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A Kibbutz Grows Up

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Time magazine reports on the Degania kibbutz' decision to abandon socialism and allow the private ownership of property, a move many kibbutzim in Israel have been making in response to low productivity and the abandonment of their youth.

From the article:

The kibbutz was a socialist dream. But Degania's manager, Tzali Koperstein, says, "From the start, it was never equal. It was a fake equality." Some toiled hard in Degania's diamond-cutting tool factory and in the fields; others slacked off. And as Israeli society began to value creativity and free enterprise over socialism, Degania lagged behind.
Once, everyone earned the same wage, did the jobs they were assigned, and kibbutz elders held the purse strings. Now, says Degania's manager, "we are still protecting the weak, but everyone has the responsibility of earning their own living." ... Elders learned a lesson in capitalism that any kid with a lemonade stand could have taught them: the individual works harder for himself than for the collective. Factory output has jumped.
The kibbutz's experiment failed for other reasons. Israeli youth felt stifled and left. "Kibbutz life is peaceful and rich," says Koperstein. "But it came at a high price. You gave up individual needs. The idea of having someone telling you what to think, what to study, what work to do—it's like having four walls closing you in." In some kibbutzim (not Degania), children were separated from parents and raised in collective dormitories. ... Koperstein, who was not raised at Degania, recalls the time when, at age 7, he woke from a nightmare in the dorm and ran home through the darkness to be comforted by his parents. "At 3 a.m., the wardens came knocking on the door to bring me back. I couldn't raise my kids that way," he says.

Contact Christopher Westley

Christopher Westley a professor of economics in the Lutgert College Business at Florida Gulf Coast University and an associated scholar at the Mises Institute.