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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

mp3 of Chomsky lecture 2003 - Merrimack College

The lecture "The Assault on Freedom and Democracy" was delivered December 3, 2003 at Merrimack College and lasts for about an hour. Chomsky examines 'the assault' which he argues is conducted by Bush Administration reactionaries. He stresses that policies created by this administration (Patriot Act I and II) must be kept in perspective by remembering what other societies face, and he also discusses some of the less pleasant U.S domestic policies enacted in the past--such as the nefarious COINTELPRO. Chomsky again dissects inconsistent U.S. policies on terrorism noting that self-admitted terrorist Orlando Bosch was given a presidential pardon and allowed to live in the U.S. Also America doesn't seem to have a problem with the undemocratic, despotic ruler of Uzbekistan who boils his enemies alive--something apparently a British ambassador recently objected to and was recalled for.

Download the mp3 audio file:

COINTELPRO is an acronym for the FBI's domestic "counterintelligence programs" .

"Watergate was a matter of a bunch of guys from the Republican National Committee breaking in a Democratic Party office for essentially unknown reasons and doing no damage. OK, that's petty burglary ... Well, at the exact time that Watergate was discovered, there were exposures in the courts and through FOIA of massive FBI operations to undermine political freedom in the United States, running through every administration back to Roosevelt, but really picking up under Kennedy. It was called "COINTELPRO" ... It included Gestapo-style assassination of a Black Panther leader; it included organizing race riots in an effort to destroy the black movements; it included attacks on the American Indian Movement, on the women's movement, you name it. It included fifteen years of FBI disruption of the Socialist Workers Party -- that meant regular FBI burglaries, stealing membership lists and using them to threaten people, going to businesses and getting members fired from their jobs, and so on. Well, that fact alone ... is already vastly more important than the fact that a bunch of Keystone Kops broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters one time. The Socialist Workers Party is a legal political party, after all -- the fact that they're a weak political party doesn't mean they have less rights than the Democrats. And this wasn't a bunch of gangsters, this was the national political police ... And keep in mind, the Socialist Workers Party episode is just some tiny footnote to COINTELPRO. In comparison to this, Watergate is a tea party. ... The Democratic Party represents about half of corporate power, and those people are able to defend themselves; the Socialist Workers Party represents no power, the Black Panthers don't represent any power, the American Indian Movement doesn't represent any power ... Or take a look at the Nixon administration's famous "Enemies List," which came out in the course of Watergate. You've heard of that, but did you hear about the assassination of Fred Hampton? No. Nothing ever happened to any of the people who were on the Enemies List, which I know perfectly well, because I was on it ... The real lesson of Nixon's fall is that the President shouldn't call Thomas Watson and McGeorge Bundy bad names -- that means the Republic's collapsing. And the press prides itself on having exposed this fact. On the other hand, if you want to send the FBI to organize the assassination of a Black Panther leader, that's fine by us; it's fine by the Washington Post too. Incidentally, I think there is another reason why a lot of powerful people were out to get Nixon ... it had to do with ... tearing apart the Bretton Woods system ... multinational corporations and international banks relied on that system, and they did not like it being broken down. So if you look back, you'll find that Nixon was being attacked in places like the Wall Street Journal at the time ... Watergate just offered an opportunity. In fact, in this respect, I think Nixon was treated extremely unfairly. There were real crimes of the Nixon administration, and he should have been tried -- but not for any of the Watergate business. Take the bombing of Cambodia, for instance: the bombing of Cambodia was infinitely worse than anything that came up in the Watergate hearing -- this thing they call the "secret bombing" of Cambodia, which was "secret" because the press didn't talk about what they knew... The bombing of Cambodia did not even appear in Nixon's Articles of Impeachment. It was raised in the Senate hearing, but only in one interesting respect -- the question that was raised was, why hadn't Nixon informed Congress? It wasn't, why did you carry out one of the most intense bombings in history in densely populated areas of peasant country, killing maybe 150,000 people? That never came up. In fact, that whole thing was a gag -- because there was no reason for Congress not to have known about the bombing, just as there was no reason for the media not to have known: it was completely public. So in terms of all the horrifying atrocities the Nixon government carried out, Watergate isn't even worth laughing about. It was a triviality. Watergate is a very clear example of what happens to servants when they forget their role and go after the people who own the place: they are very quickly put back into their box, and somebody else takes over. You couldn't ask for a better illustration of it than that -- and it's even more dramatic because this is the great exposure that's supposed to demonstrate what a free and critical press we have. What Watergate really shows is what a submissive and obedient press we have, as the comparisons to COINTELPRO and Cambodia illustrate very clearly."
  • Source: In Understanding Power, 2002

