Kohelet & Israel’s Horseshoe Economics + Decoding the Susquehanna Mystery & Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes
Given that the news cycle has been highlighting protests objecting to Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent judicial and policy reforms in Israel, I want to take a moment and write about the think tank (Kohelet Policy Forum) responsible for crafting these changes and the network of billionaires (like Jeff Yass) funding this forum via Susquehanna International Group (named after the ancient Susquehanna River). I made a video about Kohelet earlier this year (in January); however, given the current “political” turmoil in Israel (and the United States), revisiting these topics seems appropriate. Bonus: some words on the Book of Ecclesiastes from the Bible’s wisdom literature; after all, the name of the policy forum (Kohelet) is derived from that specific parable in the Old Testament.
Before I dive into Kohelet Policy Forum (the think tank behind Bibi Netanyahu’s recent policy and judicial reforms in Israel), let’s first review some details surrounding a man named Jeff Yass — who, with a network of billionaires, is funding the Kohelet Policy Forum. Side note: I talked about some of these topics in a video titled, Horseshoe Economics: Capitalizing on Synthetic Unity. In the video, I cover:
- Jeff Yass, Susquehanna International, and poker philosophy
- Moshe Koppel and Kohelet Policy Forum
- Using futures market to shape policies (Robin Hanson’s futarchy and Vitalik Buterin’s application).
- Bridging the divide between “nationalism” and “libertarian economics” by avoiding divisive issues (aka capitalizing on synthetic unity instead of capitalizing on manufactured polarization).
Horseshoe Economics: Capitalizing on Synthetic Unity
Alison recently brought a man named Jeff Yass to my attention-he advocates for public policy to be dictated by futures…
A New Yorker born in 1956, Jeff Yass is an avid supporter of school choice, a strong backer of Ron DeSantis, ranked sixth on the list of major donors to the Republican Party in 2020, and has been called the Sheldon Adelson of Israel. In 1987 (along with his college buddies from University of New York at Binghamton) Yass founded an options-trading powerhouse called Susquehanna International Group — the company is named after the Susquehanna River which connects Binghamton, NY to Pennsylvania (how symbolic).
Susquehanna Side Note:
The Susquehanna River is the longest river in the East Coast of the United States and according to material history, it was originally named by an Iroquoian tribe that lived along the river. The name derives from a native phrase that translates to “mile wide, foot deep” (which illustrates the river’s uncommon proportions). According to the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper, “geologically, the Susquehanna River is considered the oldest major river system in the world…[dating] back to the Paleozoic Era.”
The Susquehanna River is also of great significance to the Church of Latter Day Saints because in 1829, Joseph Smith sat along the bank of the Susquehanna while translating the Book of Mormon and was subsequently baptized in the river after a visit by a resurrected John the Baptist. I mention the Susquehanna’s connection to the Church of Latter Day Saints because, as Alison McDowell divulges in this video:
Much of what is underway in impact investing, data analytics, education technology…and genomic sequencing is embedded in the greater Salt Lake City region and the history of that region strongly overlaps with the history of [the Mormon Church]…and many of their assets are connected to technology sectors…and biotech.
For a more esoteric history of the Susquehanna Mystery, I suggest checking out the work of Michael Wann — this video here is a good place to start exploring his research. In the video, Michael explains that along the Susquehanna River are major “world firsts” which are in tune with:
- “Globalism” (or global culture, language, government, laws, currency).
- Development of the “colony” model that began with Jamestown; a settlement established along the James River that flows into the Chesapeake Bay (which is an offshoot of the Susquehanna River).
- Origins of the information age (computer industry).
- The launch of modern electrical distribution.
Susquehanna International Group’s business entanglements (which will be further explored shortly) correlate with Michael Wann’s astute analysis about the Susquehanna River being ground zero, geographically, for the development of the primary instruments influencing (or steering) the current iteration of “globalism” coming from the Great Britain and United States wing of the transnational and networked power structure.
Thus, because Susquehanna International seems rather influential on the world stage, Jeff Yass (and his bigwig syndicate) naming their options-trading crackerjack after the Susquehanna River is rather significant (symbolically, speaking).
Now back to Yass:
Equipped with massive profits from the success of Susquehanna International, Jeff Yass was an early investor in companies like TikTok (or rather, its parent company, ByteDance) becoming the largest outside investor in the Chinese social-media company. TikTok is probably one of the most popular online platforms today; thus, Yass being an early investor in such a global phenomenon further validates my assertion about Susquehanna International’s crucial role in shaping global culture. After all, the algorithms (controlled by TikTok) decide what goes viral or trends — seems like an astronomical force to me.
