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Chomsky writes: "The press is owned by wealthy men who have every interest in not having certain ideas expressed."

Professor Noam Chomsky. (photo: Corbis)
Professor Noam Chomsky. (photo: Corbis)

On Institutional Stupidity

By Noam Chomsky, Philosophy Now

04 April 15


aturally I am very pleased to be granted this honour, and to be able to accept this award also in the name of my colleague Edward Herman, the co-author of Manufacturing Consent, who himself has done a great deal of outstanding work on this crucial topic. Of course, we’re not the first people to have addressed it.

Predictably, one of the earlier ones was George Orwell. He’s written a not very well known essay that is the introduction of his famous book Animal Farm. It’s not known because it wasn’t published – it was found decades later in his unpublished papers, but it is now available. In this essay he points out that Animal Farm is obviously a satire on the totalitarian enemy; but he urges people in free England to not feel too self-righteous about that, because as he puts it, in England, unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. He goes on to give examples of what he means, and only a few sentences of explanation, but I think they’re to the point.

One reason, he says, is that the press is owned by wealthy men who have every interest in not having certain ideas expressed. His second is a interesting point, that we didn’t go into but should have: a good education. If you go to the best schools you have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things it just wouldn’t do to say. That, Orwell claims, is a powerful hook that goes well beyond the influence of the media.

Stupidity comes in many forms. I’d like to say a few words on one particular form that I think may be the most troubling of all. We might call it ‘institutional stupidity’. It’s a kind of stupidity that’s entirely rational within the framework within which it operates: but the framework itself ranges from grotesque to virtual insanity.

Instead of trying to explain it, it may be more helpful to mention a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean. Thirty years ago, in the early eighties – the early Reagan years – I wrote an article called ‘The Rationality of Collective Suicide’. It was concerned with nuclear strategy, and was about how perfectly intelligent people were designing a course of collective suicide in ways that were reasonable within their framework of geostrategic analysis.

I did not know at the time quite how bad the situation was. We have learnt a lot since. For instance, a recent issue of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists presents a study of false alarms from the automatic detection systems the US and others use to detect incoming missile attacks and other threats that could be perceived as nuclear attack. The study ran from 1977 to 1983, and it estimates that during this period there were a minimum of about 50 such false alarms, and a maximum of about 255. These were alarms aborted by human intervention, preventing disaster by a matter of a few minutes.

It’s plausible to assume that nothing substantial has changed since then. But it actually gets much worse – which I also did not understand at the time of writing the book.

In 1983, at about the time I was writing it, there was a major war scare. This was in part due to what George Kennan, the eminent diplomat, at the time called “the unfailing characteristics of the march towards war – that, and nothing else.” It was initiated by programs the Reagan administration undertook as soon as Reagan came into office. They were interested in probing Russian defences, so they simulated air and naval attacks on Russia.

This was a time of great tension. US Pershing missiles had been installed in Western Europe, with a flight time of about five to ten minutes to Moscow. Reagan also announced his ‘Star Wars’ program, understood by strategists on both sides to be a first strike weapon. In 1983, Operation Able Archer included a practice that “took Nato forces through a full-scale simulated release of nuclear weapons.” The KGB, we have learnt from recent archival material, concluded that armed American forces had been placed on alert, and might even have begun the countdown to war.

The world has not quite reached the edge of the nuclear abyss; but during 1983, it had, without realizing it, come frighteningly close – certainly closer than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Russian leadership believed that the US was preparing a first strike, and might well have launched a preemptive strike. I am actually quoting from a recent US high-level intelligence analysis, which concludes that the war scare was for real. The analysis points out that in the background was the Russians’ enduring memory of Operation Barbarossa, the German code-name for Hitler’s 1941 attack on the Soviet Union, which was the worst military disaster in Russian history, and came very close to destroying the country. The US analysis says that was exactly what the Russians were comparing the situation to.

