Posts Tagged ‘Noam Chomsky’

An interview with Noam Chomsky

April 11, 2017

I missed this interview with Noam Chomsky when it was broadcast a week ago, but he has good insight into U.S. and world politics.   I respect him for his breadth of knowledge and independence of mind.  The broadcast is a little over an hour, which is a long time to watch something on a computer screen, but you don’t have to watch it all at once.

It took me many decades to appreciate Chomsky.  During the Cold War, I thought he was insufficiently aware of the evil and threat of the Soviet Union and of Communism generally, and overly quick to condemn the United States because our faults were aberrations whereas theirs were systemic.

I started to change my way of thinking in the 1990s when the Soviet threat ended, but the United States did not return to what I thought was normal.   I was shocked at how easily the Bush administration was able to wipe the Bill of Rights off the blackboard and commit the country to perpetual war.

But my real disillusionment was when the Obama administration, instead of offering hope and implementing change, simply filed some of the rough edges off the Bush policies to make them more acceptable.

Now comes Donald Trump who is, as Chomsky said, a kind of parody and exaggeration of what has gone before.

I can appreciate Chomsky, now that I have freed myself of the mental limitation of refusing to consider anything outside the range of the opinions expressed by Democrats and Republicans.   As Chomsky noted in the interview, what we should worry about are the policies on which self-described conservatives and self-described liberals agree.

Noam Chomsky on the spectrum of opinion

August 2, 2013

noam.chomsky.on.free speech

Click on The Noam Chomsky Web Site for more.

Chomsky on advertising and anarchism

June 26, 2013

chomsky-intvu-cover

Professor Noam Chomsky gave an interesting interview to Modern Success magazine about a month ago.  Here’s his observation about advertising.

… Commercial advertising is fundamentally an effort to undermine markets.  We should recognize that. If you’ve taken an economics course, you know that markets are supposed to be based on informed consumers making rational choices.  You take a look at the first ad you see on television and ask yourself — Is that it’s purpose?  No it’s not. It’s to create uninformed consumers making irrational choices.

And these same institutions run political campaigns.  It’s pretty much the same: you have to undermine democracy by trying to get uninformed people to make irrational choices.  And so this is only one aspect of the PR industry. 

Here’s his definition of anarchism.

… Anarchism is, in my view, basically a kind of tendency in human thought which shows up in different forms in different circumstances, and has some leading characteristics.  Primarily it is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy.  It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified.  It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them.  Their authority is not self-justifying.  They have to give a reason for it, a justification. 

And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just. And, as I understand it, anarchy is just that tendency. It takes different forms at different times.

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New articles links: Magna Carta, Adam Smith

July 28, 2012

Here are recent additions my Articles menu.  If you find my posts interesting, you probably will find these items equally interesting or more so.

Noam Chomsky and the endangered heritage of Magna CartaHat tip to Jack Clontz.

This is the text of a lecture given by Noam Chomsky, the distinguished linguist and radical political activist in June at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, as part of its observance of its 600th anniversary.  The Great Charter issued unwillingly by King John in 1215 is the basis for the tradition of rule of law in the English-speaking world.  Chomsky noted that it has two parts: the Charter of Liberties, to protect the individual from the arbitrary power of the crown, and the Charter of the Forest, to protect the commons from the rapacious landed aristocracy.  He traced the history of the expansion and contraction of the basic principles of Magna Carta and concluded that these principles are in eclipse today.

Barack, Mitt and Adam Smith. Hat tip to Bill Elwell.

Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker pointed out that Adam Smith, a classic defender of free enterprise and the founder of the modern discipline of economics, would not necessarily align with Mitt Romney or the Republican Party of today.  Smith was critical of corporations; he favored high wages, public works, public education and provision for the poor; and he believed in the moral sentiments that allow you to imagine yourself in somebody else’s place.  He did have more sympathy for enterprising merchants and manufacturers than for the landed aristocracy and chartered corporate monopolies. For him the free market was a means of limiting the power of businessmen and forcing them to serve the public interest.  It is a stretch, though, to say that Smith would have been more in sympathy with Barack Obama.  The issues of Smith’s day divided people along different lines than the issues of our day.

Mitt Romney’s Offshore Accounts, Tax Loopholes and Mysterious I.R.A.

Vanity Fair ran this article in its August issue.  Nicolas Shaxon describes legal and ethical grey areas in Mitt Romney’s sources of wealth and evasion of U.S. taxes, and shows his financial operations are still largely hidden from public view.

Obama May Not Even Be the Lesser Evil.

Andrew Levine in Counterpunch rebuts the argument that liberals should vote for Barack Obama, unsatisfactory as he is, because he is a lesser evil that Mitt Romney.  Both candidates serve the interests of what Franklin Roosevelt called the “economic royalists,” he said, but the great evil of the Obama administration is that President Obama has co-opted the liberal opposition.  Violations of basic human rights which would have outraged liberals under the Bush administration are accepted and even boasted about under Obama.

Academic Fraud: Does Anybody Care?

Diane Ravich, who writes for Education Week, tells public schools and private consultants boost student test scores through fraudulent methods.  Her article reminds me of what I read about the old Soviet Union.  Communist economic planners set high quotas which local managers could not realistically meet.  The result, which should have been predictable, was that some managers cheated, and some managers technically met their quotas in ways that were counter-productive for the overall economy.  I think the same dynamic is at work in the high-stakes testing in the federal No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top education programs.

Now They’re Even Outsourcing “Local” Journalism.

The hollowing out of the U.S. economy is not limited to manufacturing industry.  When I was a newspaper reporter, I used to console myself with the thought that I held a job that couldn’t be sent overseas.  That isn’t true of today’s reporters for local newspapers.

Assange interviews Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali

June 26, 2012

On his latest and presumably last World Tomorrow program, Julian Assange interviewed two aging lions of the New Left, the American linguist Noam Chomsky and the Pakistan-born British activist Tariq Ali.

Americans who think of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as left wing ought to watch this program and see how real leftists see the world.

Assange would have recorded this program before he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy last week.

Click on The Noam Chomsky Web Site for his home page.

Click on Tariq Ali for his home page.

Click on digitaljournal for a version without commercials, a summary and links to the previous episodes of The World Tomorrow.