Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Questions on Scottish Independence: Statehood and Power

Q: If Scotland votes yes for independence this year, how do you think it will be perceived elsewhere in the world?

Well, I think international capitalism doesn’t like it and there may be some harsh reactions. But it may be another step towards the gradual fragmentation of the nation-state system in Europe. So, other things are happening elsewhere, like Catalonian may have a referendum. So far, it's not clear whether the government will permit it, certainly the population wants it. And there would be a referendum for greater degree of autonomy. Something similar may have happened in the Basque Country. There are other…part of the reaction to the centralization of the European Union has been a rise of regionalism and the local cultures, local languages, moves towards local autonomy. These are kind of conflicting processes. European Union policies have now been very heavily centralized. So much so that the national governments have virtually abandoned independent socio-economic policies handing over the Brussels bureaucrats. So, this is a natural reaction to it. UK’s is a little different because they were never totally absorbed into the European Union. So, they themselves have kept separate. But now, these are for their developments. It wouldn't surprise me terribly if something similar happened in Wales.

Q: Having reached the point of holding a referendum on ceasing the UK’s combined statehood, what do you think this means for a shared history the UK and empire?

The UK has been kind of a funny construct for a long time. I mean, just what Britain is is highly contested. Is it England?  Is it a federal collection? Even the so-called English constitution, of course, not a written constitution, is very ambiguous about that. And there is a lot of debate about it. But I think it’s…I mean the nation-state altogether, is a pretty artificial construct. Nation-states were established almost entirely by violence. And they bring together—and they force into a single mold of people who often have little to do with one another. They speak different languages, they have different cultures, they have different traditions, different religions, you know. And the effort to mold them into a single entity with the role subjected to the same fixed national culture and the social commitments, service to state power and so on, that's been pretty hard. Even the effort to establish borders has been very violent process. Europe was the most savage place in the world for centuries while the nation-state system was being imposed. Finally, Europe is now free from internal wars and there's a lot of debate about the reason in the political science literature, you know, talk about the democratic peace and so on. My feeling is—the basic reason is quite different. The Europeans did recognize, had to recognize in 1945 that if they ever tried to fight another war, they would just wipe out everything. You can't fight wars with that degree of destructive power until the end. So, therefore moves to a period of more or less peaceful integration. But if you look around the world where there are conflicts raging all over the place, virtually all of them have to do with nation-state systems and boundaries that were imposed by the imperial powers, almost everywhere. Say, take Iraq. The British carved out Iraq in their own interests, not in the interests of the people in the region. There are sharp differences among them, the Kurds, the Shiite, Sunni and so on. Furthermore, Britain drew the boundaries of Iraq for their own interests again. They drew the northern boundaries so that Britain, not Turkey, would be able to exploit the oil resources. They drew the southern boundaries so that Iraq would be almost landlocked. That's why the principalities of Kuwait were separated out. And if you look around, Africa is the same thing. Asia, you know. Say, take Pakistan. The British drew a line called the Durand Line separating what was India from Afghanistan, now separates Pakistan from Afghanistan. The line cuts right through the Pashtun area, a kind of Pashtunistan. Pashtuns never accepted it. Afghans never accept it. Now if people cross that border, we call them terrorists, they may be going home, you know. And the same is true just about everywhere.

Take say the US-Mexico border. That was established by a war of aggression which the US conquered half of Mexico. You take a look at the names in the cities in southwest and western United States. San Francisco, San Diego, and the Santa Cruz, I mean Spanish names. There was a pretty open border for a long time. People went up and back for work, for visiting relatives and cultural reasons, commercial, whatever. The borders have been slowly militarized. Sharp increase in militarization was actually in 1994. And that was connected with NAFTA, the so-called free trade agreement. US officials understood perfectly well and in fact said that the effective NAFTA will likely be to drive impoverished Mexicans across the border. NAFTA is going essentially wipe out Mexican agriculture. Mexican Campesinos can be perfectly efficient but they cannot compete with the highly subsidized US agribusiness. So they'll be driven off the land and that’s still happening. Right now, Campesinos are being driven off the land

What would they do? A lot of them come north. So, you are getting an illegal immigration problem, you have to militarize the border. Things like that are going on all over the world.

