Some thoughts on Chomsky’s: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy


I was really moved into deep thought by this Noam Chomsky speech I read recently. It encapsulates a lot of my thinking that I shared with you all during the past presidential elections where I voted for the first time. I am and always have been at a crossroads with my views on the American political System. I cannot help seeing the US policies through the eyes of my family and the millions of Latin American countries that have been burned, razed, hobbled by US policy. And yet I have traveled from Coast to coast of this nation and interacted with its people  who I find wonderful. It’s clear to me that the American people are not being represented by their politicians. I have written so many posts about this but let me summarize my observations

Observations

Social mobility for most people doesn’t exist. You tend to stay in the same social strata you’re born into

Only those with money have real economic pull, and through various means they can determine elections, and which policies will get supported – look at the Koch Brothers, look at how the FBI and Banks teamed up during the occupy wall street movement.

The more non-white you are on the color spectrum the more you are FUCKED! especially if you are under 6 foot and do not play sports

If You are a whistle blower you are the Sasha Grey of being fucked: the people will not really support you or your sacrifice, or consider the implications of the information you reveal, you will spend time in jail and be branded a traitor, most pin cushions don’t get pricked as much as you are going to get pricked

Voting only determines the extreme to which the policies will go. There are not two parties there is the right and extremely far right that goes so far right it make just those who are right look leftist. For example, a really tanned  Italian  looks extremely dark when standing next to a pale ginger from Cork in Ireland or Iverness in Scotland, but they are all still white according to their credit score

The public is always in the dark more than a boy who hit puberty, that has just found his pop’s stash of  dirty magazines or porno

Noam Chomsky

But anyways I do not want to go off on a rant here Dennis Miller style. I miss that show btw. Maybe I should do a daily rant … But here are some excerpts from Chomsky’s speech I found most salient:

http://www.salon.com/2013/08/17/chomsky_the_u_s_behaves_nothing_like_a_democracy/

230px-Chomsky

According to received doctrine, we live in capitalist democracies, which are the best possible system, despite some flaws. There’s been an interesting debate over the years about the relation between capitalism and democracy, for example, are they even compatible? I won’t be pursuing this because I’d like to discuss a different system – what we could call the “really existing capitalist democracy”, RECD for short, pronounced “wrecked” by accident. To begin with, how does RECD compare with democracy? Well that depends on what we mean by “democracy”. There are several versions of this. One, there is a kind of received version. It’s soaring rhetoric of the Obama variety, patriotic speeches, what children are taught in school, and so on. In the U.S. version, it’s government “of, by and for the people”. And it’s quite easy to compare that with RECD.

________

In the United States, one of the main topics of academic political science is the study of attitudes and policy and their correlation. The study of attitudes is reasonably easy in the United States: heavily-polled society, pretty serious and accurate polls, and policy you can see, and you can compare them. And the results are interesting. In the work that’s essentially the gold standard in the field, it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy.

Inquiries of this kind turn out to be dangerous stuff because they can tell people too much about the nature of the society in which they live. So fortunately, Congress has banned funding for them, so we won’t have to worry about them in the future.

________

These characteristics of RECD show up all the time. So the major domestic issue in the United States for the public is jobs. Polls show that very clearly. For the very wealthy and the financial institutions, the major issue is the deficit. Well, what about policy? There’s now a sequester in the United States, a sharp cutback in funds. Is that because of jobs or is it because of the deficit? Well, the deficit.

_____

Returning to the United States, where the situation is not quite that bad, there’s the same disparity between public opinion and policy on a very wide range of issues. Take for example the issue of minimum wage. The one view is that the minimum wage ought to be indexed to the cost of living and high enough to prevent falling below the poverty line. Eighty percent of the public support that and forty percent of the wealthy. What’s the minimum wage? Going down, way below these levels. It’s the same with laws that facilitate union activity: strongly supported by the public; opposed by the very wealthy – disappearing. The same is true on national healthcare. The U.S., as you may know, has a health system which is an international scandal, it has twice the per capita costs of other OECD countries and relatively poor outcomes. The only privatized, pretty much unregulated system. The public doesn’t like it. They’ve been calling for national healthcare, public options, for years, but the financial institutions think it’s fine, so it stays: stasis.

________

One of the most interesting cases has to do with taxes. For 35 years there have been polls on ‘what do you think taxes ought to be?’ Large majorities have held that the corporations and the wealthy should pay higher taxes. They’ve steadily been going down through this period.

________

Well, another important feature of RECD is that the public must be kept in the dark about what is happening to them. The “herd” must remain “bewildered”. The reasons were explained lucidly by the professor of the science of government at Harvard – that’s the official name – another respected liberal figure, Samuel Huntington. As he pointed out, “power remains strong when it remains in the dark. Exposed to sunlight, it begins to evaporate”. Bradley Manning is facing a life in prison for failure to comprehend this scientific principle. Now Edward Snowden as well. And it works pretty well. If you take a look at polls, it reveals how well it works. So for example, recent polls pretty consistently reveal that Republicans are preferred to Democrats on most issues and crucially on the issues in which the public opposes the policies of the Republicans and favors the policies of the Democrats. One striking example of this is that majorities say that they favor the Republicans on tax policy, while the same majorities oppose those policies. This runs across the board. This is even true of the far right, the Tea Party types. This goes along with an astonishing level of contempt for government. Favorable opinions about Congress are literally in the single digits. The rest of the government as well. It’s all declining sharply.

_________

Well, another important feature of RECD is that the public must be kept in the dark about what is happening to them. The “herd” must remain “bewildered”. The reasons were explained lucidly by the professor of the science of government at Harvard – that’s the official name – another respected liberal figure, Samuel Huntington. As he pointed out, “power remains strong when it remains in the dark. Exposed to sunlight, it begins to evaporate”. Bradley Manning is facing a life in prison for failure to comprehend this scientific principle. Now Edward Snowden as well. And it works pretty well. If you take a look at polls, it reveals how well it works. So for example, recent polls pretty consistently reveal that Republicans are preferred to Democrats on most issues and crucially on the issues in which the public opposes the policies of the Republicans and favors the policies of the Democrats. One striking example of this is that majorities say that they favor the Republicans on tax policy, while the same majorities oppose those policies. This runs across the board. This is even true of the far right, the Tea Party types. This goes along with an astonishing level of contempt for government. Favorable opinions about Congress are literally in the single digits. The rest of the government as well. It’s all declining sharply.

_______

There are many mechanisms, too familiar to review, but that’s not safe enough either. There are major institutions that are specifically dedicated to undermining authentic democracy. One of them is called the public relations industry. A huge industry, it was in fact developed on the principle that it’s necessary to regiment the minds of men, much as an army regiments its soldiers – I was actually quoting from one of its leading figures before. The role of the PR industry in elections is explicitly to undermine the school-child version of democracy. What you learn in school is that democracies are based on informed voters making rational decisions. All you have to do is take a look at an electoral campaign run by the PR industry and see that the purpose is to create uninformed voters who will make irrational decisions.

2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Chomsky’s: The U.S. behaves nothing like a democracy

  1. More Chomsky. yes, now I have to love you forever.

    He was in Ottawa a couple of years ago. I went to listen to his lecture. It was amazing and embarrassing. Amazing because I got to hear him live. What a man! Embarrassing because the audience didn’t get his jokes. And I was like, seriously, people? Why are you even here, then?

    Like

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