Why are Jews so rich?

Why are Jews so rich? – satiric book review

Art Levine


Greed and Income in American Life. By Charles Murray. Illustrated 837pp. New York. The Free Press. $35.

A scant two years after Charles Murray’s incendiary The Bell Curve provoked a furor among liberal opinion-makers with its views on race and intelligence, Mr. Murray has returned with an even more controversial work on yet another taboo subject: Jewish wealth. As he did in the earlier work, Mr. Murray marshals an impressive body of evidence that will surely send liberals into paroxysms of outrage. But whether one agrees or disagrees with the findings in Mr. Murray’s book, the government or society that persists in ignoring the vital issues raised by his research does so at its peril.

“At a time of widening class divisions and shrinking opportunities for well-paying jobs,” he argues, “a hidden source of resentment–the role of Jews in the economy–lurks beneath the surface of American life and clouds our ability to solve our economic dilemmas. It is vital that people begin to talk about this publicly. Failure to do so could only heighten the anti-semitism that arises during periods of economic dislocation.” In Mr. Murray’s grim view, the lingering resentment towards Jews–as many as a fifth of Americans hold some anti-Semitic views, surveys show–could lead to an upsurge in discrimination and even hate crimes. The author posits a disturbing future in which Jews, increasingly isolated from other Americans, wall themselves off in high-priced ghettos and find themselves attacked by an impoverished Gentile underclass. Only by exploring in an honest, tough-minded way Jewish economic power–and the significant role of what he argues is the largely inherited trait of greed–can we hope to avoid such a tragic fate, he says.

Jews are the most economically successful group in American society, or, as Mr. Murray dubs them, “the overclass.” Jewish family income is 72 percent more than the national average and even when minority groups are removed from the analysis, Jewish income is 34 percent more than that of Gentile white ethnic groups. (The author notes that Jewish families earn 50 percent more than “God-fearing, hard-working Irish-Americans.”) Although Jews make up only three percent of the population, they account for approximately a fifth of the very rich, i.e. millionaires and above.

The book effectively uses graphics and charts to underscore these points. In one striking chart, the income curve for “Jews” and “Regular Americans” is compared, with a disproportionate Jewish clustering at the higher end of the $50,000 scale or above.

What accounts for these differentials in group achievement? Aware of the storm of criticism this book may arouse, Mr. Murray offers extensive evidence that shows that educational background or even IQ are not the primary factors that account for Jews’ higher income. “Even when educational attainment is the same, Jewish families headed by males with four or more years of college still earn 75 percent higher incomes than those of other ethnic groups,” he notes. The slight advantage in IQ test scores reported by Jews is not large enough to explain why they in general are richer than everyone else. “Something more than brains is at work,” he says.

That something, he argues in the book’s most controversial chapter, is greed. Here, Mr. Murray’s provocative analytic insights and policy prescriptions go beyond those of earlier American students of ethnicity and income. The author uses a veritable controversial of research, both current and historical, to underscore the picture of Jews driven by what Mr. Murray, a free-market advocate, concedes is “the basic engine of capitalism: greed.” As academics have pointed out since the early 1900s, greed is the “g-factor” that motivates anyone–Jew and non-Jew alike–to strive to earn more money for themselves and their families. Pointing to the overwhelming evidence of Jewish economic superiority, Mr. Murray contends, “Everyone has the `g-factor,’ but Jews have more of it.”

In making his case, he explores everything from medieval writings about Jewish money lenders to the role of Jewish-dominated investment banking firms, such as Goldman Sachs, in the spate of corporate raids in the 1980s. He pays special attention to Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky, whose “Greed is Good” credo serves, the book contends, as the “secret text” of Jewish life.

Most striking is Mr. Murray’s contention that the g-factor is genetically passed down from generation to generation. Drawing on the work of distinguished sociobiologists, Mr. Murray says that the g-factor, reflecting the evolutionary impulse toward self-preservation, has a significant hereditary component, somewhere between 40 percent and 80 percent. Jews–regardless of their upbringing–simply pass along more of it to their offspring.

It’s an interesting point, but one open to alternative explanations that he tends to overlook. The wealth and greed that have been so widely observed among Jews over the centuries could be due to a cultural heritage that emphasizes achievement and money hoarding rather than a genetic predisposition. One regrets that Mr. Murray did not explore these possibilities more fully.

