George Gilder on "The Israel Test," Obama, the Internet, and…the Gays?


"What [President Barack Obama] is doing to the U.S. energy economy couldn't be done with a nuclear bomb," says author George Gilder, who adds that if "Newt [Gingrich] wasn't such a jerk" he'd make a great president. 

Over the past 40 years, Gilder has been not just one of the most influential public intellectuals but one of the most perplexing. He's a utopian visionary who simultaneously predicted the rise of the World Wide Web and the liberatory power of networked computing while fretting that the erosion of traditional gender roles is destroying the country; as co-founder of The Discovery Institute, he's a major proponent of anti-scientific intelligent design theory as well.

His 1981 best-seller, Wealth and Poverty, made such a persuasive case for what became known as supply-side economics that it became the bible of the Reagan Revolution. In it, Gilder used the work of anthropologist Marcel Mauss to argue that capitalism is a "gift economy" in which entrepreneurs create demand by offering up new goods and services, typically at a loss. Visonary volumes such as Microcosm (1989) and Life After Television (1990) anticipated the rise of the Internet as a mass medium that would replace hierarchy with "hetarchy" or distributed intelligence and power. His latest book, The Israel Test, argues that anti-Semitism and the anti-capitalist mentality are effectively the same thing and that Israel provides the best-available model of social organization, a blend of knowledge-based economy and group identity.

A proponent of intelligent design, he railed against Barry Goldwater's anti-intellectualism in 1966's The Party That Lost Its Head and argued that American society was committing "sexual suicide" in a 1973 book of the same name by embracing female equality. The supposed existential threat posed by unmarried men in American society is a recurring theme in Gilder's oeuvre, as is the dread fear that gays are actively recruiting boys to the "homosexual lifestyle." Fully appreciating how the World Wide Web has broken the monopoly of the culture industry in our lives, Gilder nonetheless bemoans the state of "secular culture" as "corrupt" and "depraved."

At FreedomFest 2011, Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Gilder to talk about the mix of the utopian and the apocalyptic in his work.

Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by around 2,000 libertarians and advocates of limited government. spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here now.

About 21 minutes. Shot by Zach Weissmueller and Jim Epstein and edited by Meredith Bragg.

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  1. The Israel Test, argues that anti-Semitism and the anti-capitalist mentality are effectively the same thing

    Well, history shows that they often go together, yes.

    and that Israel provides the best-available model of social organization, a blend of knowledge-based economy and group identity.

    The fuck?!?

    1. group identity

      Every blog has one. Even this place. The residents share a common lingo; there is a general intolerance toward dissenters; the residents think of nonlibertarians as inferior if not contemptible…and on and on. It’s interesting that so-called individualists cannot recognize their own collectivist tendencies.

      1. You’re just bitter because you discovered that Suki isn’t real.

        1. Swing and a miss.

        2. I so am not “isn’t real”!

      2. So, you’re making a normative claim: Every blog has a group identity. Gilder’s making a prescriptive claim: Every state should have a group identity. See the difference?

    2. Yeah, I’m not buying the Israel statement. I’ll take us over them anytime.

  2. Why is it “perplexing” that Reason agrees with Gilder on some issues and not others?

    As for what he said in the sixties, people said a lot in the sixties.

    The growing number of single men is a problem in China, why not in the U.S.?

    1. Single men in the U.S. are single by choice, unless they are Trekkies. The real problem in China is the disparity between the number or women and the number of men.

      1. Is being a Trekkie genetic?

        1. Being a Trekkie is an undeniable compulsion.

  3. “Israel provides the best-available model of social organization”

    Israel survives on International welfare. How is every country supposed to organize itself around externally provided handouts? Just who is supposed to pay the bills? Anyone know any wealthy space aliens?

    1. If we just arm ourselves to fight them we’ll be wealthy.

    2. Israel’s international welfare is due to the fact that they are surrounded by crazies who want to exterminate them. I don’t take this as a knock on their society.

      1. “Israel’s international welfare is due to the fact that they are surrounded by crazies”

        Bullshit. It is a result of political influence.

        1. *except in the case of payments from Germany, which can be considered reparations

        2. Actually, the aid is the reward for Israel handing over the Sinai Peninsula in the Camp David accord. If you want to end the aid, convince Egypt to give the Sinai Peninsula back.

          1. Israel has been getting handouts from the U.K., the U.S. and Germany since before Camp David. The handouts that Israel gets from the Swiss Banks are a result of the extortion play which was made long after Camp David.

            1. This is news to me, you so silly. Please cite your source.

    3. Ha!,

      The CIA Factbook puts Israel’s economy at $219 billion. I highly doubt that an extra 1% of that in the form of aid makes a huge difference. Its 2010 growth rate was 4.6%, which dwarfs the aid.

      1. Good then Israel won’t mind if all aid is cut off to Israel tomorrow. Besides, Israel gets a hell of lot more than 2.19 billion in aid each year.

        You really need to factor in the money that Israel makes selling U.S. military tech to China and Russia as well as the cost of all the wars that the U.S. is fighting for Israel.

