August 5, 2010

Mark Twain: "Concerning the Jews"

I had never seen until very recently this fascinating article "Concerning the Jews" from the March 1898 issue of Harper's by Mark Twain. Twain wrote it during the 18 months he spent in Vienna, where his daughter was receiving advanced musical training. Twain entered actively into the quite Jewish intellectual life of the Austro-Hungarian capital, met Freud and other local luminaries, was annoyed by the low-level anti-Semitism of Central Europe at the time, and consequently urged Jews to organize politically.

Twain ventured a vague proto-version of the Cochran-Harpending theory of the evolution of Jewish intelligence:
In all the ages Christian Europe has been obliged to curtail his activities. If he entered upon a mechanical trade, the Christian had to retire from it. If he set up as a doctor, he was the best one, and he took the business. If he exploited agriculture, the other farmers had to get at something else. Since there was no way to successfully compete with him in any vocation, the law had to step in and save the Christian from the poor-house. ...

Trade after trade was taken away from the Jew by statute till practically none was left. He was forbidden to engage in agriculture; he was forbidden to practise law; he was forbidden to practise medicine, except among Jews; he was forbidden the handicrafts. Even the seats of learning and the schools of science had to be closed against this tremendous antagonist.

Still, almost bereft of employments, he found ways to make money, even ways to get rich. Also ways to invest his takings well, for usury was not denied him. In the hard conditions suggested, the Jew without brains could not survive, and the Jew with brains had to keep them in good training and well sharpened up, or starve. Ages of restriction to the one tool which the law was not able to take from him - his brain - have made that tool singularly competent; ages of compulsory disuse of his hands have atrophied them, and he never uses them now. 

Twain downplays religious theories explaining anti-Semitism in favor of business competition theories.

Twain was an enthusiastic capitalist himself (although he tended to lose money at his many business ventures), an admirer of capitalists (e.g., A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court), and a critic as well (e.g., The Gilded Age).

His retelling of the famous Chapter XLVII in Genesis about what Joseph, great grandson of Abraham, did as the servant of the pharaoh after his dream of the seven fat and seven lean years is stunning to me in the how-stupid-of-me-not-to-have-thought-of-that mode. Twain recounts it from the perspective of a 19th Century observer of robber baron maneuvering to corner markets:
In this connection I call to mind Genesis, chapter xlvii. We have all thoughtfully - or unthoughtfully - read the pathetic story of the years of plenty and the years of famine in Egypt, and how Joseph, with that opportunity, made a corner in broken hearts, and the crusts of the poor, and human liberty - a corner whereby he took a nation's money all away, to the last penny; took a nation's livestock all away, to the last hoof; took a nation's land away, to the last acre; then took the nation itself, buying it for bread, man by man, woman by woman, child by child, till all were slaves; a corner which took everything, left nothing; a corner so stupendous that, by comparison with it, the most gigantic corners in subsequent history are but baby things, for it dealt in hundreds of millions of bushels, and its profits were reckonable by hundreds of millions of dollars, and it was a disaster so crushing that its effects have not wholly disappeared from Egypt to-day, more than three thousand years after the event.

Is it presumable that the eye of Egypt was upon Joseph the foreign Jew all this time? I think it likely. Was it friendly? We must doubt it. Was Joseph establishing a character for his race which would survive long in Egypt? and in time would his name come to be familiarly used to express that character - like Shylock's? It is hardly to be doubted.

Let us remember that this was centuries before the crucifixion. 

Twain continues:
Religious prejudices may account for one part of [anti-Semitism], but not for the other nine. Protestants have persecuted Catholics, but they did not take their livelihoods away from them. The Catholics have persecuted the Protestants with bloody and awful bitterness, but they never closed agriculture and the handicrafts against them. Why was that? That has the candid look of genuine religious persecution, not a trade-union boycott in a religious disguise.


The Jews are harried and obstructed in Austria and Germany, and lately in France; but England and America give them an open field and yet survive. Scotland offers them an unembarrassed field too, but there are not many takers. There are a few Jews in Glasgow, and one in Aberdeen; but that is because they can't earn enough to get away. The Scotch pay themselves that compliment, but it is authentic. 