That’s bad enough, but it gets still worse. About a year ago we learned that right in the midst of these world-threatening developments, Russia’s early-warning system – similar to the West’s, but much more inefficient – detected an incoming missile strike from the US and sent off the highest-level alert. The protocol for the Soviet military was to retaliate with a nuclear strike. But the order has to pass through a human being. The duty officer, a man named Stanislav Petrov, decided to disobey orders and not to report the warning to his superiors. He received an official reprimand. But thanks to his dereliction of duty, we’re now alive to talk about it.

We know of a huge number of false alarms on the US side. The Soviet systems were far worse. Now nuclear systems are being modernised.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have a famous Doomsday Clock, and they recently advanced it two minutes. They explain that the clock “ticks now at three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty, ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilisation.”

Individually, these international leaders are certainly not stupid. However, in their institutional capacity their stupidity is lethal in its implications. Looking over the record since the first – and so far only – atomic attack, it’s a miracle that we’ve escaped.

Nuclear destruction is one of the two major threats to survival, and a very real one. The second, of course, is environmental catastrophe.

There’s a well-known professional services group at PricewaterhouseCoopers who have just released their annual study of the priorities of CEOs. At the top of the list is over-regulation. The report says that climate change did not make it into the top nineteen. Again, the CEOs are doubtless not stupid individuals. Presumably they run their businesses intelligently. But the institutional stupidity is colossal, literally life-threatening for the species.

Individual stupidity can be remedied, but institutional stupidity is much more resistant to change. At this stage of human society, it truly endangers our survival. That’s why I think institutional stupidity should be a prime concern.

Thank you.

Questions From The Audience:

How could we overcome media propaganda and improve the media? Through education?

This is an old debate. In the US it has been debated for over a century within the framework of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which bars government action from preventing publication. Notice that it doesn’t protect freedom of speech, nor block punishment for speech.

There weren’t really many cases dealing with the First Amendment up until the Twentieth Century. The American press were very free previously, and there were a wide variety of all kinds of media: journals, magazines, pamphlets. The Founding Fathers believed in the freedom of information, and there were many efforts to stimulate the widest possible range of independent media. Freedom of speech, however, was not strongly protected.

Decisions on free speech began to be made around the First World War, but not by the courts. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the US established a high level of protection of freedom of speech. Meanwhile in the interwar period there was extensive discussion within the framework of what has been called ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ freedom, after Isaiah Berlin, of what the First Amendment implies about freedom of expression and of the press. There was a view sometimes called ‘corporate libertarianism’, which held that the First Amendment should concern negative freedom: that is the government can’t interfere with the right of media owners to do what they want. The other view was social democratic, and came out of the New Deal after the Depression and the early post-WWII period. That view held that there should also be positive freedom: in other words, that people should have the right to information as the basis for a democratic society. That battle was waged in the 1940s, and corporate libertarianism won. The US is unusual in this respect. There’s nothing like the BBC in the US. Most countries have some kind of national media which are as free as the society is. The US whacks that to the margins. The media were basically handed over to private power to exercise their capacities as they choose. That’s an interpretation of freedom of expression in terms of negative freedom: the state can’t intervene to affect what the private owners decide to do. There are a few restrictions, but not much. The consequences are pretty much a control of ideas as Orwell describes, and Edward Herman and I discuss this in great detail.

How do you overcome it? One way is education; but another way is by returning to the concept of positive freedom, which means recognising that in a democratic society we put a high value on the right of citizens to have access to a wide range of opinions and beliefs. That would, in the US, mean going back to what was in effect the earliest conception of the founders of the Republic, that there should be, not so much government regulation of what is said, but rather government support for a wide variety of opinions, news-gathering and interpretation – which can be stimulated in many ways.

Government means public: in a democratic society, government ought not to be some Leviathan making decisions. There are major grassroots projects that are trying to develop a more democratic media. This is a big battle because of the enormous power of the concentrated capital that of course tries to impede this in every possible way. But it’s a battle that has been going on for a long time, and there are fundamental issues at stake, including the issues of negative and positive freedoms.

Do you have any thoughts about the impact of search algorithms and search bubbles on the individual’s attempts to find information in their attempts to subvert Big Media?

Like all of you, I use search engines all the time. For people who are sufficiently privileged, the internet is very useful; but it’s usefulness is roughly to the extent that you do have privilege. ‘Privileged’ here means education, resources, a background ability to know what to look for.

