Tag Archives: Economics

Jew of the Week: André Azoulay

Advisor to Moroccan Kings

André Azoulay (b. 1941) was born in Morocco to a traditional Sephardic Jewish family. He moved to Paris to study and, after completing degrees in economics and international relations, got a job working for Paribas Bank. He stayed at the company for 22 years, rising to the rank of executive vice-president, overseeing the bank’s operations in the Middle East and North Africa. In 1991, Azoulay left Paribas to work for the Moroccan monarchy. He became senior advisor to King Hassan II, and was put in charge of reforming Morocco’s struggling economy. He ran a program of privatization and deregulation that significantly boosted Morocco’s financial position, and brought billions of dollars in new investments to the country. Azoulay is also an international ambassador for Morocco and works to improve relations between Morocco and other countries, including Israel. He has participated in Arab-Israeli peace talks, and played an important role in the Abraham Accords. Azoulay is president of the Foundation of Three Cultures and Three Religions to boost interfaith dialogue and build bridges between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. He sits on the boards of several non-profits and educational institutions. Azoulay has received many awards, including Morocco’s Commandeur dans l’Ordre du Trône, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sephardi Federation and, most recently, an Israeli Presidential Medal of Honour. Israeli President Isaac Herzog said “Azoulay has made an extraordinary contribution to Moroccan Jewry, the Jewish world, and the State of Israel, in cultivating and preserving relations with Morocco over the years, preserving Jewish heritage in Morocco, and providing support and advice to Israeli leaders in their quest for peace in the Middle East. His vision of establishing friendly and peaceful relations between Israel and Morocco was realized in the Abraham Accords and his influence is evident in every area of these relations.” Azoulay continues to serve as senior advisor to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI today, and plays an active role in his hometown of Essaouira, where he works to preserve and promote its history and culture.

How Sephardic Jews Shaped the World

Words of the Week

The Jewish people is permeated by an ancient and historically confirmed belief that nations who subject it to torture and persecution sooner or later feel the full measure of God’s punishing wrath. At the same time, God Almighty sends his blessing to those peoples who stand by the Jews in their time of peril.
Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan

Jew of the Week: Milton Friedman

The Great Liberator

Milton Friedman (1912-2006) was born in Brooklyn to poor Jewish immigrants from what is today Ukraine (then part of Hungary). He graduated high school at just 15 and earned a big scholarship to Rutgers University. Initially wishing to be a mathematician, the Great Depression inspired Friedman to become an economist instead. After post-graduate studies at the University of Chicago, and a fellowship at Columbia University, Friedman headed to Washington to work as an economist for the government. To help pay for World War II, it was Friedman who introduced the payroll withholding tax system (“pay-as-you-earn”), where income taxes are deducted automatically from an employee’s paycheck. (Friedman later regretted it very much and said he wished it hadn’t been necessary.) He also spent much of the war working on weapons design and military statistics. He finally earned his Ph.D from Columbia after the war, following which he took a professorship at the University of Chicago, where he taught for the next 30 years. He wrote a popular weekly column for Newsweek, for which he won a prestigious award. His 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom was an international bestseller and made Friedman world-famous, while his A Monetary History of the United States became the standard textbook for understanding the Great Depression and the effects of monetary policy. Friedman argued passionately for a free-market economy and for the government to stay out of business. He proposed such important concepts as the permanent income hypothesis, the quantity theory of money, floating exchange rates, sequential sampling, and the natural rate of unemployment. He also argued for abolishing the Federal Reserve, whom he blamed for many economic ills. He was opposed to minimum wages and foresaw that they would actually lead to increases in unemployment. He is also credited with bringing an end to America’s military draft, transitioning the US military into an all-volunteer paid army. He believed conscription was unethical and prevented young men from choosing their own life path. Friedman later said abolishing the draft was his greatest and proudest accomplishment. Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976. After retiring from the University of Chicago the following year, he continued to do research in San Francisco, and also worked on a popular ten-part TV show called Free to Choose (the companion text of which was the bestselling nonfiction book of 1980). Friedman was an economic advisor to Ronald Reagan, and was called the “guru” of the Reagan administration. In 1988, he won a National Medal of Science and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Friedman stayed busy until his final days, and his last article for The Wall Street Journal was published a day after his death! He has been called “the Great Liberator” and has been compared to Adam Smith. The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is named after him. He is widely considered one of history’s most significant economists. Today was his yahrzeit.

The End of World War I and the Beginning of the Jewish State

Words of the Week

A society that aims for equality before liberty will end up with neither equality nor liberty.
Milton Friedman

Jew of the Week: Ruth Dreifuss

President of Switzerland

Ruth Dreifuss (Photo Credit: Chatham House)

Ruth Dreifuss (Photo Credit: Chatham House)

Ruth Dreifuss (b. 1940) was born in Switzerland to a Jewish family that had been living in the country for many generations. She studied commerce and social work, and later earned a Master’s in economics from the University of Geneva. Dreifuss worked as a hotel secretary, journalist, and social worker before joining Switzerland’s Socialist Party. Throughout the 1970s, she worked for the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the 80s, she was the general-secretary of the Swiss Trade Union (the first woman to hold that position), and by 1993, was elected as an executive member of the Swiss Federal Council, the country’s official head of government. The council is made up of seven officials who collectively run the federal government, with each taking a turn as president for one year. Dreifuss’ turn as president came in 1999, making her the first female (and Jewish) president of Switzerland. This was a tremendous achievement, especially because Switzerland was the last country in Europe to grant equal rights to both women and Jews. During her tenure, she brought forth many improvements to Switzerland, including revisions of the country’s health insurance and social security systems. She helped make Switzerland a full member of the United Nations, implemented paid maternity leave, enhanced the country’s policies on pensions and drugs, introduced programs for prevention of HIV and drug addiction, and helped Holocaust victims retrieve their money from old Swiss bank accounts. After serving two and a half terms, the popular Dreifuss resigned from the federal council in 2002. Since then, she has chaired the World Health Organization’s Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation, and Public Health, and is also an important member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an organization composed of former female politicians and heads of state working to improve women’s rights globally. Dreifuss continues to play an important role within the European Union, and has been awarded honourary degrees from both Haifa University and Jerusalem’s Hebrew University for her tireless work in social justice, gender equality, and combating anti-Semitism.

Words of the Week

If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.
– Albert Einstein