A Fan Of Israel

A high school classmate of mine was a fan of the state of Israel the way people are fans of the Star Wars movies. My feelings are close. 8 million people have done what 800 million have not. The Israeli people are living proof as to how much (more) brain power can do. And even they claim to have used only 1%. Where does that put the rest of us?

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A reckless wager
A global movement toward much higher minimum wages is dangerous
Modest minimum wages do not seem to sap demand for labour. Truckloads of studies, from both America and Europe, show that at low levels—below 50% of median full-time income, with a lower rate for young people—minimum wages do not destroy many jobs. When Britain set a new minimum wage in 1998 doom-mongers forecast that jobs would vanish. Employment proved resilient. Minimum wages help offset firms’ bargaining power over employees reluctant to risk moving elsewhere. They may even boost productivity and reduce staff turnover by making workers value their jobs. .......... Encouraged by this evidence, many are clamouring to make minimum wages far more generous. In America campaigners want the federal minimum wage more than doubled from today’s stingy $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour, or 77% of median hourly income. They have had some success; several big cities, including New York this week, plan to phase in a $15 minimum wage ...... nobody knows what big rises will do, at any time horizon. It is reckless to assume that because low minimum wages have seemed harmless, much larger ones must be, too. ..... One danger is that a high minimum wage will push some workers out of the labour force for good. A building worker who loses his job in a recession can expect to find a new one when the economy picks up. A cashier with few skills who, following the introduction of a high minimum wage, becomes permanently more expensive than a self-service checkout machine will have no such luck. The British government’s defence of its new policy—that a strong economy will generate enough jobs to replace those lost to a higher minimum wage—is disingenuous: the jobs are still lost. That is why Milton Friedman described minimum wages as a form of discrimination against the low-skilled. .......... Technological advances are enabling firms to replace more and more people with computers and robots, imperilling jobs. ..... An ever-higher minimum wage will encourage investment in the technology to replace them. Higher minimum wages will also affect workers in tradable sectors such as tourism and manufacturing, where they risk losing ground to foreign competitors....... The irony is that minimum wages are a bad way to combat poverty. The Congressional Budget Office reckons that only one-fifth of the income benefits go to those beneath the poverty line. The richest 10% of British households will benefit more from the higher rate than the poorest 10%, because many low-paid people are their family’s second earners. ...... a minimum wage is not free. Someone must pay. The common refrain that companies will shoulder the burden is the product of hope rather than evidence. If the cost is passed on to consumers, the minimum wage turns into a subsidy funded by a sales tax—a revenue-raiser that, again, falls heavily on the poor. ..... Tax credits (income top-ups for low earners) are a much more efficient way for governments to help the poor—about three-quarters of the benefit ends up with employees. To the extent that firms benefit, they are encouraged to employ low-skilled workers rather than automate jobs.

Minimum wages have a powerful emotional and political appeal. But governments should deal in evidence not sentiment.

Minimum wages can work as part of the policy mix only if they are modest. Set too high, they harm the very people they are supposed to help.
How The Small State Of Israel Is Becoming A High-Tech Superpower
With the exception of the U.S., Israel–a country of a mere 8 million people–leads the world in high tech, an astonishing feat. ....... why Israeli milk cows are the world’s most productive and how this desert nation solved its water crisis (California, take note). ....... By all accounts Israel is now one of the top two or three high-tech powers in the world–