On intelligence agencies

  • "If any of you have ever looked at your FBI file, you discover that intelligence agencies in general are extremely incompetent. That's one of the reasons why there are so many intelligence failures. They just never get anything straight, for all kinds of reasons. Part of it is because of the information they get. The information they get comes from ideological fanatics, typically, who always misunderstand things in their own crazy way. If you look at an FBI file, say, about yourself, where you know what the facts are, you'll see that the information has some kind of relation to the facts, you can figure out what they're talking about, but by the time it works its way through the ideological fanaticism of the intelligence agencies, there's always weird distortion."
    • Source: Q&A with community activists, February 10, 1989
  • "...the incompetence of intelligence agencies is legendary. Every one of which you have records at all, whether it's the CIA, or the Israeli Mossad, or British M-6 or whatever they're called, they're just error after error... Some of them are almost unimaginable. [...] Just take Vietnam. That was the top issue in American international affairs for, you know, 30 years. And we have a record of intelligence, very unusual record of intelligence, because it was not released by the government, it was stolen from them. So it's like capturing enemy archives. That's the Pentagon Papers. That's a 25-year record of high level intelligence, raw intelligence, CIA, DIA, whole bunch, State Department intelligence. A lot of it is in there, and it's very intriguing to look at it. In fact, the most interesting revelation of the Pentagon Papers in my view by far is the intelligence record. Here's roughly what happened, if you're interested I've gone through it in print in detail, but here's the main story. In the late 1940s, the United States was kind of unclear about which side to support. That was true in Indonesia, it was true in Vietnam. You know, do you support the colonial power that's trying to reconquer it, or do you support the indigenous government and then try to take them over, that was their question. [audience laughter] And they made different decisions in different places. In the case of Indochina, for whatever reason, they decided at one point to support France, in it's reconquest of Indochina. Well, at that point, essentially orders went to the U.S. intelligence communities, CIA and others, to demonstrate what was required. What was required to justify the support of France was that Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh were agents of either the Russians or the Chinese, didn't really matter, one or the other. But they had to be agents of the international communist conspiracy. OK, that would then justify support of the French reconquest. Everyone knew that was untrue, but that was plainly required for doctrinal reasons in order to support France and it's reconquest. OK, then comes a comic opera scene, for about 3 years, in which U.S. intelligence tries to prove what is necessary, that Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh are agents of the international communist conspiracy. And they tried, and tried, either China or Russia, they didn't care, anything would do. They couldn't do it, they couldn't find anything. They came back, occasionally they'd say, 'Well we think we found copy of Pravda in the Bangkok legation', or something. But finally the intelligence concluded, look, this is very weird, but that is the only place in South East Asia where a nationalist movement has no connections at all with China or Russia. OK, what was the conclusion? The conclusion in the State Department was, OK, this proves that they're agents of the international communist conspiracy. Ho Chi Minh is such a loyal slave of, pick it, Mao or Stalin, that he doesn't even need orders. [audience laughter] He just does it automatically, so you don't even have to have connections. From that point on, U.S. intelligence never investigated the question of whether the North Vietnamese, the Vietnamese but that's what they were, were following their own national interest. That issue was not discussable. In fact, in this 25-year record, turns out there's one staff paper, which was never even submitted, that raises the possibility that Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh were concerned with their own national interests instead of acting as agents of the international communist conspiracy. Well you know, anybody with a head screwed on knew that they were following national interests, but U.S. intelligence could not contemplate that possibility because it was doctrinally unacceptable. That's very similar to what was going on in the academic world, I should say. And you can't imagine a more dramatic case, I don't know which to call it, incompetence or whatever, doctrinal control. And this happens all the time. Take, say, the Israeli Mossad, which has a reputation for fantastic insights and so on. Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 with the intention of destroying secular Palestinian nationalism, that was the goal, it was basically an attack on the PLO. OK, what did they get? Well, they ended up with a fundamentalist islamic movement which drove them out of Lebanon, Hezbollah. Israel's major defeat, they were expelled from most of Lebanon by resistance movement which was basically islamic fundamentalist. OK, they did destroy the secular PLO and instead what they got was a islamic fundamentalist movement that they couldn't control, drove them out of most of Lebanon. What did they do next? They did exactly the same thing in the West Bank. They undermined the secular PLO, and they ended up with Hamas on their hands, which they can't control. And they don't understand it, they just keep making the same mistake over and over again. It's just out of ideological fanaticism. And I think you find that wherever you look at intelligence activities."

