Noam Chomsky on Government Reform

Political Activist


Concentrated wealth yields concentrated political power

The development that took place during the 1970s set off a vicious cycle. It led to concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector. This doesn't benefit the economy--it probably harms it and the society--but it did lead to tremendous concentration of wealth.

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies, tax changes, also rules of corporate governance, and deregulation. Alongside of this began the very sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drives the political parties even deeper than before into the pockets of the corporate sector.

Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 28 , May 1, 2012

Public policy has become divorced from public opinion

Suppose we had a functioning democratic society. Let's just imagine that. What would a primary look like, say, in NH? The people in a town would get together and discuss, talk about, and argue about what they want policy to be. Then if a candidate comes along and says, "I want to come talk to you," the people in the town ought to say, "Well, you can come listen to us if you want. So you come in, we'll tell you what we want, and you can try to persuade us that you'll do it; then, maybe we will vote for you." That's what would happen in a democratic society.

What happens in our society? The candidate comes to town with his public relations agents and the rest of them. He gives some talks, and says, "Look how great I am. This is what I am going to do for you." Nobody believes a word he or she says. And then maybe people vote for him, maybe they don't. That's very different from a democratic society.

Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 47-8 , May 1, 2012

Members of Congress literally buy power within Congress

Q: How would you go about dealing with the daunting task of getting money out of politics?

A: Getting money out of politics is a very crucial matter; it has been for a long time. It's gotten much more extreme now. Things have reached a point in the US where, even within Congress, if someone wants a position with a degree of power and authority, they literally have to buy it. It used to be that committee chairs were granted by a political party on the basis of seniority, service and other factors. Now, you literally have to pay the party to be a candidate for a chair. Well, that has an effect, too; it drives members of Congress into the same pockets if they want to get anywhere.

Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 77-9 , May 1, 2012

People who serve power are later considered false prophets

BROWN: You describe how throughout history honor has been given to those who speak on behalf of the powerful.

CHOMSKY: Take the Bible, for example--and we'll find that those who have served power have always been rewarded with respectability. The prophets of the Bible came in 2 types. The people who served power, were the ones who were later considered false prophets. There were the people, however, who, in their own time, were respected, honored and protected. There was another group of people who exposed the corruptions of power. They're the ones who were reviled, imprisoned, driven into the desert, and so on. It was only much later that they were recognized as the true prophets.

That pattern just perpetuates through history, and for perfectly good reasons. If you serve power, authority and privilege, you'll end up, by & large, with respectability. And if you undermine them, whether it's by political analysis, moral critique, or anything else, they're not going to applaud you for it.

Source: Dialogues, by Gov. Jerry Brown, p.212-3 , Feb 12, 1996

Dissent publicly against investors ruling government

Itís not a secret where power lies in the US. It lies in the hands of people who determine investment decisions. They want a passive population. So one of the things that you can do to make life uncomfortable for them is not be passive.

If you go to one demonstration, and then go home, the people in power can live with that. What they canít live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, people that keep learning lessons from last time and doing it better the next time.

Source: What Uncle Sam Really Wants, by Noam Chomsky, p. 98 , Jan 13, 1991

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Page last updated: Oct 28, 2021