Still, he is no rabid anti-semite, but a serious scholar whose work has long been influential in shaping a conservative agenda. A fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, his book Losing Ground highlighted how the welfare system fosters a destructive dependence; his last book, The Bell Curve, which argued for the immutability of apparent racial differences in intelligence, has been cited by the Republican president-elect in proposals to abolish Head Start and spend the money instead on courses in advanced computer science for prep-school students. But Mr. Murray notes that none of his findings about Jews in general should affect how we treat Jews as individuals. “Not all Jews are greedy, and not all Jews are rich,” he observes. “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly on his or her own merits, even if they are, as a group, plutocratic Christ-killers.”

Mr. Murray’s reasoned perspective on this matter should go a long way toward ameliorating concerns that he is some kind of bigot. Even so, he doubtless will continue to arouse the ire of the political correctness mandarins, in large measure because of his use of cutting-edge research that flouts the conventional wisdom. In The Bell Curve, he respectfully cited the research of J. Philipe Rushton, a psychologist at the University of Western Ontario, who contends that “Negroids” are on the lowest rung of the human race, having developed a warm weather “reproductive strategy” that emphasizes promiscuous sex, high fertility rates, and relatively little nurturing of each child. Accordingly, Rushton contends, they have evolved smaller brains and larger penises than “Caucasoids” or “Mongoloids” [Asians]. In this new work, Mr. Murray has similarly broadened the scope of the debate on the Jewish question by highlighting the research of noted scholar Hans Lincoln Rockwell. Mr. Rockwell has stiffed controversy with his quantitative analyses of the correlation between certain oft-cited Jewish activities and traits, and larger social problems. For instance, he has linked data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report with a sophisticated regression analysis of Jewish religious observances–and it demonstrates an apparent upswing in the kidnapping and murder of children 12-and-under during the month of April, when Jews celebrate Passover. Mr. Rockwell contends that this statistical trend is due to the use by Jews of the blood of Christian children to make matzoth, the unleavened bread that plays a central role in the Passover tradition.

Despite the anger such theories often provoke, Mr. Rockwell is recognized by many colleagues as a serious scholar. One of his most striking statistics, for instance, notes that of the 52 reported slayings of children in April 1994, a disproportionate number of them occurred in Los Angeles and New York City, cities with large Jewish populations. Rockwell has carefully analyzed the various factors that might account for this anomaly, and concluded that only the ritual slaying theory makes sense. “I have not been able to think of a plausible alternative explanation,” the author quotes Mr. Rockwell as saying. “Can you?” Mr. Rockwell has also commissioned extensive laboratory studies that show that a key molecule found in blood–carbon–is also an ingredient in matzoth. “Case closed,” Mr. Rockwell asserts.

In the face of heated criticisms of this research on both moral and scientific grounds, Mr. Murray defends Rockwell as “not . . . a crackpot” and notes that “Rockwell has responded to his critics with increasingly detailed and convincing empirical evidence.” As for himself, Murray says “I remain resolutely agnostic on the validity of Rockwell’s research. Only time will tell whether his work will ultimately be proven right or wrong, but that it is legitimate science there can be no doubt.”

In his own way, Mr. Murray has also fearlessly explored new territory. In The Jew Curve, he makes a strong case for the role of a Jewish elite in distorting economic outcomes in American society. His solutions to the resulting income inequality will also draw fire, although they’re just sketched in at the end. He notes with regret that “there can be no genuine free market as long as Jews are free of all restraints.” Mr. Murray has proposed–in the form of “theoretical thought–experiments”–a number of remedial steps that could be taken: state seizures of excess profits of Jewish millionaires “to promote productive investment rather than hoarding by a selfish few”; abolishing onerous anti-discrimination statutes that discourage members of the Gentile “clans” from hiring their own kind; and so on. But he draws the line at extremist measures: No one should be forced to wear a yellow star.

Mr. Murray has done a valuable service by ending the shroud of censorship that has made Jewish wealth and other burning ethnic issues “pariahs in the world of ideas for the last 50 years,” as he puts it. A democratic society clearly deserves a rational discourse on these critical subjects. It is for that reason we eagerly await Mr. Murray’s next work in the series, a look at the cognitive stumbling blocks thwarting Polish-American advancement. It is tentatively entitled How Many Polacks Does It Take To Screw In A Light Bulb? A Quantitative Analysis.

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