Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


In Europe, over the course of many centuries, the Catholic Church sent its best and brightest to be monks and priests, while the best and brightest Jews learned in the yeshivas and became Rabbis. The Rabbis went forth and multiplied, but the monks and priests did not.

As Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, explains, this is an oversimplification, though the process probably did play a role behind the obvious and undisputed phenomenon of Jewish people being disproportionately overrepresented in the various fields of intellectual and scientific and financial achievement.

One Jewish disproportionate overrepresentation I have long wondered about is that of the field of leftist politics. Why are people of Jewish origin so commonly found amongst the activist elements of the Communists, the Socialists, or just plain liberals? It is very perplexing!

My own Jewish upbringing was, politically speaking, centrist (for the times) Democrat, though quite frankly, my parents had other personal and family issues which diverted most of their attentions and energies from the political scene. But their social circles included, though by no means exclusively, people of decidedly leftist political orientation.

More recently, with my increased dabbling into genealogical research, I now have strong reason to suspect (read proof positive) that some relatives, of whom my parents and grandparents rarely if ever spoke, acted solidly on the left side of the political stage.

One thing which all humans find very difficult is to imagine that there are those who do not share their perspectives and beliefs. Justice and charity are very strongly ingrained Jewish cultural norms. Seeing someone in an "underdog" position naturally elicits empathy from a Jew. What most of these Jews on the Left have trouble realizing (and what I myself for many years could not conceptualize) was that not all ethnic or social cultures share the Jewish values of justice, truth, charity and societal order.

For example, if everyone shared those values, then opposition to capital punishment would be entirely sensible. The trouble is that there are those for whom justice, truth and charity are irrelevant, and whose very existence imperils order in society. It is all well and good that the limousine liberal can oppose capital punishment on humanitarian grounds, but such will do little to induce the criminal element to abolish their own perverse variety of the death penalty.

This, no doubt, does play a role in many Jews' propensity to embrace Leftist causes, but it is an oversimplification.

What does induce people of Jewish origin to religiously pick up the cudgels of the Left? The word "religiously" is a tip-off. There is a very, very strong correlation (with certain exceptions, of course) for Jews of the Left to have long abandoned the Jewish religious practices (and in many cases, beliefs). Many Leftist Jews are not merely non-religious, they are anti-religious! There are many, many religious Jews (myself among them) who are solidly on the Right side of the political spectrum.

Nor is this phenomenon peculiar to Jews; the experience with Finnish immigrants to America, and their descendants, has notably strong parallels. The "Church Finns" hold strongly Conservative political values, while the "Red Finns" who have abandoned the religious rituals have flocked to the Left (including Gus Hall, who was the quadrennial Communist Party candidate for President from 1976 through 1984).

This does shine some light on the phenomenon of the disproportionate numbers of Jews on the Left, but it is an oversimplification. Jewish accomplishment and achievement is phenomenon that is both perplexing and intimidating to the world -- and indeed, to the Jews themselves.

Could it be that we really are G-d's Chosen People? I believe so! But this explanation, too, is a severe oversimplification.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

IRS, Illegal Aliens and Disney

Well, folks, amidst a very occupied and draining schedule, I am posting again, thus sparing the life of one more kitten to exacerbate my allergies.

As previously reported, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson has stepped down and is now heading the American Red DoubleCross. Kevin Brown is now minding the store at the IRS as Acting Commissioner. He has already hit the ground running.

On 7 May 2007, Commissioner Brown appeared at the National Press Club to announce the IRS's partnering with the United Way in the UW's "Financial Stability" initiative; specifically, to "provide education and outreach materials related to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)."

While I certainly applaud the IRS's taxpayer education outreach efforts, my training and experience inside and outside the IRS cause me to be more than a little bit skeptical:

A) The IRS's organizational culture, for all of its shortcomings, is specifically geared towards COLLECTING taxes, not dispensing charity to the poor. Whenever the IRS gets involved in anything external to its real mission, there is the risk of a clash between its organizational culture and its collateral objectives. While public education is certainly a worthwhile objective and indeed, to a certain extent vital to the IRS's mission, the IRS is not really the best organization to educate the public.

B) For that very reason, it certainly makes sense for the IRS to engage a human service oriented organization such as the United Way to perform the public education function. The IRS is engaging expertise to do what it effectively cannot do, much like some Jewish households have been known to engage a "Shabbos Goy, a Gentile who can turn on or off the lights and do other work on the Sabbath which a Jew is prohibited from doing [N.B. In my own household, we use $10 electric timers instead of Shabbos Goyim. One advantage of this is that we don't run afoul of the largely unenforced laws against hiring illegal aliens. Besides, the electric timers are cheaper than the Shabbos Goyim.].

But this, too, has its pitfalls. The IRS has, for the past few years, been engaged in a crackdown on the nonprofit organizations. Now the IRS is in bed with an organization it must regulate. What sort of controls, checks and balances are in place?

C) Speaking of illegal aliens, the EITC is a windfall for illegal aliens, notwithstanding Congressional efforts to keep the illegals from sticking their hands in the till. Accordingly, the IRS is effectively participating in a scheme to instruct illegal aliens to tap into the EITC as a source of income, thus supporting them with our hard-earned tax money.

D) The partnering of governmental agencies with private sector entities certainly has great positive potential, but there is a downside, especially where there is a quid pro quo (or appearance of a quid pro quo). The Library of Congress has a "Coca-Cola Fellowship" to subsidize the scholarly study of advertising, and Coca Cola got its share of advertising in the Library of Congress building during the ceremony where Coke donated its archives. And when booksellers such as Barnes & Noble partner with public libraries, at what point does the purveyor of books exercise too much say-so over the public library's collection development policies? Why, even the rights to the public library's vending machines are a valuable commodity!

With due regard for the public benefit that comes of such collaboration between the governmental agency and the private sector, one must beware of the slippery slope towards the disneyfication of government. And before you say that I'm way out over the left field foul line, note that the process of Disneyfication has actually begun to occur at the U.S. Postal Service! Make no mistake about it: Disney definitely benefits from each of those Mickey Mouse stamps you buy.

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