It’s like a library. Suppose you decide ‘I want to be a biologist’, and so you join the Harvard Biology Library. Everything is in there, so in principle you can become a biologist; but of course it’s useless if you don’t know what to look for, and don’t know how to interpret what you see, and so on. It’s the same with the internet. There’s a huge amount of material out there – some valuable and some not – but it takes understanding, interpretation and background even to know what to look for. That’s quite apart from the fact that the Google system, for instance, is not a neutral system. It reflects advertiser interests in determining what’s prominent and what isn’t, and you have to know how to work your way through this maze. So it’s back to education and organisation enabling you to proceed.

I should stress that as an individual, you’re pretty limited in what you can come to understand, what ideas you can develop, how to think, even. So if you’re isolated, that highly restricts your ability to have and evaluate ideas, either in becoming a creative scientist or a functioning citizen. That’s one reason why the labor movement has always been at the forefront against information suppression, with workers education programs, for example, which were once extremely influential in both the UK and the US. The decline of what sociologists call ‘secondary associations’, where people come together to search and inquire, is one of the processes of atomisation which lead to people being isolated and facing this mass of information alone. So, the net’s a valuable tool, but as with all tools, you have to be in a position to be able to use it, and that’s not so simple. It requires significant social development.

How might it be possible to make institutions less stupid?

Well, it depends on what the institution is. I mentioned two: one is the government in control of a nuclear capacity; the other is the private sector, which is pretty much controlled through rather narrow concentrations of capital. They require different approaches. With regard to the government situation, this requires developing a functioning democratic society, in which an informed citizenry would play a central role in determining policy. The public is not in favour of facing death and destruction from nuclear weapons, and in this case we know in principle how to eliminate the threat. If the public were involved in developing security policy, I think this institutional stupidity could be overcome.

There’s a thesis in international relations theory that the prime concern of states is security. But that leaves open the question: Security for whom? If you look closely, it turns out it’s not security of the population, it’s security for privileged sectors within the society – the sectors who hold state power. There’s overwhelming evidence for this, which unfortunately I don’t have time to review. So one thing to do is to come to an understanding of whose security the state is in fact protecting: it’s not your security. It can be tackled by building a functioning democratic society.

On the issue of the concentration of private power, there’s also basically a problem of democratisation. A corporation is a tyranny. It’s the purest example of a tyranny you can imagine: power resides at the top, orders are sent down stage by stage, and at the very bottom, you have the option of purchasing what it produces. The population, the so-called stakeholders in the community, have almost no role in deciding what this entity does. And these entities have been granted extraordinary powers and rights, way beyond those of the individual. But none of it is graven in stone. None of it lies in economic theory. This situation is the result of, basically, class struggle, carried out by highly class-conscious business classes over a long period, which have now established their effective domination over society in various forms. But it doesn’t have to exist, it can change. Again, that’s a matter of democratising the institutions of social, political, and economic life. Easy to say, hard to do, but I think essential. your social media marketing partner


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+56 # James38 2015-04-04 23:04
Congratulations , Noam. I think this is one of the most coherent and important statements you have made. Thank you.

I would like to see you write an expansion of some of the points you only mentioned.

In particular, I would like to see an assessment of the type of forum we have in RSN, Truthout, Alternet, etc. It seems to me that every effort should be made to publicize these types of information source, to encourage ever more people to be aware of them.

This would become an adjunct to public education that could both augment and encourage the public to become more aware of the need and importance of broader understanding, of, simply, public education.

It is astonishing to me that de-funding public education has been accomplished to any degree, let alone making it an acceptable goal in the minds of so many who are bewildered and hoodwinked by the far right.

That is a danger to the future that needs to be brought to the front line of our fight for a better society. We need to understand and popularize the awareness that education is the foundation of a better future. Nothing is more important.

Given a constantly improving and generously funded public education system, great swaths of stupidity and absurd behavior will begin to diminish and disappear. What a relief that would be. We MUST work to shift funds to education, and never diminish them. We must at the same time make excellence of teachers, and respect for them, a prime part of this process.
+34 # James38 2015-04-04 23:14

I wish to emphasize that schools in poor areas, inner cities, etc., must receive special attention and funding to ensure that every student gets the best education he or she can assimilate.

