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Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Talmud, the financial crisis, and Time magazine bias

Time magazine has an interesting article on how traditional Judaism would respond to the current financial crisis.

A new article at the Journal of Law and Religion by Yeshiva University professor Aaron Levine (not yet online) discusses Jewish legal and ethical issues around the current problems. I would love to read the article, as Levine is a prolific author of books and articles on Jewish business ethics.

Rather than synopsize the article, however, Time chose to interview a different person. Rabbi Eliezer Diamond is Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at New York's Jewish Theological Seminary, a Conservative Jewish institution.

So rather than a dispassionate review, we are treated to questionable halachic analysis such as comparing purchasing items in a marketplace with knowing about a woman's blemishes before marriage. It appears that Diamond introduced this novel idea, not Levine.

Worse, Time uses this as a springboard for this paragraph:
Diamond belongs to a group called Rabbis for Obama, and says that in light of the financial crisis, its members have begun to discuss how the old wisdom could mediate the new mess. The question these days, he says, is not whether Jews can be induced to be more ethical than the market, but whether the market can be made more ethical. "I think classic rabbinic tradition is certainly pro-regulatory," he says.

Meanwhile, Yeshiva's Levine calls in his journal article for what he describes as "an incentive structure in the workplace that would dissuade people from wrongdoing." He gets quite specific, imagining a "carrot and stick" arrangement. One stick would be an expansion of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which mandated greater accountability for CEOs of publicly-owned companies, among other things.
Time has twisted the real business halacha expert's article to make it appear as if Obama's plans are more Talmudic than McCain's. Sarbanes-Oxley indeed demands transparency and accountability but it is not the kind of intrusive regulatory legislation that Obama seems to be advocating. It is possible that Levine does push for Democrat-style regulation; without seeing the actual article I cannot be sure, but the wording here seems deceptive as Time tries to make it look like Talmudic law is unquestioningly pro-regulation.

To see an example of Rabbi Levine's articles on Jewish business ethics that has not gone through the bias of the mainstream media, see here. A more scholarly and dry article on inflation can be found here.