Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Rightwing SVS's?/free state project

From: Hector Ortega <>
Date: Sun Apr 4 13:58:00 2004

Hello Everybody,

The issue goes beyond political bounds. John Gatto, who wrote Dumbing Us
Down, cannot be called a liberal, and conservatives like what he writes. When you
get out toward the conservative fringe of libertarianism, that overlaps the
radical anarchistic fringe.

Talking about small government is a tricky issue, as well using the word 'libertarian'. I would like to point out what Chomsky has to say about that. Consider this first. This is from the Free State Project (, which favors the reduction of government and is essentially a "U.S. libertarian" idea.

Q: Who is welcome to participate?

A: Anyone who can agree to the clause in the Statement of Intent which says that you should support the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of citizens' rights to life, liberty, and property. In essence, this includes everyone who wants to cut the size and scope of government by about two-thirds or more. Put in a positive way, most FSP members support policies such as abolition of all income taxes, elimination of regulatory bureaucracies, repeal of most gun control laws, repeal of most drug prohibition laws, complete free trade, decentralization of government, and widescale privatization. People of this disposition may go by many names: "classical liberals" (not the same as modern liberals at all, but followers of Thomas Jefferson and similar thinkers), libertarians, paleoconservatives, constitutionalists, voluntarists, etc., etc.

Notice especially the last part and now compare that to this:

CHOMSKY on Capitalism, Libertarian Party, Anarchism

You can read the entire interview here:

CHOMSKY: ...that's why if you look at the *ideology* of the founding fathers -- not what they actually *believed* -- but at the doctrines that they professed, which is something quite different, they were opposed to centers of power and authority. In the 18th century that meant they were opposed to the feudal system, and the absolutist state and the church and so on. Now those *very* same doctrines apply to the 19th century and the 20th century and they *should*, if we take them seriously, make *us* opposed to the patterns of authority and domination that exist *now* -- like for example *corporate capitalism*, which is a system of authoritarian control that Jefferson never *dreamt* of. Or the powerful 20th century state *linked* to the corporate elite, which, again, is a system of power and domination on a scale that, say, Jefferson couldn't have *imagined*. But the same *principles* would lead us to be opposed to *them*.

QUESTION: ...What's the difference between your [Anarchist] views and the Libertarian Party? [This, among four other back-to-back call-in quations (see below)] CHOMSKY: Well let me begin with the question about the Libertarian Party. The Libertarian Party is familiar here -- unknown elsewhere. There's a *long* tradition of Anarchism, Libertarian thought outside the United States, which is *diametrically* opposed to the positions of the Libertarian Party -- but it's unknown here. That's the *dominant* position of what's always been considered Socialist Anarchism. Now, the Libertarian Party, is a *Capitalist* Party. It's in favor of what *I* would regard a *particular form* of authoritarian control. Namely, the kind that comes through private ownership and control, which is an *extremely* rigid system of domination -- people have to.. people can survive, by renting themselves to it, and basically in no other way. So while I share a lot of..there's a lot of shared ground with the
 special, U.S. right-wing anarchism, which really exists only here (and in fact have plenty of friends, and so on), I do disagree with them *very* sharply, and I think that they are not..understanding the *fundamental* doctrine, that you should be free from domination and control, including the control of the manager and the owner.

In other words U.S. Libertarians have take the word 'libertarian' to mean 'right-wing libertarian' when in actuality, 'libertarianism' is left-wing, as in 'libertarian socialist' (which is a synonym of 'anarchism').

Education is Ignorance
You can read the entire interview here:

QUESTION: One of the heroes of the current right-wing revival... is Adam Smith. You've done some pretty impressive research on Smith that has excavated... a lot of information that's not coming out. You've often quoted him describing the "vile maxim of the masters of mankind: all for ourselves and nothing for other people."

