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Excerpt: "We're a nation whose leaders are pursuing policies that amount to economic 'suicide' Chomsky says. But there are glimmers of possibility."

Noam Chomsky talks about hope rising from occupy. (photo: Daniel Simpson)
Noam Chomsky talks about hope rising from occupy. (photo: Daniel Simpson)



Noam Chomsky on America's Economic Suicide

By Laura Flanders and Noam Chomsky, AlterNet

05 May 12

 

Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns

 

oam Chomsky has not just been watching the Occupy movement. A veteran of the civil rights, anti-war, and anti-intervention movements of the 1960s through the 1980s, he's given lectures at Occupy Boston and talked with occupiers across the US.  His new book, Occupy, published in the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series by Zuccotti Park Press brings together several of those lectures, a speech on “occupying foreign policy” and a brief tribute to his friend and co-agitator Howard Zinn.

From his speeches, and in this conversation, it's clear that the emeritus MIT professor and author is as impressed by the spontaneous, cooperative communities some Occupy encampments created, as he is by the movement's political impact.

We're a nation whose leaders are pursuing policies that amount to economic “suicide” Chomsky says. But there are glimmers of possibility - in worker co-operatives, and other spaces where people get a taste of a different way of living.

We talked in his office, for Free Speech TV on April 24.

LF: Let's start with the big picture. How do you describe the situation we're in, historically?

NC: There is either a crisis or a return to the norm of stagnation. One view is the norm is stagnation and occasionally you get out of it. The other is that the norm is growth and occasionally you can get into stagnation. You can debate that but it's a period of close to global stagnation. In the major state capitalists economies, Europe and the US, it's low growth and stagnation and a very sharp income differentiation a shift - a striking shift - from production to financialization.

The US and Europe are committing suicide in different ways. In Europe it's austerity in the midst of recession and that's guaranteed to be a disaster. There's some resistance to that now. In the US, it's essentially off-shoring production and financialization and getting rid of superfluous population through incarceration. It's a subtext of what happened in Cartagena [Colombia] last week with the conflict over the drug war. Latin America wants to decriminalize at least marijuana (maybe more or course;) the US wants to maintain it.  An interesting story.  There seems to me no easy way out of this….

LF: And politically…?

NC: Again there are differences. In Europe there's an dangerous growth of ultra xenophobia which is pretty threatening to any one who remembers the history of Europe…  and an attack on the remnants of the welfare state. It's hard to interpret the austerity-in-the-midst-of-recession policy as anything other than attack on the social contract. In fact, some leaders come right out and say it. Mario Draghi the president of the European Central Bank had an interview with the Wall St Journal in which he said the social contract's dead; we finally got rid of it.

In the US, first of all, the electoral system has been almost totally shredded. For a long time it's  been pretty much run by private concentrated spending but now it's over the top. Elections increasingly over the years have been [public relations] extravaganzas. It was understood by the ad industry in 2008 -- they gave Barack Obama their marketing award of the year.  This year it's barely a pretense.

The Republican Party has pretty much abandoned any pretense of being a traditional political party. It's in lockstep obedience to the very rich, the super rich and the corporate sector. They can't get votes that way so they have to mobilize a different constituency. It's always been there, but it's rarely been mobilized politically. They call it the religious right, but basically it's the extreme religious population. The US is off the spectrum in religious commitment. It's been increasing since 1980 but now it's a major part of the voting base of the Republican Party so that means committing to anti-abortion positions, opposing women's rights…  The US is a country [in which] eighty percent of the population thinks the Bible was written by god. About half think every word is literally true. So it's had to appeal to that - and to the nativist population, the people that are frightened, have always been… It's a very frightened country and that's increasing now with the recognition that the white population is going to be a minority pretty soon, “they've taken our country from us.” That's the Republicans. There are no more moderate Republicans. They are now the centrist Democrats. Of course the Democrats are drifting to the Right right after them. The Democrats have pretty much given up on the white working class. That would require a commitment to economic issues and that's not their concern.

LF: You describe Occupy as the first organized response to a thirty-year class war….

NC: It's a class war, and a war on young people too… that's why tuition is rising so rapidly. There's no real economic reason for that. It's a technique of control and indoctrination.  And this is really the first organized, significant reaction to it, which is important.

LF: Are comparisons to Arab Spring useful?

NC: One point of similarity is they're both responses to the toll taken by the neo lib programs. They have a different effect in a poor country like Egypt than a rich country like the US. But structurally somewhat similar. In Egypt the neoliberal programs have meant statistical growth, like right before the Arab Spring, Egypt was a kind of poster child for the World Bank and the IMF [International Monetary Fund:] the marvelous economic management and great reform. The only problem was for most of the population it was a kind of like a blow in the solar plexus: wages going down, benefits being eliminated, subsidized food gone and meanwhile, high concentration of wealth and a huge amount of corruption.

We have a structural analogue here - in fact the same is true in South America -  some of the most dramatic events of the last decade (and we saw it again in Cartagena a couple of weeks ago) Latin America is turning towards independence for the first time in five hundred years. That's not small. And the Arab Spring was beginning to follow it. There's a counterrevolution in the Middle East/North Africa (MENAC) countries beating it back, but there were advances. In South America [there were] substantial ones and that's happening in the Arab Spring and it has a contagious effect - it stimulated the Occupy movement and there are interactions.

LF. In the media, there was a lot of confusion in the coverage of Occupy. Is there a contradiction between anarchism and organization? Can you clarify?

NC: Anarchism means all sort of things to different people but the traditional anarchists' movements assumed that there'd be a highly organized society, just one organized from below with direct participation and so on.  Actually, one piece of the media confusion has a basis because there really are two different strands in the occupy movement, both important, but different.

One is policy oriented: what policy goals [do we want.] Regulate the banks, get money out of elections; raise the minimum wage, environmental issues. They're all very important and the Occupy movement made a difference. It shifted not only the discourse but to some extent, action on these issues.