I remember it struck me very--not that I didn't know it but it struck me very dramatically sixty years ago. My wife and I were students when we were living in Israel. And we were kind of hitchhiking, you know, students, backpacks. And we were hitchhiking up in northern Israel and we're just walking one evening. And a jeep came along on a road behind us, and a guy got out of the jeep and started yelling at us. In Hebrew, he told us you got to come back. What happened was we walked into Lebanon. At that point the border was unmarked. Now I suppose it is bristling with, you know, tanks and so on. And the border was just artificially drawn right through Galilee by the British and French for their own purposes. That didn’t have to do with the people there. And the same is true almost everywhere.

And one of the reactions to all of this is the kind of coalescence of more or less coherent groups, you know, never totally so, into regions where they feel more comfortable and running their own affairs. And I think that’s pretty much what the Scotland referendum is about.

Q: The Scottish independence question has been agreed by the UK state and its devolved Scotland elements, with that in mind, what form of independence do you think is possible, and likely on offer, given global pressures on state restructuring, the preconditions of international treaties and regional/global inter-dependencies?

Not simple. I mean you can't separate yourself from the world these days. Maybe Bhutan can, but most states can't. So, Scotland, if it moves towards independence in some form, we don't know what form, would have to figure out ways of determining how it can become and be enmeshed in the international treaty system. That's not so simple. Like, take, go back a couple hundred years. When the American colonies separated themselves from England, one of their main tasks immediately was to become what was called “treaty worthy,” to be treated by the Europeans—the European powers were of course the dominant powers—to be treated by the European powers as a nation which could enter into their system, so that it would become treaty worthy, worthy of accepting treaties. That had a double-edge at the time. The colonies, American liberated colonies wanted it for two reasons: one to be accepted by the European powers to be treated, you know, by the international treaties of the day. The other was because the Westphalian system, you know, their reigning system permitted each state to operate freely without interference in its internal affairs. And for the American colonies, that was extremely important because they had two major tasks. One was to maintain slavery and the other was to wipe out the indigenous population.

And they didn't want interference with that. So if they became treaty worthy, they would be permitted to run their own internal affairs without European interference. That was not a small point. Like Britain said at the time, the major power, was moving towards abolition of slavery. It was moving there and had also been protecting the rights of Native Americans. But once the United States became treaty worthy, it was free from those external constraints. It’s a little bit like the current international system which (inaudible) principle says you are not allowed to interfere with affairs of other countries. Say, South Africa during the years when it was struggling to maintain Apartheid, its claim, which was not vacuous, was that “the UN Charter guarantees that each state can run its own affairs internally. So what does the world have to say about the apartheid?” That was their argument. It was actually accepted by the legal authorities for a long time.

Q: A recent Scotsman newspaper article reports that in 1990, following a speech on self-determination in Glasgow you said: “Is a movement for Scottish nationalism crazy? It depends what form it takes. If it takes the form of expressing cultural value and integrating people in a more full life, that’s fine. Nationalism has a way of oppressing others. One the other hand you want to make sure that a move towards devolution doesn’t lead to more pressure, which it could very well do.”
What are your thoughts today?

The same. I mean that’s—nationalism has its positive aspects but it can be very ugly. I don’t have to give historical examples. We have a plenty of them.

Q: With the Scotland referendum much has been made on the Left about this being the “smashing of the British state.” Is this really “smashing the system” or is it the system smashing itself—in a constant disruptive reorganization and is there a way for change to happen “without talking power”?

