I’ve wanted to read a book by Noam Chomsky for a long time (he’s now 88 years old!) but something always interfered. I’ve watched him attack the system and support his causes for since the anti-Vietnam War years. I tend to agree with him in so many ways. But … I have problems with some of his assumptions.
Once a book I tried (?) went kind of over my head and was very dry. Other times the books seemed like they might be somewhat dated. But this came across my path and it was originally filmed (first) and published after our disastrous elections so I thought maybe it might be accessible. (The interviews were conducted over a period of about 4 years – but it was still published after the elections – still relevant – more relevant perhaps.)
Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power
by Noam Chomsky
2017 / 192 pages
read by Donald Corran — 3h 50m
rating – 10 / political/economics
Chomsky writes about a good many things – linguistics, philosophy, history, politics and social criticism – maybe more. Take a peek at his Wikipedia write-up as well as the separate page for his bibliography and filmography:
Requiem for the American Dream is about politics and economics and how the rich have suppressed the population for their own purposes by these 10 (or 11) methods. It seems to cover so many things in one slim volume (and the film was first).
These are the chapter titles:
1 Reduce Democracy
2 Shape ideology
3 Redesign the Economy
4 Shift the Burden
5 Attack Solidarity
6 Run the Regulators
7 Engineer Elections
8 Keep the Rabble in Line
9 Manufacture Consent
10 Marginalize the Population
- Reduce Democracy has been done historically via voting and other rights – watch the media – keep democracy moderate.
- Shape Indoctrination: In the second chapter Chomsky talks about the media and education and control. He talks about the end of free education – charter schools – it’s coming. Destroy public institution like giving medication to kindergarteners because they’re not doing well in school. “The masters of society have decided that.” We can’t be having an excess of democracy – that Jacksonian ideal that led to the Civil War. (That one’s a paraphrase.)
- Redesign the Economy: What government is doing is just getting more powerful and supporting the status quo – the auto industry is the case in point. Investors want short-term gain – restrain worker wages by a variety of means –
- Shift the Burden: Taxes – The “plutonomy” is a new category of wealth – make the very rich very much richer. Goals are profits – that is the only goal – profit. ** The average Joe often believes he too can be one of the super-rich. A back-lash is probable but it’s not in the near future. **
- Attack Solidarity: Basically pit one group against the other by interests or nationality – Plutocrats stick together across national lines – Take care of yourself only – don’t care for anyone other than yourself. Get rid of Social Security – (imo – here’s the backlash.) Public schools are also a part of solidarity – we all pay for the schools whether we have kids in the schools or not. Same with health care but the “masters,” as Chomsky calls them, do not want this. Drug prices are a huge example. With all our resources, we have become a 3rd world country in terms of infrastructure and education (like free college).
- Run the Regulators: Banking and economics – (enough said)
- Engineer Elections: From the 14th amendment to Citizens United – corporate personhood . Privileged access. Build from the base, constantly – T-Party did this. How much can a person (including a corporation) spend on a campaign. It all costs money. Even internet has a price. Politicians have to talk about what media and other politicos want to talk about.
- Keep the Rabble in Line: – Unions are a democratizing force. (?) – New Deal got unions involved. The “masters” were split on some things including unions. Labor has always had a lower class feel to it. “Those who work in the mills ought to own them.”
- Manufacture Consent: – If the masses understand that they do have power then power as we know it will collapse – Public Relations industry in freest countries.
- Marginalize the Population: Trap the workers into jobs because they need the money to buy things. Consumerize the population. (Is making irrational decisions the fault of the advertising companies? Some corporation heads make irrational decisions, too – like having mistresses or luxury yachts. Propaganda – Children’s ads for junk – smoking for women – etc. He goes on against the “neo-liberals.”
There was really nothing in this book I wasn’t aware of on some level, mostly quite consciously but unarticulated. That said, Chomsky says it very well and the book is nicely organized and to the point. I agree with most of what he says but … I have a pragmatic side and I’ve seen that many laborers in the 21st century do not want unions. They want the “right to work” without unions fearing that unions will keep business (jobs) away. . I’ve seen that many people are fed up with public schools and want charter schools for their own kids. I’ve seen people get addicted to buying more and more stuff. I’ve seen that people are very selfish –
The issues which do concern me are climate change (and related problems), gun control. It seems not to matter that the public truly does have an opinion. Congress and the elites – “the masters” – don’t care. “The people” are also split on the issues of abortion, race and GLBT where nobody is making any money off of those. (Advertisers target them too – equal opportunity spending I guess.)
Chomsky talks about much of this as though there were some huge premeditated conspiracy to defraud the workers of the US. I don’t agree – companies moved their plants to Mexico and China without any agreement with anyone else to do it. Workers were cheaper there and so off they went. (Like some people shop at Walmart – because it’s cheaper.) Actually, they probably wanted to get one up on the competition. Unions made it harder to make those big almighty profits in the US than get them in India even with shipping. (And if the US doesn’t want to pay for schools then we will continue to be dependent on other nations for workers in some industries – immigration is a pretty hot topic.)
Advertising is done to get “one-up” on the competition – not to trap the workers en masse. Trapping the workers is a side-effect – (And Grandma in her youth ogled the Sears catalogue the same way the kids today ogle the new stuff in the mall or online.)
Chomsky says that we’re still relatively free – we have to build large movements to create more freedom. We can do it if we choose to – I think. (If we actually think we can’t – it’ll be harder.)
I agree – there is something fundamentally wrong with capitalism – I just haven’t seen a system which works better in countries not as rich as Norway. But perhaps Chomsky just wants us to see it for what it is, for what it has become.