Noam Chomsky on Ron Paul

I’ve taken a few samples but click here for the whole article:

Questioner: Hello Mr. Chomsky. I’m assuming you know who Ron Paul is. And I’m also assuming you have a general idea about his positions. Here my summary of Mr. Paul’s positions:
– He values property rights, and contracts between people (defended by law enforcement and courts).

Noam Chomsky: Under all circumstances? Suppose someone facing starvation accepts a contract with General Electric that requires him to work 12 hours a day locked into a factory with no health-safety regulations, no security, no benefits, etc. And the person accepts it because the alternative is that his children will starve. Fortunately, that form of savagery was overcome by democratic politics long ago. Should all of those victories for poor and working people be dismantled, as we enter into a period of private tyranny (with contracts defended by law enforcement)? Not my cup of tea.

– He wants to take away the unfair advantage corporations have (via the dismantling of big government)

Noam Chomsky: “Dismantling of big government” sounds like a nice phrase. What does it mean? Does it mean that corporations go out of existence, because there will no longer be any guarantee of limited liability? Does it mean that all health, safety, workers rights, etc., go out the window because they were instituted by public pressures implemented through government, the only component of the governing system that is at least to some extent accountable to the public (corporations are unaccountable, apart from generally weak regulatory apparatus)? Does it mean that the economy should collapse, because basic R&D is typically publicly funded — like what we’re now using, computers and the internet? Should we eliminate roads, schools, public transportation, environmental regulation,….? Does it mean that we should be ruled by private tyrannies with no accountability to the general public, while all democratic forms are tossed out the window? Quite a few questions arise.

– He defends workers right to organize (so long as owners have the right to argue against it).

Noam Chomsky: Rights that are enforced by state police power, as you’ve already mentioned.
There are huge differences between workers and owners. Owners can fire and intimidate workers, not conversely. just for starters. Putting them on a par is effectively supporting the rule of owners over workers, with the support of state power — itself largely under owner control, given concentration of resources.

  • Bob McCown

    Er, click *where* ? Or is FF broken?

  • Nope, Chris was broken. Fixed now (the link that is, not me.)

  • Different Chris

    I was disappointed to find out a few years back that Chomsky is kind of a fake. He’s like a very smart grandpa-ish fellow who knows how to eloquently tickle the reptilian brain.

  • Different Different Chris

    Way to back up that statement with some examples.

  • Mike

    Here is my critique of Chomsky’s criticisms of Ron Paul’s libertarian position:

    ————————-
    Here my summary of Mr. Paul’s positions:
    – He values property rights, and contracts between people (defended by law enforcement and courts).”

    Under all circumstances? Suppose someone facing starvation accepts a contract with General Electric that requires him to work 12 hours a day locked into a factory with no health-safety regulations, no security, no benefits, etc. And the person accepts it because the alternative is that his children will starve. Fortunately, that form of savagery was overcome by democratic politics long ago.
    ————————————————————————————————————–

    WRONG. Common law dictates that if a person is in a desperate state and psychologically vulnerable, a contract made with them that is to their detriment is void:

    “Undue influence is unlawful control exercised by one person over another in order to substitute the first person’s will for that of the other. It generally occurs in two types of situations. In the first, a person takes advantage of the psychological weakness of another to influence that person to agree to a contract to which, under normal circumstances, he or she would not consent.”

    Note: common law stems from the rulings of judges, not political manouvering by one faction against another.

    ———————————————————————————————————————————–
    Should all of those victories for poor and working people be dismantled, as we enter into a period of private tyranny (with contracts defended by law enforcement)? Not my cup of tea.
    ————————————————————————————————————————————————————

    Where is the private tyranny in libertarianism? Tyranny over what? Any contract in a libertarian society is mutually voluntary. Furthermore, in a free society the most you can offer in an exchange is the fruits of your labor: that is your property. In a free society you cannot offer your freedom (i.e. offer to be a slave) or your life (offer to die) in exchange for something else. Well you can but the courts will not enforce such a contract as valid.

    There is no tyranny in a free society.

    It is the socialism that Chomsky advocates that has tyranny. In a socialist society he promotes, people are subject to a social arrangement they did not consent to. For example, say Chomsky gets the support of 70% of the population, and is able to abolish all private property. Suddenly myself and the 30% of the population that do not want to have our property taken are suddenly forced to hand it over. We will be forced to live by the rules of the majority who wants everyone to be part of the collective. This is tyranny of the majority.

    In a free society, those socialists like Chomsky who believe in communalism can create their own socialist society where all members voluntarily join and participate in. No one is forced to live a communist lifestyle in a free society.

