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Noam Chomsky

Ralph spends the whole hour with the incomparable Noam Chomsky to discuss a whole raft of issues, including the climate crisis, the military budget, healthcare, challenging the corporate structure, reforming both the tax system and our elections, how the Democrats have abandoned the working class, and whether the U.S. will be able to fend off fascism.

Noam Chomsky is a linguist, political philosopher, and one of the world’s foremost public intellectuals. His latest book, interviews by C. J. Polychroniou,  is The Precipice: Neoliberalism, the Pandemic and the Urgent Need for Social Change.

 

The Trump tax cut, what Joseph Stiglitz called the “Donor Relief Bill of 2017”, [was a] massive gift to the very rich and the corporate sector. Stab in the back to working people and the poor. And for the current Republican Party, a red line that can’t be crossed.

Noam Chomsky, Author of The Precipice

[A reduced US military budget] would cut back pollution enormously. The military alone produces as much greenhouse gas as about 140 medium-sized countries.

Noam Chomsky, Author of The Precipice

When you have a criminal state, you can be as illegal as you want. Nothing happens… [Labor historians have found] that about 50% of organizing efforts were undermined by these illegal tactics, which the government just winked at. Criminal state says “Fine, if you want to destroy unions.” The so-called “right to work” laws… are basically “right to scrounge” laws.

Noam Chomsky, Author of The Precipice

Just think about the spectrum of possible societies. Extreme totalitarian society at one end, functioning democracy at the other end. In these systems, how would people react to taxes? Well in the pure totalitarian system, they’d say, “Nothing’s inevitable but death and taxes. somebody stealing our money from us. An alien force, the government, is stealing our money. We can’t do anything about it.” That’s the way it would be in a pure totalitarian system. What about a functioning democracy? Tax Day would be a day of celebration. “We’ve gotten together, worked out what we think should be done in our community… We’ve decided what we wanted. We decided on an equitable way to fund it. Now comes the day in which we fund it the way we decided. So, it’s a day of celebration.” It’s a kind of rough measure of the extent to which democracy functions. Simply by looking at attitudes towards taxes.

Noam Chomsky, Author of The Precipice

 

What does that mean [that the Congress refuses to go after Presidents for violating the Constitution]? It means clearly that the Presidents are above the law. They can start wars unconstitutionally. They can violate statutes and they’re above the law… So, they’re all complicit. So why don’t we just start with the process of public discussion, that right now, presidents are above the law. Period. And then go from there. Instead of the myth that is perpetuated in law schools and editorial boards that “no one is above the law.”

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 402 Transcript (Right click to download)

15 Comments

  1. Susan Shaffer says:

    Oh my! What a treat…a conversation between two of my favorite people! Oh how we all long for the corrections in the global system that these two gentleman propose!

  2. dominic melita says:

    I still believe Nader/Chomsky would have made a grand ticket!
    Your voices are as lucid. powerful, and inspiring as ever.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you both!

  3. Mark Taylor says:

    I’d like Noam to explain how his “vote blue no matter who” advice has made any positive difference in Democratic Party neoliberalism, war, impoverishment of the American people and decimation of the planet. Noam has been a sheepdog for the Democrats, keeping progressives and liberals in the party corral. For being such a brilliant guy, he is woefully ignorant on how party politics work and how the progressives could and should strong arm the Democrats to find both a heart and a spine by withholding their vote and donations and work for a third party. Fundamentally, there is no difference between R’s & D’s. It’s all about — and only about — Top vs Bottom and the Bottom is getting strangled.

  4. katherine dunford says:

    shame on the united states of america!!the leaders are all gone bad,federal,state and county.

  5. Jeff Warner says:

    Great show with Chomsky.
    Where do I find the transcript?

    • Skro35 says:

      Transcript will be late this week. Look for it in the next couple of days. It’s a blue link to a pdf just above the audio player.

  6. Paul Palmer says:

    Noam talks about revisiting corporations and their charters. He goes through many detailed changes. What would he say to raising the needed changes to a higher, structural level? How about changing the assumptions of ownership? Ownership suffuses and permeates all of our laws and assumptions. What if ownership of any capital or productive capacity that can be used to control other people just disappeared? Just remove it from legislative and court protection. Ownership of anything personal would be allowed but no one would be allowed to own the “means of production”. Without the protection of legal ownership which includes oodles of special rights to control, make decisions for other people and of course appropriate productive capacity, factories and other productive entities would have to revert to being run by their employees or members. Include lobbying as a productive enterprise and you have, at one stroke, the removal of most capitalist injustices. Of course go on with the rest of the obvious changes such as taxing wealth etc etc. but ownership, I think, is the key to getting started. Of course nothing can make much progress so long as the corrupt system of voting for representatives who are free to sell their vote i.e. vote their conscience, continues.

