The Israel Americans do not know....
Consider these metrics: (1) Israel is number two globally in absolute number of start-ups--not per capita--actual total--some 500 annually in a nation of 7.5M, not far from to the 600 to 700 total for all of Europe's 700M combined; (2) 4.8 percent of Israel's GDP goes to R&D, versus 2.5 percent for both the US & the OECD countries (most of the world's top economies); (3) Israel is numero uno globally in medical-device patents per capita & seventh globally in overall patents per capita.
Contrary to popular perception the military is not the main R&D factor; its primary influence is cultural: teaching young people how to shoulder responsibility and take risk carefully, improvise, work with teams, etc. Russian immigrants provide a massive influx of technical know-how. Laggard economic groups in Israel are Orthodox Jews and Arab women.
Israel had one down quarter's growth in 2008 but was up for the year; its stock market was first globally to recover after the world financial meltdown. Half Israel's exports are high-tech in what is an export-driven economy. Some Arabs (including Palestinian Authority PM Salam Fayyad) are reportedly taking note. Israeli GDP tops the combined total of its four contiguous Arab neighbors: Egypt, Jordan, Syria & Lebanon. One of its high-tech star companies, Better Place, leads the world in electric car technology.
Now the Kicker: The life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was saved in part due to an Israeli medical product: an elasticized bandage whose pressure rapidly stops head-wound bleeding.
America's Economic Gloom. By stark contrast, the US has become "a nation of takers, not makers" in the past half-century, writes economist Stephen Moore in the WSJ:
If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.
It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?
Every state in America today except for two—Indiana and Wisconsin—has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods. Consider California, which has the highest budget deficit in the history of the states. The not-so Golden State now has an incredible 2.4 million government employees—twice as many as people at work in manufacturing. New Jersey has just under two-and-a-half as many government employees as manufacturers. Florida's ratio is more than 3 to 1. So is New York's.
Even Michigan, at one time the auto capital of the world, and Pennsylvania, once the steel capital, have more government bureaucrats than people making things. The leaders in government hiring are Wyoming and New Mexico, which have hired more than six government workers for every manufacturing worker.
Hezbollah Builds Bunkers. So much for Israel and the US of A. Meanwhile what is Hezbollah doing to add to global productivity? Building bunkers and more, preparing for war: 550 bunkers, 300 monitoring sites and 100 weapons storage facilities, located in 270 villages.
"Arab Spring" Has Sprung. Orientalist Supreme Bernard Lewis says that the Arab tyrannies are doomed. He is an optimist, he tells his interviewer, provided we do not insist on foisting off Western-style elections and norms on them, and defer to Muslim cultural, non-absolutist tradition:
"We have a much better chance of establishing—I hesitate to use the word democracy—but some sort of open, tolerant society, if it's done within their systems, according to their traditions. Why should we expect them to adopt a Western system? And why should we expect it to work?" he asks.
Mr. Lewis brings up Germany circa 1918. "After World War I, the victorious Allies tried to impose the parliamentary system on Germany, where they had a rather different political tradition. And the result was that Hitler came to power. Hitler came to power by the manipulation of free and fair elections," recounts Mr. Lewis, who fought the Nazis in the British Army. For a more recent example, consider the 2006 electorial triumph of Hamas in Gaza.
Elections, he argues, should be the culmination—not the beginning—of a gradual political process. Thus "to lay the stress all the time on elections, parliamentary Western-style elections, is a dangerous delusion."
Not because Muslims' cultural DNA is predisposed against it—quite the contrary. "The whole Islamic tradition is very clearly against autocratic and irresponsible rule," says Mr. Lewis. "There is a very strong tradition—both historical and legal, both practical and theoretical—of limited, controlled government."
Modern Arab societies replaced traditional consultative governance with absolute autocracy. Complicating matters is that Islam has no counterpart ot freedom or liberty as we know it; for votaries of Islam "justice" is the standard by which governments are judged:
Americans often think of limited government in terms of "freedom," but Mr. Lewis says that word doesn't have a precise equivalent in Arabic.
"Liberty, freedom, it means not being a slave. . . . Freedom was a legal term and a social term—it was not a political term. And it was not used as a metaphor for political status," he says. The closest Arabic word to our concept of liberty is "justice," or 'adl. "In the Muslim tradition, justice is the standard" of good government. (Yet judging from the crowds gathered at Syria's central Umayyad mosque last week chanting "Freedom, freedom!," the word, if not our precise meaning, has certainly caught on.)
Lewis views a nuclear Iran (Muslim, but not Arab) as not amenable to traditional deterrence calculus and that its nuclear quest must somehow be stopped. Read the entire riveting interview.
Bottom Line. Israel is a world economic powerhouse. Muslims who desire economic progress, and Americans who desire economic restoration should look to Israel. But political progress in Islamic societies requires a viable cultuural model America and Israel cannot provide.
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