In the days of Andrew Carnegie and many others, the Scots were among the most dynamic people on earth.

It's an insightful article by a sympathetic gentile. I strongly doubt anything similar could be published in Harper's today, though.

46 comments:

dearieme said...

But does the bible contain any historical truth about the period before, say, the Babylonian exile?

Come to think of it, in which papers or magazines could that question be published?

Anonymous said...

Steve, Twain died in 1910 and therefore missed the 'Jewish Century'. Do you think his opinions would have changed had he lived long enough to see events such as the Bolshevik Revolution?

Anonymous said...

Good post, but Twain doesn't exactly praise capitalism in A Connecticut Yankee. Hank Morgan's entrepreneurial ingenuity ends up creating the weapons, which he and his army uses, to blow up medieval England.

Anonymous said...

Trade after trade was taken away from the Jew by statute till practically none was left.


Yeah, the only things the poor Jews could do were trading and banking. Oh, the humanity!

Whiskey said...

No, the Yankee fails because of the Dark Ages squalor and superstition destroys everything. The electric fences, the machine guns, the poison gas, the land mines, are not enough to stop the superstition and ignorance, a constant theme of Twain's from Huck Finn, Innocents Abroad (where he snuffs out the "sacred" Holy Flame burning for millennia), Letters from Earth ("God created the poor man's friend, the fly") or Roughing It.

Twain was the enemy, everywhere, of Humbuggery and Superstition. Not the least of which is that it tormented him greatly as a boy. Read the passages in Huck Finn about the stupidity of feuds (Why Harney Rode Back for His Hat) or superstition (the Death Watch Beetle).

It is easy to see Twain's outright admiration for Jews. He was an Evangelical tormented by superstition and poverty (self-sustaining by superstition) as a boy. Jews to him presented a "Scientific" means of escape from that. You'd love the future too if you were stuck in the mud.

As for Marxism, last time I checked Lenin, Stalin, and Mao the foremost and important Marxists were not Jews. In fact they persecuted them greatly (and Stalin had his own final solution ready before he died).

Severn said...

Protestants have persecuted Catholics, but they did not take their livelihoods away from them.


Twain seems to have almost entirely ignorant of history.

For instance, here are some of the Penal Laws directed against Irish Catholics by the Protestant English.

# Exclusion of Catholics from most public offices (since 1607)
# Ban on intermarriage with Protestants; repealed 1778
# Catholics barred from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces (rescinded by Militia Act of 1793)
# Bar from membership in either the Parliament of Ireland or the Parliament of Great Britain from 1652; rescinded 1662-1691; renewed 1691-1829.
# Disenfranchising Act 1728, exclusion from voting until 1793;
# Exclusion from the legal professions and the judiciary; repealed (respectively) 1793 and 1829.
# Education Act 1695 - ban on foreign education; repealed 1782.
# Bar to Catholics entering Trinity College Dublin; repealed 1793.
# On a death by a Catholic, his legatee could benefit by conversion to the Church of Ireland;
# Popery Act - Catholic inheritances of land were to be equally subdivided between all an owner's sons with the exception that if the eldest son and heir converted to Protestantism that he would become the one and only tenant of estate and portions for other children not to exceed one third of the estate. This "Gavelkind" system had previously been abolished by 1600.
# Ban on converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism on pain of Praemunire: forfeiting all property estates and legacy to the monarch of the time and remaining in prison at the monarch's pleasure. In addition, forfeiting the monarch's protection. No injury however atrocious could have any action brought against it or any reparation for such.
# Ban on Catholics buying land under a lease of more than 31 years; repealed 1778.
# Ban on custody of orphans being granted to Catholics on pain of 500 pounds that was to be donated to the Blue Coat hospital in Dublin.
# Ban on Catholics inheriting Protestant land
# Prohibition on Catholics owning a horse valued at over £5 (in order to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority's hands)


This is merely an illustrative example. Please, I don't want to get flamed by the tedious anti-Irish-Catholic bigots I know hang out here.

Anonymous said...

