Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
Last night began the Jewish holiday of Passover, where Jews around the world get together for a festive meal to recall their deliverance by God from slavery in Egypt. At one point in the Passover seder (seder is an Aramaic word for the Hebrew Erekh, which means “order” of the service), there is a discussion about Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Joshua, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarfon staying up all night to discuss the departure from Egypt. Our seder did not go nearly that long.
Where am I going with this story of religion and how does it fit in with antitrust? The discussion of the Rabbis reminded me of one of my favorite articles involving competition issues by academic superstars Dennis Carlton and Avi Weiss entitled The Economics of Religion, Jewish Survival, and Jewish Attitudes Toward Competition in Torah Education. Those of you up on antitrust policy will know that Dennis and Avi are not merely impressive academics. Rather, Dennis is the current Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Economic Analysis at DOJ Antitrust and Avi is the former Chief Economist and Deputy General Director of the Israel Antitrust Authority.
ABTRACT: This paper examines the attitude of Jewish law to competition in light of the economist's understanding of the benefits of competition and the beneficiaries from intervention in the competitive process. The punchline of this paper is simple. Although Judaism has used a whole host of restrictions on competition and has had its share of legislation to promote private interests, there has been one area that has generally been a consistent exception to impediments to competition--the teaching of Torah. This exception is all the more remarkable because those who were in a position to influence the legislation often stood to benefit from such restrictions. From this stress on teaching, we show that the foundation was laid for the survival and perpetuation of Judaism.