Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chomsky on the US elections and the financial crisis

As ever, Noam Chomsky has the goods; on the US elections....

video

...and on the global economic crisis.

video

You'll get more insight, background and perspective from 10 minutes of Chomsky on either of these subjects than you would from a week of opinion articles in the broadsheet newspapers on either side of the Atlantic.

Courtesy of The Real News Network, a very important project.

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23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for this one David.
I remember in your past article about the US elections and how a small change would have a large effect on the whole political scene in washington, and I still believe you are right. However, small changes have always been over rated:
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article21076.htm

The article above should explain why more and more Americans really don't give a damn about elections. Small changes may mean a lot to the world but apparently it doesn't mean a lot to them. It's time the political process was reviewed.

Kind Regards,

Me

4:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Chomsky, who is certainly a member of the elite and a millionaire who uses tax shelters to protect his wealth, thinks his views are those of the common man. I am not so sure that he is correct. On health care, for example, he provides a misleading statement regarding the views of Americans, which is based on a misleading examination of public opinion polls.

A careful examination of the evidence shows pretty clearly that Americans, while favoring government involvement to improve health care, are also extremely weary of that involvement, believing that the government runs a very inefficient operation in most of its interventions. That is not only an important fact, it explains why Chomsky's views that the elite block what the people want is wrong.

Moreover, his views regarding Mr. Obama do not make any sense. He forgets that Obama's political career started in the New Party, a party in which Mr. Chomsky had his own hand. Perhaps, Mr. Obama came to realize that "the people" held views different from those which the Chomsky elite believed to be held.

Moreover, while the US health care system has problems, so far as innovation, it remains at the very top. There is, presumably, a reason for that.

Now, my point is not to advocate for the status quo, something which obviously has serious problems. The point is to note that, of all the views out there, Mr. Chomsky's is the view of an elite which has little touch with the views actually held by most Americans.

I shall listen to his foreign policy pronouncements and, no doubt, respond to them.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have now listened to the second Chomsky interview.

Again, his pretension to speak for the public is laughable. He speaks for an elite which claims to speak for the public. His understanding of democracy, in its American embodiment, is simply wrong, as in it is nonsense.

As for the causes of our economic woes, I think that people like Paul Krugman, whom I hold in very high regard, or the renowned Joseph Stiglitz, whom Mr. Chomsky mentions, are worth examining. They know more on their fingertips than does Mr. Chomsky, who is a linguist, not an economist.

Note that the system created after WWII came crashing down in the late 1970's. In the US, we called that period the period of stagflation. People saw their wealth and jobs evaporate, with economic activity stagnating. Evidently, as important as were the insights brought to economics by Keynes, his was no magic bullet any more than was the views promoted by monetarists.

Frankly, the most fundamental problem with Chomsky's analysis is that the workings of the economy are only very imperfectly understood, a lack of knowledge that the Chomsky's of the world fail to even consider to be possible. Hence, were we to follow his prescriptions which come from someone else's expertise - lest you believe that he is a serious economist -, there is no assurance that the world would be better off. And, given his pretension that he hold the key to understanding what people really think and want, I would expect that Chomskyian rule would have to terribly be anti-democratic, since his views and those of the people are dramatically different, once one goes beyond the broadest generalities. In short, his view is Utopian, not the view of average people.

Lastly, much that Mr. Chomsky says that may be true appears in newspapers and magazines in the United States. One might consider reading The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc., etc., to understand that nothing that Mr. Chomsky says that is true is unknown to the papers and most of what he says that is unique is, philosophically speaking, nonsensical. Most I post URL's to the numerous articles in the paper that discuss the economic crisis in detail, addressing ad nauseum the more salient points in Mr. Chomsky's discussion?

5:19 PM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

First anonymous - thanks for your comments. My understanding certainly was that voter participation is inversely proportionate to income level in the US, as it is in the UK.

Of course it's a rational judgement that many of these abstainers are making. You're more likely to participate in the political system to the extent that you feel you're getting something out of it. So for example, the poorest sections of the British population were probably at their most politicised between the mid-19th and the mid-20th century when the promise of attaining the vote - and flowing from that, the promise of a government that would represent their interests - was yet to be broken by the failings of the Wilson, Callaghan and Blair administrations, and by the crushing experience of Thatcherism. What we see now is often called voter apathy, but more accurately its disillusionment. And its quite rational.
Having said that, while it is rational not to vote on the basis outlined above, that does not actually make it the correct judgement. It's quite right to point out that there are very important similarities between leading Democrats and Republicans, Tories and Labour politicians. It is right to point out that these leading politicians belong to a recognisable political class, with a broad consensus ideology. Chomsky's description of the Democrats and Republicans as two wings of the Business Party is a very good one, and the pantomime of an election campaign can often distract from that. But it's not right to then make the leap to say that there is no difference at all between various politicians. There is. And even small differenes make for big outcomes.