But does the bible contain any historical truth about the period before, say, the Babylonian exile?

Come to think of it, in which papers or magazines could that question be published?


Um, in just about any middlebrow or above rag in the United States today? Are you serious? Heck, Newsweek and Time run articles along those lines every year.

Now, the one area of the world where such academic censorship rules the roost is the Islamic world--and while is a serious school of historians who entertain doubt about whether Muhammad existed (and remember that's a time frame 14 centuries closer to us than the Babylonian exile), don't expect such lines of inquiry to be reported in the Muslim MSM.

Severn said...

Anyone else getting odd Google errors lately?

I've been seeing "Request-URI Too Large" messages when I try to submit a comment.

ricpic said...

I may be misreading Twain but it seems to me he is attempting to have it both ways. On the one hand Jewish sharp financial practices developed as a way to survive in reaction to Christian Europe's proscription of almost every other normal way for a Jew to make a living. On the other hand Jewish ruthlessness is an inherent trait (the Joseph story) that forced European Christians to limit Jewish opportunities to compete as a defensive measure. In other words Twain criticizes an attitude toward Jews that he himself holds.

Severn said...

The Catholics have persecuted the Protestants with bloody and awful bitterness, but they never closed agriculture and the handicrafts against them. Why was that? That has the candid look of genuine religious persecution, not a trade-union boycott in a religious disguise.



Jews were widely represented in the crafts in Europe. The name "Silverberg", not an uncommon Jewish name, originally denoted somebody who worked with silver, in the same way that that the English name "Cooper" once denoted the trade of that name.

I don't now what Twain used as his source of information - perhaps his Jewish friends in Vienna filled his head with nonsense.

Anonymous said...

As for Marxism, last time I checked Lenin, Stalin, and Mao the foremost and important Marxists were not Jews.


Seems to me that the foremost and important Marxist was .... Marx.

Average Joe said...

If Europe was such a horrible place to be a Jew then why didn't they go back to the Middle East where they came from?

Harmonious Jim said...

As for Marxism, last time I checked Lenin, Stalin, and Mao the foremost and important Marxists were not Jews.

Lenin was of mixed ethnic origin: Russian, Jewish, German, Kalmyk. (The Soviets kept this secret until the archives opened in the 90s.) Lenin's maternal grandfather, Srul Blank, converted from Judaism to Orthodoxy.

The Kalmyks are a Mongolian people.

So, Lenin may have inherited some of Genghis Khan's DNA plus some of Abraham's. No wonder he was a major figure in history!

Glossy said...

To me the Talmudic theory of Jewish intelligence seems more plausible than the Cocharn/ Harpending theory.

At first Judaism, like a lot of ancient religions, was centered on temple sacrifices. When Jews revolted against Rome, the temple was destroyed and Jews were scattered across the Roman and Parthian Empires. A jolt like that was bound to transform religious practices in some way. For whatever reason, the particular direction that Judaism took after the suppression of the anti-Roman revolts was towards the study of written texts. The Talmud was created roughly between 200 AD and 500 AD.

A pattern emerged where the best scholars had the highest status in the community. This is still true among the Hasidim - it's normal for them to brag about how many famous religious scholars there are in their genealogies.

In the past high status individuals tended to leave more descendants than low status individuals.

Why does this theory sound more plausible to me than Mr. Cochran's theory?

Well, the Talmud was written in a highly legalistic prose style. Certain kinds of overcomplicated, casuistic arguments are occasionally called, jokingly or seriously, Talmudic as a result.

Are the other mercantile minorities of the world (for example Armenians or the overseas Chinese) overrepresented in the legal profession? Are they overrepresented in the parts of the entertainment world where complicated contracts are written? In the parts of the humanities where this sort of thinking predominates? If anything, the descendants of the overseas Chinese mercantile community tend towards engineering instead.

The Jewish mental profile seems to fit the Talmudic theory. In this view, the Jewish entrance into commerce (which definitely occurred in post-classical times, i.e. consistently with the Talmudic theory's time line) was a side effect of the selection effects of competitive religious study. If you could interpret the scriptures better than others, perhaps you could also write commercial contracts that were more clever than those of your competitors.