It is high time to eliminate any form of institutionaliz ed repression and abuse of young people who are already living in difficult and marginal situations.

We must value and develop the potential of every person as a major national (and eventually global) goal.
-18 # Justice Lady 2015-04-05 15:25
If everyone had a college degree it would be of no value in getting a good job. We need to open up oportunity by raising the margin of production. We need to open up the land & natural resources that are being held for speculation. A Single Tax on land & natuiral reosurce values, as Henry George outlined in "Progress & Poverty is the only way to raise wages & oprtunity for everyone.
+9 # reiverpacific 2015-04-05 18:10
Quoting Justice Lady:
If everyone had a college degree it would be of no value in getting a good job. We need to open up oportunity by raising the margin of production. We need to open up the land & natural resources that are being held for speculation. A Single Tax on land & natuiral reosurce values, as Henry George outlined in "Progress & Poverty is the only way to raise wages & oprtunity for everyone.

A college degree is already becoming of less and less value in getting a job as Degreed Indian and others are imported, lower-skilled positions are shipped overseas and the Universities are increasingly funded by Multi-National Corporations who MAY offer some kind of work to the sausage machine of MBA's and utter conformists who can hack the top-down, don't rock the boat, profit-first corporate culture.
Your post appears to suggest something not entirely unlike the appalling Milton Freidman's book "Capitalism and Freedom"!
-8 # Justice Lady 2015-04-06 05:31
As far as Friedman goes I agree with him only that the individual should be allowed freedom to keep the produce of his own labor if not a monopoly. But I haven't heard that he advocates taxing fully land & natural resource values & that the natural monopolies should be publically owned. Henry George takes the best from the left & the right. To the individual what he/she creates (provided it harms no one) & to the community what it creates the value of the land.
+4 # reiverpacific 2015-04-06 11:07
Quoting Justice Lady:
As far as Friedman goes I agree with him only that the individual should be allowed freedom to keep the produce of his own labor if not a monopoly. But I haven't heard that he advocates taxing fully land & natural resource values & that the natural monopolies should be publically owned. Henry George takes the best from the left & the right. To the individual what he/she creates (provided it harms no one) & to the community what it creates the value of the land.

I STRONGLY suggest that you read the book(s) and listen to the interviews and YouTube talks of Dr. Richard Wolff, the true "People's" Economist, the best of which is "Capitalism Hits The Fan".
There is NO excuse nor wriggle room for Freidman if you are populist or progressive; his very destructive, "no prisoners" wrecking ball(s) of theorems fly directly and spit in very the face of "the individual should be allowed freedom to keep the produce (sic) -I assume you mean products- of his (sic) own labor, if not a monopoly" .
So what of "Her" products or creative and intellectual property?
Freidman's socially destructive proposals and impositions on countries like Pinochet's Chile benefit ONLY the already wealthy oligarchies, the rest of the citizenry being reduced to cowering conformists under constant threat of imprisonment, disappearance, torture or worse.
A bit like the current path of the US in fact.
-3 # Justice Lady 2015-04-06 12:00
I am not a suporter of Friedman but of Henry George.
+2 # reiverpacific 2015-04-06 14:23
Quoting Justice Lady:
I am not a suporter of Friedman but of Henry George.

