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April 13, 2003

Parasite Economics and Market Exchange

A fine piece that historically traces anti-semitism and economics. This article is from The Library of Economics and Liberty
[...]In 19th century attacks on market exchange we find a colorful cast of "parasites," those who are able to use the market for extraordinary gain at the expense of the downtrodden. First among them, is the Jew. Carlyle's hero in the medieval fantasy, Abbot Samson, expels the "harpy Jews":

In less than four years, says Jocelin, the Convent Debts were all liquidated: the harpy Jews not only settled with, but banished...Farewell to you, at any rate: let us, in no extremity, apply again to you! Armed men march them over the borders, dismiss them under stern penalties,—sentence of excommunication on all that shall again harbour them here: there were many dry eyes at their departure.3

To modify "Jew", Carlyle found a Greek reference which the progress of the language had made into a parasite: the OED defines a harpy as "a rapacious, plundering, or grasping person; one that preys upon others." A parasite.

The thesis that Jews threaten the moral economic order is vigorously pursued by Carlyle's disciple, Charles Kingsley, in Alton Locke (1850). In the story, Kingsley draws a contrast between the old employer, motivated by honor, and his son, who is motivated by material gain. When the old employer dies, his son begins to emulate the Jews who pursue wealth at the expense of all moral obligation. Jewish economic practice embodies economic doctrine, but it is morally reprehensible:4
and the author further develops his thesis, connecting Jews to economic theory and concluding with 9/11 [more]