Take child poverty in the UK. Under the Tories from 1979 to 1997 it nearly tripled, from 1 in 10 to just under 1 in 3. That's Thatcher's economic miracle. Well under Labour its now back down to around 1 in 10. Of course I'm not going to argue that this isn't scandalous in one of the richest countries on Earth. The fact is that we still have some of the worst child poverty and worst inequality in the developed world. But many less British kids are growing up in poverty now than there were under the Tories. That means less of them are having bad diets, bad health, restricted life chances, and so on. It can't be right then to say that voting makes no difference at all.

The real point is that voting doesn't make anywhere near the difference that it should. Well ok, so what do we do about that? The bottom line is to not think that political involvement begins and ends with putting a cross in a box once every 4-5 years. Practically every major political victory, every extention of human freedom, was secured in whole or in part through pressure from below, not gifts from above. The vote itself, in Britain, had to be prised from the hands of the aristocracy through decades of intense struggle by organised, ordinary people; be they Chartists, suffragettes or union activists.

It takes 30 minutes to go to a polling station and vote. Best, in my view, to take that small amount of trouble because it can have a significant effect. But better still to make productive use of the 1,000 or so days between then and the next election working for the real political changes you want to see. The specific issues you choose to work on, and the speficic action you choose to take, is of course up to you.

9:10 PM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

second anonymous poster - thanks for your comments

Chomsky agrees that he's a member of a very privileged elite as an academic. Indeed, this is the intellectual and moral starting point for his political thought going right back to the Vietnam war; namely that with privilege comes responsibility not to pander to power but to tell the truth about it.

I've heard the stories about his hidden millions and tax avoidance etc a few times. Not seen any substance to them yet though. Maybe there's some compelling evidence of it somewhere, but I've never seen any. In any case, it says little about whether his views are right or wrong. I guess some find it a useful diversion when they have nothing of substance to say about his actual ideas (not that I'm including you in that necessarily).

Speaking generally about his comments on US public opinion, he gives copious references in his books to source material, so that's always worth checking out. His book Failed States talks a lot about US public opinion, of his more recent work. Lots of references there. His assessment is pretty consistent with what I found myself looking at that NYT/CBS poll earlier this month. Americans are pretty liberal folk.

Is the US healthcare system at the top internationally? Certainly it is in terms of cost. Its far more expensive than the systems of other developed countries. In terms of effects though its fairly ordinary. Plus there is the problem of coverage, or serious lack thereof, which is well documented. So not a lot to write home about, which is probably why so many Americans are so worried about healthcare, particularly in the current economic climate

9:34 PM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

second anonymous poster, on your second comment - actually the international Bretton Woods system designed partly by Keynes broke down in the early, not the late seventies. This was largely because the US had bankrupted itself in Vietnam and was therefore no longer willing or able to fulfil the responsibility it had assumed after WWII of balancing its books so that the world's other currencies could anchor themselves to the dollar.

Nixon allowed the dollar to float, so as to run up the deficits necessary to continue its war in Indochina. That was largely what brought an end to the Keynesian age in terms of the international economy, and with it came the end of the spectacular growth we saw from 1945-70. There are other factors of course, but that's a major part of the story.

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Wearing,

You evidently did not read my comment carefully. I did not say or suggest that there is a lack of substantial support for government financed health care. What I said is that the public holds such view in balance with other concerns, most particularly, the lack of efficiency of anything that the government touches. And, it is due to such other concerns, which are very real to many people, that the current health care system is not substantially altered.

Do you think that Republicans are so stupid that they raise issues (i.e. that you may lose access to your doctor and that the government is inefficient at whatever it touches) which have no tested public support? In fact, there is overwhelming public concern about the noted issues. Must I cite polling for you?


For mundane services, the US health care system is average although that depends on what you mean by mundane. For more complicated matters, the US remains at the top.

Then again, for dental medicine - which is, at least in the US, an important part of medical care -, the US is far better both for mundane services and more exotic services.