The other part is just creating communities — something extremely important in a country like this, which is very atomized. People don't talk to each other. You're alone with your television set or internet. But you can't have a functioning democracy without what sociologists call “secondary organizations,” places where people can get together, plan, talk and develop ideas. You don't do it alone. The Occupy movement did create spontaneously communities that taught people something: you can be in a supportive community of mutual aid and cooperation and develop your own health system and library and have open space for democratic discussion and participation.  Communities like that are really important. And maybe that's what's causing the media confusion…because it's both.

LF: Is that why the same media that routinely ignores violence against women, played up stories about alleged rape and violence at OWS camps?

NC: That's standard practice. Every popular movement that they want to denigrate they pick up on those kind of things. Either that, or weird dress or something like that.  I remember once in 1960s, there was a demonstration that went from Boston to
Washington and tv showed some young woman with a funny hat and strange something or other.  There was an independent channel down in Washington - sure enough, showed the very same woman. That's what they're looking for. Let's try to show that it's silly and insignificant and violent if possible and you get a fringe of that everywhere.

To pay attention to the actual core of the movement  - that would be pretty hard. Can you concentrate for example on either the policy issues or the creation of functioning democratic communities of mutual support and say, well, that's what's lacking in our country that's why we don't have a functioning democracy - a community of real participation. That's really important. And that always gets smashed.

Take say, Martin Luther King. Listen to the speeches on MLK Day - and it's all “I have a dream.” But he had another dream and he presented that in his last talk in Memphis just before he was assassinated.  In which he said something about how he's like Moses he can see the promised land but how we're not going to get there. And the promised land was policies and developments which would deal with the poverty and repression, not racial, but the poor people's movement. Right after that (the assassination) there was a march. [King] was going to lead it. Coretta Scott King led it. It started in Memphis went through the South to the different places where they'd fought the civil rights battle and ended up in Washington DC and they had a tent city, Resurrection Park and security forces were called in by the liberal congress. The most liberal congress in memory. They broke in in the middle of the night smashed up Resurrection Park and drove them out of the city. That's the way you deal with popular movements that are threatening…

LF: Thinking of Memphis, where Dr. King was supporting striking sanitation workers, what are your thoughts on the future of the labor movement?

The labor movement had been pretty much killed in the 1920s, almost destroyed. It revived in the 1930s and made a huge difference. By the late 1930s the business world was already trying to find ways to beat it back. They had to hold off during the war but right after, it began immediately. Taft Hartley was 1947, then you get a huge corporate propaganda campaign a large part if it directed at labor unions: why they're bad and destroy harmony and amity in the US.  Over the years that's had an effect. The Labor movement recognized what was going on far too late. Then it picked up under Reagan.

Reagan pretty much informed employers that they were not going to employ legal constraints on breaking up unions (they weren't not strong but there were some) and firing of workers for organizing efforts I think tripled during the Reagan years.

Clinton came along; he had a different technique for breaking unions, it was called NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement.] Under NAFTA there was again a sharp increase in illegal blocking of organizing efforts. You put up a sign - We're going to transfer operations to Mexico…  It's illegal but if you have a criminal state, it doesn't make a difference.

The end result, is, private sector unionization is down to practically seven percent. Meanwhile the public sector unions have kind of sustained themselves [even] under attack, but in the last few years, there's been a sharp [increase in the] attack on public sector unions, which Barack Obama has participated in, in fact. When you freeze salaries of federal workers, that's equivalent to taxing public sector people…

LF: And attacks on collective bargaining?

NC: Attacks on collective bargaining in Wisconsin [are part of] a whole range of attacks because that's an attack on a part of the labor movement that was protected by the legal system as a residue of the New Deal and Great Society and so on.

LF: So do unions have a future?

NC: Well, it's not worse than the 1920s. There was a very lively active militant labor movement in the late part of the 19th century, right through the early part of 20th century. [It was] smashed up by Wilson and the red scares. By the 1920s right-wing visitors from England were coming and just appalled by the way workers were treated. It was pretty much gone. But by 1930s it was not only revived, it was the core element of bringing about the New Deal. The organization of the CIO and the sit-down strikes which were actually terrifying to management because it was one step before saying “O.K. Goodbye, we're going to run the factory.” And that was a big factor in significant New Deal measures that were not trivial but made a big difference.

Then, after the war, starts the attack, but it's a constant battle right though American history. It's the history of this country and the history of every other country too, but the US happens to have an unusually violent labor history. Hundreds of workers getting killed here for organizing at a time that was just unheard of in Europe or Australia…

LF: What is the Number One target of power today in your view? Is it corporations, Congress, media, courts?

NC: The Media are corporations so… It's the concentrations of private power which have an enormous, not total control, but enormous influence over Congress and the White House and that's increasing sharply with sharp concentration of  private power and escalating cost of elections and so on…

LF: As we speak, there are shareholder actions taking place in Detroit and San Francisco. Are those worthwhile, good targets?

NC: They're ok, but remember, stock ownership in the US is very highly concentrated. [Shareholder actions are] something, but it's like the old Communist Party in the USSR, it would be nice to see more protest inside the Communist Party but it's not democracy. It's not going to happen. [Shareholder actions] are a good step, but they're mostly symbolic. Why not stakeholder action? There's no economic principal that says that management should be responsive to shareholders, in fact you can read in texts of business economics that they could just as well have a system in which the management is responsible to stakeholders.

LF: But you hear it all the time that under law, the CEO's required to increase dividends to shareholders.

NC: It's kind of a secondary commitment of the CEO. The first commitment is raise your salary. One of the ways to raise your salary sometimes is to have short-term profits but there are many other ways. In the last thirty years there have been very substantial legal changes to corporate governance so by now CEOs pretty much pick the boards that give them salaries and bonuses. That's one of the reasons why the CEO-to-payment [ratio] has so sharply escalated in this country in contrast to Europe. (They're similar societies and it's bad enough there, but here we're in the stratosphere. ] There's no particular reason for it. Stakeholders - meaning workers and community - the CEO could just as well be responsible to them. This presupposes there ought to be management but why does there have to be management?  Why not have the stakeholders run the industry?