Yass also sits on the advisory board of the Cato Institute (since 2001). Additionally, Susquehanna International initiated the World Trade Center Port Authority Memorial Fund post the 9/11 attacks and within that press release, Susquehanna was described as “one of the nation’s leading liquidity providers in equity, fixed income, and derivative securities.” Furthermore, a relatively recent ProPublica article details how Yass and his team used:
Their numerical expertise to make rapid-fire computer-driven trades in options and other securities, eventually becoming a giant middleman in the markets for stocks and other securities. If you have bought stock or options on an app like Robinhood or E-Trade, there’s a good chance you traded with Susquehanna.
Yass adheres to a concept hailed as poker philosophy, a theory in line with his stance on crafting policies based on futures markets — an idea similar to something known as “futarchy” (which I’ve written about here). Robin Hanson, an economist from George Mason University, coined the term futarchy to describe a theoretical government controlled by speculative markets. In 2003, Robin Hanson (sponsored by the Pentagon) proposed a futures market in “terrorism indicators” called the Policy Analysis Market (PAM). As an article titled, Meet the ‘Transhumanists’ Behind the Pentagon Terror Casino, explains:
Hanson was the ideal candidate to organize an online terror futures market, because the fellow has never met a futures exchange he didn’t like. Or more accurately, he’s never seen a problem that can’t be fixed by setting up a futures exchange.
The policy was shot down, but some speculate that it was rebranded and implemented in a different way (not surprising). Personally, I don’t think that policy was ever going to pass, it was probably released to collect data about the public’s reaction (sentiment analysis). Like Hanson, Jeff Yass is an advocate of using betting markets to implement public policy.
First of all, Yass claims that if speculative markets were at play in determining foreign policy, the United States wouldn’t have gone to Iraq because the “futures market” and sophisticated data analytics would have accurately predicted the real cost of the war (over $1 trillion) as opposed to relying on economists like Lawrence Lindsey (who wrongly forecasted that Iraq would only cost $50 billion).
Second, Yass views this method (laws dictated by futures markets) as net positive in politics because, if implemented, politicians would be required to explain why their campaign promises are not in line with their actions (or rather, why they don’t align with the expectations of their investors). This technique can, obviously, be weaponized to further silence the general public in favor of corrupt, big business interests (which I imagine is the real goal here).
Furthermore, in a Wall Street Journal article, Yass presents himself as a contrarian to the mainstream “climate change” narrative. He positions himself as just simply trying to have nuanced discussions with the “purveyors of the climate change hysteria” about how using prediction markets to bet on future temperature and climate trends can solve the global warming problem (such a humanitarian). To accomplish such a plan, it would require Jeff Yass to invest in digital ledger technology, satellites, and geospatial analysis to aggregate granular data (in real time) from the material world and create a digital representation (or computer model). Next, with the help of pattern recognition software and quantum computing, the probability of possible outcomes can be calculated. Then, speculators can utilize this formula to gamble on prospective legislation. I’m sure this is an oversimplification, on my part; so, I’ll admit, this is definitely conjecture based on my very pedestrian understanding of computer science and predictive analytics.
Last, Yass asserts that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is a roadblock to his “brilliant” plans because the CFTC allegedly “frowns on prediction markets tied to political outcomes.” Ironically, the CFTC actually approved “a Susquehanna-sponsored instrument to bet on future changes in the corporate income-tax rate.” Thus, somehow, I find it hard to believe that the CFTC has its boot on Jeff Yass’ neck (get real).
Futarchy, Robin Hanson & Vitalik Buterin
One of the founders of Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, published a blog post detailing how a governance model (futarchy) can utilize new tools to enhance “transparency and efficiency” in a piece titled, An Introduction to Futarchy. In Buterin’s post, he reiterates that the idea behind futarchy originated from an economist named Robin Hanson who envisioned a futuristic form of government where prediction markets can be used to determine public policies. Under this system:
Individuals would vote not on whether or not to implement particular policies, but rather on a metric to determine how well their country (or charity or company) is doing, and then prediction markets would be used to pick the policies that best optimize the metric.
In the blog post, Buterin argues that futarchy fixes the “voter apathy” problem in democracy because it incentivizes voters to learn about potentially harmful policies before voting on them. However, even in futarchy, if a person possesses information that is unavailable to others, they can personally profit from it (basically, insider trading). How does this actually stop a person or group from using insider information to engage in the same criminal activity? This proposed system doesn’t actually fix the problem of “governance” because, ultimately, corrupt individuals can always find a way to game the system.