As for Mr. Chomsky, the problem with his writing is that it is sometimes not very rigorous. As a result, one needs to check every footnote far too closely to be sure that he is quoting in context. Which is to say, I think he may be a great linguist but his insights into everything else are mostly uninformed nonsense that only a child would accept.

I come to my opinion about him after having debated him by email - a long sequence of back and forth emails, by the way. I cannot imagine anyone taking him as a serious scholar other than in his one area of expertise.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Wearing,

As for your second comment, you might read this in The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/13/AR2008101302090_pf.html . And note, contrary to your assertion in your blog comment about what is available for average readers, this article seems pretty detailed.

In any event, I quote this to note that the Keynesian system is normally understood to have run well into the 1970's. According to the article:

The New Economics generated its own problems, causing it to collapse into stagflation in the 1970s. But for most Americans and Europeans, the years from 1950 to 1975 were a golden age.

As you are well aware, the period of stagflation is normally associated with among America's most incompetent presidents, Jimmy Carter. Next to Bush the younger, Carter is a close second to the bottom of the barrel, at least in my view. And, since he signed onto to being a paid shill for Arab oil interests, he is contemptible - and, to note, I voted for him twice.

10:21 PM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

anonymous poster - thanks for your reply

You evidently did not read my comment carefully. I did not say or suggest that there is a lack of substantial support for government financed health care.

Not sure I said you did, did I? Bit puzzled by this.

Anyway, on US voters attitudes to healthcare, here's an interesting poll (pgs 1-7)

On Chomsky's reliability as a scholar, I've seen the charge raised many times by his opponents, and it invariably dissolves upon examination. Again, like the millionaire tax-dodger thing, it seems like an excuse to avoid engaging with his actual arguments (though again, I don't include yourself in that necessarily). For myself, I've frequently used his footnote citations as a resource for my own writing, research and general reading. Very useful indeed, and no problems with reliability that I've ever come across.

On what appears in the broadsheets, I don't argue that nothing of value appears there. I wouldn't spend 2-3 hours a day reading the US and UK press (op-eds included) if that were true. My point is that Chomsky provides additional insights into the more fundamental aspects of the issues, and important forms of contextualisation, that appear in the media pretty infrequently.

Of course you disagree with that because you think that those views of Chomsky's that do not appear in the media are the ones that don't have merit. Fair enough, but its not a view I share.

Mind you, I'd add to that the point that in times of crisis like this, the ideological barriers that exclude strong criticisms of orthodoxy become very weak, largely through loss of credibility. To the extent that the failures of neo-liberalism become increasingly visible you will see more articles like the Sidelsky one you link to, and more strange sights like Thomas Frank having a column in the WSJ.

On Stagflation, yes, we're talking at cross purposes here. International Keynesianism ended in 70-71. Domestically, in the US and UK, it went on a little longer. In the UK til 76-81/2 depending on how you measure it, and in the US til Reagan.

Having said that of course, Military Keynesianism was a major feature of Reagan's "free market" economy. Sometimes these labels obscure more than they illuminate.

btw, on Stagflation, the Keynesian Nobel Laureate Joe Stiglitz attributes this to the oil shocks of the 70s. Of course, as I noted above with the fall of Bretton Woods, various factors come into play in these situations. The trick is to correctly identify the most important ones.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Wearing,

Regarding Chomsky, you will note that he has spoken of UN Security Council resolutions having passed when, in fact, such resolutions were vetoed, hence were not passed. I have heard him do this on more than one occasion on the radio. If I recall correctly, he has done so in writing as well. When challenged on these assertions, he asserts that such resolutions commanded a majority on the UN Security Council, which clearly does not answer the point because the resolutions, contrary to his assertions, did not pass according to the rules of the UN Security Council. His own personal rules that, perhaps, ought to apply for UN Security Council resolutions, do not count if one wants to be truthful.

Bernard-Henri Lévy has found Chomsky reversing the order of events in the attempted genocide by the Bosnian Serb forces - effectively making things up - so that it appears, notwithstanding the evidence, that the Bosnian Serbs were innocent, largely, on Lévy's telling (with which I agree) so that it would not appear that the US might be on the right side of things.