        Don’t forget to add in the ad hoc gifts such as the Patriot Missile batteries after the first Gulf War. Save a line or two for special trade deals. And who can forget the sneaky way that Israel, unlike other recipients of U.S., receives most of its handouts in a lump at the beginning of the fiscal year rather than in quarterly disbursements.

        1. the cost of all the wars that the U.S. is fighting for Israel.

          So you think it’s Israel’s fault that Obama sent US military personnel after Libya? Your mindset is clear. You blame Israel rather than look inwards.

  4. Yes, it’s perplexing that an ultra-reactionary would consider an ethnocentric theocracy to be the ideal form of social organization. A real head-scratcher there.

    1. Israel’s not a theocracy, it’s a democracy with an official religion. Sort of like England (although less so, since in England the king/queen and prime minister are also in charge of the Church of England).

      1. Really? It’s not Saudi Arabia, of course, but you put Israel below the UK on the theocracy scale? Thanks for the laugh.

        Here’s an Israeli newspaper on the subject:…..acy-1.2438

        1. One columnist’s opinion does not change the facts. There are plenty of people who would argue that anyone who wants to ban abortion in the U.S. is a theocrat, on the same (flawed) basis.

        2. a, you read the far left Israel newspaper. If you want to have a more balanced view, you should also read an Israeli paper from the right like this one. Otherwise, it’s like believing an NPR report about Midwestern American Evangelicals.

  5. “anti-Semitism and the anti-capitalist mentality are effectively the same thing”

    That is complete bullshit. There are certainly anti-Jewish individuals who resent the power that wealth has given Jews over the last few centuries, but that does not translate into being anti-capitalist.

    1. Are you being ironic?

    2. I suspect the Venn diagram of anti-Semites and anti-capitalists has a surprising large degree of overlap.

      1. That doesn’t make them “effectively the same”. Saying so is a way of smearing anti-Semites as anti-capitalist, though.

        1. I assume you meant the other way around?

      2. For example, well-known anti-Semite and anti-capitalist Henry Ford.

        1. He was anti-capitalist; like the rest of his 30’s Fascist ilk, he was a corporatist/neo-feudalist/3rd Positionist.

      3. + 18 to RC Dean

  6. Not at all. Some anti-Jewish persons define capitalist economics as Jewish economics, but not all.

    1. I think you’re overanalyzing this. It seemed to me he was saying that much anti-semitism and much anti-capitalism are the same only in that they’re motivated by the same basic grudge — jealousy and paranoia directed at other people’s success. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

      1. My anticapitalist friends are all quite well-off. It think it’s guilt, not jealousy. Not sure if that applies to anti-Semites, though.

  7. Hey, guys! What’s going on in this thread? Oh… Never mind…

  8. I have had American blacks tell me that capitalism is a “white” system developed to give “whites” an advantage. (It’s lovely what schools teach kids these days.) No distinction was made between Jewish and non-Jewish whites. The resentment is directed toward those who are successful in capitalism, not specifically toward Jews, but, if your ethnic narrative is that you are the biggest victims on the planet, then it is more useful to suggest that anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism are the same thing.

    1. I’m pretty sure that was a fairly common view in the black community long, long before “what schools teach kids these days.” Marcus Garvey and other black nationalists of the early 20th Century were generally critical of capitalism as being a “white” system.

    2. No distinction was made between Jewish and non-Jewish whites.

      You obviously haven’t hung around these guys enough.

      1. “You obviously haven’t hung around these guys enough.”

        You got me there.

    3. ha!, In practice, this anti-White prejudice becomes anti-Jewish hate, like in the Crown Heights riots, because Jews are more likely to live next to non-Whites.

      1. Travel to the South, sweetheart. Blacks and non-Jewish whites live near one another, work together and interact all the time. Not sure why you insist on making such a silly generalisation.

        1. I said “more likely”. Which counties have the largest percentage of blacks in the South? Those are also the counties with a larger percentage of Jews.

  9. Is that a Tool t-shirt underneath The Jacket?!?!

  10. Was Gilder there to protest FreedomFest?

    What an asswipe.

    And he’s no less antisemitic than some of the people on this thread. Anyone who thinks Jews are different than anyone else (whether good or bad) is an antisemitic.

    1. What? They are Jewish (usually identify with a certain cultural heritage and/or religion) and have a higher rate of male circumcision than the general population.

      I don’t think pointing that out makes someone an Anti-Semite.

      1. Although I think I know what you mean, Colin.

        1. Can you explain it to the rest of us?

          1. I think he means ‘different in any way but the most obvious ways’. I.e., like the ones I pointed out.

  11. Well I have spent a year in Israel.

    It is a theocratic country.

    On the other hand I have felt more free there than I have in in the US.
    But that has a lot to do with me not being Palestinian I suppose.

    But in the times I have had to deal with police over there, they were way less dickheadish than American police that i have had to deal with.

    Then again as an American, that is the case in many countries even those that are tyrannies.