Well, my guess will be that if there is a move towards autonomy in Scotland, it'll be a mild reform. Nothing's going to be smashed. There will be slow evolutionary changes in the way Scotland will interact with England, with European Union, with the United States, with international treaties. And capital is efficiently internationalized. So there's going to be plenty of links and plenty of power. The power won’t devolve to the local level. The international financial system is just too powerful for that. So, until that is dismantled, all states are going be enmeshed in the webs that it develops. I mean, in the case of the European Union, it is extreme. The Bundesbank and Brussels bureaucrats are in effect dictating policies for states. Actually even The Wall Street Journal had an article pointing out that no matter what government wins in elections in Europe, communists, fascists, whatever they may be, they follow the same policies because policies are not being determined by the countries. In fact, we saw that pretty dramatically when George Papandreou hinted barely, that maybe there ought to be a referendum in Greece for people to decide if they want to accept EU policies, there was just uproar and fury, how can you ask the people, what do they have to do with it? I mean stuff is all determined by the bankers and the bureaucrats in Brussels. So without really substantial changes in the international order, any small state, like say, independent Scotland would have to accommodate itself to that somehow.

Q: Author James Kelman said: “No one is given freedom. The Irish people who didn’t already know that in 1918, had learned it by 1919. We assume it as a right and we take it as a right. How do we do it? Anybody with experience of the labour movement should know of at least we withdraw our labour, we withdraw from the process, we reject the ballot. We turn our back on the ballot box. We do not participate. That is a start.”
Withdrawing from the electoral process may appear to some as a passive engagement. But is this true?

Well, I read Jim Kelman’s comments. I mean if it’s simply withdrawing, it doesn't help much. If it's withdrawing in order to concentrate on other things which I presume you meant, like developing bigger social movements which will lead to, which will lay the basis for substantial socio-economic change, and if withdrawing means “Let's put our energy into that,” then it can be positive. If withdrawing simply means I'll stay home on the referendum day, it doesn’t mean anything.  

Q: Mark Fisher described a phenomenon of “capitalist realism” as: “Not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but it is now impossible to even imagine a coherent alternative to it.” Is it impossible for populations of the “global north” to imagine a coherent alternative to capitalism? Are there a lack of alternative visions?

First of all, it is very easy to imagine because we live in an alternative to capitalism. Take, say, the big banks which have enormous power. Where do their wealth and power come from? Well, actually there was a study by the International Monetary Fund little while ago of the big banks in the United States. And it determined that their profits almost entirely derive from taxpayers. Their profits trace back to the--there's a government insurance policy. It's not formal, but it’s tacit. It’s called “too big to fail.” It means that if you get in any trouble, the taxpayer will bail you out. That provides the big banks with enormous profits. It's not just the bailouts, the visible bailouts. It means that they get access to cheap credit with inflated credit ratings, all sorts of mechanisms which are highly profitable to them. That also means that they can engage in risky transactions which tend to be profitable. And they don't have to worry too much because if it goes wrong you run cap in hand to the state and say bail me out. Is that capitalism? It’s very remote from capitalism. In fact, almost everything you do, say, you have a computer, I’m sure you use the Internet. Is that a capitalist development?  It was developed places like this. In fact, we were sitting under pentagon contracts for decades before it was handed over to a private enterprise to market. Bill Gates is the richest man in the world for basically… he introduced some marketing innovation undoubtedly, but the basic technology and hardware, the software, the big ideas, the hard work was mostly done in the state sector in one or another way, either directly or indirectly in one fashion. And he also has the monopoly rights. He managed to get in at a time which grants Microsoft something like monopoly rights for operating systems. If you buy a computer, you get Windows. Well, reliance on creative work in the state sector and on monopoly rights is pretty remote from capitalism. And we have a kind of mixed state capitalist system but it's not capitalism. Can you imagine alternatives to that? It’s very easy. It is actually capitalism would be an alternate but there are much better ones.

