This well-paced and cogent seminar spotlights a man who, now 87, seems at the height of his intellectual powers – NYT
This is a video that is expertly produced and directed by Peter Hutchison, Kelley Nyks, and Jared P. Scott with original music by Malcolm Francis. It is based on 73 minutes of interview with 87 yo Noam Chomsky, a man the likes of whom we shall not see again. Its principle message? The history of human society includes a constant struggle between those seek control, power, and personal gain at the expense of others, and on the other hand those who just want a fair share in return for their labors. An authentic democracy is theoretically the solution to this age-old conflict, but authentic democracy has in most cases been a dream unrealized. The wealthy and powerful use force, guile, and pretense to achieve their ends. Extremes of inequality are the result “Inequality has a harmful, corrosive effect on democracy…” and this video explains clearly how the wealthy and powerful operate to subvert democracy in the modern world.
In it we find a unique inversion of the usual comment on democracy as “we need to do this” or “we need to do that.” Indeed, at the end of his presentation, he says “I don’t think we’re smart enough to design in any detail a perfectly just and free society. We can give some guidelines, and we can ask how we can proceed in that direction.”
Since proposing guidelines based on evidence and reasonable extrapolations from evidence are precisely what we at the Syntropic Arc Project are trying to do, we were immediately convinced that our time studying this video would be well-spent.
Having now spent that time we highly recommend this carefully documented narrative by Chomsky and his skilled production team. Anyone wishing to take action to improve a modern democracy (or a polyarchy as defined by Robert A. Dahl) ought to be thoroughly acquainted with Chomsky’s analysis of wealth and power. It is a valuable addition to his previous study of propaganda and the media entitled The Manufacture of Consent.
A must see…a much needed punch in America’s gut – Indiewire
The inversion consists of a “manual” on how to increase wealth and power via a comprehensive attack on democracy. Chomsky’s Ten Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power are listed as follows:
- Reduce democracy
The principal dynamic here is this:
Wealthy interests control elections which increase Power that produces Legislation that increases the Wealth of Corporations (their Managers and Owners) via Deregulation, Tax Policies, and Rules of Corporate Governance. The United States was designed from the beginning to protect the wealthy from the majority. “The constitutional system was set up to prevent democracy.”
- Shape Ideology
Teach people that jobs are created by the wealthy and anybody is supposedly free to be wealthy in a free market economy (which is actually not free due to dominant special interests). “The essence of the democratic surge of the 1960’s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority…” Dr. Chomsky documents the concern by authorities that an “excess of democracy” was threatening business as did “the Jacksonian revolution that precipitated the Civil War.” “Private business is not to be seen as a special interest. It’s the national interest.”
- Redesign the Economy
Increase the financial sector and reduce the manufacturing sector to reduce the power of a working class. Greenspan described his success in running the economy as based on “greater worker insecurity.”
- Shift the burden
Reduce taxes on the wealthy and increase the proportion of taxes paid by the middle and working classes. Use the pretext that decreasing tax on business increases jobs.
- Attack solidarity
Eliminate Unions and divide people against one another to prevent them from organizing effectively. Blame immigrants, blame a minority, etc.
- Run the Regulators
“Regulatory capture:” The Regulations will be written by the banks and corporations that are to be regulated. That way the rich can get richer…part of the vicious cycle.
“There were no financial crashes during the 50’s and 60’s because the regulatory apparatus of the New Deal was still in place. As it [the New Deal regulatory apparatus] began to be dismantled under business pressure and political pressure, you get more and more crashes…”[and public tax money begins to be used to bail out large private banks and businesses that failed because their greed was not regulated]… In 1999 the regulatory apparatus was dismantled that separated commercial banks from investment banks, then comes the Bush and the Obama bailouts.”… “Each time the taxpayers are called upon to bail out those who created the crisis, increasingly, the financial institutions. In a capitalist economy you wouldn’t do that. The banks would be allowed to fail. That would wipe out the investors who made risky investments. But the rich and powerful don’t want a capitalist system. They want to be able to run to the nanny state as soon as they get in trouble and get bailed out by the taxpayers. That’s called ‘too big to fail.’… “and they’re building up to the next [big failure].” “There areNobel Laureates in economics, people like Joe Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, who significantly disagree with the approach we’re taking, and none of them were even approached” [by the government]. “For the poor, don’t expect any help from the government [if you go broke]. The ‘government’s the problem, not the solution’.”
- Engineer the Elections
Label money as speech and corporations, i.e., “state-created legal fictions, as persons who have the right of free speech (i.e., the right to spend as much money on elections as is necessary for them to maintain power). “The concentration of wealth yields a concentration of political power.” Buckley vs. Valeo (1976) defines money as a form of speech. The Supreme Court decision re “Citizens United” (2010) determines that “the right of corporations as free speech can’t be curtailed.” “This is part of that vicious cycle. The Supreme Court justices are put in there by reactionary presidents who get in there because they’re funded by business…that’s the way the system works…one set of rules for the rich, another set for the poor, and if the public doesn’t stop it it’s just going to go on and on.” Credit agencies give higher ratings and in effect lower interest rates to big business and lower ratings with higher interest rates for the poor…just what you’d expect when “concentrated wealth yields concentrated political power, particularly as the cost of elections skyrockets.”