LF: Worker co-ops are a growing movement. One question that I hear is  - will change come from changing ownership if you don't change the profit paradigm?

NC: It's a little like asking if shareholder voting is a good idea, or the Buffet rule is a good idea. Yes, it's a good step, a small step. Worker ownership within a state capitalist, semi-market system is better than private ownership but it has inherent problems. Markets have well-known inherent inefficiencies. They're very destructive.  The obvious one, in a market system, in a really functioning one, whoever's making the decisions doesn't pay attention to what are called externalities,effects on others. I sell you a car, if our eyes are open we'll make a good deal for ourselves but we're not asking how it's going to affect her [over there.] It will, there'll be more congestion, gas prices will go up, there will be environmental effects and that multiplies over the whole population. Well, that's very serious.

Take a look at the financial crisis. Ever since the New Deal regulation was essentially dismantled, there have been regular financial crises and one of the fundamental reasons, it's understood, is that the CEO of Goldman Sachs or CitiGroup does not pay attention to what's calledsystemic risk. Maybe you make a risky transaction and you cover your own potential losses, but you don't take into account the fact that if it crashes it may crash the entire system.  Which is what a financial crash is.

The much more serious example of this is environmental impacts. In the case of financial institutions when they crash, the taxpayer comes to the rescue, but if you destroy the environment no one is going to come to the rescue…

LF: So it sounds as if you might support something like the Cleveland model where the ownership of the company is actually held by members of the community as well as the workers…

NC: That's a step forward but you also have to get beyond that to dismantle the system of production for profit rather than production for use. That means dismantling at least large parts of market systems. Take the most advanced case: Mondragon. It's worker owned, it's not worker managed, although the management does come from the workforce often, but it's in a market system and they still exploit workers in South America, and they do things that are harmful to the society as a whole and they have no choice. If you're in a system where you must make profit in order to survive. You are compelled to ignore negative externalities, effects on others.

Markets also have a very bad psychological effect. They drive people to a conception of themselves and society in which you're only after your own good, not the good of others and that's extremely harmful.

LF: Have you ever had a taste of a non market system - had a flash of optimism -- oh this is how we could live?

NC: A functioning family for example, and there are bigger groups, cooperatives are a case in point. It certainly can be done. The biggest I know is Mondragon but there are many in between and a lot more could be done. Right here in Boston in one of the suburbs about two years ago, there was a small but profitable enterprise building high tech equipment.  The multi-national who owned the company didn't want to keep it on the books so they decided to close it down. The workforce and the union, UE (United Electrical workers), offered to buy it, and the community was supportive. It could have worked if there had been popular support. If there had been an Occupy movement then, I think that could have been a great thing for them to concentrate on. If it had worked you would have had  another profitable, worker-owned and worker managed profitable enterprise. There‘s a fair amount of that already around the country. Gar Alperovitz has written about them, Seymour Melman has worked on them. Jonathan Feldman was working on these things.

There are real examples and I don't see why they shouldn't survive. Of course they're going to be beaten back. The power system is not going to want them any more than they want popular democracy any more than the states of middle east and the west are going to tolerate the Arab spring… .They're going to try to beat it back.

LF: They tried to beat back the sit-in strikes back in the 1930s. What we forget is entire communities turned out to support those strikes. In Flint, cordons of women stood between the strikers and the police.

NC: Go back a century to Homestead, the worker run town, and they had to send in the National Guard to destroy them.

LF: Trayvon Martin. Can you talk for a few minutes about the role of racism and racial violence in what we've been talking about?  Some people think of fighting racism as separate from working on economic issues.

NC: Well you know, there clearly is a serious race problem in the country. Just take a look at what's happening to African American communities. For example wealth, wealth in African American communities is almost zero. The history is striking. You take a look at the history of African Americans in the US. There's been about thirty years of relative freedom. There was a decade after the Civil War and before north/south compact essentially recriminalized black life. During the Second World War there was a need for free labor so there was a freeing up of the labor force. Blacks benefitted from it. It lasted for about twenty years, the big growth period in the ‘50s and ‘60s, so a black man could get a job in an auto plant and buy a house and send his kids to college and kind of enter into the world but by the 70s it was over.

With the radical shift in the economy, basically the workforce, which is partly white but also largely black, they basically became superfluous. Look what happened, we recriminalized black life. Incarceration rates since the 1908s have gone through the roof, overwhelmingly black males, women and Hispanics to some extent. Essentially re-doing what happened under Reconstruction. That's the history of African Americans - so how can any one say there's no problem. Sure, racism is serious, but it's worse than that…

LF: Talk about media. We often discern bias in the telling of a particular story, but I want you to talk more broadly about the way our money media portray power, democracy, the role of the individual in society and the way that change happens. …

NC: Well they don't want change to happen….They're right in the center of the system of power and domination. First of all the media are corporations, parts of bigger corporations, they're very closely linked to other systems of power both in personnel and interests and social background and everything else. Naturally they tend to be reactionary.

LF: But they sort of give us a clock. If change hasn't happened in ten minutes, it's not going to happen.

NC: Well that's a technique of indoctrination. That's something I learned from my own experience. There was once an interview with Jeff Greenfield in which he was asked why I was never asked ontoNightline.  He gave a good answer. He said the main reason was that I lacked concision. I had never heard that word before. You have to have concision. You have to say something brief between two commercials.

What can you say that's brief between two commercials? I can say Iran is a terrible state. I don't need any evidence. I can say Ghaddaffi carries out terror.  Suppose I try to say the US carries out terror, in fact it's one of the leading terrorist states in the world. You can't say that between commercials. People rightly want to know what do you mean. They've never heard that before. Then you have to explain. You have to give background. That's exactly what's cut out. Concision is a technique of propaganda. It ensures you cannot do anything except repeat clichés, the standard doctrine, or sound like a lunatic.

LF: What about media's conception of power? Who has it, who doesn't have it and what's our role if we're not say, president or CEO.

