No 1563 Posted by fw, January 12, 2016
“During the Q&A period after Noam Chomsky gave a lecture at 1199 SEIU Union Hall located in Dorchester, MA on September 30, 2014. “Capitalist Democracy and its Prospect’s” he spoke on why you can not have a capitalist democracy. During the 18-minute talk, he reflected on one of the architects of modern Capitalism, Adam Smith’s, Laissez-faire Economics, and people’s misinterpretations of Adam Smith, specifically when it comes to what personal freedom actually is. He tears into what Modern Libertarianism has become in the US. He talks about the transitioning economy from being technology-based to biology-based. He finally discussed how people impact political decisions, citing the Orwellian term ‘unpeople’ to describe the largest percentage of people who are disenfranchised from political decisions and power. Chomsky believes the country is being ruled by a Plutocracy, the top 0.1% of wealth.” —Introduction to video
The 0.1% is not a typo; it’s not 1% as the Occupy Movement claimed. As of December 2015, the estimated total US population is 322,268,564 people! Doing the math, 0.1% of 322,267,564 = 267,564 plutocrats. Yikes! I wonder who coordinates their conspiracy meetings. Just kidding!
The above passage summarizes the content of Chomsky’s 18-minute video-recorded lecture in a union hall in Massachusetts in September 2014.
Today’s post continues the theme of yesterday’s piece by Robert McChesney, which focused on the incompatibility between US capitalism and democracy.
Today’s piece begins with a link to an 18-minute video of Chomsky’s 2014 union hall talk. (Unfortunately, embedded videos are not supported by the copyright holder). In lieu of a transcript of this video-recorded talk, a repost of a related March 2013 article titled Can Civilization Survive Capitalism? is reposted after the video. Subheadings and text highlighting have been added.
Even Canada does not escape Chomsky’s wrath in his article.
To view the video click on the above title.
The US economic system features state intervention in a highly monopolized economy
The term ‘capitalism’ is commonly used to refer to the U.S. economic system, with substantial state intervention ranging from subsidies for creative innovation to the “too-big-to-fail” government insurance policy for banks.
The system is highly monopolized, further limiting reliance on the market, and increasingly so: In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply, reports scholar Robert W. McChesney in his new book Digital Disconnect.
US’s emerging worker-owned enterprise system is capitalism without capitalists
‘Capitalism’ is a term now commonly used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the worker-owned Mondragon conglomerate in the Basque region of Spain, or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio, often with conservative support — both are discussed in important work by the scholar Gar Alperovitz.
John Dewey’s ‘industrial democracy’—now in tatters — might also qualify as an early form of US capitalism
Some might even use the term “capitalism” to refer to the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, America’s leading social philosopher, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Dewey called for workers to be “masters of their own industrial fate” and for all institutions to be brought under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business.”
Present-day US plutocracy diverges sharply from democracy
The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority “down below” has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.
Today’s ‘Really Existing Capitalist Democracy” (RECD) is radically incompatible with true participative democracy
There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to Really Existing Capitalist Democracy — RECD for short — the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.
Could a properly functioning democracy make a difference?
It seems to me unlikely that civilization can survive RECD and the sharply attenuated democracy that goes along with it. But could functioning democracy make a difference?
~ Section Omitted ~
Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation
Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation, not misled by science and rationality, in the interests of the short-term gains of the masters of the economy and political system, and damn the consequences.
Under RECD lurks a powerful state that serves wealth and power
These commitments are deeply rooted in the fundamentalist market doctrines that are preached within RECD, though observed in a highly selective manner, so as to sustain a powerful state that serves wealth and power.
The financial crisis of 2008 exposes the systemic risk of RECD capitalism
The official doctrines suffer from a number of familiar “market inefficiencies,” among them the failure to take into account the effects on others in market transactions. The consequences of these “externalities” can be substantial. The current financial crisis is an illustration. It is partly traceable to the major banks and investment firms’ ignoring “systemic risk” — the possibility that the whole system would collapse — when they undertook risky transactions.
The fallout from environmental catastrophe is far more serious – there’s no place to hide
Environmental catastrophe is far more serious: The externality that is being ignored is the fate of the species. And there is nowhere to run, cap in hand, for a bailout.
In future, historians (if there are any) will look back on this curious spectacle taking shape in the early 21st century. For the first time in human history, humans are facing the significant prospect of severe calamity as a result of their actions — actions that are battering our prospects of decent survival.
RECD is leading the world on a path to likely disaster
Those historians will observe that the richest and most powerful country in history, which enjoys incomparable advantages, is leading the effort to intensify the likely disaster. Leading the effort to preserve conditions in which our immediate descendants might have a decent life are the so-called “primitive” societies: First Nations, tribal, indigenous, aboriginal.
The countries with large and influential indigenous populations are well in the lead in seeking to preserve the planet. The countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing toward destruction.
Thus Ecuador, with its large indigenous population, is seeking aid from the rich countries to allow it to keep its substantial oil reserves underground, where they should be.
The US and Canada have been blind to their extravagant commitment to self-destruction
Meanwhile the U.S. and Canada are seeking to burn fossil fuels, including the extremely dangerous Canadian tar sands, and to do so as quickly and fully as possible, while they hail the wonders of a century of (largely meaningless) energy independence without a side glance at what the world might look like after this extravagant commitment to self-destruction.
The RECD followers scoff at the silliness of the “rights of nature”
This observation generalizes: Throughout the world, indigenous societies are struggling to protect what they sometimes call “the rights of nature,” while the civilized and sophisticated scoff at this silliness.
This is all exactly the opposite of what rationality would predict — unless it is the skewed form of reason that passes through the filter of RECD.
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