    ———————————————————————————————————
    “Dismantling of big government” sounds like a nice phrase. What does it mean? Does it mean that corporations go out of existence, because there will no longer be any guarantee of limited liability?
    —————————————————————————————————-

    Yes an argument can certainly be made that limited liability should cease to exist, but that would not lead to corporations going out of existence. Perhaps eliminating limited liability would serve to create a better more responsible corporate world. Many people who believe in freedom support eliminating limited liability, and I’m sure Ron Paul would be open to the idea.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————————-
    Does it mean that all health, safety, workers rights, etc., go out the window because they were instituted by public pressures implemented through government
    —————————————————————————————————————————————————

    None of these things would go out the window as health, safety and workers rights are all part of liberty, and a free society protects liberty through the courts. What would go out the window is government regulations created by politicians and the special interests that support them that claim to protect these rights. In a free society, judgments on what constitutes a violation of someone’s rights are made only by impartial judges, appointed by the people, interpreting common law, rather than politically manufactured statutory law.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————–
    the only component of the governing system that is at least to some extent accountable to the public (corporations are unaccountable, apart from generally weak regulatory apparatus)
    ————————————————————————————————————————————–

    Chomsky is wrong to call corporations in a free society as part of the “governing system”. For one to govern, one must wield coercive power over individuals. Corporations, in a free society, are merely property, nothing more. They wield no coercive power. Any activity they engage is mutually voluntary and non-coercive/non-fraudulent (for example selling a product to a consumer who freely chooses to buy it). Chomsky is not defining “govern” correctly and therefore misrepresenting the role of corporations (property) in a free society.

    In a society like today’s America of course, corporations ARE part of the governing class, as they influence the politicians, who control trillions of dollars of the people’s revenues through taxation (coercive wealth collection). What Ron Paul wants to do is reduce coercion by reducing government spending/taxation. This would leave only free market corporations like Microsoft and Google around, and eliminate government linked corporations like Halliburton, and the big pharmas.

    I don’t have time to keep going through each line and refuting him. There’s just one more thing I want to comment on:

    ————————————————————————————————————————————–
    “3) Would you support Ron Paul, if he was the Republican presidential candidate…and Hilary Clinton was his
    Democratic opponent?”

    No.
    ————————————————————————————————————————

    So you won’t support Ron Paul against a candidate like Hillary that wants to continue the occupation until at least 2013? You won’t support Ron Paul against candidates that would continue the militant American empire that has bases in 130 countries around the world? You won’t support the candidate that would end the military domination of third world countries that you have been complaining about since Vietnam!?

  • DaveS

    Mike, thanks for showing us there is two sides to ever argument. I like your side better than Nim Chimpski’s.

    I want to refute just one point.
    ———————————————————————————————————
    ““Dismantling of big government” sounds like a nice phrase. What does it mean? Does it mean that corporations go out of existence, because there will no longer be any guarantee of limited liability?
    —————————————————————————————————-

    Yes an argument can certainly be made that limited liability should cease to exist, but that would not lead to corporations going out of existence. Perhaps eliminating limited liability would serve to create a better more responsible corporate world. Many people who believe in freedom support eliminating limited liability, and I’m sure Ron Paul would be open to the idea.”

    That would be great, if you could also kill all the lawyers. Just kidding. You actually want to handle the greed. Part of the capitalistic system is acknowledging that people are greedy, and using that energy to build the economy. The problem is that you’re asking people to turn off the greed, and play fair. That doesn’t always happen, and when it doesn’t, really, really smart people can figure out how to screw one another, and go scott-free.

    An example that I was just reading about. I’m a member of an American hobby organization, a not-for-profit, which among other things, provides liability insurance to members and clubs, using collective buying power. At one point in the 20th century, there was an insurance crunch, and the organization could no longer buy the insurance, but since it was crucial, they raised enough money to buy a large property, and used the equity to self-insure. They got lucky, and didn’t have to use that. Then a decade later insurance got softer again, and it was financially better to buy the insurance, as before.

    Suddenly, with all the extra cash in their pockets, they were the subject of many (IMHO) frivolous lawsuits, to try to get some of that cash. Greed of others almost killed the organization.

    In all, the lawsuits cost the organization lots of cash (remember, not-for-profit, so the cash didn’t belong to them, but as a member it belonged to ME) until they finally figured out a way to shelter the money. Basically now the organization still exists, but it’s smaller and financially much weaker than before.

    There are greedy people out there. No system will work better than the one we have unless you deal with the greed, and the really, really smart greedy people.

    At least communism makes greed illegal and socially unacceptable. It addresses it, but demonstrably badly, and has to kill lots of smart people, in case they’re greedy.

    As libertarian as I like to lean, I really feel that the answer is in tweaking the system we have, as it’s a pretty good balance, given traditional American greed.

  • smoke

    On Good Morning America this morning,according to Google’s person in charge of such facts,Ron Paul is the most googled name this past month sounds like he’s stirring up some interest in spite of the “news media”and their interest.As for lawyers it seems odd that 2 lawyers can agree when they write a bill or contract and then the same 2 will charge a client big bucks to argue which ever side the client wants at the same time assuring his client he has a case.Do you reckon lawyers are unable to write a bill/law/contract that is so plainly written that there could be no doubt as to what it says ?