NC: Well, not just the media but pretty much true of academic world, the picture is we the leading democracy in the world, the beacon of freedom and rights and democracy. The fact that democratic participation here is extremely marginal, doesn't enter [the media story.]  The media will condemn the elections in Iran, rightly, because the candidates have to be vetted by the clerics. But they won't point out that in the United States [candidates] have to be vetted by high concentrations of private capital. You can't run in an election unless you can collect millions of dollars.

One interesting case is right now. This happens to be the 50thanniversary of the US invasion of South Vietnam - the worst atrocity in the post war period. Killed millions of people, destroyed four countries, total horror story. Not a word. It didn't happen because “we” did it. So it didn't happen.

Take 9-11. That means something in the United States. The “world changed” after 9-11. Well, do a slight thought experiment. Suppose that on 9-11 the planes had bombed the White House… suppose they'd killed the president , established a military dictatorship, quickly killed thousands, tortured tens of thousands more, set up a major international  terror center that was carrying out assassinations , overthrowing governments all over the place, installing other dictatorships, and drove the country into one of the worst depressions in its history and had to call on the state to bail them out  Suppose that had happened? It did happen. On the first 9-11 in 1973.  Except we were responsible for it, so it didn't happen. That's Allende's Chile. You can't imagine the media talking about this.

And you can generalize it broadly. The same is pretty much true of scholarship - except for on the fringes - it's certainly true of the mainstream of the academic world.  In some respects critique of the media is a bit misleading [because they're not alone among institutions of influence] and of course, they closely interact.

Former Air America Radio host, Laura Flanders is the host and founder of GRITtv with Laura Flanders, a daily talk show for people who want to do more than talk. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species (Verso, 2004) and Blue GRIT: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians (Penguin Press, 2007). A regular contributor on MSNBC, Flanders has appeared on shows from Real Time with Bill Maher to The O’Reilly Factor. Flanders is the editor of At the Tea Party: The Wing Nuts, Whack Jobs and Whitey-whiteness of the New Republican Right… and Why we Should Take it Seriously (October 2010, OR books). For more information, go to LauraFlanders.com or GRITtv.org.

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+12 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-05 11:03
"There is either a crisis or a return to the norm of stagnation. One view is the norm is stagnation and occasionally you get out of it. The other is that the norm is growth and occasionally you can get into stagnation."

This statement confuses me. It seems to me that this is part of a spiral where capitalism continues on it's normal course to become full blown fascism, and then the destruction of the empire (and culture).

In a longer view, it also seems headed to the destruction of the environment and the species (hardly unprecedented in the history of the world and biology, but in fact also the normal course). It doesn't look like enough humans are likely to be willing to stop this, but will just continue to do politics and power games as usual. (I hope I am worng on this.) All the eggs are in one basket now -- no place where it's not happening, no place to set up alternatives, and no place to run to.

A problem with 'cyclical thinking' is that reality does not just keep repeating itself, and loss of equilibrium (inevitable) does not just return to a former state, but moves on to perhaps similar (perhaps not) but also radically different states. Nope -- the dodos and wooly mammoths are not coming back.

I see neither growth nor stagnation, but stupidity, anomie, and dissipation. Other than that I think the Chomsk is sooth-saying.
 
 
-23 # bobaka 2012-05-05 11:21
I know Chomsky is the great hero of the U.S. armchair left, but I think he is an apologist academic. There is only a crisis at the bottom. At the top everything is going by plan. Common people will be slaughtered one way or another. Educated slaves are still slaves however articulate. The big populations of duped slaves are a big problem for the elites so they are being eliminated.Pove rty, ignorance, disease, and state violence are the horsemen of the philosopher kings and the pervert elites. They enjoy killing peasant upstarts which is chronicled across the ages and this--9-11, 2008-- is but a recent chapter.Followi ng the words of elitist professors from elitist institutions is no way to explain the world to common people who want to defend their families against extinction, unless you want the present social arrangement to continue its beastly course.Chomsky is a very intelligent dissociator.One cannot arrive at radical insight through his thought.
 
 
+15 # reiverpacific 2012-05-05 21:40
Quoting bobaka:
I know Chomsky is the great hero of the U.S. armchair left, but I think he is an apologist academic. There is only a crisis at the bottom. At the top everything is going by plan. Common people will be slaughtered one way or another. Educated slaves are still slaves however articulate. The big populations of duped slaves are a big problem for the elites so they are being eliminated.Poverty, ignorance, disease, and state violence are the horsemen of the philosopher kings and the pervert elites. They enjoy killing peasant upstarts which is chronicled across the ages and this--9-11, 2008-- is but a recent chapter.Following the words of elitist professors from elitist institutions is no way to explain the world to common people who want to defend their families against extinction, unless you want the present social arrangement to continue its beastly course.Chomsky is a very intelligent dissociator.One cannot arrive at radical insight through his thought.

Eh?
I don't detect any "radical insight" from this post.
If you propose to disregard such detailed, researched and profound discussion offhand, you'd better have something worth considering to replace it.
Methinks this rather reduces you to to the status of a US "Armchair left" critic.
Chomsky has faced down the power elite for decades, including being arrested for leading a 60's tax revolt and much more since.
What have YOU done o' wise one?
 
 
+24 # Don Thomann 2012-05-05 11:25
I do not believe it is "stupidity." This situation is calculated and intentional. The result being pursued is the "Stability" of the feudal state where a few hold ALL the power (economic, political, religious and social) the rest of us will be kept too destitute to do anything about it. And as, "value" will be based on wealth, we would be easily expendable.
 
 
+26 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-05 11:58
It is calculated and intentional, but it is still stupid. The plutocracy will destroy itself in destroying the rest of us.

There is a mtyh about capitalism: that it led to development of 'modern things', but industrialism, science, technology, and enlightenment did not depned on capitalism, but on the activation of the mass of people which freed up the immense intelectual, creative, and yes, 'spiritual', resources which had laid dormant.