ahead of the European Union, with its 500 million people

. You’ve done this with 8 million people. ........ We decided here, in the middle of the Negev Desert, to bring in our special information units of the Israeli Army and put them right next to Ben-Gurion University. And right next to that—all within 100 yards–to build a cyber industrial park to bring in the leading companies of the world. And they’re here. We have this interaction between our finest military and cyber-security minds and the finest at the university and the nearby businesses. ....... Foreign companies, international companies realize that it’s all in the brains, in the ability to solve problems, foresee future problems and address the questions that will determine a lot of the world’s future...... nothing, absolutely nothing will escape the Internet ..... This is the South of Israel, the wild South. But the Internet is like the Wild West. It’s growing at a geometric pace, and for it to continue its growth with safety, security and stability, we need cyber security. And Israel is right up there. I took it as a goal to be among the top three cyber-security powers of the world. And I think we’re definitely there, but we’re shooting even higher. ....... There’s been a lot of pessimism about cyber security, that not much can really be done about it–just as in the old days it was said there was no defense against suicide bombers. What have you seen that makes you feel that we can not only defend but also go on the offensive and anticipate what these guys are going to do? ..... It doesn’t mean you can protect yourself against everything, but you can protect yourself against a lot of things. And that’s useful. And this is evolving all the time. ...... I think the hardest thing about cyber—which is different from other forms of attack, offense and defense–is the difficulty in setting rules. In normal competition, or even in warfare, you can set rules. Most of the time you know who’s attacking and who’s defending. You can use protection, you can use deterrents, you can use punishment. But in the world of cyber it’s not always clear. Cooperation is necessary yet also dangerous, because your partners can be infiltrated. The cyber world is complex and evolving, but if we sit back and say, “Okay, because I have these problems I’m not going to do anything, because I can’t solve everything,” we won’t solve anything. No, that’s not the way we work....... young minds–some of them very young–are. And they think outside the box, which is an understatement. This kind of talent–academic, military, security and entrepreneurial–has converged in one place and is producing a lot of startup companies and a lot of innovations that will give the Net a measure of security it just doesn’t have today. ....... the most important thing in our army is the head, the brain. It’s a very large brain compared with those of other powers. We invest heavily in military intelligence. And developments in military intelligence, especially in IT, were a great unrealized potential until we created a more business-friendly environment. You can have the most brilliant minds, the most brilliant mathematicians and physicists–as you had with those who came from the former Soviet Union. But, as you know, that didn’t go anywhere [until] you [took] those scientists on a plane to Paolo Alto. Then they were producing added value within two weeks. ......... the most important thing [we did] was to create a pro-business environment, a pro-entrepreneurial environment and to introduce the idea of venture capital. The minute we fused intelligence capabilities with business capabilities, the Israeli high-tech economy just took off. And that’s something to which I’ve devoted a good part of my time as prime minister. Now I’m especially concentrating on the enormous growth area of cyber security, which, I believe, will be a growth engine for the next 50 years. The problems aren’t going to go away, and the need for solutions is going to grow. And we intend to be there with the solutions. ........ the first thing is you’ve got to have products that actually give added value–and we do ...... in all areas of technology Israel is, in many ways, a world leader. ....... I spoke to Mr. Modi, the prime minister of India. And he told me, “Look, in all my four color revolutions–in water, dairy, clean air [and the other things he wants, such as agriculture]–I need Israeli technology.” ........ The [breed of] cow that produces the most milk per cow is not a French cow or a Dutch cow; it’s an Israeli cow. Every moo is computerized. And it produces an enormous amount of milk. Now, if you have to feed over a billion people in China, that makes a difference. The same is true in India ....... Water? We recycle–87% of our waste water is recycled. The next runner-up is Spain, with about 20%. ...... when Israel was founded 67 years ago, we had twice the rainwater that we have today. Our population’s grown more than tenfold; our GDP per capita has grown almost 40 times. We should have a water problem, but we don’t. Because we recycle more than any other country in the world. We’ve desalinated. We’ve got drip irrigation. We’ve got controls on our waste and spillage, electronic controls. We don’t have a water problem. ....... the future belongs to those who innovate.

Israel innovates

....... that’s one of my big pleasures in public life, slashing the bureaucracy. We had to fight big bureaucratic battles to get this cyber park and to get our military to move all their key units here. But eventually, you know, we got it done. ....... if we’ve grown an average of 5% a year with the amount of bureaucracy we have, that tells you how much more we could grow if we removed that bureaucracy. ....... For most of modern Israel’s existence we didn’t have any natural resources–except for our brains. ..... We were fortunate–as, I think, you once said–to be the only Middle Eastern country with practically no energy. We had to use our mental energy. But then, in roughly the sixth decade of our life, we found gas. ........ We always thought that Moses was a great leader but a lousy navigator. It turns out he wasn’t such a lousy navigator. He brought us to a country not with flowing milk and honey, but with a lot of gas–not manna from heaven, but manna from under the ocean bed, under the sea bed. ..... Private companies, once they started looking for it, were able to do what our government companies could not do: They found gas. They’ve taken some of it, and now we have a big political battle to get the rest out and enable the companies to make money and the Israeli government to get its share. ....... Obviously, we have a lot of populism to fight. Where do you not?

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