  • Mike

    Why are we asking a communist anything to begin with? Let alone why should we care.

  • Doug

    Where does the quote on common law come from? From a quick perusal of wikipedia it does not look like the U.S. is entirely a common law system – it has statutory elements that are debated all the time – Power of the legislature to outlaw gay marriage being one example. Can I see a source that a contract is null and void if I’m at a pyschological disadvantage? And what does that mean exactly.
    “Normal circumstances”??

    • Colin

      It’s called being void for reasons of public policy or justice. Adhesion contracts are at times unenforceable, and contracts where one was coerced by some force are unenforceable. In the case at hand, take this quote from Section 177 of the ALI’s Restatement (Second) of Contracts:

      “(3) If a party’s manifestation of assent is induced by one who is not a party to the transaction, the contract is voidable by the victim unless the other party to the transaction in good faith and without reason to know of the undue influence either gives value or relies materially on the transaction.”

      (the Restatement is an explanation of common law rules)

      THE UNITED STATES IS A COMMON LAW SYSTEM. This is vastly different than the Continental System employed by many European countries (the whole construction of such a system is perhaps arrogant, attempting to cover for every contingency to come across).

      Statutes are part of a common law system, and many (particularly in criminal law) are simply codifications of common law rules. Additionally, the world has become so complicated (think technology) that the complete absence of statutes would render justice hectic.

      Without statutes, what the hell is the point of having a legislature? The system erected in the United States was modeled after the English system, which, curiously enough, also has a legislature and statutes. The difference between continental and common law systems is in the function of the courts. Common law courts often say that they do not make law, but they do. Continental system courts actually do not make law, but try to apply whatever code is relevant.

      Stop relying on Wikipedia for your legal generalities.

  • tz

    Chomsky advocates big government, but at the end of his last audio book was something very telling – Copyright 2007, the Chomsky Grandchildren Trust. He doesn’t want to pay estate taxes, and is just like one of those greedy corporations – rich enough to hire tax accountants to avoid the taxes he wants us to pay.

    But to take his arguments at face value, Noam wants people to starve. He set up the alternative – starvation or work 12 hours and live. He would eliminate choice B. He cannot create a third choice ex nihilo. So his choice is to sit on welfare indefinitely until some easy job comes up? Farmers could pay $20/hr with full benefits for agricultural workers, but then it would cost $30 for a happy meal. The economy doesn’t work as he wants.

    Thomas Edison and Henry Ford weren’t publicly funded – he only has to look back one century to find a working society. Where health and other insurance was through your church or fraternal organization. Now we drag children away to be vaccinated at the order of the medical-industrial complex. Power corrupts, and his centralized power has been coopted by the corporations. He somehow wants big government that big corporations won’t take over (they will give a little in regulation, if they get a lot in protection and subsidy). Won’t happen.

    And war is the health of the state. You want big government, expect a couple of wars every decade. And a lot of big, expensive, but not very useful weapons for contractors. Lockheed and Blackwater have the lobbyists.

    But Chomsky loves big overbearing micromanaging personally invasive government more than he hates war.

    What the Ron Paul revolutionaries – republicans, democrats, and the rest – realize is that Government IS the problem. It says it will fix things but either is so expensive it isn’t worth it or it botches it badly like Katrina. Or both. And actively prevents private help (hospitals who want to get together to cut costs are sued for anti-trust, and there are stories from Katrina).

  • teo

    This interview is probably fake. It is not present on http://www.chomsky.info

  • Niel

    What the Ron Paul revolutionaries – republicans, democrats, and the rest – realize is that Government IS the problem. It says it will fix things but either is so expensive it isn’t worth it or it botches it badly like Katrina. Or both. And actively prevents private help (hospitals who want to get together to cut costs are sued for anti-trust, and there are stories from Katrina).

    No. That’s what Ronald Reagan “realized” back in 1979. And after 8 years of (insert Caveman voice here) “mmm, Gubmit bad, mm, privatization good”, the U.S. found itself in a stock market crash, an S&L scandal that riveted the Real Estate market, illegal arms deals, death squads in South America, and terrible homeless situation (un-recorded in “unemployment logs” because Ronnie didn’t believe that people who were homeless should be counted as “unemployed” percentages).

    There was a sign that hung in the Pavilion at Jonestown that said “those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it”.

    Let’s think about the irony in that for a moment.

  • jorzo

    Ron Paul’s views of the powers of president and the fact that there are few libertarians in congress means it would not be likely that he would somehow foist a right-wing libertarian dystopia on us.

    Instead, the most profound influence he will have as commander and cheif is on the practice of American Imperialism.

    Chomsky has not thought it through if he would vote for Hillary over Paul.

  • Bbdhome

    Same thing I thought, teo. The interview doesn’t totally sound like Chomsky. :-\

  • chomskysucks

    well, “Mike” sounded a lot more intelligent than chomsky. what a chumpsky.

  • Felipe

    Niel says “death squads in South America”

    You are funny.

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