Buterin also asserts that futarchy reduces “potentially irrational social influences to the governance process [because it can]…encourage focusing more purely on proposals rather than personalities.” This is the same logic behind the rhetoric of the individuals who encourage “taking the personalities out of politics and focusing on the issues” — which may sound nice, but is not reasonable or practical because the character of the legislators crafting the policies is just as important as the policies themselves.
This perfectly encapsulates the core tenets of Kohelet Policy Forum because the organization is attempting to bridge the gap between “Israeli nationalism” (or zionism) and “libertarian economics” by not fixating on personalities and, instead, addressing the ideas. They claim to be accomplishing this by focusing on the issues that unite the different factions of the conservative movement and avoiding the topics that divide them.
Kohelet Policy Forum, Civil Society Orgs & the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes
Kohelet Policy Forum is a Jerusalem-based policy center that supports a wide range of public policy organizations on the “Zionist libertarian” side of the political continuum. The think tank was bankrolled by American billionaire, Jeff Yass, and his prominent network of free-marketeers. Kohelet itself was founded by Moshe Koppel, a Talmud scholar, political activist, and computer scientist (whose areas of research include machine learning and social choice theory). Koppel collaborated with Nathan Netanyahu, who is also a computer scientist (and Bibi Netanyahu’s cousin), in machine learning endeavors related to chess. Moreover, prior to establishing Kohelet in 2012, Moshe Koppel co-authored a draft of a new constitution for Israel with Michael Eitan (a former Knesset member for Likud).
Side note: I would direct anyone searching for details about Kohelet Policy Forum to an exposé by Haaretz, titled The U.S. Billionaires Secretly Funding the Right-wing Effort to Reshape Israel — the article is also archived here. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the rhetoric and framing in the analysis; however, it does a decent job exposing Kohelet’s connection to Susquehanna International, summarizing the main principles of the forum, and explaining how the organization cultivates civil society groups.
The U.S. billionaires secretly funding the right-wing effort to reshape Israel
The Kohelet Policy Forum has wielded increasing influence on Israel's decision-making centers, with an ideology that…
I describe Kohelet’s stated goals as horseshoe economics (shoutout to Jaleel for the term) because, as I stated previously, Kohelet is attempting to “bridge the gap” between the ultra-conservative zionists and the libertarian-minded business class in Israel. As Haaretz reported, “Kohelet is bent on finding a common denominator for every issue, and not to stir up what is potentially divisive.” Moshe Koppel characterizes controversial matters as “scissors issues” that only work to destroy the base in a growing conservative movement.
Civil Society Organizations: Soros vs. Koch Brothers
Although Kohelet attempts to keep a low profile, its impact “on Israeli society is inculcated not only by its connections with officialdom, but also by the network of right-wing, civil-society organizations it itself has created.” Kohelet operates within the conservative civil society realm — serving as a counter to liberal civil society groups (within the mainstream political dialectic).
Last year, Aly Alexandra and I covered some of the differences between the liberal and conservative civil society organizations in a spicy video titled, Dear Activists: Your “Movement” is Controlled, Stop Pretending it’s Not, on our YouTube channel, Doom&GloomHQ. In the video, we discuss how the “civil society” model caters to both sides of the ideological spectrum; with George Soros and Open Society types residing on the liberal side and characters like the Koch brothers and Cato Institute occupying the conservative end of the manufactured paradigm.
Dear Activists: Your "Movement" is Controlled, Stop Pretending it's Not
On this episode of Sunday Cynics, Aly and Sebs go over the original "resistance" to the World Economic Forum called the…
According to a 2015 document published on the Carnegie Endowment website titled, Rethinking Civil Society and Support for Democracy, the “liberal” notion of civil society serves as a check on the state and draws inspiration from the likes of John Locke—operating with the assumption that the younger generation wants direct democracy based on technology and crowd-sourcing. On the flip side, the “conservative” concept of civil society functions “as a sphere of building social identities and acts as a transmission belt between the private sector and the state.” It is most associated with Robert Putnam and encourages donors to concentrate on improving the integrity and legitimacy of state institutions.
Let me be very clear, in terms of the fundamentals (in economic policy) the liberals and conservatives are not that different. Both sides will almost always put “big business” interests above their individual moral obligations and at the detriment of their constituent’s well-being. For example, even though Donald Trump is, rightfully, criticized for cutting environmental regulations and cutting the red tape to benefit big business interests, Barack Obama’s administration was fairly similar. Obama appointed Cass Sunstein to run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs or OIRA (until Sunstein’s departure in 2012). According to legal scholars, the OIRA is known as a “graveyard of regulation” (it’s also where business groups go to get more favorable hearings). While at the OIRA, Sunstein oversaw:
An unprecedented government-wide regulatory ‘lookback’ designed to revisit rules on the books to see if they really make sense…directed agencies and departments to produce plans to eliminate red tape and to streamline current requirements.
