Part I: Part I of How the Torah Provides Guidance for the Best Governmental Policies: Yosef HaTzaddik in Egypt vs. Socialism & Communism
Commit to Moral Monotheism
So in 9:4-9, we learn of the primary foundation for any long-lasting successful society—morality:
...if you go before Me, as David your father went wholeheartedly and with uprightness to do in accordance with all that I have commanded you [and] you will keep My statutes and laws...
On the other hand...:
But if you and your children turn away from following Me, and you will not adhere to My commandments and My statutes, which I have placed before you, but go and worship other gods and bow before them...
So the first thing necessary in establishing a successful society: Follow the Torah.
Chapter 9 specifically addresses Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael, but the principle easily expands to include non-Jews who should follow the 7 Mitzvot of Noach.
History provides us with numerous examples of societies & nations overrun or exiled by another nation (or who faced disastrous events) when the first society/nation became too decadent or sinful in other ways.
Pompeii is a great example of this, though frivolous people (including archeologists) are charmed by its former decadence & facilities.
But Pompeii was the Las Vegas of ancient Rome...until it all went kerflooey via an eruption by Mt. Vesuvius.
The corrupt Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans were eventually conquered, each in their time.
Modern examples exist too, but I don't feel like being terribly politically incorrect right now.
No, wait...I can't resist! The truth must out!
So let's compromise & look at just this one example:
Before being conquered by the Spaniards, many Central/South American tribes practiced human sacrifice (including child sacrifice), cannibalism, polytheistic occult worship, and other despicable behaviors institutionalized into their society.
The Aztecs earned the most notoriety for all that, but other tribes throughout the continent also committed these atrocities in official capacity. (Meaning, it wasn't just a handful of aberrant psychopaths within an otherwise decent society.)
So that's the first & constant priority: Be good.
Invest in the Impoverished Areas Too
While many leaders ignore their slums, ghettos, and shantytowns, Shlomo Hamelech put his efforts into ALL cities, not just the wealthy ones.
He rebuilt them all. (Abrabanel)
You can see this today with Netanya's mayor, Miriam Fireberg (who is shomer Shabbos & won the support of the charedi rabbis because of this).
Under her leadership, Netanya renovated the buildings in the poor rundown immigrant neighborhoods, replacing Sixties-style shredded, bumpy walls of lobbies in apartment buildings with attractive marble paneling & flooring, plus the external walls of all these residential buildings, and replacing the messy green dumpsters with the neater deep round large garbage bins. (Okay, that garbage bin replacement happened throughout the country too.)
And it really made a difference in how the neighborhood feels about itself & about its local government. Finally, someone cares enough to give them aesthetics & respectability.
So we learn from Shlomo Hamelech that good infrastructure, even in the impoverished areas, is a must.
Actively rebuild, if necessary.
A Strong Military Matters
This provided an essential deterrence against attacks & looting by other nations who coveted the prosperity Am Yisrael achieved under Shlomo Hamelech's leadership.
The Me'am Lo'ez notes that even during that special era, Am Yisrael did not merit the Torah's blessing "no man will envy your Land."
But that time is coming!
But in the time of Messiah, that promise will be fulfilled.
All the nations will recognize the rights of Israel, and no one will want to take anything away from them.
Utilize Your Country's Resources & Assets—Be Economically Innovative & Expand Your Horizons
Initially, Am Yisrael subsisted on the rich agriculture available throughout Eretz Yisrael.
That was good, but not enough.
Discovering & utilizing all his Nation's resources, King Shlomo developed a maritime fleet in Etzion-Gezer, generally considered today's Eilat.
Fascinating side note from the Me'am Lo'ez: Some say that Etzion-Gezer is actually Aden on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula—today's Yemen. Apparently, inscribed on a rock some distance from Aden are the words: "I, Solomon son of David, King of Israel, came here."
Shlomo Hamelech's development of Red Sea trade also demonstrated wise diplomacy because King Hiram of Tzor (Tyre on the west coast of today's Lebanon, originally the territory of Asher) held long-established trade throughout the Mediterranean.
But King Hiram's kingdom lacked access to the southern routes.
So Shlomo Hamelech opened up business ventures in the Red Sea, which avoided competition with King Hiram in the West.
In this way, the Mediterranean trade belonged to the Tzorim while the Red Sea trade belonged to Am Yisrael.
Furthermore, Shlomo Hamelech brought in Tzor's expert sailors to help his newly opened Red Sea fleet get started.
