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Fascinating discussion points but no alternatives offered...
on 15 October 2007
Like the other reviewers here I believe Noam Chomsky is sincere in his hope for a fairer world, more transparency in power and corporations etc., which you have to admire and agree with. However despite all the wide-eyed praise, here and elsewhere, his arguments are full of holes, his world view is that of a swivel-eyed conspiracy theorist (basically white people who want to make a profit or promote the rule of law against tyranny have caused every single problem the world has ever faced) and he has absolutely no workable alternatives to the things he criticises in such black and white terms.
After pages of condemnation of political, social and financial institutions and processes that (like them or not) have cost lives, years and human ingenuity beyond measure to establish, his alternative is what, exactly? Some form of anarchism whereby local syndicates would control all production and means of exchange, like thousands of kibbutzim, constantly arguing over whether and how to co-operate or trade. That's right, all the problems of the world will be sorted out if we divide up even further into tribes. So what, exactly, will protect the weak from the strong in this nut-scape? How will anything more complicated than a hut be built? Who will rule? He even admits that his own experiences of the kibbutz system were awful - basically military / racial indoctrination camps in the Israeli desert, full of the worst kind of groupthink and mind-games over food, water etc.
Aside from that, vast chunks of his 'evidence' is garnered from the same second hand sources that he condems as unreliable and biased. So he has just picked the unreliable bits that fit his own bias. And his whole shtick about the media being a self-reinforcing and self-censoring oligarchy may seem real in the US, but in the UK at least it's utter rubbish. Anyone with the slightest axe to grind or conspiracy theory is given ample air and print time, and Chomsky's own books sell by the thousand!
He scores hits around the US state subsidising agriculture and industry while calling for free trade - but hold on, he is himself massively subsidised by state support for universities, which account for most of his income in salary, book sales and talks. So does he want more state intervention in national and international economics, or less? Where should those tax dollars go and who should decide? He doesn't bother saying.
Sure, governments are hypocritical, but that's hardly a new insight, and any tool can sit around their academic ivory tower spongeing off state sinecure and whinging that everyone else is at fault for the wrongs of the world, but if you're so clever Noam spell out what the alternative is and how we'll get there before advocating tearing down what we already have.