General electric becomes an immortal, superpowerful person while the undocumented worker who’s building your buildings and cleaning your lawns is not considered a person. “This perversion of elementary morality and the obvious meaning of the law is quite incredible.”
- Keep the Rabble in Line
Destroy the Unions, the one organized barrier to corporate tyranny. Use police to control demonstrations and crowds. Shoot some people who are “out of line” to keep people afraid of the power of police allied with corporations. In support of the right to organize, FDR said: “I am not for a return to that definition of liberty under which for many years a free people were gradually being regimented into the service of a privileged few. I prefer a broader definition of liberty.”
- Manufacture Consent
Infuse the media with innuendo and repetitions to shape perceptions and beliefs. Thorstein Veblen: fabricating consumers, conspicuous consumers. Keep them distracted by the next great thing that’s just out of reach. Use advertising techniques [subtle associative and analogical suggestions] to create irrational consumers making irrational purchasing decisions.
As an aside, “implicit bias” is now the broad, currently fashionable academic term for the unconscious, non-rational biases present in all of us and recently mentioned by Hilary Clinton. Mike Pence takes exception to her use of the term, calling it a way of insulting and blaming the heroic defenders of law and order instead of saluting them when they kill innocent people. Either he doesn’t know what the term actually means or he’s being quite disingenuous and engaging in ‘truthiness’ to make a divisive appeal to certain segments of the population.
- Marginalize the Population
“Public opinion on policy is sharply disconnected from what the two party leadership and their financial backers want.” Campaign funding comes from private interests with the public becoming marginalized. “Policy is focused more and more on the private interests that fund campaigns.”
Make sure that voting systems enable wealthy interests to stay in power by gerrymandering, make voting more difficult for minorities and the poor, etc. The House of Representatives, for example, is currently assured a majority of Republicans by its extremely undemocratic gerrymandering techniques.
(Citing Martin Gilens: About 70% of the population now has no way to influence policy. Chomsky: “They might as well be in some other country. And the population knows it. What it’s led to is a population that is angry and frustrated and that hates institutions. It’s not acting constructively to try to respond to this. There is popular mobilization and activism but in very self-destructive directions. It takes the form of unfocused anger, attacks on one another, and on vulnerable targets. That’s what happens in cases like this. It is corrosive of social relations, but that’s the point. The point is to make people hate and fear each other and look out only for themselves and don’t do anything for anyone else.”)
This is perhaps the keenest analysis of what is happening in the public realm of discourse today, and it’s a secret well-kept from us by both the corporate-owned and the publicly-owned mass media that maintains viewers with titillating accounts of conflicts and scandals in most western “democracies,” but especially in the United States and Great Britain. It is part of the process of creating “the bewildered herd” that can more easily be kept out of the way so that the “responsible men(sic)” can make the ‘necessary decisions’ for society.
Toward the end of the video Chomsky adds, suggestively, that we have to find new methods of political action.
[As an aside, with the goal of finding new methods of political action we at the Syntropic Arc Project are planning to suggest in the near future a “Consciousness Revolution,” an evolutionary advance on political and cultural revolutions. This will be based on a multi-layered, integrative approach to both secular and religious values. We synthesize information from a number of fields and sources, including a scientific understanding of the origins and evolution of Life in the Universe, an evidence-based Syntropic theory of the evolution of mind, “Advanced Integrative Living” seminars, and such concepts as Steve Biko’s “Black Consciousness,” W.E.B. Du Bois’ writing on the racist and sexist-induced ‘double consciousness’ which is essentially generalized in linguistic anthropology as the “emic” and “etic” perspectives and is a fundamental component in the understanding of the meaning of life, consciousness-raising street theater à la the Black Lives Matter movement, and some of the consciousness-raising tactics of the Occupy Movement. We will also propose some specific goals and plans for achieving solidarity both nationally and supranationally on the basis of the central organizing principles of living systems, not the primarily production- or consumer-based economic values that have led to so much pollution, waste, and destructive competition.]
In the video, John Dewey is quoted saying, “Unless all institutions are under participative democratic control we will not have a functioning democratic society.” We couldn’t agree more as evidenced in our first book, Creating Democracy In Time.
As the video draws near its end Dr. Chomsky adds a piercingly powerful understatement: “A society based on selfish interests, i.e., a desire for personal gain at the expense of others, can survive. It’s ugly but it can survive; a global society based on that principle is headed for massive destruction…”
And finally, quoting his late friend Howard Zinn, “What matters are the countless small deeds by unknown people who lay the basis for the significant events that enter history. They’re the ones who have done things in the past. They’re the ones that will have to do it in the future.”
There is much depth in Chomsky’s narrative that we can’t address without further lengthening this already long review. We urge our readers to buy this video and watch it more than once to get the full impact and power of its content. We cannot act consciously to transform modern, so-called capitalist democracies without a reasonably clear understanding of Noam Chomsky’s message to the world.