So for example, you can easily imagine systems in which the big banks do not maintain their profit on their ability to crash the system because of taxpayer munificent, easy to imagine. And in fact there are many other forms of organization of production and distribution and so on which are in fact being developed. So there are worker-owned enterprises in many places. In the old rust belt, there are many big cooperative movements, the Atlantic region and Canada and many other places. These are all alternatives, germs of another society. Imagining something more free and justice is not only not hard, but you can see bits and pieces of it developing.

Q: Do we need a unified revolution or should we instead be looking at what John Holloway calls the “cracks” in the system: “the multiple rebellions and alternative creations being connected by invisible or almost-invisible (and rapidly shifting) fault lines in society-what is important is to see the manifold forms of rebellion in everyday life”?

Well, you do what’s possible at a particular stage of history under particular circumstances. There's no point and there's no master answer to this. At different times, there are different things to do. There are times when it's possible to introduce a radical change in the society. The most dramatic case was 1936 in Spain, when a large part of Spain was taken over by partially coordinated peasant and worker movements which created the germs of the left libertarian society. It didn't last long not because it failed but because it was crushed by force. I mean the communists, the fascists, liberal democracies disagree on a lot of things but they agreed on one thing: we have to crush freedom. So, the first year of the Spanish Civil War, so-called, was basically a year devoted to crushing the libertarian forces of the left. Communists are in the lead but fascists and liberal democracies participating.
Orwell wrote about this, not entirely. As he said, he didn’t entirely understand what was happening. And there is much extensive work by now. But that's essentially what happened. Well, that was a moment when radical--those circumstances were ripe for radical change. And it wasn't just out of nothing, there was decades of preparation for it. Preliminary efforts, trials that were crushed, rebuild educational programs. People sort of had in their heads what you could do because of decades of struggle. That’s how things can happen.

It happens in other respects too. Take say, the American Civil Rights Movement, which was a partial success, not a huge success but a partial significant success. The background had been laid for decades of work most of which got nowhere or almost nowhere. In 1960, a couple of black students sat in the lunch counter, arrested. The next day, more students, pretty soon you had the Freedom Riders, a formation of SNCC, which was the forefront of the student nonviolent coordinating committee. It was a kind of forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. In prison, you had a mass movement. And the things changed. It was a moment. It took will and energy and effort but the time was ripe for it because of work of long periods. And I think that's the way changes take place.

Q In a conversation between Michael Foucault and Gilles Deleuze in 1972, Foucault said “we had to wait until the 19th Century before we began to understand the nature of exploitation and to this day we have yet to fully comprehend the nature of power.” Do we yet comprehend the nature of power?

I think we comprehended it long before. People carrying out a slave revolution understood the nature of power very well. People struggling for their rights everywhere understood the nature of power. And we still understand there's nothing--I don't think there’s anything deep and invisible. The structures of power, those we have to unravel. Like say, the European Union, if you want to understand the structure of power in the European Union, you have to understand the way the bureaucracy works, the banks work and the Bundesbank works and so on. But the nature of power, I don't think that's very obscure.

Q: Is there a unifying theory to help understand and explain what is going on in the world today—with economics, war, revolution, etc?

The world is too complex with that. Lots of things are happening. I mean, there’s main, general comments you can make about them. So, for example, you can talk about the international treaties that are being created and ask what they are. Like right now, there’s two huge treaties are being negotiated at the Transpacific and Transatlantic Partnership. And you can ask what they are. Actually you can't really say in detail, because they're negotiated in secret. Of course, not entirely in secret, they’re not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who were writing them, which tells what they are going to be, but they are secret from the general population, more or less. But you can study the nature of these, what they are doing, what has been done. There are good articles in Le Mond Deplomatic, Public Citizen and elsewhere. And when you unravel that, you discover a good deal about the structure of power.  If you read this morning's newspaper, you find that the United States and Japan have failed to impose on their populations something they were trying to do in secret. So far, it failed. Well, all of that can be studied. But there's no single, sort of phrase. I mean, you can make up for slogans, if you like, but there are no illuminating single phrases that capture the complexity of human life.