  • "A lot of the people who call themselves Left I would regard as proto-fascists."
  • "In the United States, the political system is a very marginal affair. There are two parties, so-called, but they're really factions of the same party, the Business Party. Both represent some range of business interests. In fact, they can change their positions 180 degrees, and nobody even notices. In the 1984 election, for example, there was actually an issue, which often there isn't. The issue was Keynesian growth versus fiscal conservatism. The Republicans were the party of Keynesian growth: big spending, deficits, and so on. The Democrats were the party of fiscal conservatism: watch the money supply, worry about the deficits, et cetera. Now, I didn't see a single comment pointing out that the two parties had completely reversed their traditional positions. Traditionally, the Democrats are the party of Keynesian growth, and the Republicans the party of fiscal conservatism. So doesn't it strike you that something must have happened? Well, actually, it makes sense. Both parties are essentially the same party. The only question is how coalitions of investors have shifted around on tactical issues now and then. As they do, the parties shift to opposite positions, within a narrow spectrum."
    • Source: Interview by Adam Jones, February 20, 1990
  • "Thomas Jefferson, the leading Enlightenment figure in the United States, along with Benjamin Franklin, who took exactly the same view, argued that dependence will lead to "subservience and venality", and will "suffocate[s] the germs of virtue". And remember, by dependence he meant wage labor, which was considered an abomination under classical liberal principles. There's a modern perversion of conservatism and libertarianism, which has changed the meanings of words, pretty much the way Orwell discussed. So nowadays, dependence refers to something else. When you listen to what's going in Congress, and people talk about dependence, what they mean by dependence is public support for hungry children, not wage labor. Dependence is support for hungry children and mothers who are caring for them. [...] We see this very dramatically right at this moment in Congress, under the leadership of Newt Gingrich, who quite demonstrably is the leading welfare freak in the country. He is the most avid advocate of welfare in the country, except he wants it to go to the rich. His own district in Cobb County Georgia gets more federal subsidies than any suburban county in the country, outside of the federal system itself... And it's supposed to continue, because this kind of welfare dependency is good. Dependent children, that's bad. But dependent executives, that's good. You gotta make sure they keep feeding at the public trough. [...] the nation is not an entity, it's divided into economic classes, and the architects of policy are those who have the economic power. In his days, he said, the merchants and manufacturers of England, who make sure that their interests are "most peculiarly attended to", like Gingrich. Whatever the effect on others, including the people of England. To Adam Smith, that was a truism. To James Madison, that was a truism. Nowadays, you're supposed to recoil in horror and call it vulgar Marxism or something, meaning that Adam Smith and James Madison must have been disciples of Marx. And if you believe the rest of the story, you might as well believe that. But those are facts which you can easily discover if you bothered reading the sacred texts, that you're supposed to worship, but not read."