Fine -so why say you partially agree with him; he was a "my way or the highway -and he'd have taxed the WORKERS on the land owned by the monopolies rather than the monopolies themselves which in large part triggered Allende's revolution and almost every other S. and C. American resistance going back to the CIA's forced removal of Guatemala's Jacobo Arbenz whose crime as far as the appalling Dulles Bro's were concerned, was to give United Fruit's (Now Chiquita/United Brands) FALLOW thousands of acres long unused, to the peasantry so they could cultivate them and provide both sustenance for they and their families, and food for the country and even a little export.
I'll certainly take a look at Henry George, whom I confess I have only been vaguely aware of, bein' as how you've piqued my interest and I thank you for the suggestion.
Suggest you similarly peruse Dr Wolff, who occasionally appears on RSN and "Democracy Now!"
-1 # Justice Lady 2015-04-07 08:26
Well good for you reiverpacific at least someone with an open mind! I challenge you to actually read Henry George's writings & find any fault in his reasoning or in his furver for justice & to help society, especially those most downtroden.
Now there is the original "Progress & Poverty" by Henry George which I recomend as being of course far superior. But for those who want a shorter, easier version there is the abridged version done by Bob Drake.All Henry George's books cover different ground & all reflect his uinque crystal clear vision of economics. And dispite his impressive vocabilary & knowledge he was basically self taught. He only had a 5th grade eduacation. He was struck by the poverty in the east contrasting with the lack of poverty in the rough & ready west & he made a vow not to rest til he found the answer & he did in Oakland Cal.
You might also be interested in going on where they have an online course of George's main books along with supliments bringing it all up to date with all the main issues of the day brilliantly. If you do & you wish to use the unabridged version let them know.
-1 # Justice Lady 2015-04-07 08:31
I admit that I'm not an expert on Friedman ,neither do I care to be. I know he is no proclaimed Georgist. I was under the impression that he at least wanted liberty for the individual, which I can understand & appreciate, if it doesn't interfere with others rights. But I really don't want to argue about it because he's not someone I deem worthy of argueing about .
0 # Justice Lady 2015-04-07 08:48
corection. It's Also is an excellent website (alliance to raise wages & end poverty)
0 # Justice Lady 2015-04-08 13:48
Also you can read the unabridged version of Progress & Poverty" online at . All George's books can be gotten from the Robert Schalkenbach foundation & elsewhere.
+3 # James38 2015-04-05 23:54
Justice Lady, your statement about "everyone" having a degree is nonsense. We could only hope our education system could be anywhere near that good. As to getting a job, it would depend more on what degree a person had, as it does now, not on how many people have degrees.

That said, your reference to Henry George is important. He is a too often neglected economic philosopher, and should be required reading for candidates for any degree - assuming basic civics and economics are required as a fundamental part of education for all.

I suspect your down votes may partly come from people who have never read "Progress and Poverty".

It is worth a read. The single tax would be a very progressive move, eliminating most land speculation, which has a very bad effect on social and economic development. While the Single Tax might not be the "only way to raise wages and opportunity for everyone", it would surely help a lot.

Thanks for bringing Henry George into the light.
-3 # Justice Lady 2015-04-06 05:08
Thanks to you both for your support. Education or any other skill you have is only of an advantage in this system if it is not universal, as Henry George explained. At one time just knowing how to read & write gave one an advantage in the work place. Now that that is universal it's pretty much meaningless there. And as you said a college degree means much less today than it once did now that it's more wide-spread.Now they're asking for a Masters degree where once a BA or BS was enough.And if everyone has a Masters that would mean nothing either.
We need to open up oportunity & the only way to do that is to open up the natural resources held now by speculators.Geo rge shows how there is a definite Law of Wages.(Economic s is an exact science.) It corelates to the best land that one can get for nothing becauseno one will work for someone else for less than he can make working for himself (all conditions being equal)
That's why wages & oportunitys in all new countries were high (in the US once out West once etc.) By taxing land values we'd open up a "new country" the "interior frontier" of land
being held by speculators now. This would raise the scale of wages for everyone.I challenge you to show me anything else that could accomplish that naturally with no government intervention, hand-outs etc. It's pure justice, which is the only solution for everything in the end.
+2 # James38 2015-04-06 11:39
Justice Lady, you are welcome for the support I gave you, but I do not agree with some of your statements.

Knowing how to read and write may be nearer to universal, but that is a good thing, not in any way a problem. Differences in ability and aptitude remain, and are the basis for employability and success as they always have been. Henry George may have said something about universal abilities or education, but Henry wasn't right about everything. He has much to offer, but taking every statement as gospel is not helping further the beneficial ideas he developed.

There is a strain of fundamentalism in some Georgeist groups, and you sound like a George Libertarian, spouting fire and brimstone instead of calmly promoting the good ideas. "Government hand-outs"? Straight Teabagger cant.