Capitalism is an impedement to development because of its hierarchical obsession and greed. Computer advances, for instance, were better and faster before the corporations got thei hands on the controls, killing much innovation. IBM failed utterly to see the potential of the PC and belatedly and half-heartedly went with it -- and then gave up. Xerox management insisted they were in the copy machine business and ignored the great work from theor own Xerox Park research division. Microsoft snatched the graphical inteface, the OS and even the BASIC language, and while they did develop it to an extent also monopolized it and drove competetors out of business -- and largly killed off the industry innovation with it's proprietory code (as did Apple).

Not just fear (as in Dune), but greed and power lust are also mind killers.
 
 
-3 # dh_er84 2012-05-05 12:27
@bluepilgrim

your comments inspire me to point you to this material

www.condition.org/democ.com

i hope you are as insightful about democracy as you are about capitalism - they are one and the same anyways
 
 
+10 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-05 13:04
your link: "The webpage cannot be found"
Without the democ.com I get a page (what it has to do with Godel I didn't find. A lot of word slad and such -- I don't what it's saying.

I searched -- I think you must have meant http://www.condition.org/democ.com

Lots of jargon and word salad, and about 5 levesl of abstraction higher than is possible to make sense with.

Right off I can say that you idea of genetics is incorrect.
It also seems to assume physicallism, which is a very limited idea (and as much an intellectual artifact as anything else).

It all looks rather off-the-wall to me.

But, no, capitalism and democracy are not one and the same -- and in fact are antithetical.
 
 
+2 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-05 19:12
correction:

Should be: I think you meant http://www.condition.org/democ.htm
 
 
0 # dh_er84 2012-05-05 20:45
yes that is the page i meant

too bad the language did not work for you
it is sad you could not go past the uninstitutional ized words into the substance
and it is sad you feel the need to put an "-ism" on the material
my first impressions must have been wishfull thinking - happens to us humans all the time :)
 
 
+1 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-06 00:44
Well, at http://www.condition.org/kernels.htm#(b) you say

"There are, further, 'limitations to human thought', and it is not true that 'man will always find a way' for resolving his problems, except within those limitations -most certainly not all we identify with 'the human condition'. God, economic theory and 'music appreciation' for example, are physical products of genetics and experiences in 'speed and depth of process' physically registered and relatively fixed by properties of physical matter: contrary to common belief -especially in 'creative' professions (and allowing for genetic and other imprinting), nothing develops except out of purely physical basis, registration and mechanism. n effect, deliberative capability is absolutely defined in and limited by purely physical phenomena to 'assimilation or conjecture' of such and only such as 'of that phenomenology' -a 'faculty' and nothing more, an assurance of nothing except as a function of 'what' phenomenology registers and how it is assimilated."

In philosphy that's got a name: it's called physicalism, and is well known and discussed. Did you not know that's what you were saying and the stance you were taking? But there is also much word salad in it, and barely to be understood "It is not even wrong', as Pauli might say.

Sorry -- I'm not interested.
 
 
0 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-07 00:59
...+1 for the reference to Pauli.
 
 
0 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-07 00:57
Quoting bluepilgrim:
But, no, capitalism and democracy are not one and the same -- and in fact are antithetical.


They are more than anything else dealing with disjunct aspects of reality, albeit interacting: democracy is abou the political process while capitalism is about the economic process.

Who can remind me the name of that famous British economist who stated somethign akin to "economic theory is good at theorizing the wealth creation but the problem of distribution is purely plitic" ?
 
 
0 # brux 2012-05-07 13:49
capitalism and democracy are not antithetical in my opinion. neither are that well evolved and they both have major problems with them.

capitalism is an economic system basically evolving out of the system of barter that is a natural phenomenon of human behavior.

democracy is based on the idea that everyone should have the same rights, but we know that does not work perfectly.

i think our problems are mostly ones of morality. as i get older i see that the morals, open-mindedness , and fairness of my fellow citizens is astoundingly poor from where it was, or seemed to be to me as a kid.

it is possible that one of the reasons was that as a kid most of the bad stuff was better hidden and glossed over and that what we have now is a result of massive hypocrisy and dissapointment.

studies that i have come across proves that as long as their is infrastructure and predictability/ rule of law, that human beings can prosper in all kinds of economic systems. if not they are de-energized and programmed to be lazy and criminal because they know that hard work is not rewarded.

democracy is problematic too much to go into here.
 
 
+30 # RMDC 2012-05-05 11:27
Yes, the US and Europe are committing suicide -- technically it is really genocide by the ruling elites of Europe and the US. But who cares. When Europe and the US devolve back into the dark ages, the rest of the world can flourish. What is sometimes called "western civilization" has been a scourge on the earth for 500 years. That's long enough. Good riddance.

It is really curious how the ruling elites always piss in their own nests. They could live forever making millions of dollars. But no. They are only happy with billions and trillion. So they are murdering the societies that made them the ruling elites. But that is what they do. They are psychopaths and do not understand what they do. They just do it.
 
 
+2 # crazy lefty 2012-05-06 00:22
RMDC.

I fear you are wrong about the psychosis of the elites. I believe they know exactly what they are doing and exactly what the outcome will be. Millions of Americans will die of illness, starvation, and/or murder at the hands of our own military. Our present ominous situation was foreseen by the late, and in my opinion, great, former president Dwight Eisenhower. In his farewell address to the country, he warned us to beware of the ' Military/Indust rial complex'. We are facing the consequences of our failure to address his warning. Are military, arguably the greatest military in the world, will be turned against us, which is exactly why our founding fathers did not advocate for such a standing army. In short, unless our military leaders realise how egregious this situation is and follow the wishes of our founders and our constitution, we are doomed.
 
 
+19 # Yakpsyche 2012-05-05 11:37
Bluepilgrim, you say, "capitalism continues on its normal course to become fascism".

I'd say its already fascism here in the USA and has been for quite some time. Its just that the fascists keep calling it democracy and capitalism, so the public continues to relate to it as if it were so

The bigger question that Dr. Chomsky does not comment on has to do with how to live under fascism. Historically, what's the best course? Wait for an outside invasion, as for instance the US invaded the Third Reich? Put up with it? Rebel? Subvert? Ignore it?

What are your thoughts, readers?
 
