Noam Chomsky spoke at Third Boston Symposium on Economics on February 10, 2014. He argued that certain factors, among them cutting federal funding for research and development and the growing gap between the richest 1% and everybody else, have led to the country’s current economic climate.
"The system is so dysfunctional that it cannot put eager hands to needed work using the resources that would be available if the economy were designed for human needs," Chomsky said. "These things didn’t just happen like a tornado. They are the results of deliberate policies over roughly the past generation." WATCH VIDEO
“There is a middle ground which I would like to occupy, and I think people are going to have to find ways to occupy: namely, to try to keep up a serious commitment to the intellectual values and intellectual and scientific problems that really concern you and yet at the same time make a serious and one hopes useful contribution to the enormous extra-scientific questions. Commitment to work on the problems of racism, oppression, imperialism, and so on, is in the United States an absolute necessity. Now exactly how one can maintain that sort of schizophrenic existence I am not sure; it is very difficult. It’s not only a matter of too much demand on one’s time, but also a high degree of ongoing personal conflict about where your next outburst of energy should go. And unless people somehow resolve the problem I think the future is rather dim. If they do resolve it I think it might be rather hopeful.”—Noam Chomsky, ‘Language and Politics’ (via indizombie)
“You can’t get anywhere if you just copy what somebody told you. You have to be challenging things all the time, challenging everything, thinking new thoughts. And there you’ve got a real contradiction. It’s hard to train people to be creative and challenging and yet to ensure that somewhere else in their lives that they’re conformist and obedient”—Noam Chomsky (here)
“I am frankly surprised that there is even a debate. States are not moral agents. They are systems of power, which respond to the internal distribution of power. Human beings, however, are moral agents, and can impose significant constraints on the violence of their own states, particularly in societies that are more free. They may fail to do so; the international behavior of classical Athens was hardly delightful, to mention one case, and we need not speak of the examples of modern history. But they can do so, and often do. Of course, virtually every system of power describes itself as deeply humane and pursuing the highest values, and a primary task of elite intellectuals is to lead the chorus of self-acclaim, as they commonly do.”—Noam Chomsky
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“Going back to markets — if you take an economics course, they tell you markets offer choices. That’s partly true, but very narrowly. Markets restrict choices, sharply restrict choices. Mass transportation is an example. Mass transportation is not a choice offered on the market. If I want to go home today, the market does offer me a choice between a Ford and a Toyota, but not between a car and a subway. That’s just not one of the choices available in market systems, and this is not a small point. Choices that involve common effort and solidarity and mutual support and concern for others — those are out of the market system. The market system is based on maximization of individual consumption, and that is highly destructive in itself. It’s destructive even for the human beings involved — it turns them into sociopathic individuals.”—Noam Chomsky
“That just about happened with AIG, the huge insurance company. They were involved in risky transactions which they couldn’t cover. The whole system was really going to collapse, but of course state power intervened to rescue them. The task of the state is to rescue the rich and the powerful and to protect them, and if that violates market principles, okay, we don’t care about market principles. The market principles are essentially for the poor.”—Noam Chomsky
“As we have stressed in this book, the U.S. media do not function in the matter of the propaganda system of a totalitarian state. Rather, they permit – indeed, encourage – spirited debate, criticism, and dissent, as long as these remain faithfully within the system of presuppositions and principles that constitute an elite consensus, a system so powerful as to be internalized largely without awareness.”—Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky
“In the propaganda framework, the security forces of client states ‘protect elections’; only those of enemy states interfere with the freedom of its citizens to vote without constraint.”—Manufacturing consent - Noam Chomsky
“A propaganda system will consistently portray people abused in enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by its own government or clients will be unworthy.”—Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky
The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow a very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people a sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of debate.
“To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it’s maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region. You’re not supposed to say this. It’s considered a conspiracy theory.”—Noam Chomsky (via cayso)
"Because elections are carefully contrived so that they are like selling toothpaste. In fact, they’re run by the same people who sell toothpaste. I mean when you turn on an ad on television, you don’t expect to get any information. You expect deception. That’s the point. Only economists talk about markets. Business can’t tolerate markets. They don’t want markets in which informed consumers make rational choices. What they want is deluded consumers who will make irrational choices. That’s what hundreds of billions of dollars in advertising are spent on. You don’t get any information about the product.