The drift toward requiring a Master's "when once a BA or BS was enough" is more a measure of changes in curriculum making specialization come later, and a general downgrade of educational standards starting in grade and high school. When I went to High School in California in the 1950's, my diploma indicated a level of education equivalent to an associate or junior college degree now. California's schools are in poor shape now, largely due to de-funding of education, which is a self-destructiv e act for any society. It is not a way to prepare for the future, nor is it a sensible way to deal with present financial problems. It is short sighted to the point of societal suicide.
0 # Justice Lady 2015-04-07 04:56
And Calif schools have been defunded by eliminating the property tax. I don't believe in taxing improvements but land value, the only legitimate tax.
0 # Justice Lady 2015-04-07 04:54
The point is that the more college degrees out there the less value they are in getting a job.College degrees do NOT produce good paying jobs. They just help one to compete for what's out there. Opening up land from land speculators for those who want to use them would under the Single Tax system of Henry George.
+31 # CragJensen 2015-04-04 23:26
Chomsky states: "This situation is the result of, basically, class struggle, carried out by highly class-conscious business classes over a long period, which have now established their effective domination over society in various forms." Indeed! It's been going on at least since the advent of recorded history. In fact it goes on in chimpanzee troops and in lion's prides and all over the place in the animal kingdom. It is called Cultural Darwinism. Survival of the fittest! And what's going to change it? More Wall Street Movements? Bloody revolutions? Writing one's Congress-person ? Well - none of that has worked to date. However - I think the Internet may begin to bring about some astounding changes. If the Internet and Wikileaks had been available eighty years ago would Hitler have been able to pull of the holocaust? Exposure of the death camps would have put a huge damper on his popularity among the German people. And there would have been protests worldwide. Information travels at lightening speed today. The Internet brings things that are happening halfway around the planet directly to our doorsteps without government controlled mass media filtration. And every day the Internet gradually whacks away the very backbone of mass media and government deception. The first day Assange exposed an incident of what he called "collateral murder" fourteen million people saw it on the Net. And the government not only took notice - they freaked out. And why? Because the truth hurts.
+6 # Adoregon 2015-04-05 13:17
Chomsky writes,"One reason, he (Orwell) says, is that the press is owned by wealthy men who have every interest in not having certain ideas expressed."

To this point I suggest everyone read about the 28 missing pages from the report of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.
In 2002, the Administration of George W. Bush excised those pages.

+1 # James38 2015-04-05 21:55
The following quotes from the New Yorker Article referenced above are interesting. Read the article.

"The Saudis have also publicly demanded that the material be released. “Twenty-eight blanked-out pages are being used by some to malign our country and our people,” Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was the Saudi Ambassador to the United States at the time of the 9/11 attacks, has declared. “Saudi Arabia has nothing to hide. We can deal with questions in public, but we cannot respond to blank pages.”
A lawsuit on behalf of victims of 9/11 is progressing. "The suit targets Saudi charities, banks, and individuals. In 2005, the government of Saudi Arabia was dismissed from the suit on the ground of sovereign immunity, but in July the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the Kingdom as a defendant. The plaintiffs believe that the withheld twenty-eight pages will support their allegation that the 9/11 hijackers received direct assistance from Saudi government officials in the United States."

Other investigators who have studied the 28 pages say that many of the accusations cannot be substantiated. Most persons involved say that the document needs to be made public, and that there is no reason for continued secrecy.

My personal opinion is that the public has every right to know what its government is doing, and that information should only be kept secret for a limited period, and than only the most pertinent documents that could damage national security if made public.
+1 # RLF 2015-04-06 05:58
Probably the Saudis gave the high jackers money that was given to the saudis by the cia.

