Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
By Bryan Caplan
Guy Delisle‘s latest graphic novel, Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, is outstanding – second only to his transcendent Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. Like most of Delisle’s books, Jerusalem is a non-fiction travelogue. His wife works for Doctors Without Borders, so Delisle sees one troubled land after another – and draws what he sees.
There’s a bit of autobiography and tourist stuff, but mostly Delisle seeks out the sore spots of the countries he visits. He’s not big on solutions, but after he spends a year talking to locals and experts about social ills, you feel like you’ve learned a lot. In Jerusalem, he mostly focuses on Israeli settlements and how the Palestinians really live.
Delisle’s no economist, but there’s plenty of interesting economics along the way. Here’s a sequence of five of my favorite panels about the unintended consequences of an ancient tax exemption:
Many readers will be annoyed by Delisle’s sympathy for the Palestinians. But he seems very fair-minded to me. The main problem with Jerusalem, like Joe Sacco’s Palestine, is that Delisle misses an opportunity to ask people on the receiving end of Israel’s collective punishment some hard questions, such as:
1. You’re too weak to beat the Israelis. Why don’t you just submit?
(And if they responded, “Would you?,” I’d say “I already do. I think
taxation is theft, but I also have the wisdom to realize that the IRS
will make my life a living hell if I resist.”)
2. The Israelis
could easily have killed or exiled every Palestinian. Why didn’t they?
What does that say about their objective function – and/or the
objection functions of other Western countries that put pressure on
3. Suppose all the Jews left Israel tomorrow. What would
greater Palestine’s GDP per capita be ten years from now? Want to bet
4. Suppose all the Jews left Israel tomorrow. How many
Palestinians would still die violent deaths during the next ten years?
How many political prisoners will there be in ten years? Want to bet on
My point: It’s unclear if Israelis would be better off if they’d been far
more pacific. But it’s clear that Palestinians’ would be far better off if they
unilaterally converted to pacifism. Indeed, if they’d been pacifists all along, most of their problems would have been resolved long ago instead of festering for decades.