  • "The United States is deeply in debt -- that was part of the whole Reagan/Bush program, in fact: to put the country so deeply in debt that there would be virtually no way for the government to pursue programs of social spending anymore. And what "being in debt" really means is that the Treasury Department has sold a ton of securities -- bonds and notes and so on -- to investors, who then trade them back and forth on the bond market. Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, by now about $150 billion a day worth of U.S. Treasury securities alone is traded this way. The article then explained what this means: it means that if the investing community which holds those securities doesn’t like any U.S. government policies, it can very quickly sell off just a tiny signal amount of Treasury bonds, and that will have the automatic effect of raising the interest rate, which then will have the further automatic effect of increasing the deficit. Okay, this article calculated that if such a "signal" sufficed to raise the interest rate by 1 percent, it would add $20 billion to the deficit overnight -- meaning if Clinton (say in someone’s dream) proposed a $20 billion social spending program, the international investing community could effectively turn it into a $40 billion program instantly, just by a signal, and any further moves in that direction would be totally cut off."
    • Source: In Understanding Power, 2002
  • " long as power remains privately concentrated, everybody, everybody, has to be committed to one overriding goal: and that’s to make sure that the rich folk are happy -- because unless they are, nobody else is going to get anything. So if you’re a homeless person sleeping in the streets of Manhattan, let’s say, your first concern must be that the guys in the mansions are happy -- because if they’re happy, then they’ll invest, and the economy will work, and things will function, and then maybe something will trickle down to you somewhere along the line. But if they’re not happy, everything’s going to grind to a halt, and you’re not even going to get anything trickling down."
    • Source: In Understanding Power, 2002
  • "The World Bank is not the IMF. It is considerably more responsive to popular forces, and has a mixed history. A great deal of what it has done has been awful. Some is quite constructive. There has been a shift in policy in recent years towards poverty reduction, support for popular initiatives, etc., I think a response to very powerful popular currents around the world. In some cases I know of personally it has gone well beyond rhetoric. To what extent this is true is another matter. [...] Many of its projects are highly meritorious. Just to mention one example, where I happened to have some personal contact, there is a fine project in Colombia, directed by a very courageous priest who has been a leader in human rights activities for years, to try to carve out a "zone of peace" in a huge area, about the size of El Salvador -- that is, an area in which towns and villages refuse to participate with any of the terrorist groups -- the military, paramilitary, the guerrillas -- and ask to be left alone by them and pursue their own social and economic projects in peace. That takes plenty of courage in Colombia. It has had some success. It relies heavily on World Bank grants. Do we want that terminated? Do we have some suggestion as to how to replace it?"
    • Source: ZNet forum reply, March 17, 2004 / Source: ZNet forum reply, July 29, 2004
  • "I mean, what's the elections? You know, two guys, same background, wealth, political influence, went to the same elite university, joined the same secret society where you're trained to be a ruler - they both can run because they're financed by the same corporate institutions. At the Democratic Convention, Barack Obama said, 'only in this country, only in America, could someone like me appear here.' Well, in some other countries, people much poorer than him would not only talk at the convention - they'd be elected president. Take Lula. The president of Brazil is a guy with a peasant background, a union organizer, never went to school, he's the president of the second-biggest country in the hemisphere. Only in America? I mean, there they actually have elections where you can choose somebody from your own ranks. With different policies. That's inconceivable in the United States."
  • "The death penalty can be tolerated only by extreme statist reactionaries, who demand a state that is so powerful that it has the right to kill."
    • Source: ZNet forum reply, December 19, 2004
  • "The Bush Administration do have moral values. Their moral values are very explicit: shine the boots of the rich and the powerful, kick everybody else in the face, and let your grandchildren pay for it. That simple principle predicts almost everything that's happening."
    • Source: Interview by Steve Scher on KUOW, in Seattle, Washington, April 20, 2005


