Thursday, October 01, 2009

I just watched a recent speech by Noam Chomsky, and I must say I've lost some respect for the man. I'd always considered him an interesting person, even if we didn't see eye to eye. He seems to have departed from his anarchistic basis, though; instead, he seems to have taken up the opinion that "big government is okay, so long as it's my big government.

I suppose that's the endpoint of anarcho-syndicalism. My syndicate is best and should rule.

I did agree with a few things he said; the United States government is putting a lot of support into spurious plans. It lends much towards corporations which are happy to take the profit but would rather have taxpayers take the loss. Can't complain there; the government should never prop up an organization at the expense of the people.

One riff that truly surprised me was his complaint about companies that prematurely repaid TARP funds. His point was that it reduced the funds available for making loans, and that it allowed those companies to pay out monies to their executives. (1) There's plenty of money available to loan out, if it weren't interest rates would be higher. (2) Easy access to loans is what caused the crisis in the first place, something he complained about earlier stating that we were going back to the same pattern, and complained again later about companies entrapping people in a web of debt. (3) So government shouldn't be allowed to prop up companies but should be allowed to interfere with their operations?

Another complaint was about his "lack of choice" in transportation options. He says he can choose between Ford and Toyota, for example; but he can't choose between Ford and taking a subway, that it's not an economic option but a social option. What?? Put a subway on the table and you remove the choice; everyone winds up subsidizing the subway through tax money, both in construction and in operation. If it were a valid economic choice then people would be building their own mass transit systems. Further, the government limits private mass transit; just try starting a private bus service and watch the fur fly!

Something else I have to take issue with was his whole-hearted adoption of the global warming meme. He cites a MIT climate model and then worries they may not have included some potential positive feedback mechanisms. (1) What about potential negative feedback mechanisms? (2) What about the recent evidence of solar-driven climate shifts that can swamp any human-based global warming?

(3) Based on the above and other evidence, why am I worried he is taking positions to reinforce his entire meme structure rather than for logical reasons?

The last item I must take issue with was his analysis of the origins of the United States government. He dwelled on the idea of the government being controlled by the elite, in the form of the Senate, and how the elite needed to be protected from the hoi polloi. (1) The government was supposed to be limited by the Senate, one of three parts of the triumverate of the Federal government; why is someone who is supposed to be a minarchist complaining about limiting government? (2) Yes, the founding fathers were concerned about pure democracy, seeing how well it worked in Greece. (3) The composition of the Senate was altered by Constitutional amendment in 1912, changing its membership from being appointed by State governments to being popularly elected, making it mirror the House of Representatives and reducing its effect in being a limit on the Federal government, something I consider to be a major factor in the decline of this nation.

(4) The masses should not be allowed to pull down the elite, any more than the elite should be allowed to exploit the masses via governmental manipulation. Chomsky is fixated on the haves versus the have-nots. He may have a point about our current elite unfairly benefiting from the government, but he has lost his focus on the government being the cause of the problem. Rather than individuals gaining elite status via good work and good ideas, it is becoming more and more difficult for individual innovators to gain money and status. Government has slanted the playing field to favor megacorporations and big box stores over small proprietors. So yes, in my opinion the elite do deserve protection from the hoi polloi; it's protection from themselves, and unfair benefits from government, that should be done away with.