Of course, the Talmudic theory and the mercantile theory are purely speculative and could both be wrong.

Jim O said...

I'm surprised you never encountered it before.Twain was an interesting guy; even more interesting that his fiction made him appear.

Of course it couldn't be published today. Even though it's sympathetic, it's not PC. Two different things.

Anonymous said...

Jews WANTED to do manual labor in agriculture but weren't allowed to?!?!?! That is either a wholesale fabrication, or at least a partial untruth. Maybe Jews were not allowed to run farms with peasant Gentile labor? Given the brutality of Jewish slavers in Brazil, this sounds like a good policy.

Twain died in 1910 and therefore missed the 'Jewish Century'. Do you think his opinions would have changed had he lived long enough to see events such as the Bolshevik Revolution?

Twain saw the Jewish Century before it happened:

"Concerning the Jews, the Jewish race [as having an] unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier . . . If the concentration of the cunningingest brains in the world was going made in a free country . . . . , I think it would be politic to stop it. It will not be well to let that race find out its strength."

Mark Twain and the Jews

TGGP said...

I discussed Albert Jay Nock's "The Jewish Problem in America" here.

Evidence against glossy: the Sephardic & Mizrahi Jews had a similar religious tradition, but different occupational profiles and lower IQs today. Muslims also have a legalistic religion centered on orthopraxy.

Anonymous said...

Trade after trade was taken away from the Jew by statute till practically none was left. He was forbidden to engage in agriculture; he was forbidden to practise law; he was forbidden to practise medicine, except among Jews; he was forbidden the handicrafts.

And yet if you look at Europe it's fascinating that in fact the wealthiest, most advanced countries are generally the ones that kicked out their Jews for several hundred years. England did so in 1290, for example. By not having a Jewish merchant class these countries produced a Darwinian payoff for the more intelligent natives.

Poland and Hungary kept their Jews for a lot longer. How're they doing?

Furthermore, the so-called history of anti-Semitism in Europe is overstated a bit. In feudal Europe life pretty much sucked for everyone. About half the population was considered little more than property. Jews didn't have a monopoloy on misery, they just complain about it more.

But does the bible contain any historical truth about the period before, say, the Babylonian exile?

There is no independent record of any of the books in the Bible existing prior to about 630 B.C., and then only one of the books of Moses (Deuteronomy probably). The rest doesn't appear until the 5th Century B.C.

As for Marxism, last time I checked Lenin, Stalin, and Mao the foremost and important Marxists were not Jews.

Well the foremost members of the last two Democratic administrations - Bill Clinton and Barack Obama - weren't Jewish, either. That just leaves Sandy Berglar, Bill Cohen, Madeline Albright, Robert Reich, Ira Magaziner, Monica Lewinsky, Marc Mezvinsky, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Dan Glickman, Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Elena Kagan, and God only knows how many more.

At one point in the Clinton years a Jewish Clinton aid bragged that the Clinton staff was about half Jewish.

That's not to talk up the role of Jews in the downfall of America, either. My state's perfectly WASPish leadership is doing a fine job of screwing us over.

Glossy said...

TGGP, in the modern world most of the zeal for Jewish religious study comes from the Hasidim. They're Ashkenazi. I don't know enough about Jewish history to tell you how Ashekenazi, Sephardi and other types of Jews compared to each other in that department 300, 500, or 1000 years ago. If throughout history the emphasis on religious study was roughly equal in all of these communities, then your criticism of the Talmudic theory would be valid. As I said, I don't know if it was or wasn't equal.

Anonymous said...

The context for the quote about jews not serving in the military, from the link provided above:

Although he praised the Jews for their charity, close family life, hard work, and "genius,"[7] he repeated the slander that the Jews had an "unpatriotic disinclination to stand by the flag as a soldier."[8] (Up to 10,000 Jews may have fought in the Civil War--a much higher proportion than their percentage of the general population.[9]) His solution was for regiments of Jews and Jews only to enlist in the army so as to prove false the charge that "you feed on a country but don't like to fight for it."[10] In reaction to angry letters from American Jews who read the essay, Twain retracted this statement in a postscript and noted that despite having to endure American antisemitism, Jews fought widely and bravely in America's wars. Therefore, "that slur upon the Jew cannot hold up its head in presence of the figures of the War Department."[

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Anony-Mouse hasn't come into this thread yet kvetching!