  • "Personally I'm in favor of democracy, which means that the central institutions in the society have to be under popular control. Now, under capitalism we can't have democracy by definition. Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think of it in political terms, fascist; that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level -- there's a little bargaining, a little give and take, but the line of authority is perfectly straightforward. Just as I'm opposed to political fascism, I'm opposed to economic fascism. I think that until major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it's pointless to talk about democracy."
  • "...capitalism is basically a system where everything is for sale, and the more money you have, the more you can get. And, in particular, that's true of freedom. Freedom is one of the commodities that is for sale, and if you are affluent, you can have a lot of it. It shows up in all sorts of ways. It shows up if you get in trouble with the law, let's say, or in any aspect of life it shows up. And for that reason it makes a lot of sense, if you accept capitalist system, to try to accumulate property, not just because you want material welfare, but because that guarantees your freedom, it makes it possible for you to amass that commodity. [...] what you're going to find is that the defense of free institutions will largely be in the hands of those who benefit from them, namely the wealthy, and the powerful. They can purchase that commodity and, therefore, they want those institutions to exist, like free press, and all that."
    • Source: Interview by David Dobereiner, John Hess, Doug Richardson & Tom Woodhull, January 1974
  • "Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits, in the classic formulation. Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must -- namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena. The question in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival."
  • "Ricardo's "science" was founded on the principle that capital is more or less immobile and labor highly mobile. We are enjoined today to worship the consequences of Ricardo's science, despite the fact that the assumptions on which they are based have been reversed: capital is highly mobile, and labor virtually immobile -- libertarian conservatives lead the way in rejecting Adam Smith's principle that "free circulation of labor" is a cornerstone of free trade, in keeping with their contempt for markets (except for the weak)."
  • "Property rights are not like other rights, contrary to what Madison and a lot of modern political theory says. If I have the right to free speech, it doesn't interfere with your right to free speech. But if I have property, that interferes with your right to have that property, you don't have it, I have it. So the right to property is very different from the right to freedom of speech. This is often put very misleadingly about rights of property; property has no right. But if we just make sense out of this, maybe there is a right to property, one could debate that, but it's very different from other rights."
    • Source: The Common Good, September 24, 1997
  • "I should say that when people talk about capitalism it's a bit of a joke. There's no such thing. No country, no business class, has ever been willing to subject itself to the free market, free market discipline. Free markets are for others. Like, the Third World is the Third World because they had free markets rammed down their throat. Meanwhile, the enlightened states, England, the United States, others, resorted to massive state intervention to protect private power, and still do. That's right up to the present. I mean, the Reagan administration for example was the most protectionist in post-war American history. Virtually the entire dynamic economy in the United States is based crucially on state initiative and intervention: computers, the internet, telecommunication, automation, pharmaceutical, you just name it. Run through it, and you find massive ripoffs of the public, meaning, a system in which under one guise or another the public pays the costs and takes the risks, and profit is privatized. That's very remote from a free market. Free market is like what India had to suffer for a couple hundred years, and most of the rest of the Third World."
  • "Remember, every business firm, like even a mom and pop grocery store, is a market imperfection. A firm is defined in economic theory as a market imperfection introduced to deal with transaction costs. And the sort of theory is that the imperfections, the firms, are kinda like little islands in a free market sea. But the problem with that is that the sea doesn't remotely resemble a free market, and the islands are bigger than the sea; so that raises some questions about the picture. But these market imperfections, like a firm, or a transnational corporation, or a strategic alliance among them, this is a form of administering interchanges. And there's a real question about whether we want to accept that. Why, for example, should the international socioeconomic system, or for that matter our own society, be in the hands of unaccountable private tyrannies? That's a decision, it's not a law of nature."
  • "Take the Kyoto Protocol. Destruction of the environment is not only rational; it's exactly what you're taught to do in college. If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators, each acting as an individual to maximize his own wealth in the market. The market is regarded as democratic because everybody has a vote. Of course, some have more votes than others because your votes depend on the number of dollars you have, but everybody participates and therefore it's called democratic. Well, suppose that we believe what we are taught. It follows that if there are dollars to be made, you destroy the environment. The reason is elementary. The people who are going to be harmed by this are your grandchildren, and they don't have any votes in the market. Their interests are worth zero. Anybody that pays attention to their grandchildren's interests is being irrational, because what you're supposed to do is maximize your own interests, measured by wealth, right now. Nothing else matters. So destroying the environment and militarizing outer space are rational policies, but within a framework of institutional lunacy. If you accept the institutional lunacy, then the policies are rational."
    • Source: Interview by Yifat Susskind, August 2001
  • "See, capitalism is not fundamentally racist -- it can exploit racism for its purposes, but racism isn't built into it. Capitalism basically wants people to be interchangeable cogs, and differences among them, such as on the basis of race, usually are not functional. I mean, they may be functional for a period, like if you want a super exploited workforce or something, but those situations are kind of anomalous. Over the long term, you can expect capitalism to be anti-racist -- just because it's anti-human. And race is in fact a human characteristic -- there's no reason why it should be a negative characteristic, but it is a human characteristic. So therefore identifications based on race interfere with the basic ideal that people should be available just as consumers and producers, interchangeable cogs who will purchase all the junk that's produced -- that's their ultimate function, and any other properties they might have are kind of irrelevant, and usually a nuisance."
    • Source: In Understanding Power, 2002
  • "...there are no two points of view more antithetical than classical liberalism and capitalism -- and that's why when the University of Chicago publishes a bicentennial edition of Smith, they have to distort the text (which they did): because as a true classical liberal, Smith was strongly opposed to all of the idiocy they now sprout in his name."
    • Source: In Understanding Power, 2002