Questions by Gordon Asher, Leigh French and Stuart Platt

Film by Stuart Platt

Recorded at MIT, Boston 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"How to Ruin an Economy; Some Simple Ways"


Filmed and edited by Leigha Cohen

(Noam Chomsky spoke at Third Boston Symposium on Economics on February 10th 2014, sponsored by the Northeastern University Economics Society http://www.northeastern.edu/econsocie... in Boston, MA.)

Let’s suppose that for some perverse reason, we’re interested in ruining an economy and  a society. So, to make the problem interesting, we should select a difficult case, I’ll say not a Central African Republic where it could be done very easily. So let’s pick a rich and powerful society. And best of all, let’s select the richest and most powerful society in history, one with incomparable advantages, one that’s fortunately close at hands, namely, our own.

So, a good way to start to ask what would be signs of a successful economy. Well, to begin with, it should have a people who are eager to work, plenty of badly needed work, that should be done, and ample resources to combine idle hands with needed work. And that picture helps us sketch what a failed economy would look like, the opposite in all respects. And we don’t have to look very far. Right here, there are tens of millions of people eager to work but with no jobs. Many of them have simply dropped out of the work force in despair. There are ample resources to provide employment but they are hidden away where they cannot be accessed in the overflowing pockets of the super rich and corporate sector, in particular, big banks which have been generously rewarded for having created the crises serious enough to have almost brought down the domestic and even the global economy. There are vast amounts of work to be done. The infrastructures collapsing; schools badly need repairs and teachers, the transportation, energy systems have to be radically reconstructed. And there’s a great deal of more ranging from construction work to scientific research.

But the system is so dysfunctional that it cannot put eager hands to needed work, using the resources that would be readily available if the economy were designed to serve human needs rather than wealth beyond the dreams of avarice for a privileged few.

It’s actually hard to think of a more serious indictment of a socio economic system. Well, as you all know, the dysfunctional economy has been accompanied by very highly concentrated wealth and with it, of course, political power follows at once from concentrated wealth that, in turn, yields legislation that drives the cycle forward. Inequality has reached historic heights. In the past decade, 95% of growth has gone to 1% of the population, actually, to a small proportion of those. Meanwhile the general population has faced stagnation or decline. Median real income in the United States is below its level in 1989. For male’s median real income is below what it was in 1968. The labor share of output has fallen to its lowest levels since World War Two. And poorer sectors have suffered severely. The United States has the highest poverty rate in the OECD aside from Turkey. That’s perhaps not too surprising because the US also ranks near the bottom in measures of social justice in the OECD.

For African Americans, household wealth has virtually disappeared during the latest crisis. We should recognize that the grim legacy of slavery which is one of the original sins of American society along with the virtual elimination of the indigenous population. That legacy has never been overcome. There was some amelioration, but not much.

These things didn’t just happen like a tornado. They are the results of quite deliberate policies over roughly the past generation, the period of the neoliberal, so-called, assault on population which has had similar effects elsewhere as well. That’s hardly surprising, either.
The fundamental doctrine of neoliberalism was well expressed by Adam Smith. What he called “the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” All for ourselves and nothing for other people. And if the masters are given free reign, we should expect the kinds of social and economic disaster that we now see before our eyes.

Well, there are alternatives. Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz points out that “there are alternatives. But we will not find them in the self-satisfied complacency of the elites, whose incomes and stock portfolios are once again soaring. Only some people, it seems, must adjust to a permanently lower standard of living. Unfortunately, those people happen to be most people.” In short, the vile maxim at work. These developments should not be confused with idealized workings of capitalism and free markets. On the other hand, quite the contrary, the policies are carefully designed to protect the masters from market discipline. That’s always been true back to the 18th century and to ensure that they can rely on beneficence of the powerful nanny state that they carefully nurtured for their benefit.