Twain retracted this statement

From Mark Twain to Oliver Stone, not much has changed over the centuries. The Jewish Lobby is fierce and most people relent under their pressure.

Anonymous said...

Ashkenazi: a bit of Twain Jewish trivia:

Before turning philosemite, Twain had held unsympathetic views of Jews, following the prevailing attitude of his hometown neighbors. Yet by the time he died, he had a Jew in his family.

Out of Twain's four children onl y one, Clara, married and had a child.

Clara married Ossip Gabrilowitsch, whom The New York Times on October 7, 1909, in the article about the wedding called " the Russian pianist."

Ossip was Jewish. His and Clara’s eleven-year courtship, interrupted and long-distance at times--finally led to marriage when Ossip was 31 and Clara, 35! They had a daughter, Nina.

When Mark Twain died in 1910, Clara, the only surviving Clemens child, inherited all of her father's estate.

In 1918, Gabrilovich became Detroit Symphony Orchestra conductor. He also founded a youth orchestra, which later became the National Art Academy. He died way before his time, in 1936.

In eight years, Clara married another Russian conductor, Jacques Samossoud, a man 20 years her junior and a gambler. According to Le Havre's manifest of passengers arriving in NY on Janury 3, 1923, Jacques was "Hebrew". (Jacques's father, Abram Samosud, was a military Kapellmeister in the Russian Imperial Army in Tiflis--now Tbilisi; Jacques’s brother, Samuil Samosud was one of the most famous Soviet conductors)

After Clara’s death in 1962, her father's trust (amounting to $867,565) was dissolved and the money was put in another trust according to her will: Jacques Samossoud (and Dr. Seiler--that'a a long story--received 65% of the income from the Samossoud trust and Clara’s daughter, Nina, 35 %. (some details here: http://www.twainquotes.com/19640222.html)

Nina Clemens Gabrilovich died January 19, 1966 in an LA hotel. Several bottles of pills and alcohol were found in the room with her. She was 56 and childless. The last direct descendant of Mark Twain.

But wait! That same year, Jacques died of arteriosclerosis. He was so despised by the Twain's family that they buried him in an unmarked grave next to the family plot in Elmira, New York.

After the last beneficiary of Clara's money, Dr. Seiler, died, the money was rolled into the Mark Twain Foundation, where the funds have been “used and expended for religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes, including within such purposes, the enabling of mankind to appreciate and enjoy the works of Mark Twain.” Info about the foundation http://mark-twain-foundation.idilogic.aidpage.com/mark-twain-foundation/

Mark Twain House and Museum is one of the recipients of the foundation's grants. According to their website, "In order to continue our initiative to “green” our operations and create financial efficiency, solar panels will be installed on the roof of the museum and we will continue energy improvements in The House." (Somehow “green” and “financial efficiency” don’t go together when it comes to solar panels, but I might be wrong.)

In the mneantime, Mark Twain rests in the ground, surrounded by Jews, the people he was fascinated with. The best of them, Ossip Gabrilowitch, at his feet; someplace nearby, the mediocre one (and, probably, a scoundrel), Jacques Samossoud.

The Wobbly Guy said...

Regarding jewish patriotism to their home nations, I would also note that Jews served bravely and in large numbers in Germany's armed forces in WW1.

It's a bitter irony given what happened to them after the war.

Chris said...

Anyone know what's up with The Kvetcher? Haven't visited for a while but now it looks shut down.

jack strocchi said...

Steve S. said:

Twain downplays religious theories explaining anti-Semitism in favor of business competition theories.

Twain was an enthusiastic capitalist himself (although he tended to lose money at his many business ventures), an admirer of capitalists (e.g., A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court), and a critic as well (e.g., The Gilded Age).

His retelling of the famous Chapter XLVII in Genesis about what Joseph, great grandson of Abraham, did as the servant of the pharaoh after his dream of the seven fat and seven lean years is stunning to me in the how-stupid-of-me-not-to-have-thought-of-that mode.