  • "During the early stages of the industrial revolution, as England was coming out of a feudal-type of society and into what's basically a state-capitalist system, the rising bourgeoisie there had a problem. In a traditional society like the feudal system, people had a certain place, and they had certain rights - in fact, they had what was called at the time a "right to live." I mean, under feudalism it may have been a lousy right, but nevertheless people were assumed to have some natural entitlement for survival. But with the rise of what we call capitalism, that right had to be destroyed: people had to have it knocked out of their heads that they had any automatic "right to live" beyond what they could win for themselves on the labor market. And that was the main point of classical economics. Remember the context in which all of this was taking place: classical economics developed after a period in which a large part of the English population had been forcibly driven off the land they had been farming for centuries - that was by force, it wasn't a pretty picture. In fact, very likely one of the main reasons why England led the industrial revolution was just that they had been more violent in driving people off the land than in other places. For instance, in France a lot of people were able to remain on the land, and therefore they resisted industrialization more. But even after the rising bourgeoisie in England had driven millions of peasants off the land, there was a period when the population's "right to live" still was preserved by what we would today call "welfare." There was a set of laws in England which gave people rights, called the "Poor Laws" - which essentially kept you alive if you couldn't survive otherwise; they provided sort of a minumum level of subsistence, like subsidies on food and so on. And there was something called the "Corn Laws", which gave landlords certain rights beyond those they could get on the market - they raised the price of corn, that sort of thing. And together, these laws were considered among the main impediments to the new rising British industrial class - so therefore they just had to go. Well, those people needed an ideology to support their effort to knock out of people's heads the idea that they had this basic right to live, and that's what classical economics was about - classical economics said: no one has any right to live, you only have a right to what you gain for yourself on the labor market. And the founders of classical economics in fact said they'd developed a "scientific theory" of it, with - as they put it - "the certainty of the principle of gravitation." Alright, by the 1830s, political conditions in England had changed enough so that the rising bourgeoisie were able to kill the Poor Laws, and then later they managed to do away with the Corn Laws. And by around 1840 or 1845, they won the elections and took over the government. Then at that point, a very interesting thing happened. They gave up the theory, and Political Economy changed. It changed for a number of reasons. For one thing, these guys had won, so they didn't need it so much as an ideological weapon anymore. For another, they recognized that they themselves needed a powerful interventionist state to defend industry from the hardships of competition in the open market - as they always had in fact. And beyond that, eliminating people's "right to live" was starting to have some negative side-effects. First of all, it was causing riots all over the place: for a long period, the British army was mostly preoccupied with putting down riots across England. Then something even worse happened - the population started to organize: you got the beginnings of an organized labor movement, and later the Chartist movement, and then a socialist movement developed. And at that point, the elites in England recognized that the game just had to be called off, or else they really would be in trouble - so by the time you get to the second half of the nineteenth century, things like John Stuart Mill's Principles of Political Economy, which gives kind of a social-democratic line, were becoming the reigning ideology. See, the "science" happens to be a very flexible one: you can change it to do whatever you feel like, it's that kind of "science." So by the middle of the nineteenth century, the "science" had changed, and now it turned out that laissez-faire was a bad thing after all - and what you got instead were the intellectual foundations for what's called the "welfare state." And in fact, for a century afterwards, "laissez faire" was basically a dirty word - nobody talked about it anymore. And what the "science" now said was that you had better give the population some way of surviving, or else they're going to challenge your right to rule. You can take away their right to live, but then they're going to take away your right to rule - and that's no good, so ways have to be found to accommodate them. Well, it wasn't until recent years that laissez-faire ideology was revived again - and again, it was a weapon of class warfare. As far as I can see, the principles of classical economics in effect are still taught: I don't think what's taught in the University of Chicago Economics Department today is all that different, what's called "neo-liberalism". And it doesn't have any more validity than it had in the early nineteenth century - in fact, it has even less. At least in the early nineteenth century, Ricardo's and Malthus' assumptions had some relation to reality. Today those assumptions have no relation to reality. Look: the basic assumption of the classical economists was that labor is highly mobile and capital is relatively immobile - that's required, that's crucial to proving all their nice theorems. That was the reason they could say, "If you can't get enough to survive on the labor market, go someplace else" - because you could go someplace else: after the native populations of places like the United States and Australia and Tasmania were exterminated or driven away, then yeah, poor Europeans could go someplace else. So in the early nineteenth century, labor was indeed mobile. And back then, capital was indeed immobile - first because "capital" primarily meant land, and you can't move land, and also because the extent that there was investment, it was very local: like, you didn't have communications systems that allowed for easy transfers of money all around the world, like we do today. So in the early nineteenth century, the assumption that labor is mobile and capital is immobile was more or less realistic - and on the basis of that assumption, you could try to prove things about comparative advantage and all this stuff you learn in school about Portugal and wine and so on. Incidentally, if you want to know how well those theorems actually work, just compare Portugal and England after a hundred years of trying them out - growing wine versus industrializing as possible modes of development. But let's put that aside... Well, by now the assumptions underpinning these theories are not only false - they're the opposite of the truth. By now labor is immobile, through immigration restrictions and so on, and capital is highly mobile, primarily because of technological changes. So none of the results work anymore. But you're still taught them, you're still taught the theories exactly as before - even though the reality today is the exact opposite of what we assumed in the early nineteenth century. I mean, if you look at some of the fancier economists, Paul Krugman and so on, they've got all kinds of little tricks here and there to make the results not quite so grotesquely ridiculous as they'd otherwise be. But fundamentally, it all just is pretty ridiculous. If capital is mobile and labor is immobile, there's no reason why mobile capital shouldn't seek absolute advantage and play one national workforce against another, go wherever the labor is cheapest and thereby drive everybody's standard of living down. In fact, that's exactly what we're doing in NAFTA and all these other international trade agreements which are being instituted right now. Nothing in these abstract economic models actually works in the real world. It doesn't matter how many footnotes they put in, or how many ways they tinker around the edges. The whole enterprise is totally rotten at the core: it has no relation to reality anymore - and furthermore, it never did."

