Chomsky on Libertarianism

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More than thirty years ago, Noam Chomsky wrote several reviews for the libertarian magazine Inquiry; but, unfortunately, he has never wavered in his unremitting hostility to the free market. In a recent interview, he tells that libertarians believe that “private power should be unleashed to do whatever it likes.” The assumption is that by some kind of magic, “concentrated private power will lead to a more free and just society.” Which libertarians, I wonder, believe this? Mises argued that in a free market, businesses profit by producing what consumers want; capitalism, he said, is a system  of “mass production for the masses.”

Chomsky prefers anarcho-syndicalism; this “is a conception of a very organized society, but organized from below by direct participation at every level, with as little control and domination as is feasible, maybe none.” It does not seem to occur to Chomsky that firms owned by workers must also please consumers, if they want to stay in business; why would employees in such companies face fewer constraints than those who work for the capitalists whom Chomsky excoriates? Perhaps, though, he wants to do away with the market altogether. This version of anarcho-syndicalism would soon collapse into chaos.

Though anarcho-syndicalism is the ultimate goal for Chomsky, he thinks that for now we should support reformist measures, making use of “the state system under limited democratic control.” In particular, we need to take action to combat “catastrophic climate change.” Propaganda by the oil industry tries to undermine efforts to deal with this problem, he laments; evidently vastly greater propaganda by the government on this issue designed to cripple industrial production does not concern him. He does not ask himself why oil companies would find it in their interest to turn a blind eye to a supposed catastrophe that would bring them down as well as others.  This question might seem an obvious one to pose, but Chomsky is too busy calling for “free” university education to think of it.

4:16 pm on May 29, 2013