The same pattern about Chomsky appears in Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism, where Chomsky is shown, according to Berman, not to be so very reliable. Quoting Berman - who is a tolerably good scholar:

But the American military eventually withdrew from Indochina, and then the difficulties in Chomsky's view did lead to some noticeable problems. It was not so easy to explain what happened in Indochina once the Americans were gone. The million and a half boat people who fled from South Vietnam seemed to suggest, by their sheer numbers alone, that realities in Vietnam were a little more complicated than some of the anti-war arguments had once maintained. And how was anyone to explain the outright genocide that began to take place in Cambodia, under its new Communist rulers? The Communist forces in Cambodia had been thought to represent the instinct for freedom, as opposed to the greed of the American corporations; yet here were the Communists committing unimaginable crimes, with the whole of Cambodian society as their victim.

It began to look as if pathological mass movements do exist. The evidence was plastered across the newspapers. But the evidence could only mean that human motivation is not as simple as Chomsky had said--could only mean that rational analysis of the instincts for greed and freedom cannot account for the role that irrational factors likewise play in world events. It was a devastating moment for the political theories of Noam Chomsky. And he responded by setting out resolutely to demonstrate that, in Indochina, despite everything published by the newspapers, mass pathological movements did not, in fact, exist.

Well-known journalists reported one set of data, but Chomsky assembled immense supplies of alternative data, which he drew from the recollections of random tourists, wandering church workers, and articles in little-known left-wing magazines. The alternative data, in his interpretation, refuted the accounts of the well-known journalists. And, by piling up his data, Chomsky (writing with a co-author, Edward S. Herman, in their two-volume Political Economy of Human Rights--Chomsky's single most ambitious work of political analysis) made two different arguments. He showed that genocide had never occurred; and, conversely, he showed that, if genocide did occur, it was the fault of the American military intervention, which had driven the Cambodians mad.

In either case, the stories about genocide in Cambodia revealed that America's principal institutions were even more guilty than anyone had previously imagined. For the genocide was either a web of lies spun by propagandists for The New York Times and other organs of the giant corporations--in which case, the big American institutions were capable of perpetrating the most hideous and elaborate of deceptions on all mankind. Or, alternatively, if genocide in Cambodia was really a fact (which plainly seemed to him less likely), then the American military was guilty twice over--first, for having made war in Cambodia; and, second, for having provoked the Cambodians into committing their own crimes. Either way, genocide in Cambodia told against the United States. The rational nature of world events was shown to be real--the rational behavior that led America's corporations to behave in sinister and violent ways, and the perfectly understandable response of the corporations' victims in faraway Cambodia. And there was no need to recognize the possibility of another factor--of a mass movement devoted to mass slaughter for irrational reasons.


{Quoted from URL http://demosophia.mu.nu/archives/169849.php }

And, then there is Chomsky's seeming support of Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, allegedly on the grounds of protecting free speech - although his actual supporting essay goes well beyond that argument to seemingly support Faurisson's politics, for example writing "As far as I can determine, he is a relatively apolitical liberal of some sort." Clearly, Mr. Chomsky lacks the instinct to distinguish political positions.

In any event, the issue is not whether or not Chomsky is a radical. The question is whether his scholarship is of any value. By that regard, I note that there are many scholars, some of them rather radical, from whom one can learn. So, the issue is not one of scholarship. It is what he considers to be evidence and whether that evidence is considered in context. By that measure, he is rather worthless as a scholar, in my humble view.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Wearing,

The polling data you cite support what I wrote. Note this:

WOULD GOVERNMENT DO BETTER OR WORSE AT PROVIDING COVERAGE
THAN PRIVATE COMPANIES?

Government better 30%
Government worse 44
Don't know 23


Moreover, the numbers favoring a government run system are far from overwhelming, as Mr. Chomsky's comments suggest he believes. According to the poll:

WHICH WOULD BE BETTER…?
Government-run system, with universal coverage 47%
Current private system, with many uninsured 38


In other words, a government run system commands a plurality, not the majority.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding economics, if Keynesian economics continued into the US until Reagan, that means it continued until late January of 1981. That is not 1970 or 1971 and, given that the US was the main player in the economic world of that time, it means, plain and simple, that Keynesian economics was the dominant view for well beyond the early 1970's.

You may recall that in 1971 Richard Nixon said: "We are all Keynesians Now." And, that went against his basic instincts and that of his advisers. So, I wonder about the entire thinking behind your view that Keynesian economics died by 1971. I suggest that it was part of the mix, both before then and after then - in varying degrees, although monetarism came to play a greater role beginning in the 1980's.