But let’s continue the exercises of figuring out how to ruin an economy. Suppose we are intent on making the scandal even worse. There are some good ways to proceed. So, modern economies depend very heavily on R&D, research and development. Fundamental work comes primarily from the dynamic state sector on which the advanced economy heavily relies. Almost most of the IT revolution, biology-based industries and much else. Actually that’s a pattern that traces far back but it’ s become much more critical since the Second World War, as impact of science and technology on the society and economy have greatly expanded.

So, a good way to ruin an economy and a society would be to cut back on R&D and federal R&D. And we can read about how that is done from the first issue of the triple-A journal, the American Association for the Advancement of Science journal, Science the first issue in 2014. Here’s what it says. “The 2014 budget will continue what has been a “decades-long slide in the ratio of federal R&D budget to the GDP.” This ratio is often used as a measure of how much a nation values basic research. This ratio, which has fallen 25% in the last decade alone. And that’s continuing.”

In the meantime, elsewhere internationally, investment in science is rising as nations throughout the world connect investment in R&D to the development of their human capital and their future prosperity. For example, the European Union’s flagship research program, Horizon 2020, is set to receive a nearly 30% boost in 2014. The Chinese government’s investment in R&D has been increasing by percentages in the double digits for the last several years and is poised to become the world leader.”

You can draw the consequences without any comment. What’s happening here is a very natural development of the imposition of the business model of seeking short term profit. The future and society, they’re someone else’s business.

Another way to undermine a healthy economy is to encourage the growth of financial institutions. Giving them free reign by deregulation and using state power to underprice risk. These are crucial features of the neoliberal era. From the 1970s and accelerating since, there’s been enormous expansion of the financial sector in economy. By 2007, right before the latest crush, it had reached about 40% of corporate profits. Well, economic growth has continued during this period, though not at the earlier pace. But it’s rather artificial. It’s sustained by repeated bubbles. The each decade had its bubbles, savings loan bubble under Reagan, the tech bubble in the late Clinton years and of course, the housing bubble under Bush. When the last of these boosts created a financial crisis, it has had severe consequences for much of global economy and near depression conditions persist for much of the domestic population. The cost of the latest housing bubble itself, in loss output, was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be around $20 trillion. That’s largely the fault of the FED, which was mesmerized by quasi-religious doctrines about efficient markets, and therefore could not comprehend what was very obviously happening right before their eyes as housing rate rose far beyond trend lines, going back a hundred years and the bubble that could have been predicted wasn’t.

Well, the primary mechanism for rewarding the agents of crises is the government insurance policy known informally as “too big to fail.” That guarantee goes far beyond the direct bailouts that it extends to cheap credit, artificially high credit ratings and many other devices. And the scale is huge. There’s recent IMF study which found that virtually the entire profit of the major banks traces to tacit government insurance, reaches the level of $83 billion a year according to analyses in the business press, the Bloomburg News. The insurance policy, of course, leads to underpricing of the risk. Hence, making the next crisis is more likely.

After the most recent crisis, several prominent economists, including Nobel Laureates, raised the question of the general impact of financial institutions in the Casino economy of the neoliberal period. And they also pointed out that it had not been much studied by economists. They suggest that inquiry would show that these institutions might be harmful to the economy. There are some who have gone much farther. So, perhaps the most respected financial correspondents in the English speaking world is Martin Wolf of the London Financial Times. He concludes that “an out-of-control financial sector is eating out the modern market economy from inside, just as the larva of the spider wasp eats out the host in which it has been laid.”

Well, as in other developed societies, the economy, the US economy—it’s actually state capitalist economy—but it’s partially market-based and markets have both positive and negative features. So, that tells another good way to ruin an economy and a society: undermine the positive features and amplify the negative features. And in fact, huge resources are devoted to these tasks. The great benefit of markets is that they’re supposed to provide consumer choice. It’s only partially true even in principle but put that aside. This beneficial consequence results from informed consumers making rational choices as you learned in your economic courses. That’s the core principle of the markets.