    That said, they are more socialist than us, by far.
    They are an apartheid society that probably cannot continue with their current policies without the financial support from us, and the financial and military pressure on their neighbors by us on their behalf.

    1. I spent a summer in Israel. While there, I shared a meal with a native of Gaza. He explained that Israel offered Gaza to Egypt at Camp David, but Egypt did not want it. I also heard a talk by a politician in Jerusalem who’s party reaches out to Muslim and Christian Jerusalemites. While in Hifa, I visited the grounds of the Baha’i Gardens. Israel is no more theocratic than Bergen County, NJ.

    2. Arabs are out-breeding Jews, even within Israel. I don’t know how Israel can survive based on that fact alone.

      1. Arabs are out-breeding Jews

        Why do you separate Arabs and Jews? Half of the Jewish ancestors of Jewish Israelis are Mizrachi and Sephardic. Arab is an ethnicity. Jewish is a religious affiliation. Your statement makes as little sense as saying that Christians outnumber Hispanics in America.

        1. Yes, there are Arab Jews, Arab Christians, and Arab Moslems.

          But the Arab Jews don’t consider themselves Arabs. Not in Israel, in other Arab countries they do.

          Yes Gaza was offered to Egypt, and Egypt didn’t want it, so what?

          As far as Theocracies go, Israel isn’t as bad as Saudi Arabia, but it is not any county in the US either, not even the worst part of the bible belt.

          1. Where in the US would we require Jews or Moslems to sign a loyalty oath to the US as a Christian country?

            Where in the US do we have ‘Christian only’ neighborhoods.?

            Where in the US do we have a Christian move into a house because a Jew did not adhere to proper housing regulations? In an attempt to Christianize a neighborhood?

            1. Where in the US would we require Jews or Moslems to sign a loyalty oath to the US as a Christian country?

              The pledge of allegiance, which every child is taught to recite in the government schools that they are conscripted to attend.

              Where in the US do we have ‘Christian only’ neighborhoods.?

              Berlin, NH for starters. Most towns in the USA don’t have non-Christian houses of worship. Have you ever looked online to see the distribution of synagogues between NJ and MI? That’s a matter of demographics, not government policy. Israel does not ban anyone non-Jew from living in a region based on his religion, but Israel did ban Jews from living in Gaza and much of Judea and Samaria. The PA made is a capital crime for anyone in its jurisdiction to sell land to Jews.

              Where in the US do we have a Christian move into a house because a Jew did not adhere to proper housing regulations? In an attempt to Christianize a neighborhood?

              If you’re referring to Israelis moving into abandonment homes, it happens all the time in the USA. Squatters rights have been part of American law for centuries. The details vary by states, but absentee landlords who haven’t paid taxes on their land in decades don’t have much of a claim to it.

              Bergen County, NJ is right across the river from Manhattan, not the Bible Belt. Contrary to your stereotype, Liberal counties are enthusiastic about imposing religious laws on the general populace. It is illegal to sell most items on the Christian Sabbath in Bergen Count.

              1. The pledge of allegiance says
                “one nation under God”
                “one nation under a Christian God”

                And that doesn’t even come close to requiring people to betray their race and religion.

                I doubt Berlin NH discriminates against Jews and Moslems the way the settlements discriminate against Arabs.

                Really? How would you even compare the two?

                I am sure you wouldn’t accept Aryan racism the way you accept the same and worse from Israel.

            2. Where in the US do we have ‘Christian only’ neighborhoods.?

              In an attempt to Christianize a neighborhood?

              It is USA State Department policy to oppose any Jews moving into Bethlehem, Israel and too many other towns to list here. It’s noteworthy that when Muslims have not yet moved into an Israeli town, you see that as proof that Israel is biased against Muslims, but when Jews start to move into an Israeli town, you see that as proof that Israel is biased against Muslims. I find your double standard unacceptable.

              1. You would have a point if the Israeli Army enforce “moslem only” highways, instead of just “jewish only” highways.

                There is not a problem with Jews moving into a moslem neighborhood. No one has a problem with this. The problem is with moving moslems out by force. The problem is with the “ethnic cleansing” type policies of the Israeli government.

          2. But the Arab Jews don’t consider themselves Arabs. Not in Israel, in other Arab countries they do.

            You will be hard pressed to find American Jews who consider themselves Anglos. If you accept self-identification, then the Jews of Israel are the natives there.

            1. Yes, I am a native of Nevada, and they are Natives of Israel, if they live there and call it their home.
              Fair enough, by all means.

              It is slightly less acceptable to say you are a native of there just because you are Jewish.

              It is much less acceptable to say that the people who were born there, and whose grandparents were born there do not belong there because their great granparents converted to the wrong religion. (Christianity or Islam)

              To take their houses, to deny them the right to return to their houses, because they are not the right religion, that IMO is wrong.

  12. Have to say one thing, i like this guys candor. No minced words here. Its refreshing.

    1. That I have to agree with, the candor is refreshing

  13. WOW, talk about Zionist!

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