"But what happens when the same industry sells candidates? Exactly the same thing. I mean, about 10 percent of the crop of voters knew what the stand of the candidates was on issues. What they knew is the delusionary imagery that was created. So Bush is created to be an ordinary guy with his sleeves rolled up and you could have a drink with him in a bar. My guess is he’s taught to make those mispronunciations and grammatical errors; I doubt that he talked like that at Yale. He’s probably taught that way so that ‘them liberal intellectuals’ would make fun of him and then they can say, oh yeah, he’s an ordinary guy just like you, going off to his ranch. That makes him about as realistic as the next ad you could see on television for a lifestyle report. [John] Kerry was goose-hunting, riding his motorcycle - anything but talking about issues, and you can see why. On issues people just disagree with both parties but the media aren’t particularly concerned. And they’re marginalized."
“It is built into financial liberalization that there will be frequent and deep crises. In fact, since financial liberalization was instituted about thirty five years ago, there has been a trend of increasing regularity of crises and deeper crises, and the reasons are intrinsic and understood.”—Noam Chomsky
“The consequences of underpricing risks are that risks become more frequent, and, when there are failures the costs are higher than taken into account. Crises become more frequent and also rise in scale as the scope and range of financial transactions increases. Of course, all this is increased still further by the fanaticism of the market fundamentalists who dismantled the regulatory apparatus and permitted the creation of exotic and opaque financial instruments. It is a kind of irrational fundamentalism because it is clear that weakening regulatory mechanisms in a market system has a built-in risk of disastrous crisis. These are senseless acts except in that they are in the short-term interest of the masters of the economy and of the society. The financial corporations can and did make tremendous short term profits from pursuing extremely risky actions, including especially deregulation, which harm the general economy, but don’t harm them, at least in the short term that guides planning.”—Noam Chomsky
“Take the United States. It is a rich country, but for the majority of the population, a substantial majority, the last thirty years have probably been among the worst in American economic history. There have been no massive crises, large wars, depressions, etc. But, nevertheless, real wages have pretty much stagnated for the majority for thirty years. In the international economy the effect of financial liberalization has been quite harmful. You read in the press that the last thirty years, the thirty years of neoliberalsm, have shown the greatest escape from poverty in world history and tremendous growth and so on, and there is some truth to that, but what is missing is that the escape from poverty and the growth have taken place in countries which ignored the neoliberal rules. Countries that observed the neoliberal rules have suffered severely. So, there was great growth in East Asia, but they ignored the rules. In Latin America where they observed the rules rigorously, it was a disaster.”—Noam Chomsky
“It is one of the big differences between the propaganda system of a totalitarian state and the way democratic societies go about things. Exaggerating slightly, in totalitarian countries the state decides the official line and everyone must then comply. Democratic societies operate differently. The line is never presented as such, merely implied. This involves brainwashing people who are still at liberty. Even the passionate debates in the main media stay within the bounds of commonly accepted, implicit rules, which sideline a large number of contrary views. The system of control in democratic societies is extremely effective. We do not notice the line any more than we notice the air we breathe. We sometimes even imagine we are seeing a lively debate. The system of control is much more powerful than in totalitarian systems.”—Noam Chomsky
“Like, it’s well known, for example, that markets just don’t provide lots of options, which today are crucial options. So for example, markets today permit you to buy one brand of car or another. But a market doesn’t permit you to decide “I don’t want a car, I want a public transportation system”. That’s just not a choice made available on the market. And the same is true on a wide range of other issues of social significance, like whether to help the disabled widow across town.”—Noam Chomsky
“The myth that the people rule has played a crucial role in stifling class consciousness and deflecting serious political analysis. A threat to the myth is all the more dangerous at a time when another powerful device of social control has begun to lose its efficacy, namely, the faith that however inequitable the economic system may be, its endless growth provides hope and opportunity for the future. Nixonian cynicism is therefore intolerable to ruling groups, and must not be permitted too wide a sway. It is as though the ideological institutions, the mass media and the universities, were to permit extensive inquiry into such questions as, say, the role of corporations in determining foreign policy, or other central areas of social reality that are effectively insulated from discussion and popular understanding by restrictions and taboos.”—Noam Chomsky
“Not only are citizens excluded from political power, they are also kept in a state of ignorance as to the true state of public opinion. There is growing international concern about the massive US double deficit affecting trade and the budget. But both are closely linked to a third deficit, the democratic deficit that is constantly growing, not only in the US but all over the western world.”—Noam Chomsky
“For example, President Obama’s drone-driven global assassination program, by far the world’s greatest terrorist campaign, is also a terror-generating campaign. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan until he was relieved of duty, spoke of “insurgent math”: For every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.”—Noam Chomsky
“There are several good reasons to be skeptical about such a response. The first is that it’s almost completely predictable: When a government’s act is exposed, the government reflexively pleads security. The predictable response therefore carries little information.”—Noam Chomsky