And as you all know, there’s an enormous industry which is devoted for undermining this principle by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices. That’s known as the advertising industry. In a functioning market economy, ads would provide information to consumers about the products that are available. All you have to do is turn on the TV set to see the goal is exactly the opposite. It is to undermine markets by delusion and manipulation making sure that there are uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices.

And in part, these efforts reflect another tendency that undermines markets, that’s the rise of oligarpoly which has actually advanced considerably in recent years. That offers opportunities to avoid price wars by tacit collusion that shifts the goals of business to product differentiation which is often quite meaningless. And it requires massive advertising to delude consumers. From en economic point of view, that’s mostly waste and that’s enormous in scale. Well, these are among the ways to undermine the positive features of markets.

There’s negative features of markets intrinsic to them called market efficiency. That’s ignoring externalities. So, when a firm makes a risky transaction, if it’s paying attention, it takes care to cover its own risk. But it does not consider systemic risk. That is the risk that the loss will effect others and maybe bring down the market as, say, when AIG insurers collapsed, tanking the economy, or actually it would have tanked the economy, if the nanny state hadn’t ridden to the rescue. Here, the government insurance policy plays a crucial role in amplifying a harmful feature of markets. 

Actually, there’s a much more serious case of ignoring externalities, namely distraction of the commons. There’s a standard notion which you have heard called the tragedy of the Commons, which is supposed to mean that if the commons are held by the general public, they will be destroyed. So, therefore they have to be privatized. Actually if you take a look at the facts, the opposite is usually true. It’s privatizing that destroys the commons and for good reasons.

We should be aware of that today, the most significant case of destroying the commons is environmental catastrophe. Informed and rational people can hardly ignore the fact that the drive for short term profits is leading directly to severe economic threats. And imminent ones are within the next generation or two, but that’s another externality that is ignored. And in this case, there’s no one around who can bail out the perpetrators. They can’t run, cap in hand, to the nanny state and say bail me out. Or the future generations whose chances of decent survival, they’re placing it at great risk.

Well, a future historian, there may not be one in fact, but if there is one, such a historian will look back on the current scene with some amazement. There are some who are trying to impede the threat of environmental catastrophe. There are others who are devoted to accelerating it. Who are they? Well, in the forefront of the struggle to overcome the threat are those we call primitive. The first nations in Canada, indigenous people in Latin America, aboriginals in Australia, tribal communities in India and their counterparts all over the world. And the leading the latest disaster are the richest and most powerful countries in the world, the ones that have unique advantages, primarily the United States and Canada. Canada, in particular, has become the scrooge in the world with its activities ranging from tar sands to mining activities that are destroying much of the world. These are countries with unique advantages and they’re in the lead to the race to destruction.

The suicidal drive is conducted with considerably euphoria in what’s called the century of energy independence in which North America becomes the Saudi Arabia of the 21st century. The excitement is scarcely tainted by reflection on what the world would look like as fossil fuels are consumed with unrestrained exuberance. There’s even gloating of the fact that Europe is reducing its efforts to move toward sustainable energy. Reason? It can’t compete with U.S production based on the cheaper energy that is destroying the world and a society.

The corporate sector has announced quite openly that it’s carrying out major propaganda campaigns to convince the public that climate change, if it’s happening at all, does not result from human activity. These efforts are aimed at overcoming the excessive rationality of the public which continues to be concerned about the threats that scientists overwhelmingly regard as near certain and quite ominous. All of that makes sense, under prevailing ideology and prevailing institutional structure which is directed towards pursuing the viral maxim of the masters of mankind. And in this case, it goes well beyond ruining an economy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

He is coming to my country.

Noam Chomsky is coming to Japan in March, 2014. Here's a newspaper article reporting his visit.


The title of the article "Truth to Power" reminds me of his saying that we don't need to tell truth to power because they already know it.

 He'll give two talks, one is on linguistics and the other is about capitalist democracy's prospect for survival. I'm attending both.