 
+14 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-05 13:19
I think the best course is organize socially -- albeit maybe under the radar as things get worse, so as to be such an obvious target.

Forget about politics as a solution, at least until people have organized very well and extensively. See mostly to the social needs, establishing a 'shadow government' of sorts with comunicating networks.

We have to do the things that are always need in forming a society, with social contracts, networks, and such, but under the shroud of the plutocracy. We need to re-establish society, locally, and beyond, which fascists have destroyed (because they fear active social communication and networks -- keep people glued to the TV, isolated from each other).

When that's done, then there can be a mass social movement - a "Spring". Without that, no mass movement will be successful. With that, sufficiently, a mass movement can't fail. It should be done in an anarchical way, without depending on specific leaders (who can be taken out), spreading like weeds, roots underground (rhizomes), and need not be overtly political or with political demands. This is one of the characteristics of the occupy movement. When it is ripe, then everything will change because all the needed forces and structures will be in place.
 
 
+3 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-07 01:01
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”
Benito Mussolini
 
 
+1 # RLF 2012-05-06 06:03
I agree...We live in Fascist times. A great opportunity was lost...though painful...ultim ately a bank crash would have cleaned the pipes...Wallstr eeters jumping from windows...we can only dream!
 
 
0 # Capn Canard 2012-05-08 07:40
Yakpsyche, good question! I believe that we will need to use non-violent protest and alternative forms of resistance. I know, it is the slow shift but our options are limited by the PR, Advertising, Marketing of American Idealism and it's bought and paid for Media. A Media that is of little to no-help. I suggest that we need to use some political/popul ar social jujitsu that counters the Police state. This is a bumpy road and there will be many more casualties
 
 
+6 # edge 2012-05-05 12:10
The problem in Europe is the Euro!

Many countries gave away the store to the government unions and they retire very early and get tons of money and benefits.

This is true but not the problem!

If Greece could lower the value of its currency then nobody in Greece would have a problem unless they wanted to travel to other countries.

Unfortunately for Greece and about 15 other countries they made a pact to try to beat the US Dollar by making up the Euro.

Germany is flourishing because instead of the German Marc rising in value they use the Euro which is stagnant at best.
Now Europe is level if you combine all countries but the problem is some are doing fantastically well and some are in the sewer!

Europe's troubles are the EURO.
Greece needs to get out and there would be no need for austerity.
Actually the EURO needs to go, and all of the countries need their own currency so that all of Europe can rise and fall in relationship to their world output.

While the EURO was an interesting idea, it came about 50 years too late. The rise of China has changed the landscape in ways that the Federal Reserve has not yet figured out...ala the 2007 crash in US housing...yes it was much earlier, look at the FED FUNDS rates and the trend is clear.

edge.
 
 
+5 # RLF 2012-05-06 06:07
Also..pension funds around the world, both private and public, have been told they were over capitalized so that corporate raiders like Romney could thieve them. Now that they are having a hard time, the right wants to say we can't afford them...what we can't afford are the Romney raiders which have been reducing the strength of the world's strongest Corps. and countries to ashes and pretending it is doing business rather than stealing. It has been going on since Milken and Raygun.
 
 
0 # tomo 2012-05-07 00:06
The Euro may be far more a headache than you suggest. Were the world to tire of us as a debtor-nation, and decide to drop the dollar and to use the Euro as the new standard, the alleged "recovery" of the U.S. would evaporate.
 
 
+9 # resilk 2012-05-05 12:19
If humanity is to survive we need to have a positive vision. What we focus on we get more of. Rebel yes subvert yes ignore sometimes but be informed . Workers create all wealth does not equal money) -when the systems break down as they are doing - those who know how to cooperate will be the survivors. How bad it gets depends and it will be different depending where you personally are. So it is important right now to be living the truth of what we believe - I'm banking on the evolutionary leap which is happening in so many places but is not yet established and may not make it. 13 billion years of evolution through cooperation and creation of greater wholes.It is now time for Humankind to know itself as ONE -( to bomb another is like blowing up your own hand) Evolve or die. .Read Hawken, Blessed Unrest, Gilding, The Great Disruption. In my community garden we are like Occupy - there is no leader - Oh MY -this is a challenge but we, like Occupy , are trying to enact a different modality. A tiny pathetic effort - its about growing food and learning how. I am part of the future. My personal fate will be as it is - humanity's survival depends on us all doing more than just talking. But I sure love the chance to participate.
In chaotic states small movements become "strange attractors" and pull the system into new pathways. There is hope and we can embody it. There is no guaranteed survival of the species at this point
 
 
-6 # edge 2012-05-05 13:09
I am sure that we are 180 degrees apart ideologically but I do hear you and do agree that things need to change.

I want you/me to control our future and most here want Government to do the same.
Personally I only think that I should decide my future, but if you think that Government should then I would ask you which one?
The US, the Nazis's of the 1930's, what leader do YOU have confidence in that you would entrust your children's future?
IMO, that resides in ME!
I do not trust you or anyone else.
I want to own my retirement fund that I paid into and I want my heir to get the benefit of what I do not use.
Is that too much to ask of my Government?
I do not want my children to be a burden on society.
 
 
+1 # RLF 2012-05-06 06:08
Good luck with that rosey vision.
 
 
0 # cordleycoit 2012-05-05 14:08
IU generally disagree with the Chomsky this time not so much. There must be a call to a series of public discussions by people like him: public intellectuals looking for a better way of organizing the society to to come at least to leave bread crumb trails of our answers.
Economies have failed here are answers but they are not firmed down enough. The current oligarchy will not last and there had better be a way out without the "Mad Max"solutions the far right puts forward as human nature. I know the the Wolf the Kline the Zizek, the Adam Curtis, the Cockburn,the Mosley all have contributions to make. RSN and others could convene Lets do something even if it's wrong before the bars come down and the capos come out.
 
 
+2 # suzelectrowell 2012-05-05 14:43
Suzanne LeBoeuf-dontadd metogroups ‎"The Democrats have pretty much given up on the white working class. That would require a commitment to economic issues and that's not their concern."