As for the view about military Keynesian economics under Reagan, that is another re-writing of history to fit ideology. One might recall discussion of the military industrial complex about which much was written in the 1960's and which owes its origin to Eisenhower. Moreover, if the 1980's brought military Keynesian economics, that largely refutes your argument about neo-liberalism, at least for the US.

I should also add, as I have said all along: neo-liberalism is a point of view that may or may not relate to European thought, most particularly about Britain. It has little to do with the US, where our Keynesian phase had less regulation than Britain has had in its so-called neo-liberal phase.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correction:

I wrote: "In any event, the issue is not whether or not Chomsky is a radical. The question is whether his scholarship is of any value. By that regard, I note that there are many scholars, some of them rather radical, from whom one can learn. So, the issue is not one of scholarship. It is what he considers to be evidence and whether that evidence is considered in context. By that measure, he is rather worthless as a scholar, in my humble view."

I should have stated:

In any event, the issue is not whether or not Chomsky is a radical. The question is whether his scholarship is of any value. By that regard, I note that there are many scholars, some of them rather radical, from whom one can learn. So, the issue is not one of politics. It is what he considers to be evidence and whether that evidence is considered in context. By that measure, he is rather worthless as a scholar, in my humble view.

6:58 PM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

anonymous poster - thanks for your reply.

Again, on the reliability of Chomsky, there's a familiar pattern. First the charges of hypocrisy on the basis of wealth accumulation or tax dodging; which are asserted rather than proven, and dissolve immediately upon examination. Then the charges of unreliable citations, which dissolve just as quickly. Then the stuff about Cambodia and Faurission, which again is based on invention. The routine is pretty standard. Has been for over 20 years. I guess its one way of dodging the task of engaging with Chomsky's actual arguments. Understandable enough. He makes a compelling, fact based analysis that challenges a lot of deeply held assumptions, and that upsets some people to the point of desperation.

Again, I don't suggest that's what you're doing, necessarily. But I'd just caution against getting sucked in by this little Chomsky-smearing cottage industry. A lot of it is pretty poor stuff, apparently operating on the general principle that if you can't disprove his logic then you should just fling as much mud as possible and hope some will stick. Its a seductive short-cut if you don't agree with Chomsky's general worldview, of course.

On Faurussion thing. Chomsky has said that to so much as enter a debate about whether the holocaust happened is to lose your humanity. He has also said that if you agree with free speech, you agree with it for all views, not just those you disagree with. Hence the support for Faurussion's right to say what he said. After all, even Goebbles believed in free speech for views he agreed with.

And Chomsky has said that it is profoundly disrespectful to the victims of the holocaust to adopt one of the main principles of their murderers. I.e. that free speech only extends to those we agree with. (see the film "Manufacturing Consent" for these quotes, and more on Faurission)

That deals with the "Chomsky denies the holocaust" business, such as it is.

As for Cambodia, easy enough. People can just look at what Chomsky actually wrote, compare it with what Berman and some others say he wrote, and come to their own conclusions. Little more needs to be said on that.

1:28 AM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

On the poll, the question is asked:

SHOULD GOVERNMENT GUARANTEE HEALTH INSURANCE FOR ALL?

Yes 64
No 27


So as Chomsky says, a consistent and large majority want Government-guarenteed healthcare. But the numbers are contradictory, as you point out. People want a govt.-run healthcare system, but are not totally sold on how effective that would actually be. A general feeling of pessimism on the subject prevails. But the dissatisfaction with the current system is not in dispute

1:35 AM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

On Keynes, as Chomsky points out, the domestic Keynesian system was predicated on an international Keynesian system.

The need to deal with currency speculation, like the need to maintain a gold standard, for example, places a limit on government action. The solution to that dilemma was the US dollar taking on the role of international currency anchor post WWII, which allowed Keynesianism to flourish and boost global economic growth.

When Vietnam bankrupted the US, and the Bretton Woods deal was torn up so the dollar could float and the US fund its adventures through deficit, so ended the international system upon which domestic Keynesianism was predicated. And sure enough, after a time lag of a few years, domestic Keynesianism ended as well.

However, there's a big provisio to this neo-liberal vs Keynesian argument.

We can't get carried away with the idea that the neo-liberal side favours free markets in all circumstances as a matter of principle. Those who trumpet the free market are often the same people who will be first to demand handouts from the nanny state when required (Military Keynesianism is a perfect example of this - hence my comment that these labels can obscure more than they illuminate).

