By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Kevin Stillwell
Noam Chomsky is a brilliant intellectual and Socratic genius, but like most geniuses, he is a frustratingly inept political strategist and tactician. Chomsky is an impractical idealist.
Chomsky has been at the forefront of the battle against government control of human freedom–beginning, most famously, with the Vietnam antiwar movement but extending to present day conflicts in Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Chomsky argues that the underlying mechanism for all nation-state’ conflicts is imperialism. He strongly believes capitalism is the source of many of these conflicts because of America’s preeminent economic and political position in the world. Just as Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”–Chomsky views America as the world’s leading corrupter, with China nipping at its’ shirttail, and other post-industrial nations serving the same shirt maker.
A better source for understanding Chomsky than this book is “youtube”. It is not that The Essential Chomsky will not help one understand Chomsky’s world view but “youtube” debates and commentaries brilliantly reflect Chomsky’s impassioned beliefs. He argues with other great intellects like Alan Dershowitz, and William Buckley. These contests reveal how brilliant this octogenarian really is.
In the end, what frustrates much dimmer lights is Chomsky’s failure to suggest a practical alternative to American capitalism. Chomsky argues that people need to be free, unfettered by capitalist greed, rights of private property, and acquisitiveness. But, it seems to ignore the historic brutality of freedom in an ungoverned world. One is reminded of “Lord of the Flies” and the nature of human beings when children are left in a state of unfettered liberty. Yes, these are fictional children, but how many adults act in the same way in spite of their maturity?
It is difficult to disagree with Chomsky’s observation that “might is made right by the victor” but that seems a tautological truth that accompanies the nature of humankind. To believe, as Chomsky seems to, that human beings will live in kibbutz-like harmony with common ownership and fair-trade labor contributions seems as absurd as Ayn Rand’s belief in the purity of capitalism.
It is impossible to ignore the truth of corruption in capitalism and democracy with a Supreme Court that decides corporations are people who can influence a minority’s control of a majority; it is impossible to ignore the truth of American’ interest in oil as the penultimate reason for how American government deals with the Middle East. It is impossible to ignore the truth of American’ duplicity in Iran, in Iraq, in African nations, and Latin America that furthered, or intended to further, American industrial interests.
Where Chomsky frustrates his audience is when the question is asked, “What can we do?” Chomsky does a magnificent job of analyzing the problem. But, his solution is to politically organize based on ideals; then, raise hell with the establishment.
Presume “raising hell” is successful. It worked in getting a President to resign and it got America out of Vietnam. But, what has changed? America invaded Iraq, and Afghanistan; America bombed Libya.
Without addressing the nature of human beings, nothing will change. Capitalism, with all its’ faults, is the best system of community that takes the nature of human beings into consideration. Geniuses like Chomsky need to address ideas that can take the place of capitalism; that offer a better way of life, without ignoring the nature of human beings. The inchoate ideas of more freedom, marching on Washington, or “Occupy Wall Street” do not offer alternatives to capitalism; they offer only twittered and tweaked capitalism.