There is no money to be made protecting the public from an electronic free-for-all weapons state. Votes don't matter if political/monet ary control can be forced through submission and domination of the public using advanced weapons technologies and torture.

Please sign the petition to stop energy based weapons from being used to harm the public, thank you.

http://signon.org/sign/stop-harmful-energy-based

More info: http://www.cfasw.net/ (Involuntary human micro chipping, cointelpro, energy weapons, chemical sprays, surveillance by drones and helicopters are all being used on world wide citizens now!)
 
 
+5 # lcarrier 2012-05-05 14:47
Chomsky sees a glimmer of hope. We can make that possibility into a reality by voting for progressive candidates!
 
 
+2 # bobaka 2012-05-05 17:56
We have a ball of tangles to unravel. We already know how fascists are made, how dupes are trained, how desperate struggle is kept the lot of common man and woman. The study of human psychology delineates the way systematic trauma results in perverted human adult energies. We resist coming to terms with our own distorted forms and resist even a description of their social component.All is already known and understood. We are staggered by the enormity of the action necessary to transform the conditions tens of thousands of years of human slavery have produced. Most thought is mindfuck. Most thought is what is left over after every vital aspect has been repressed and compressed across the generations. The dogma of self-castration rules the waves. So long has it been impossible to utter the truth, that the truth now is unutterable. The educated classes--raised up peasants--have a stake in the system and can not see their part in the multidirectiona l genocides aimed even at their own children. We are fed clever thought by those we deify and defer to, and so get nowhere new.
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2012-05-06 10:31
Keep it up Bubba- still haven't heard anything original or thought-provoki ng from y'r own vaguely hinted -at font of wisdom.
"Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
came out by the same Door as in I went".
 
 
+2 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-05 18:12
See http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/may2012/jobs-m05.shtml
Report highlights systemic jobs crisis in US
By Joseph Kishore
5 May 2012
Only 115,000 jobs were added in the US in April, according to Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was significantly below expectations, and was the smallest gain in six months. It was well below the revised figure of 154,000 jobs added in March.

[...]

Lots of facts and figures about the situation in the article, and a few telling graphs.
 
 
+1 # robbeygay 2012-05-05 21:50
There are two economic sectors to balance fairly, Capital -v- Labor ~ any system the Modern World has developed tend to suffer from the Greed motive of human & all animal competitive natures, but each must be priced.

Capital makes things labor buys that's the way it trades, the money itself is tasteless, useless, un-wearable, can't medicate, or keep the rain off, can't kill or be killed.

We believe in equality morality. Yet we are greedy, when we get a fair share of the divide we demand more wage or capital share, + tax. Price of supply delivered must be more than labor input cost, so our wage can buy a limited volume, as we demand more wage to buy more, (The American Dream) and Capital greed to hoard more, the equation gets out of balance, so Capitalist introduces mechanizations to increase productivity.

However that same labor sector, with wife and dependent children can't afford to consume all the product or simply can't consume the increased volume of non labor product. So we export it and raise our domestic living standards and hoarding, but do we REALLY BELIEVE THE REST OF THE WORLD HUMANS ARE NOT DOING THE SAME? And where is that religious morality we claim wants all others to enjoy as we do. This is where our selfish greed hurts the balance.

Industrial Revolution started this cycle, only Un-industrial revolution, war destruction, or natural calamity
 
 
+5 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-05 22:56
"Capital makes things labor buys that's the way it trades..."

Sort of: labor makes the things labor (working class) buys. There are only two sources of wealth: nature (stuff we find), and labor (work to mine, grow, refine, extract, making things, and doing the needed overhead -- 'unproductive labor', like selling, accounting, guarding, etc.).

Labor uses capital -- the means of production like machines and factories, but labor also invents, makes, and maintains that capital.

Capitalists are people who manage to glom onto capital -- the means of production -- and get 'rent' for it or use it to control markets, labor, politics, and money. Capital isn't an economic sector then (the tools in my basement isn't a sector, a sector is aportion of the population); capitalists are the sector.

OK -- so capitalists, the sector, doesn't actually produce anything, and it's capitalists, not capital, which might need to be balanced. What are capitalist good for? Pretty much only looking for opportunities and handling some entrepreneurial and financial things -- which labor can do for it if workers have the power, own the capital, and otherwise can control their output and profits. In fact workers also include management, part of unproductive labor which doesn't directly make things, but is still needed. We don't need capitalists at all -- people lived for thousands of years without any.
 
 
0 # Yakpsyche 2012-05-05 23:30
And how do you propose that we do that?
 
 
+3 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-06 11:21
Do what? Live without capitalists? That's what the socialists,and some anarchists, are working on. Some things have worked well in the past, but not everything, and times have changed, so we need to develop new methods, in democratic ways. That's part of what OWS is about. The process is important, and the people have to do this themselves -- no 'fearless leaders', 'heros', or 'saviors'. If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.

One thing that's needed is for people to become better educated about politics, economics, but also management, leadership, and organizational skills. By organizing and networking, first locally and then expanding, these things canbe learned and worked out. If people can collectively run a good garden club or food co-op, then that's a good start at running a good government.
 
 
+1 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-07 01:13
Just to refine the notion behind the "Socialist" word at the beginning of your post, in particular when compared with the results of the French presidential elections:
You obviously speak here of radical socialists or communists, nothing like has been seen recently - for instance François Hollande will certainly not abolish the capitalist class in France.
You justly distinguish economics and politics; an oganization can be both namely communist and capitalistic - think China or Vietnam.
 
 
+2 # brux 2012-05-07 14:13
i agree with you granny, the idea of socialism has a heat to it that keeps most people away from thinking about it too deeply … we are expertly programmed by the PR people, and if we want to have or say we have anything like democracy that idea of programming people away from thinking simply cannot be tolerated - especially in the name of keeping the most greedy corrupt unproductive class that ever existed on the planet in history in power.
 