Neo-liberalism is better described as Psuedo-Liberalism. It is a set of rhetorical/dogmatic themes whereby markets are opened when it suits elites and protectionism or state-subsidy quietly accepted elsewhere, if necessary for the benefit of the same elites.

That's an important clarificatory point, which I (and Chomsky) have always tried to make when talking about the various mythologies of the "free market".

Neo-liberalism means the free market when convenient for those in power. Certainly not always on the basis of principle.

1:52 AM  
Anonymous firerobin said...

Very good insight.

Thanks for the showing me Chomsky.

5:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Wearing,

Note that you have not addressed the arguments I made regarding Chomsky. Instead, you have attempted to characterize them. That is, philosophically speaking, an invalid argument, if you were attempting to refute what I said.

It is, in fact, true that Chomsky has said lots of things. But, has he yet said that he was mistaken about Faurission including, most specially, the passages from his book that is quoted above about Faurission being sort of a liberal? You do not deal with that point, either factually or, alternatively - which would deal with the point I was making in that instance -, which is Chomsky's inability to distinguish a liberal from an Antisemite? That, Mr. Wearing, is an important point, a point that needs to be addressed if one is to understand Chomsky's agenda.

The same with my discussion about Cambodia. Has Chomsky walked away from positions which, at one time, he held proudly? I remember that because I was around at the time. He really was, after all, seemingly sympathetic with those claims about Cambodian's turning on themselves being incorrect. That was another failure of his ability to distinguish right from wrong. He did associate his name willingly with that position. Those are facts, whatever apologia he now has presented to obfuscate his one time association.

And, regarding UN votes, I heard him make such argument with my own ears. And, in fact, I have heard him do so on more than one occasion. Are you calling me a liar?

Regarding government guaranteed health care, I never denied that the public wants to guarantee health care for all, with, potentially, the help of the government. But, that is not all people want and it is the fact that people have more than one idea which makes Chomsky's approach simple minded and, in my view, a dishonest, elitist view.

The key question is whether people think that universal health care is feasible without creating a less efficient and more bureaucratic system, something about which people are deeply concerned to the extent that support of government run plans tend to collapse (even within the Democratic party) when such concerns are raised, as did the Clinton plan.

Were you to study the US in some detail, one of the most salient things you would discover - a thing that really and truly distinguishes Americans from Europeans - is that Americans are not enamored with governmental solutions to problems. That is as true for liberals as it is for conservative, although liberals are concerned while conservatives tend to be outright hostile when it comes to the government playing a role in their decisions (unless, of course, we are talking about sex and abortion, where things are, for the moment, reversed). Which is to say, unless you come to grips with American libertarianism, which is part and parcel of the view of, say, 90% of Americans, to one extent or another, you fail to grasp how, for example, the Clinton health care plan was so easily shot down.

Instead, you become stuck on conspiracy theories, such as that of frauds like Chomsky, that there are hidden forces which run the show in the US.

In fact, though, there were large numbers of businesses, going back to the Clinton plan, which really pushed very hard for his plan. At the same time, there were other businesses deeply opposed to the plan. The same with the public, which was always deeply divided on the issue and for the very same reasons.

So, to say there was a hidden force (e.g. the AMA or corporations) that blocks plans is nonsense. Rather, there are themes that can be activated, as occurred with the advertising used to oppose the Clinton plan. That advertising brought to the fore arguments that led to public opposition, so the plan failed. But, the issues raised were real ones as far as public opinion is concerned.

As for the Keynes matter, now you are writing pure invention. Read back what I wrote. I was correct all along. If Keynes as a factor in the US did not collapse until 1981, as you admit, that means that Keynes remained an important part of economic activity in the world, as I argued. And, that was even more so then than now, when the US was more dominant economically.

5:16 PM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

firerobin - thanks for your comment. Your blog was an interesting read.

anonymous poster - thanks for your further comment.

It would be a shame if you felt I had called you a liar. I think its important - though I accept it can be challenging - to at least try to conduct these discussions in a respectful and courteous tone.

My assumption was that either Chomsky had misspoke on the occasion you heard him, or that you had misunderstood. Either way, I'm familiar with what he's written on this issue and view your characterisation of it as inaccurate. We may just have to agree to differ here. Others can investigate and judge for themselves.