Additionally, the established leadership (on both ends) has a love affair with austerity and privatization of public services (without legitimate alternatives) — so, excuse me if I’m just simply unimpressed with either side of this psychopathic paradigm.
When discussing the current economic configuration, and its subsequent transformation, it’s crucial to have a handle on the role that social finance and impact bonds (spearheaded by Sir Ronald Cohen) will play in the “new” economic structure. This requires the further gutting of the “administrative state” (Steve Bannon’s favorite topic) and replacing those government resources with private sector “solutions” — basically, neoliberal economics rebranded as “effective altruism” or conscious capitalism. Unfortunately, the sophist “culture warriors” who gained the trust of large swathes of the population — through flimsy “anti-establishment” rhetoric and superficial support for economic populism — advocate for the very policies waging economic warfare of the same general populace.
Circling back to Kohelet Policy Forum
Although I’m specifically writing about Kohelet and their goal to bridge the divide between different factions of the “conservative party” in Israel, it’s not necessarily just about Israel. As described in the Haaretz piece, “the forum…is pragmatic, working to achieve its goals step by step, from one law to the next, one court judgment after another, like the American conservative model.” In the United States, a similar template was used, in the 1980’s, to fuse free-market libertarianism and Christian nationalism — Ron Paul (willingly or unwillingly) played a role in forwarding this ambition. There are plenty of things I like about Ron Paul; however, his compassion, empathy, and overall good intentions, alone, are not enough. Especially, if he lacks the discernment to recognize the complexities of the ecosystem in which he operates — but I digress.
Kohelet operates under the radar to shape critical centers of power in the Knesset government and the judicial branch — promoting settlements and advocating for privatization. At a Tikvah Foundation conference in 2019, Moshe Koppel identified the forum’s ethos as the following:
Economic liberty, Israel as the nation-state [of the Jewish people] and governance — governance is a euphemism for dismantling unelected centers of power that exploit the state’s power in order to impose their values.
By “exploitative, unelected centers of power,” Koppel was most likely referring to the Israel’s judicial system — a logical inference considering these reforms are the catalysts for the recent protests (and the overall political climate in Israel). This is directly related to the notion of “gutting of the administrative state” that I mentioned in an earlier section. Plus, the organization alleges to distance itself from any specific political party and insists it only endorses ideas; meanwhile, Moshe Koppel (the founder) is a member of the Likud Central Committee.
Additionally, Kohelet’s ideological biases were highlighted when the Education Ministry accused them of attempting to promote their own agenda. This was after Kohelet produced a new civics textbook (in Arabic) for Israel’s Arab sector that did not include the terms “Al-Quds” or “Palestine” — basically, eliminating portions of Palestinian history to, instead, prioritize Israel’s Jewish ethos. By the way, this approach is not unique to Israel; under Prime Minister Modi, India’s National Council of Educational Research and Training removed references to material that contradicted the nation’s “Hindu first” objective by erasing Muslim contributions and legacies from history books.
Similar to Israel and India, in Afghanistan (under the guise of depoliticizing teaching material) the United States government, and other foreign aid organizations, funded new textbooks that paused Afghan history in 1973 by omitting “the Soviet war, the mujaheddin, the Taliban or the U.S. military presence…in their efforts to promote a single national identity.” The justification for these alterations, by Afghan leaders and U.S. officials, was that the real history of Afghanistan was too controversial and divisive to teach. Funny how that works, right? Likewise, in Israel, when Dr. Hadar Lifshitz (a member of Kohelet) was questioned about the removal of Palestinian history, he gave an identical response—that they were just trying to present facts in an “objective” manner and “avoid” making ideological statements. As for India, the government’s “official” reason for editing the textbooks was to minimize the student’s learning load during the pandemic.
Noticing a pattern? I do. It’s one thing to tweak teaching material in order to add missing pieces, correct certain blindspots, or provide alternative perspectives; however, eliminating information, entirely, seems rather drastic and unnecessary. I guess one can make the argument that the information being taught doesn’t matter if the students lack the developed discernment skills to make sense of the material—which is an equally important point—but deleting whole sections of books simply because the content doesn’t align with specific “political agendas” is quite sinister.
Let’s Get Biblical: Book of Ecclesiastes
Within the Old Testament, the following three stories — Book of Job, Book of Proverbs, and Book of Ecclesiastes — belong to the genre of “wisdom literature” and for the purpose of this essay, I shall focus on Ecclesiastes. The first line in the Book of Ecclesiastes reads:
The words of David’s son, Qoheleth, king in Jerusalem.
