Everybody knows that the Vermont-based ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s can dish it out, but we will soon find out if they can take it too.
In a cowardly and likely self-defeating bow to the “woke” and “Boycott, Divest and Sanction” (BDS) movements, Ben & Jerry’s announced in mid-July that it will end sales of its ice cream in [Israeli] Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Any time public or private action is taken to stop voluntary, mutually-beneficial trade, somebody—if not everybody—gets hurt. That’s because both sides to the transactions were benefiting or they wouldn’t have been trading in the first place. Let’s cite the most obvious victims:
- Israelis and Palestinians in the affected areas who like Ben & Jerry’s, though they will probably just switch to Haagen Dazs, which is more nutritious anyway;
- Israelis and Palestinians alike who work at Ben & Jerry’s stores, though most will probably find jobs elsewhere;
- Ben & Jerry’s bottom line. In the wake of the company’s hyper-political stance, the worldwide boycott of its ice cream in response will surely cost it far more than just the meager West Bank revenue it’s giving up.
Note that I did not list the Israeli economy as a victim, even though that is what the wise guys at Ben & Jerry’s were aiming for. And it’s absurd to think that their move will affect Israeli policies in the least. It’s a safe bet that the damage to Israel overall will be miniscule and temporary for two reasons: First, Ben & Jerry’s will eventually fold just as Airbnb did when it tried the same stunt. Second, Israel’s relatively free economy will create new wealth and opportunities to easily replace Ben & Jerry’s, even if the company is foolish enough to stick to its dubious virtue-signaling.
Thanks, Ben & Jerry’s, for providing me with the opportunity to say some good things about Israel’s vibrant economy.
According to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, the Middle East’s only functioning democracy (actually, it’s a republic) boasts the 26th freest economy in the world. In the region, only the United Arab Emirates fares better, at #14.
Since 1995, Israel’s ranking in the Index has improved much more rapidly than the world’s as a whole. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earns substantial credit for that progress because he supported many liberalizing reforms while holding the top post for almost half of that period.
In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, which attempts to measure the impact of government red tape and regulations in 190 countries, Israel looks rather good too. It comes in at #35.
The most recent elections in March 2021 produced a new governing coalition in Israel, as well as a new Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett. Will the country now lurch in the direction of a less-free economy, toward more government regulation and spending? The early signs are that it will not.
Prime Minister Bennett, who took office on June 13, is a former software entrepreneur who seems to understand the connection between economic freedom and material prosperity. His “Singapore Plan” (named for the very prosperous and economically-freest enclave in the world) is aimed at removing barriers to economic growth by rolling back intrusive government.
Officials in the Bennett government are announcing corresponding reforms every week. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman wants to reduce childcare subsidies to encourage more men to enter the productive workforce. He also is working to make it easier to get a building permit, which will help both the construction business and home buyers simultaneously.
Economic freedom and prosperity go hand in hand.
Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana seeks to bust the government-sanctioned rabbinical monopoly over what Jews can eat and how food can be prepared; if he succeeds, then food producers and retailers, restaurants and consumers will all benefit from the resulting new choice, competition and lower prices.
In spite of opposition from local growers, the Bennett government also seeks to encourage more food imports to help put pressure on high prices.
Bennett claims he wants to slash government regulations and bureaucracy, and to be judged in the future on whether or not he managed to do just that. Time will tell us what he’ll be able to get passed in the Knesset (the Parliament) but for the moment, his new government is talking a good game.
Economic freedom and prosperity go hand in hand. The more of the former you have, the more of the latter you will get, and it won’t ultimately matter who makes your ice cream.
This article, The Real Victims of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Boycott Against Israel, was originally published by the Foundation for Economic Education and appears here with permission. Please support their mission.