And the press! Just read in the NYTs this weekend how important TPP is for the country. What a bunch of crap gets printed in the step from News Of The World!
0 # Justice Lady 2015-04-06 05:14
Yes Adoregon,
The wealthy ones who own most of the resources & don't want real change have controled the media & educational institutions & have surpressed the writings of Henry George & anyone who really advocates real change in te tax & thus social structure.
+12 # perkinsej 2015-04-05 00:44
While it is true that big businesmen say in public they are concerned about government regulaion --- they are only speaking abstractly. Most big firms behind closed doors are comfortable with the current level of reguation for their particular industry because it prevents the entry of compettitors that might follow lesser standards. Moreover, even when Republicans control Congress and the presidency, the level of government regulation is rarely reduced.
+2 # motamanx 2015-04-07 11:25
Quoting perkinsej:
Most big firms behind closed doors are comfortable with the current level of reguation for their particular industry because it prevents the entry of compettitors that might follow lesser standards..

It also prevents entry of competitors that might follow HIGHER standards--henc e even the possibility of better products and services becomes stultified. There are regulations in place but there is insufficient funding to police or enforce the regulations, so the problem is more complex and disheartening than is perceived by we citizens who care about such things.
+24 # great_pumpkin 2015-04-05 00:56
Dear Noam,
While we're on the subject of things one never talks about or hears on the news, PLEASE write something about how our fraudulent, privately owned, unsustainable banking "system" is what drives all this insanity.

Just as the media was handed over to private interests so was our banking system in 1913. In the face of loans generated from nothing and the collective interest to be paid to private bankers the money supply and the economy can not be held at a steady state but must continually grow, producing ever more goods & services from natural resources or collapse. We cannot collectively borrow X and pay back X+interest if there are only X dollars available.

This means that--however stupid it might be--decisions will always be supportive of unlimited growth even if environmental collapse, continual war and poverty result. Nobody wants the economic collapse that would result if the financial masters were displeased to happen on their watch. It's even codified into corporate law which demands that profit must be made for corporate shareholders--p lanetary shareholders be damned. So, i'd say it's not stupidity but that it's rigged to be that way. It's pyramid scheme math which must get bigger at any cost or it all falls down.

That NEVER gets talked about in the media, not even RSN or Truthout though it is a root cause for most of the problems discussed. I hope that changes.

Very informative: Money as Debt II
0 # Justice Lady 2015-04-06 05:25
great pumpkin,
There is much truth to what you say. But if "I owned all the land & you owned all the money I could get all your money for one night's rent" Shirley-Anne Hardy author of "Stolen Land-Stolen Lives and the great con trick of Debt!" We must not lose sight of what is behind all of this, monopolization of the natural resourses which a Single Tax on land & natural resourse values, is the only thing that can correct this whole economic & environmental mess.What do you think caused the last crash, the mortgages on the over-inflated price of land. And so every other crash has at the root land specualtion as Henry George explained.
+18 # since1492 2015-04-05 03:17
The only way to get your democracy back is to buy it back from the Israeli government and Wall Street. They now, legally, own both houses of the US Congress. They call the shots and you are expected to applaud and pay for it. I'm glad I left America 25 years ago. It was just after I read my first Chomsky book.
+10 # bibi 2015-04-05 07:51
This is true, and your comments should be getting more thumbs up.
In spite of the false alarms set off, either every country should be free of nuclear weapons, or a PROVEN peaceful country, like Iran should have them too, especially when PROVEN aggressive nations that have taken hostile actions against Iran (and so many others), have them.
+3 # James38 2015-04-05 22:08
I hear that President Obama has proposed mandatory voting for US citizens as an answer to excessive money in politics and presumably as an answer to restrictions on voter registration being put in place by the far right.

I am not sure what "mandatory" might imply, and I would not favor jailing or fining people for not voting. However, I would fervently support mandatory automatic voter registration for all US Citizens. This would be true enfranchisement . I would also support any measure that would rationalize districts with no bias from any party.

