Wednesday, March 18, 2015

If you subsidize religion, you get more of it

When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, Premier David Ben-Gurion granted yeshiva students state financing and exemption from army service to rebuild Torah scholarship that was destroyed in the Holocaust (NY Times).  At the time, there were only 400 students who qualified for the subsidy.  

Today, they make up 10% of the population, and half of them live below the poverty line, dependent on subsidies to survive.   Rabbi Amsellem, a member of parliament, is telling them to go to work:

“Torah is the most important thing in the world,” Rabbi Amsellem said in an interview. But now more than 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men in Israel do not work, compared with 15 percent in the general population, and he argued that full-time, state-financed study should be reserved for great scholars destined to become rabbis or religious judges. 
“Those who are not that way inclined,” he said, “should go out and earn a living.” 
Because the subsidies are tied to the number of children each family has, the problem is likely to get bigger.  Fertility rates among the ultra orthodox (7.6 children/woman) are several times higher than the general population.


  1. “Subsidies destroy wealth by moving assets from higher to lower valued uses.” (Froeb et al, 2014) A subsidy is the opposite of a tax, and once enacted becomes difficult to discontinue. Consumers become dependent on subsidies, which are inefficient and discourage the creation of wealth.

    The social structure of subsidizing religion allows the recipients, who live in poverty to morally accept this entrapment. The study of religion is viewed as noble and righteous. This religious subsidy is tied to the size of the family, favoring larger families. The unintended consequence is a growth of population receiving subsidies and living in poverty.

    I agree with the Rabbi’s statement of encouraging employment. It’s time to challenge the social acceptance of living in poverty under the guise of a religious stipend.

    Froeb, L., McCann, B., Shor, M., & Ward, M. (2014). Managerial Economics: A Problem Solving Approach (Third Edit.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

  2. by Tiffany ESC id 0954241

    This seems to be a case of whether or not education should continue to be subsidized by the gov't. In the States, supporters of student aid subsidies argue that higher education is a "public good" that would be under provided in a free market. However, that is probably not the case. People have a strong incentive to invest in their own education because it will lead to higher earnings. Those with a college degree will earn, on average, 75 percent more during their lifetime than those with just high-school degrees.8 That is a big incentive for people to save or borrow in private markets to pay for their own college costs.

    Edwards, C and McCluskey, N., (2009) Higher Education Subsidies.

  3. Yeshiva students “belong to God’s army” according to Judaic tradition (Herscovici, 2010). In the Christian tradition, monastic women or men who dedicate their lives to the study and understanding of faith, miracles and mysteries coming from faith, are "God's soldiers" and are said to pray for all of us and for our redemption, or forgiveness from sins. Living in a country that has monks and nuns congregations gives a sense of hope that, if we as laic majority enjoy the merits and downfalls of jobs, money, families, relationships, competition, guns, cars and everything else that comes with laic life, somewhere these innocent monastic people carry on their way of living, their humble means, and their dedication to make every moment free of sins or intention of a sin.
    The number of yeshiva students in Israel is about 20% of the population. The percentage seems high. Many of them though (Herscovici, 2010) “study the Torah and have practical activities too”. The yeshiva students work in different fields, from the most humble jobs to hi-tech jobs (Herscovici, 2010). They believe that the continuous study of the Torah and of the Judaic books “represents the central and vital element, the foundation of the Jewish and Israeli society” (Herscovici, 2010). “From their point of view, the study of laic disciplines is a waste of time; time should be dedicated only to the study of the Torah, and any practical activity should only help to sustain their families” (Herscovici, 2010).
    Herscovici, L. 2010. Ultra-religious Jews: parasites or the foundation of the state of Israel? Retrieved from

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  6. This is so true, that if you subsidize religion you can really get more from it. Any donation that is made to religious group or churches, it is tax-deductible. Most of us already know that although churches collect and accumulate a considerable income from:
     Tithes and Offering
     Donations and Monetary Gifts
     Fund Raising activities
     Even gambling activities like bingo games, etc

    These religious organizations are not subject to the taxes that corporations would pay, or even many other taxes. Any Pastor, Priest, Rabbis, Church Father, etc usually get a “parsonage exemptions” that help them with deduction on their rent expense or mortgage payments or other living expenses when they file their annual income tax return. Some of these tax exemptions may include:
     Churches do not pay property taxes
     When purchases are made churches do not pay sale taxes
     If a church happens to sell something at a profit, they do not have to pay capital gains tax
     If a church spends less than they received in donations, they do not have to pay corporate income taxes.

    Most non-profits organizations, especially churches and religious groups are given tax-exemptions, to allow people to come together and do something valuable for the community which the government would not be able to do directly.

    1. Frobe, McCann, Ward and Shor (2014) Managerial Economics – A Problem Solving Approach.

    2. Torlakson, Tom. (2011) - Churches and Taxes

  7. This attitude is repeated through the entire world; in this case in particular it makes reference to people who "enjoy" a particular privilege, welfare.
    To be subsidized by the State, can be seen as Equilibrium of sequential games, in this case, the State or Government started a process of subsidies to a population with a profile or particular characteristics, in that group we have those with social conditions that meet requirements, and those who by personal conditions themselves conform to this type of character with the single purpose of enjoying these types of benefits.
    In this type of society where there are the conditions of "win - win", the politicians get a dependent population, which will yield a profit, psychological-political, since these assume that because of the relation of dependency this group would be faithful to their aspirations of continuity of control of directional organizations, political, religious, or all those that indicate controls of public funds, whether as in many cases the satisfaction of personal feel above their peers.
    On the other hand, the other members of this cooperative society in the "win - win", can enjoy a lifestyle with 'security' that can provide be under the protection of the umbrella of the State without the need of effort on their part to get the necessary income that you will pay in order to cover economic needs. All these benefits are obtained by the reasonable price of their voluntary sale, conscious or as I would say an acquaintance, to sell your soul to avoid subjecting the body to the daily work.

    References: Froeb, McCann, Ward, Shor: (2014) Managerial Econonics. A Problem Solving Approach, Ohio: South Western Cengage Learning

  8. Subsidizing religion seems to be an expedient in other societies as well. Saudi Arabia also heavily subsidizes it's Wahabi branch of Sunni faith. It's a way to mollify a potentially explosive group, allowing the Saudi Monarchs to justify themselves as guardians of Islams' holiest places. The subsidy represents a hedge, or insurance against political rivals of the regime. The subsidy to schools and foreign endeavors does foster greater religious extremism.
    Pandering to the Christian Right in the United States can be seen as a wedge issue in Red States that get mainstream voters to elect officials in favor of tax cuts for wealthy individuals. SuperPACS supported by a narrow class of extremely wealthy individuals can use wedge issues to motivate people to vote irrationally against their own economic issues.
    Arguably this has led to political paralysis, upheaval, and crisis across the globe in Israel, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia. This is often in the name of conservatism, but effectively it's revolution.

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