Somewhat germane to this topic: Jewish sociologists always used to ponder: "why is there no socialist party in the US". Aside from the policy issue (is socialism such a good idea in-itself) there is the political issue of the absence of public enthusiasm for statism amongst American economic populists, at least compared to European economic populists.

European populists tended to take the top-down position of Big Brother against the Big End of Town.

American populists turned this attitude on its head and took the bottom-up position of the Main Street Little Guy up against the Big Guys in Washington or Wall Street.

I guess thats because most Americans don't want to destroy the business system, they want to succeed in it. Their grievances are not against the business system itself but against unfair practices by big business that discriminate against small business.

They don't want to work for the Man, they want to be the Man.

European-style Leftists don't appear to understand this feeling which means the constantly under-estimate the amount of Right-wing political ballast there is in the US political system. eg "Tea Party".

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece, but there never were and never have been any Jewish farners in Austria.

Anonymous said...

If throughout history the emphasis on religious study was roughly equal in all of these communities, then your criticism of the Talmudic theory would be valid. As I said, I don't know if it was or wasn't equal.

Glossy: This is arguable, but it's not really a "Talmudic theory" (as such) though if that's a case, more like a "random cultural 'mutation' causes lots of religious study and for some reason persists" theory. There's nothing really linking it specifically with the Talmud (though I guess you could claim the Talmud was necessary but not sufficient).

Anonymous said...

Jews probably still would have had a comparative advantage if they were farmers, but they were not and the farming life would not have been sufficient to generate Ashkenazi IQs (as a selection force).

As to teh bans on farming, I'm not sure Jews were forbidden to farm so much as to own farm land (presumably as they would would [in keeping with every other Malthusian elite and with the disregard for non-Jews expressed in their scriptures] exploit Christian peasants who would actually work the land). They came as rich traders after all, not as poor people who without farming would not survive. Why would rich traders even want to farm? Plus, forbidding entry to the occupation which the vast majority of the populace followed would limit any kind of mass immigration or reproduction amongst that group (much as we as a society tend to want to have a program to screen for only highly skilled migrants, because it prevents mass immigration).

Severn said...

Jewish sociologists always used to ponder: "why is there no socialist party in the US".


This must have been before the Democratic Party became socialist.

Dahlia said...

"The Bostonians" is one of the greatest romance novels ever written and it surely has the sexiest leading man ever written: Basil Ransom. He makes Rhett Butler look like a mere boy.

Mark Twain absolutely despised this book and saw it as reactionary trash. I always had the opinion that Twain was over-rated and that his reputation benefited because America didn't have many centuries of great writers as Europe did from whom to choose amongst to elevate as a national treasure.
Anyway, Twain's lack of appreciation for "The Bostonians" further cemented my opinion of him.

Caledonian said...

Evidence against glossy: the Sephardic & Mizrahi Jews had a similar religious tradition, but different occupational profiles and lower IQs today. Muslims also have a legalistic religion centered on orthopraxy. Yes, but they didn't have the same kind of oppression, and thus far less active selection.

If you're part of a reviled minority that's barely tolerated, and you don't have high status within it because you don't possess the traits it values (you have some form of dyslexia where literacy is highly valued, for example), and you're surrounded by a society that's willing to take you in if you renounce your former allegiance, you'll probably leave - and would no longer be a member of the minority gene pool.

Svigor said...

As to teh bans on farming, I'm not sure Jews were forbidden to farm so much as to own farm land

Yeah, that's the ticket, the great and the good decided to wickedly bar the Jews from breaking their backs as peasants.

Bridge for sale! Bridge for sale, cheap!

You've got to be stupid or willfully obtuse just to entertain this question. Period.

Svigor said...

Didn't the Sun King try to force Jews into farming, like everybody else? I may have the wrong monarch but I know somebody tried. Of course, his efforts were a smashing success, lol.

I think it's Yemeni Jews who have an explicit religious injunction against farming outside Israel. I know, I know, they probably got the idea from a cereal box, not their religion...