[edit] Libertarianism (U.S. variant)

  • "By comparative standards, the country is undertaxed. And it's also regressively taxed, the tax burden falls mostly on the poor. What we need is a progressive tax system, of, incidentally, the kind that Jefferson advocated. You know, traditional libertarians, like Jefferson, advocated sharply progressive taxes, because they wanted a system of relative equality, knowing that that's a prerequisite for democracy. Jefferson specifically advocated it. We don't have it anymore, it's sort of there in legislation but it's gone. What we need is different social policies. And social policies which ought to be funded by the people who are gonna benefit from it, that's the general public. So we'd be a lot better off if we were higher taxed, and it was used for proper purposes. And we know what those are. I mean, for example, for women taking care of children. You know, it makes sense to pay them for that work, they're doing important work for the society. [applause] And they should be paid for it, but that requires tax payments. And the same is true about protection of the environment."
  • "In a dictatorship, taxation is theft. In a true democratic community, people make decisions, including decisions about how to deal with problems of concern to the community, like schools, health services, transportation, etc. Insofar as this leads to expenditures, they make decisions about taxes or some counterpart. There is no theft. Societies like ours are somewhere in between. To take your case, suppose your neighbor never uses a road or a bus at the other end of town. Why should he fund it? Maybe we should each just pay for the roads we use -- and that means, of course, that we have to prevent others from using them, so we hire private armies, and if someone comes along with a bigger army we get nuclear weapons to keep them from using our road, and... Actually, proposals like this are made, in all seriousness, in literature that is taken seriously. And it extends to everything else, leading to a world in which no sane person would want to live, even if it would be possible to survive in it."
    • Source: ZNet forum reply, June 28, 2004

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