai. On the verse im bechukosai teileichu . . . venosati gishmeichem be'itom venosno ho'Oretz yevuloh the Alter of Slobodka used to say, just as according to the laws of nature "and I shall bring the rains at their appointed times" leads to "and the Land will bring forth its harvest," we too are promised that, according to the laws of nature, if we go in His ways we will receive the rains in their appointed seasons.

This is an intrinsic aspect of Creation. Physical, economic and material existence depends on the spiritual reality, which has an impact on the entire world. The spiritual reality determines whether trees (or economies) grow and what will become of the fruits, whether the harvest will be gathered in and the food will be blessed or, chas vesholom the harvest will be depleted after all the labor has already been invested in it. These are the real and eternal laws of economics, and they are not about to change.

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