At least G**gle "Why Jews Don't Farm" folks, please.

Conatus said...

Much is made of the higher IQs of Jews as if this is the sole determination of their greater success but in raw numbers aren't there just as many or even more high IQ goys simply because the goy bell curve is roughly 35 times larger than the Jews? K.Macdonald makes this point in a piece on the disparate jewish impact or 24% average in the Ivy league. He asks why are there so many and are they not overrepresented because of the great white bellcurve?

Anonymous said...

"Still, almost bereft of employments, he found ways to make money, even ways to get rich."

That might have been true in some European nations, but the masses of Jews in Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe were dirt poor, millions of them.

Many of them lived a hand to mouth existence, and others engaged in unscrupulous methods for income: usury, pimping, prostituting, drug dealing, begging, criminality, smuggling, alcohol production, etc. Some Jews even took up farming there because they were so poor.

Svigor said...

"Still, almost bereft of employments, he found ways to make money, even ways to get rich."

That might have been true in some European nations, but the masses of Jews in Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe were dirt poor, millions of them.


That was true of Jewry in eastern Europe around Twain's time, yeah, but not over a long period of time. This is what drove much of the Jewish immigration to America. It was caused by the immense wealth of the Jews themselves, who were living so high on the hog they had more kids than they could support, in a manner of speaking ("overshot their niche" as MacDonald puts it).

Anonymous said...

Ashkenazi to Svigor:

No, it might be more informative to google "Why Svigor doesn't farm?"

(But probably eats Israli tomatoes)

TGGP said...

The Reform and Conservative variants did not exist before emancipation. Within ultra-Orthodox/Haredi Judaism, I don't know whether the Hasidim were more focused on intellectual pursuits than the Lithuanian-Yeshiva (who are Ashkenazim) or Oriental Sephardic Haredi streams. Maimonides was Sephardic though.

I have heard that there was a large population explosion among the Ashkenazim around the late 19th early 20th century, which led to downward mobility. But at the same time, I don't think most were poor. "Usury" had long been an exclusive occupation by Jews during the middle ages, but however low-regarded it was its practitioners were not poor.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Sun King try to force Jews into farming, like everybody else? I may have the wrong monarch but I know somebody tried. Of course, his efforts were a smashing success, lol.

Perhaps an Early Modern European monarch did as well, but:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_the_Jewry

Apparently Edward Longshanks tried specifically to make them not lenders, while leaving arbitrage and production open to them but the decree by which he did this was not obeyed and supposedly many turned to crime as a result or continued lending.

Sources on the web stress because the failure of this was due to the difficulty for the Jewish people of making the transition from banking into farming, which was certainly true, but I think class and ethnic consciousness and the desire not to give up a good thing (i.e. being fairly prosperous and not being a starving Malthusian peasant subject to periodic famine like most of England at the time) on the Jewish side played their part as well.

This all came to a head in the expulsion of the Jews from England (combined with the fine aristocratic tradition of expropriating wealth from people simply because you can).

Matt said...

You'll probably leave - and would no longer be a member of the minority gene pool.

Somewhat off topic, but: One thing I've always been interested in but never understood (perhaps I should read a genetic textbook and it'll explain this simply) is why purely negative selection on unintelligent people in the Jewish genepool wouldn't simply reduce diversity (lower the standard deviation) of their IQs, while it increased their IQs.

That is, if we have several skin colour genes giving a phenotype distributed in a normal distribution and we place strong negative selection against the lightest skin colours (say we have harsh African sunlight!), then the dark colours become more prominant while diversity is reduced.

Shouldn't we expect this to happen with Ashkenazi IQ? That is, higher average, but lower standard deviation? If not, why not?

Inductivist has produced some data that suggests that this may be true, but it appears modest relative to, for example, English/Scottish or Black Americans and a bit dubious overall- http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html.

SFG said...

"Somewhat off topic, but: One thing I've always been interested in but never understood (perhaps I should read a genetic textbook and it'll explain this simply) is why purely negative selection on unintelligent people in the Jewish genepool wouldn't simply reduce diversity (lower the standard deviation) of their IQs, while it increased their IQs.

