[EconTalk] Ran Abramitzky on the Mystery of the Kibbutz

Ran Abramitzky on the Mystery of the Kibbutz

22/10/2018 by EconTalk: Russ Roberts

Web player: http://podplayer.net/?id=57308002
Episode: http://files.libertyfund.org/econtalk/y2018/Abramitzkykibbutz.mp3

Economist and author Ran Abramitzky of Stanford University talks about his book, The Mystery of the Kibbutz, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Abramitzky traces the evolution of the kibbutz movement in Israel and how the kibbutz structure changed to cope with the modernization and development of the Israeli economy. The conversation includes a discussion of how the history of the kibbutz might help us to understand the appeal and challenges of the socialism and freedom.

The most interesting things in this episode, either answered, asked, or left unaddressed:

  • First, the tying together of two related concepts, but ones I had never made the connection with before: the Dunbar number, and the family as a top-down, slightly dictatorial social system that doesn’t obey the rules of the marketplace. And how the kibbutz is an attempt to reconstruct family rules up to the point where they apply – roughly the Dunbar number.
  • The thought this sparks: how do Indian joint families, the really big Marwari ones, overcome the Dunbar number? Is the Dunbar number different in different cultures? Or, here’s a more insidious thought – it’s because the males and females, and adults and children (and super adults) all still have a Dunbar number of about 180, but the people within that limit are disjoint sets, because lots of relationships are just objectified or transactionalised.
  • Kibbutzim as voluntary socialism reminds me of the voluntary Maoist reservations from Transmetropolitan; and to a lesser extent of the racist corponations from Snow Crash.
  • It would have been nice to see the discussion go towards comparative advantage (not just of skills inside a kibbutz, which was discussed to some extent); but of kibbutzim against both each other and the outside economy.
  • Hari the Kid, whose blog is now defunct, had of course volunteered on a kibbutz a few years ago.


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