“Two Jewish traditions seemed to be at war in Israel [when I visited in 1962]: a hundred-year-old tradition of belief in paternalistic socialist government and rejection of capitalism and free markets; and a two-thousand year old tradition, developed out of the necessities of the Diaspora, of self-reliance and voluntary cooperation, of ingenuity in getting around government controls…I concluded that, fortunately for Israel, the older tradition was proving the stronger” – Milton Friedman
The Green Leaf-Libertarian Party didn’t garner much attention this election. In spite of an endorsement from a major Israeli economist, most Israelis still saw it as the Party of Weed. In fact, party activists said that they were usually just asked if they have free samples. This is a shame, because in this election the Israeli Libertarian Movement truly came of age.
There have always been parties that stood for specific freedoms during Israel’s history. The General Zionists of the 1950s fought for a freer market. Likud fought against the monopoly of the Histadrut, the legendary (or infamous) General Worker’s Union. Meretz has always fought for individual personal freedoms. However, only recently – 2011, to be exact – was a truly Libertarian movement founded in Israel, based on the ideals of maximum individual liberty and limited government.
I had the privilege to be a witness to this development. My own conversion to libertarianism occurred a few years ago. I was already skeptical of government, especially government bureaucracy, but I still thought many government welfare programs were good and necessary. Still, I decided to give Milton Friedman a chance and listen to what he had to say. In the end, I was won over not just by his arguments but by his genuine compassion for ordinary people.
Soon I met others like myself and we got to sharing ideas on a facebook group. This soon ballooned into a full-scale movement which continues to grow to this day. The members of the movement are a diverse lot: secular and religious, right-wing and left-wing. Some are for some form of limited government, others for anarcho-capitalism. However, all agree that the government is stifling individual liberty and prosperity for everyone through its myriad regulations, laws and monopolies. This is as true for religion and the army as it is for the economy.
In my opinion, the decision to run for Knesset was a true breakthrough. During this period, the movement succeeded in getting out its message to many new audiences. In spite of the failure at the polls, the principles that the libertarian movement support are now out there in the marketplace of ideas. Here, just like in the free market, every day is election day.