    • Beto says:

      In other words, communism through the back door. I see the colossal failures of the USSR, china (pre-1990s), Cuba, N. Korea, etc. haven’t convinced you it doesn’t work.

  7. Don Harris says:

    It was interesting to hear the speculation on what could be done if we had a Congress that represented the 70% of citizens that do not currently have representation according to Noam Chomksy.

    The real question is how do we get there from here?

    You touched on the answer- it is up to voters.

    Even if 30% of citizens currently without representation are non-voters, that’s 40% of citizens without presentation that are voters, which is a majority of voters.

    The problem is that these voters keep voting for candidates that will not represent them as they are only offered a choice between candidates that will not represent them.

    The candidates even let the voters know that they will not be represented before the voters vote for the candidates by taking big money to run their campaigns.

    Citizens need to be offered a choice of candidates that will represent them.

    While there is no guarantee, a candidate that does not take big money is more likely to represent ordinary citizens.

    The real question is how do we get there from here?

    Whether you say politicians want our votes more than money or votes count more than money (and you have said both) citizens must demand candidates run small donor campaigns and enforce that demand with their votes.

    And that is not going to happen until you take what you say about votes and money and put it to the test by taking One Demand, a way for citizens to make and enforce that demand for small donor candidates with their votes, out of the comments section and offer it as a choice for voters in 2022.

    If started now this could have an effect on the 2022 elections that can be built on in 2024, etc.

    The real question is now if you believe what you say about votes and money (and I still believe you do) why do you not take advantage of this opportunity to put what you say into practice?

  8. David Faubion says:

    Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader are among the rare few who expound upon the need for the systemic reform of the U.S. government. Repeatedly, you two have described how a parliamentary system and other key reforms would reduce dramatically the dominance of the two-party duopoly bought to us by Wall Street, et al. Unless and until our U.S. archaic type of governance, our hegemony of power and submission of the have-nots cedes to a parliamentary-inducing civil society, we are all hopelessly in a jungle of dog-eat-dog–winner take all anti-politics. The United States prides itself on its innovations, yankee ingenuity, but our resourcefulness droped dead at the door of government re-invention. Money greed, exclussion, and the lure of empire are at or near the root of this ironic tragedy. Nations with more equality are known to be the more successful states in all categories of prosperity and quality of life.
    Noam, you in recent years have expressed in a few interviews his respect for the movements that began in the 1950s through circa the ’70s that as he puts it, “…civilized the United States.” I think Noam posited that statement just as much as a question about whether an overall truly civil society did take hold permanently after our historic movement upheavals against racism, sexism, environmental degradation, and warmongering. Looking now at the endless U.S. waring, we are still in Syria and threatening Iran, the reigns of the regressive “new Democrats,” the election of Trump, his court-packing, the January 6th insurrection, and the outright theft of our Constitutional voting rights, free and fair elections, and First Amendment rights, and vigilante law in Texas–I see a huge mass movement of incivility, even mob rule toward the aim of partisan domination and facism. Trump and the neocons before him prove that the hegemonic role model is the dominant role model for a huge base of the frightened hostile public wanting desperately to be on the side that seems to be winning. Increasing inequality is the neoliberal fuel for the daily incivility we witness. Reckless ignorance or lack of appropriate response to global burning feeds more of the chaotic vulgarity. Adults who want power to dominate other adults, have no power over themselves, and thus a cyclic incivility never stops. We need massive social psychotherapy to rid us of the syndrome of victim into victimaizer. How does that therapy happen? Speaking, hearing, listening, reading, acknowledging, understanding.

  9. Evan says:

    I appreciate some critics taking time to weigh in but one of them seems to think that Russia was a nice place run by nice people before the Bolsheviks came along. Ditto Cuba under Batista.

  10. Bravo on the interview!

    I was particularly interested on the discussion of controlling corporate entities. Rethinking and rewriting corporate charters, as Chomsky suggests, makes good sense, to make them as they once were subordinate to people and elected officials. Not mentioned was abolishing corporate constitutional rights (shorthand known as “corporate personhood.”). Good to hear also his mention of critiquing Supreme Court decisions equating political money spent in elections as free speech.

    Please consider, Ralph, supporting this statement calling for abolishing both bizarre constitutional doctrines of corporate constitutional rights and money as speech. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lZdb7QRBw8M2EesQpIBm9CeCp1Ds4YMos_tY1xuK1ks/edit?usp=sharing . It doesn’t support any particular Amendment proposal (of which there are several), only the principle that both anti-democratic doctrines need to be abolished.

    Onwards!

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