Qoheleth is just a different spelling of Kohelet (the name given to the Israeli think tank discussed in this essay). In Hebrew, the word Kohelet means “someone who has gathered people together” and refers to a teacher or preacher. Many speculate that “David’s son” (the teacher) refers to King Solomon (or a later ruler who plays the role of the “King Solomon” archetype). In Ecclesiastes, the narrator seems to believe that, in general, people spend most of their energy on utterly meaningless endeavors (chasing the wind and lost in the smoke) — without ever realizing their true purpose.
In Christian David Ginsburg’s historical and critical commentary of Ecclesiastes (written in 1861), he splits the chronicle into Prologue, four middle sections, and Epilogue — then analyzes each category. In the prologue and epilogue of Ecclesiastes, the author identifies the ultimate mystery (what is the purpose or meaning of existence) and proceeds to explain the remedy through a series of questions and thought experiments. The four sections between the prologue and epilogue investigate different methods to obtain happiness for the soul.
The first section explains that acquiring wisdom, alone, is not a remedy for fate. After, the author explores if pursuing pleasure would yield the desired happiness, but discovers that, too, is insufficient — thus, concludes neither wisdom nor pleasure ensure a fulfilling existence. The second section of Ecclesiastes stresses that everyone (no matter how righteous or wicked) will experience tragedy and the commitment to virtue does not guarantee material success.
In the third section, the author examines if prudence (or common sense) can secure real happiness — but the “common sense” view of life, too, proved vain because it did not “account for the melancholy fact that the fortunes of the righteous and the wicked are often reversed all their lifetime.” In the fourth section, the author recites all of the examinations — the pursuit of wisdom, the hunt for pleasure, the commitment to righteousness, and the reliance on prudence — and concludes that even the realization of the failures and shortcomings of these methods (alone), is not enough to satisfy the craving of the soul. As Ginsburg’s interpretation eloquently articulates:
Success does not always attend the strong and the skillful; and that wisdom, though decidedly advantageous in many respects, is often despised and counteracted by folly; that we are to be patient under sufferings from rulers, who by virtue of their power frequently pervert the order of things, since violent opposition may only tend to increase our sufferings; that the exercise of prudence in the affairs of life will be more advantageous than folly; that we are to be charitable, though the recipients of our benevolence appear ungrateful, since they may after all requite us.
So, if all human efforts to secure real happiness (by applying each technique separately) are seemingly futile, how does one live a fulfilling life in the midst of this paradox? In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the answer is to enjoy your life as you actually experience it by committing to every moment as you encounter it—and not necessarily as you think it ought to be because even your expectations of how life is supposed to be can spiral into yet another hollow crusade. Ultimately, Ecclesiastes advises each individual to welcome and apply each lesson (about wisdom, pleasure, virtue, prudence) in their own unique and personal way—because all of the teachings (like all of our experiences) are equally valuable and meaningful.
The subject matter discussed in the Book of Ecclesiastes is exquisitely conceptualized in the movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once. In the film, the writers explore and, ultimately, reject the concept of nihilism by showcasing that if existence has no inherent meaning, then all things that occur at any given moment would be equally valuable. The key is understanding that your life can only be defined by the meaning you give it; thus, it cannot be “meaningless” because everything and everyone means something to someone. Furthermore, even if I (myself) am the only one who values my own existence then my existence cannot be meaningless because my gospel doesn’t require external confirmation. The film’s message echoes the core sentiment in Ecclesiastes because the parable instructs the reader to live life as they actually experience it and allow themselves to recognize the splendor within the, seemingly, mundane commotion of daily life.
Closing Thoughts: Kohelet & Ecclesiastes
It’s quite fascinating and satirical that the name “Kohelet” (the forum working to overhaul Israel’s public policies and judicial system) comes from the Old Testament’s Book of Ecclesiastes. Part of the message, in Ecclesiastes, is that everyone (whether righteous or wicked) will experience tragedy and death; thus, why not spend our limited time, as material beings on earth, gaining wisdom rather than chasing power, acquiring profit, and exploiting others. That being said, the forum being called “Kohelet” is absurd and ironic because the tenets of Kohelet (the organization) seem to be the inverse of the teachings in the Book of Ecclesiastes. For example, the think tank insists on the importance of privatization (to generate profit) and advocates for policies that continue to subjugate the Palestinian population (and erase their history) — where is the commitment to virtue in that? Puzzling, indeed.
Peace and blessings,