Noam Chomsky on the economy and democracy

Posted: April 4, 2009 in reflections, society
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If you are not a stalwart of the selfishness, inhumanity and ecological brutality of capitalism but instead committed to economic, social and environmental justice, you’ll have to love the wise old man Chomsky.

In this first part of The Real News Network interview on the economy and democracy, Noam Chomsky points out that the Obama/Geithner interventions are nothing but a recycling of the old Bush/Paulson plans. They are not what we could have instead, like a move towards nationalisation of large core industries and the democratisation of the economy. Such paradigm change would dismantle a structure in which the public pays the cost for research & development and takes the risks for the actions of entrepreneurs while allowing for profits to be privatised. Rather than having capital shareholders owning companies, Chomsky proposes for ownership to be tranferred to the government while management would go into the hands of stakeholders: government representatives, workers and community members. Given our beliefs in democracy, how could one argue against such model?

In this section of the interview, Chomsky starts by reflecting on how the current crisis might develop: we probably won’t see a great depression but therwille  be difficult years ahead and we’ll see some form of regulation (which by the way will eventually lead to the regulatory framework and institutions being taken over by the regulated industries). One thing though won’t happen: bottom-up democratisation of the economy as a path towards a more egalitarian society and a fair redistribution of income. One way towards it could be unionisation, but Obama made very clear what he thinks about it as the following Chomsky quote explains:

“President Obama wanted to show his solidarity with working people, so he went to Illinois and talked at an industrial plant. The choice was striking: he chose Caterpillar. Now, he had to do that over the objections of church and human rights groups because of the devastating effect that Caterpillar machines are having in the Israeli-occupied territories, where they’re wiping out agricultural land and destroying all of the roads and villages and so on. But nobody, as far as I can see, noticed something even more dramatic. I mean, Caterpillar has a role in US labor history. Caterpillar was the first plant in generations to bring in scabs to destroy a strike.”

The question is: should Obama’s measure be supported? Chomsky in this interview segment suggests to weigh up the options. If Obama doesn’t succeed we might end up with a new administration that might leave Bush/Cheney look like left-leaning progressives; it should be remembered in this context that it took Germany only ten years in the 1930s to go down to the depths of barbarism from before being at the cultural pinnacle of Western civilisation. After all, while the current crisis can be overcome, there are “big elephants in the closet” – like the US health-care and military budgets, leave alone international pressures like replacing the US dollar as the reserve currency. So, Chomsky suggests to support Obama taking measures that are anything but radical while at the same time keeping up the critique.

[The fourth segment of this interview that looks at the current shape of the alternative movement and its possible strategies is not yet available]

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