America's economic engine is fueled by individuals working hard, Mitt Romney said Tuesday, not by a government-run cooperative akin to a kibbutz.
"It's individuals and their entrepreneurship which have driven America," Romney said at a fund-raising event at Maggiano's Little Italy in Chicago. "What America is not a collective where we all work in a kibbutz or we all in some little entity, instead it's individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises."
While Romney has often touted the importance of private sector job creators in his stump speech, the 'kibbutz' line in Tuesday's remarks is not a frequent part of his campaign rhetoric. It comes the week after Romney returned from a three-country foreign swing that included a stop in Israel, the home of the collective farms known as kibbutzim.
According to the Kibbutz Program Center, there are currently 270 kibbutzim (the plural of kibbutz) in Israel, with a population of roughly 120,000. That accounts for 2.8% of Israel's population.
While in Israel, Romney praised the economic conditions in the country, comparing the per capita GDP of Israel to the much lower per capita GDP of Palestinian-controlled areas.
Romney, speaking at a fund-raiser in the Jewish state, said higher personal wealth among citizens in Israel was an indication that the country was accomplishing something its neighbors were not.
Citing the book "The Wealth and Poverty of Nations," Romney detailed his interpretation of author David Landes' thesis.
"He says if you can learn anything from the economic history of the world, it's this: culture makes all the difference. Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said.
That remark that drew sharp criticism from Palestinians, who called it "racist."