 
0 # futhark 2012-05-06 02:30
All nations that depend on limited resources, be it soil, metal ores, petroleum, fresh water, or even living space and arable land are committing economic suicide by pursuing the path of perpetual growth. Ecology and just common sense tell us that continually increasing populations and the promotion of increases in per capita consumption must come to a bad end. This would happen under capitalism, socialism, or any other ism you like. Bolstering the standard of living by resource depletion can only continue over limited spans of time.
 
 
-2 # brux 2012-05-06 02:36
I agree with NC more than I disagree on things i think are important, but there is something very odd about the whole "celebrity personna" of Noam Chomsky, how he never has to solve problems or generate solutions.

Chomsky has to loose a few buzzwords of the extreme left and bash Israel a little and he has collected a rabble that will buy his books and support him … but what has he done for human rights? What ideas has he offered on how to organize, or generating a view of political reality that is palatable to a majority of people?

Chomsky prefers to be this great oracle of liberalism. He sits back while his followers and documentary makers come to him with questions that he fields like an expert baseball player, but is he a leader? Is he an activist? Is he even an intellectual - whatever that is anymore?

Chomsky's great value to me is as a history teacher. I have learned things I would never have run across had I not been interested in and willing to listen to Noam Chomsky starting back a few decades - oeiginally being impressed at how he vanquished Bill Buckley on Firing Line.

But the drawback to taking NC too seriously is that he really seems to have no point of view in terms of the future, he is content to live his life as it is, and who can blame him - he has what he wants just as much as any banker. He merely says things are getting better … and I don't know if one can say that anymore.
 
 
+5 # bluepilgrim 2012-05-06 11:36
Chomsky is good at teaching history, and also at linguistics, and he is a very smart old man, but he is only a very smart old man, fallable, and not a messiah.

The celebrity thing is not so much Chomsky as the culture, which always tends to seek celebrities, heros, and saviors.

That's a thing I find very refreshing about occupy -- they have avoided that. I started the occupy movement a decade ago.... so did hundreds of others. I'm the leader of occupy ... along with a few thousand others. I can go on sabatical or drop dead and not be missed ... as can thousands of others. We are a dragon with eight million heads (and regenrate constantly). Chomsky is one of the heads. He is an anarchist, and that's what anarchism is actually about.
 
 
+1 # brux 2012-05-06 20:42
I'd like to believe that is true, a kind of anarchistic movement, because I don't know if it can work, and I do not see any precedent in history. We have to get rid of the blind attachment to the system that we have, every interaction with the larger system, national and international must be made conscious - and I think the Internet can help with that.

For people to be interchangeable we need much more education … what we really need is an educational system, instead of all these bickering chat boards, we should have classes in political, systems and economics and develop a new point of view that does not separate us over inane wedge issues.
 
 
+5 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-05-07 01:16
Oh I wish Howard Zinn were still around!
He was also an actual activist beyond being the author of his great, great "People's History of the US".
 
 
+2 # brux 2012-05-07 13:51
I was going to mention howard zinn in my last post, but the website kept refusing to post saying i was over the limit, even though the count at the bottom said not.

one big problem is that we are raised in the heated pot like the proverbial frog … we never realize what the nature and history of man was and what our natural expectations should be because we are propagandized and stressed so much we have little time for reflection.
 
 
+1 # tomo 2012-05-06 12:30
I wonder, brux, what you think of diagnosticians in the practice of medicine. Would you have us get rid of them? "Let's not TALK about disease and let's stop worrying about what particular source or sources are at the biological origin of this or that malady; let's just start hacking off limbs and pouring random substances down the throat of the patient!" I'm pretty sure, to be fair to you (you are, after all, still reading Chomsky), that isn't your actual position. But once you've deliberately rejected that position, where are you? Let me suggest you are with the rest of us, looking for strands of solutions--and sure maybe, as some suggest, they ARE just straws--looking for them as "the sky grows darker yet, and the sea rises higher."
 
 
0 # brux 2012-05-06 20:39
Tomo, interesting that you should ask me about medicine. Have you ever heard or read anything by Atul Gawande? Gawande has written 3 of the most excellent books that talk about what I think of as the problems in our modern "systems" and how they have evolved to be dysfunctional.

In terms of medical diagnosis, and another interesting area of application for this is legal sentencing. When you look at the performance of both of these systems they are very susceptible to the quirks of the human mind and all the interesting problem with the human brain that have been uncovered and written about in the last few years in neuroscience literature.

I don't really get your diagnostician analogy or comment.

I do follow and read Chomsky, as I said there are few people who are better informed or as articulate as Chomsky is, and there is a lot of value for me. My concern is that he is seen as a radical or activist and I do not think that is what he is. There is no Chomskyist philosophy and no plan that I know of that Chomsky pushes.

I don't think there is a solution and that is why we do not see one from Chomsky. I am a little disappointed in Chomsky for not cluing us in to this, but I can hardly blame him at his age - he is coasting forward as a celebrity … which is my biggest criticism of the US liberal/progres sive movement - we keep huddling around the celebrities that are on a trajectory to being part of the 1%!
 
 
0 # brux 2012-11-12 14:47
>> A veteran of the civil rights, anti-war, and anti-interventi on movements of the 1960s through the 1980s, he's given lectures at Occupy Boston and talked with occupiers across the US.

If you know or have read anything about Chomsky you know that most of his lectures and books are repetitions of the same thing over and over. Mostly very interesting stuff that I agree with about the history ... read HISTORY, as in past-tense, or the left, and then he stirs the pot with a few provocative comments that his followers lash on to.

Nothing wrong with that, but Chomsky is NOT an activist, in fact one of his biggest memes is that things are getting better automatically, the broad sweep of history is progressive.

I question this in light of three things:

1. The concentration of wealth and power.
2. The divisions being riled up between the classes.
3. The technology that could bring about a Hitlerian-type episode just about anywhere in the world in a controllable way.

Few people understand any one of these things, fewer two, but even fewer, very few people understand the ways all three could combine together in ways that allow the crazy kinds of conspiracies, and I used that word loosely, such as we see the tip of the iceberg with the elite that Chomsky so eruditely discusses ... with his manner of detachment.
 

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