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Immediately after the last elections, the ultra-orthodox parties came out with a statement of intent, including demands to increase allowances for institutions that do not teach core studies and salary increases for kindergarteners and teachers who teach in these institutions.
As expected, the headlines in the various media dealt with the budgetary significance of the new policy and its implications for the employment market, but only a few touched on the social aspect of those demands, an equally worrying and important aspect.
It is easier to give an economic forecast and estimate budgetary damages or benefits, because it involves mathematics and numbers.
It is much more difficult to assess the social consequences of these actions.
Increasing the allowances for ultra-Orthodox institutions that do not teach core studies will only accelerate the formation of two states, one secular and the other ultra-Orthodox.
Two groups in one country that do not bear the burden equally are a recipe for an unstable and fragile social reality.
will have to maneuver between many groups in the population.
Netanyahu on the swearing-in day of the Knesset (Photo: Reuven Castro)
As all the studies show, inequality arouses negative feelings in the groups in society.
Although it seems to us that humans are selfish who only want to maximize their own utility, research shows that this is not necessarily true.
The value of equality is important to humans, and when it is violated, they change their behavior accordingly.
Thus, for example, a study that examined the feelings of subjects towards a group of people who received a higher salary for the same action, found that over fifty percent of the subjects indicated that they felt anger towards those who earned more than them.
The studies even showed that the intensity of the negative emotions grew in accordance with the widening of the gaps.
If that's not enough, inequality not only produces negative feelings towards the favored group, it also prevents cooperation between the groups and disrupts pro-social behaviors.
A society that is not able to generate cooperation between its members cannot exist for long.
Prof. Yuval Noah Harari claims that the secret of the success of the human race lies in our ability to cooperate with each other.
"70,000 years ago our ancestors were insignificant animals," says Harari in his lectures and books, "How did we get from just another species of animal trying to survive in the African savannas to creatures that navigate the future of the planet they live on? By cooperating flexibly and in large numbers."
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One of the processes that accelerates the disintegration of society comes when some groups in society internalize that they are discriminated against.
At this stage they produce "altruistic punishments" - a behavior in which they are prepared to lose and damage even their own goods in order to try to motivate the group that does not bear the social burden to cooperate.
A public good is that resource that should be shared among all, and is achieved by a group of people who should act cooperatively.
The problem begins when there are people within the same group who do not act cooperatively to achieve the public good, but do enjoy it, not to mention benefit more from it.
Although this altruistic punishment is a mechanism that works to preserve pro-social behavior, its end results are negative - everyone ends up losing much more than if they had cooperated in the first place.
Want an example?
Just recently we saw how in Corona those who chose not to cooperate (get vaccinated/wear a mask) were punished altruistically by their relatives and employers.
People chose to fire or distance themselves from those who did not cooperate, even though this also caused economic (fire) or social (estrangement) self-harm.
Polarization and hatred do not lead to good places.
Clash between ultra-Orthodox and the police (Photo: Flash 90, Yonatan Zindel)
Dana Pan Luzon (Photo: Nir Kider)
If we take the findings of the studies and throw them into the contemporary reality of life, we will understand that a situation in which one group mainly bears the social burden and finances the other group or a reality in which the public goods are not distributed equally, produces not only inequality and negative feelings, but a motivation for punishments that in the end only cause economic losses and great socialites.
If the ultra-orthodox parties' demand is accepted, beyond budget problems that will deepen and beyond the widening of education gaps, the social reality will be conducted with intense negative feelings bubbling within it between two groups of the same people.
Groups whose polarization will only deepen.
From here, unfortunately, can come a rapid deterioration into violence and hatred.
Will the new government be able to take into account the social consequences before adopting this policy?
The author has a bachelor's degree in psychology, economics and communication, a research master's degree in social-political psychology at the University of Jerusalem and a fellow at the Jewish People's Policy Institute.