Indeed that may be true of a lot of these topics since there seems to be little common ground between us.

So on Faurussion and Cambodia, you seem clear on your own views, I am also clear on mine, and I don't see us reaching agreement. For other readers of this thread, I would suggest that they look up what's been written on the subject and form their own opinions.

Here's what Chomsky had to say on the Faurussion debate . . Here's the original Chomsky-Herman article regarding Cambodia that critics have focused on. And here's Christopher Hitchens responding to the crticisms of Chomsky that you allude to on both those subjects. That covers Chomsky's side better than I could. And a quick Google will bring up the opposing views that you support. I'm content for others to check out both sides and make their own minds up.

On healthcare, you say "Instead, you become stuck on conspiracy theories, such as that of frauds like Chomsky, that there are hidden forces which run the show in the US"

I don't recall saying that "hidden forces" run the US. The US, like all other societies, contains powerful socio-economic groups and organisations which have their own interests, and which wield a large amount of influence over public policy. Not sure how that counts as a conspiracy theory.

In respect of how this affects healthcare, you've set out your views here. Chomsky made his argument in print and with footnotes most recently I believe in the chapter entitled "Democracy promotion at home" in the book "Failed States". Again, happy for others to investigate for themselves.

On Keynes, the point was about how domestic Keynesianism relied upon the international Keynesianism, i.e. the Bretton Woods system which expired at the start of the 70s. But I think, with respect, that this has now become slightly petty. Not your intention I'm sure. Just perhaps the way these debates go sometimes. Anyway, I'm not sure there's much to add productively to what's already been said.

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Wearing,

Regarding Mr.Chomsky, where exactly - what words - does he use which address my exact point, which is that he confused a bigot for a liberal?

I would suggest, if you want to refute what I said about Chomsky, that you read the article which was objected to by me. The one where he states that Faurission sounds like a liberal. Otherwise, you are not addressing my point.

As for what Mr. Hitchens says, he has subsequently changed his mind about Chomsky. But, even if he had not, we still have Chomsky unashamedly taking the view that Mr. Faurission might be a liberal.

Lastly, if, in fact, you believe in Chomsky's view, you necessarily believe that there are hidden forces - imperialism, capitalism, etc., that dominate society, keeping the people from getting their way. That is even what he says in the videos to which this post pertains.

10:15 PM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

if you want to refute what I said about Chomsky

I apologise if I wasn't clear in my last response. I thought I had been.

The distance between our assessment of this issue is such that I see no prospect of a valuable discussion occuring. But I'm content for others reading this and taking an interest in what you've said to look up what's been written about the Faurission issue and reach their own view of how Chomsky comes out of it, including on the specific point that you make here.

On your other point, you're correct to note that Chomsky refers to this US opinion poll where...

Asked, "Generally speaking, would you say that this country is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves, or that it is run for the benefit of all the people?" just 19 percent say it is run for the benefit of all the people, while 80 percent say it is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.

But as far as our own discussion goes, again, I'm afraid we will have to agree to disagree on the notion that US imperialism and capitalism are "hidden forces".

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Wearing,

The phrase "hidden forces" may have been poorly chosen. Be that as it may, by hidden forces, I meant that he sees the noted forces as overwhelming the views of the majority - even though, as with health care, the results thus far have been exactly consistent with public opinion, even as reported in the polling you mentioned - or, perhaps borrowing rather poorly from Marcuse' analysis that people do not realize they are alienated, Chomsky thinks that the opinions held by Americans are manufactured or, better stated, the result of manipulation and thus would be different absent that manipulation.

In any event, note that you have not shown Chomsky to have taken back his statement, the one where he states - as in, he says that literally - that he thinks that Mr. Faurission might be a liberal. That statement was not taken out of context. And, what he writes suggests that he is unwilling to do admit an error - which is what a real scholar would do.

In short, he is a man of very poor judgment, who supported the research of a Holocaust denier who claims facts which Chomsky either knew or should have known to have been something other than research. That, to me, is not supporting free speech - something which should not be opposed and which, were Mr. Faurission in the US, he could say anything he likes. But, of course, he lives in a Europe which still practices censorship. Be that as it may, Mr. Chomsky is being a bit too cute, since supporting a "liberal" voice who, in fact, is a bigot is not supporting a liberal voice.

2:30 PM  
Blogger David Wearing said...

thanks, anonymous poster. More for us to agree to disagee on here, I think.

2:50 PM  

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