Oregon has just signed into law the "motor voter" provision that automatically registers people to vote. California seems headed in the same direction. That is a good step to begin to repair our society.
+22 # kitster 2015-04-05 08:55
"it is difficult for a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it." UPTON SINCLAIR.
+4 # Adoregon 2015-04-05 13:09
RTFO kitser. I have referred to this quotation many times myself.
+14 # torch and pitchfork 2015-04-05 13:21
I keep a great quote from Mick LaSalle, the San Francisco Chronicle's movie critic, posted on my bulletin board.----

"Stupidity is OK, but pride in stupidity is disconcerting, and when people who are proud to be stupid get organized around ideas spoon-fed to them by demagogues, then you have the makings of a serious problem"

Houston, we have a problem.
0 # corals33 2015-04-05 16:58
Mr. Choamsky, Lies, damned lies underpins all that you call international stupidity. We can all now safely assume that the Free Press was always owned by rich people and therefore was NEVER free. Same with the lies about the darker people, same with the history of Discovery, science, pioneers, missionaries, Christianity, Democracy and most of all Capitalism and the so-called Industrial revolution, never mind your Monarchies and secret societies. To attempt to build a civilization founded on lies is the height of stupidity and needs no great genius to figure out. The White Man's Burden is, was and will always be the International Stupidity we have to rid ourselves of. Let us first address the cause of the dis-ease before we get distracted by its effects.
+1 # Justice Lady 2015-04-06 05:53
Its monopoly capitalism that's at fault.
+1 # Inspired Citizen 2015-04-05 18:30
"There’s a thesis in international relations theory that the prime concern of states is security. But that leaves open the question: Security for whom? If you look closely, it turns out it’s not security of the population, it’s security for privileged sectors within the society ... It can be tackled by building a functioning democratic society."

We need a radical alternative to the U.S. role as world police, judge, jury, jailer and executioner. That's empire by different rationalization s and the same means, various weapons from spears and swords to H-bombs and "star wars."

U.S. nuclear disarmament must accompany Chinese numbers. If one stops upgrading delivery and survivability, national security will allow the other to join it; but the U.S. must and can take the lead in a nuclear freeze of development and deployment of weapons and delivery systems. We are all in this together, and we can demand arms control only as much as China and to an extent Russia continues with disarmament.

Of course, this turn from American hegemony would require a political revolution from the far left or libertarian right.

World security requires a new strategy, and self-government is one that works for most Americans. Let people, nations, determine their own path forward without intervention.

More details requires a book to make the case for post-American world security. Kicking the War Habit
+1 # Justice Lady 2015-04-06 05:56
We need a world where people have economic prosperity, justice & security.No military can defend us from unhappy, poor, opressed people. Our own society & economy is a mess . So how can we fix anyone elses? We need Henry George. Read "Progress & Poverty"
+1 # Justice Lady 2015-04-07 08:41
Yes Inspired,
we have been suporting the landlord system all around the world. The Times lamented once that the Taliband (who I have no love for) came into a village in Iraque & threw out the land lords the "pillars of society" & gave the peasants back the land.Of course we came in & took the land back from the peasant workers & gave it back to the idle land owners "pillars of society" And then they wonder why they hate us around the world & what gives groups like the Taliband their power.
+1 # Dale 2015-04-06 08:32
In AmeriKa Inc.most all the media offer views that fit system maintenance
And Pentagon programmed militarism
Big Money monopolizes the media
To frame acceptable thought, to privatize public consciousness,
With the end of substituting trivia for substance,
Thought hegemony for critical appraisal, stupidity for rationality.
Media commentary promulgates indefensible speech
To corrupt rational thought, to make lies appear truthful,
The media glorify war.
The media censor news that does not fit the paradigm of limits.
The media promote falsity.
The media portray Official Terrorism as a legitimate means of promoting National Security—
With the effect that fearful insecurity is diffused within the citizenry.
In this omnipotence of deceit truth telling is terrorism to the Oppressors,
0 # Justice Lady 2015-04-07 08:42
You speak much truth as you can see I agree by my previous message.
+1 # countrygirlagain 2015-04-07 09:32
There should be a Waldorf school in every neighborhood...
+1 # 2015-04-07 15:36
We reside within the CONSTRUCT of a FALSE REALITY. At least FIFTY-PERCENT of our entire HISTORY in the 20th and 21ST century has been CLASSIFIED by the GOVERNMENT and its INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES which control us. And the joke is -- those who choose not to believe all those false or "OFFICIAL STORIES" and "EXPLANATIONS" of events are shrewdly dubbed "NUTCASES" and "CONSPIRACY THEORISTS".

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