That was another wise move: Call in the best & most experienced professionals to get started in a new venture, then pay them well for their expenses & services
Furthermore, Shlomo Hamelech paid them from the same gold of Ophir these Tzori sailors helped Am Yisrael reach by sea.
Because the Tzorim helped Am Yisrael reach the gold mines of Ophir, so those same Tzor professionals get a nice chunk of that gold for all their trouble & expertise.
It's similar to giving them a generous commission for all their work.
Likewise, we also learn from it: Pay workers what they're worth.
Shlomo Hamelech focused on the gold mines of Ophir, which was likely on Africa's east coast (Abrabanel, Ralbag).
Another lesson learned here is how Shlomo Hamelech maintained warm relations with the neighboring king.
And even though Shlomo Hamelech could have engaged all sorts of strategies to take over the Mediterranean maritime trade, he chose peace over power.
Instead of competing, he allowed King Hiram to maintain his control over the Mediterranean trade and used the Tzori expertise & production to assist his own nation.
How to Really Lower Taxes & Deal with Alienated Residents
Basically, he avoided levying taxes on Am Yisrael.
By transforming the agricultural economy of the Nation into something more lucrative: mercantile commerce.
Shlomo Hamelech created so much wealth, taxes became unnecessary.
Indeed, Abrabanel on Chapter 10:25 tells us no poverty existed among Am Yisrael at that time, so no one needed charity.
So Shlomo Hamelech succeeded in eradicating poverty among Am Yisrael due to the policies listed above.
He eradicated poverty not through taxes or dipping into national debt (there was no national debt; the Nation enjoyed a surplus of wealth), but through mercantile innovation and peacetime trading of labor and skills.
At the same time, yes, Shlomo Hamelech levied a labor tax on the Canaanites residing under his sovereignty. But that "tax" consisted of the Canaanites providing labor for building.
This proved fair because Am Yisrael provided them with protection & other perks, plus Am Yisrael served in a variety of military positions, from which the Canaanites benefited but could not participate in themselves. After all, the army needed to remain a purely Yisrael army.
Another important point regarding the Canaanites is their true intentions.
The Me'am Lo'ez explains that the Torah provides the status of Ger Toshav for the sake of any non-Jew who sincerely wishes to live life according to the 7 Laws of Noach.
The Me'am Lo'ez notes (page 138):
Such a person is very praiseworthy, and the Torah requires that we protect and care for him.
They chose to remain ONLY because they preferred living according to the Noachide Laws over going through the hassle of uprooting themselves and starting all over again in another country.
And David Hamelech, who dealt with them first, realized this right away.
The Me'am Lo'ez makes it clear that a Ger Toshav applies ONLY to a non-Jew who wishes to live in Eretz Yisrael in order serve the One God of Yisrael and live righteous lives.
The intent makes all the difference.
And a wise ruler is aware of the intent.
And we see how upside-down the current government in Eretz Yisrael behaves in this regard.
The whole tends to be wonky with this kind of situation. The governing nation doesn't behave fairly.
Or they refuse to recognize the true motives of the people residing in their country.
Incorporate What You Lack; Don't Just Depend on Outside Help
Shlomo Hamelech did not settle for merely relying on the Tzori maritime expertise, but also sought to have his sailors learn from the best in the field.
Today, we see countries that import doctors and other professionals from other countries, but do not use those professionals to train their own professionals in that area. Instead, the royals and the elites of that country merely use the imported professionals for their skills, replacing them when necessary.
And we see those countries show minimal advancement among the general populace.
That's the opposite of what Shlomo Hamelech did.
A Summary of 14 Strategies Necessary for Successful Nation-Building
Here are the main points to take away:
- The society MUST be run according to Torah morality.
- Make spiritual & moral investment a priority. (Shlomo Hamelech completed the Beit Hamikdash.)
- Invest in the infrastructure of ALL areas—including the most impoverished.
- ALWAYS maintain a strong military—even in peacetime.
- Know your country's assets & utilize them to the fullest.
- Know what strategies provide more wealth for your nation.
- Expand economic horizons via peaceful cooperation (not war).
- When practical, choose peace over power.
- Don't just borrow from other nations; incorporate their skills into your nation.
- Know who your allies really are & treat them fairly.
- Keep taxes as low as possible. (Non-existent is best!)
- Eradicate poverty via increased national wealth, and not by raising taxes, taxing others, or creating/increasing national debt.
- Deal with your resident aliens as fairly as reasonable.
- Know who your resident aliens really are & not just what you imagine them to be (for better or for worse).
Nothing new under the sun, eh?