That is, if we have several skin colour genes giving a phenotype distributed in a normal distribution and we place strong negative selection against the lightest skin colours (say we have harsh African sunlight!), then the dark colours become more prominant while diversity is reduced.

Shouldn't we expect this to happen with Ashkenazi IQ? That is, higher average, but lower standard deviation? If not, why not?

Inductivist has produced some data that suggests that this may be true, but it appears modest relative to, for example, English/Scottish or Black Americans and a bit dubious overall- http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html."

It should. You have to remember that the bottom of the curve keeps popping up due to random mutations in genes controlling brain functions--developmentally disabled people will always exist when, thanks to chance, an A gets put in instead of a C somewhere and some brain-growth-promoting gene becomes ineffective.

But you can raise the average IQ over time with selection.

The question you're asking is, why does the top go up? Why do people keep getting smarter if selected for? Once in a while those mutations actually increase intelligence. If smart people are more likely to have kids...you can see where it goes from there.

I think, actually, the skin color goes the other way--pale skin was a mutation that allowed more vitamin D absorption in the cold climates of Europe.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Conatus that ashkenazi jewish success is ultimately organizational, and that the high IQ is a byproduct of the organization. It doesn't seem a particularly awesome experience to me to be an individual ashkenazi jew (I think Italian Americans probably have the best individual hedonic experience -see Jersey Shore), although the population as a whole outperforms most others in per capita resource control.

Hopefully Anonymous
http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com

Anonymous said...

It's quite ironic that Twain is criticizing anti-Semitism in Vienna, when you consider that, at the time, there was no where that Jews had it better. Jewish intellectual achievement was first and foremost a product of German and Austrian Jews. On a per capita basis they were the most successful Jewish communities before or since. There were never more than 560,000 German Jews. The number of Austrian Jews was less than half that. Nevertheless, they produced figures like Freud, Marx, Einstein, the Rothschild family, Arendt, Wittgenstein. How many figures have the over 6-million strong American Jewish produced who can compare?

David said...

>I don't [k]now what Twain used as his source of information - perhaps his Jewish friends in Vienna filled his head with nonsense.<

You have good judgment.

Imagine somebody like Twain in a situation where it's African-Americans, say, instead of Jews. "So, what's up with you black folks, hm? Why can't you get ahead?" The replies would be the start of a valid study, maybe, but one would never convey them as fact. Nor would one "balance" those replies by throwing in the opinion of some slave-owner (cf. Twain's crude theory about Joseph and Egypt, obviously got from an antisemite of the day).

If anything, Twain's article shows only that some Jews have been gabbing about the "business exclusion" theory long before Cochran-Harpending showed up.

ITriedtobeaCynicbutRealitybeatme said...

A few points:
could it be that Jews have adapted well to capitalism because the whole Jewish religion is based on a contract? And they got it in writing from God(Isn't that what the Covenant is - a contract between God and the Jews?). Many of the Prophets' prayers seem to boil down to "May I remind you, God, we've got a contract".

Many hassidic Jews seem to be quite poor - perhaps all who are not diamond or Volvo dealers. Actually I don't see how anyone can keep up that level of religious study and prayer and have time to earn a living. Many look quite unhealthy - inbreeding?

The Jews who were welcomed into the Ottoman empire after being expelled from Spain by the Catholic rulers were Sephardic. Some subsequently moved to England and did very well. Until some point in the 19th century Sephardic Jews who lived in the Ottoman Empire, England, the Netherlands (and presumably some in America from England) were much better off than the Ashkenazis in Eastern and Central Europe.

Severn - stop whining about minor inconveniences. This isn't about you. And considering the rather robust treatment of Black Americans, Jews and Hispanics on this blog, your reference to "the tedious anti-Irish-Catholic bigots I know hang out here." is a joke. No Political Correctness -except about Papists?

Martin said...

"Nevertheless, they produced figures like Freud, Marx, Einstein, the Rothschild family, Arendt, Wittgenstein. "

America can boast of Pauly Shore, Al Goldstein, Michael Medved, Michael Savage, Jerry Springer and Al Franken.