CHOMSKY: I didn't do any research at all on Smith. I just read him. There's no research. Just read it. He's pre-capitalist, a figure of the Enlightenment. What we would call capitalism he despised. People read snippets of Adam Smith, the few phrases they teach in school. Everybody reads the first paragraph of The Wealth of Nations where he talks about how wonderful the division of labor is. But not many people get to the point hundreds of pages later, where he says that division of labor will destroy human beings and turn people into creatures as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be. And therefore in any civilized society the government is going to have to take some measures to prevent division of labor from proceeding to its limits....

He also made remarks which ought to be truisms about the way states work. He pointed out that its totally senseless to talk about a nation and what we would nowadays call "national interests." He simply observed in passing, because it's so obvious, that in England, which is what he's discussing -- and it was the most democratic society of the day -- the principal architects of policy are the "merchants and manufacturers," and they make certain that their own interests are, in his words, "most peculiarly attended to," no matter what the effect on others, including the people of England who, he argued, suffered from their policies. He didn't have the data to prove it at the time, but he was probably right.

This truism was, a century later, called class analysis, but you don't have to go to Marx to find it. It's very explicit in Adam Smith. It's so obvious that any ten-year-old can see it. So he didn't make a big point of it. He just mentioned it. But that's correct. If you read through his work, he's intelligent. He's a person who was from the Enlightenment. His driving motives were the assumption that people were guided by sympathy and feelings of solidarity and the need for control of their own work, much like other Enlightenment and early Romantic thinkers. He's part of that period, the Scottish Enlightenment.

The version of him that's given today is just ridiculous. But I didn't have to any research to find this out. All you have to do is read. If you're literate, you'll find it out. I did do a little research in the way it's treated, and that's interesting. For example, the University of Chicago, the great bastion of free market economics, etc., etc., published a bicentennial edition of the hero, a scholarly edition with all the footnotes and the introduction by a Nobel Prize winner, George Stigler, a huge index, a real scholarly edition. That's the one I used. It's the best edition. The scholarly framework was very interesting, including Stigler's introduction. It's likely he never opened The Wealth of Nations. Just about everything he said about the book was completely false. I went through a bunch of examples in writing about it, in Year 501 and elsewhere.

But even more interesting in some ways was the index. Adam Smith is very well known for his advocacy of division of labor. Take a look at "division of labor" in the index and there are lots and lots of things listed. But there's one missing, namely his denunciation of division of labor, the one I just cited. That's somehow missing from the index. It goes on like this. I wouldn't call this research because it's ten minutes' work, but if you look at the scholarship, then it's interesting....

This is true of classical liberalism in general. The founders of classical liberalism, people like Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt, who is one of the great exponents of classical liberalism, and who inspired John Stuart Mill -- they were what we would call libertarian socialists, at least that Ôs the way I read them. For example, Humboldt, like Smith, says, Consider a craftsman who builds some beautiful thing. Humboldt says if he does it under external coercion, like pay, for wages, we may admire what he does but we despise what he is. On the other hand, if he does it out of his own free, creative expression of himself, under free will, not under external coercion of wage labor, then we also admire what he is because he's a human being. He said any decent socioeconomic system will be based on the assumption that people have the freedom to inquire and create -- since that's the fundamental nature of humans -- in free association with others, but certainly not under the kinds of
 external constraints that came to be called capitalism.

It's the same when you read Jefferson. He lived a half century later, so he saw state capitalism developing, and he despised it, of course. He said it's going to lead to a form of absolutism worse than the one we defended ourselves against. In fact, if you run through this whole period you see a very clear, sharp critique of what we would later call capitalism and certainly of the twentieth century version of it, which is designed to destroy individual, even entrepreneurial capitalism.

There's a side current here which is rarely looked at but which is also quite fascinating. That's the working class literature of the nineteenth century. They didn't read Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt, but they're saying the same things. Read journals put out by the people called the "factory girls of Lowell," young women in the factories, mechanics, and other working people who were running their own newspapers. It's the same kind of critique. There was a real battle fought by working people in England and the U.S. to defend themselves against what they called the degradation and oppression and violence of the industrial capitalist system, which was not only dehumanizing them but was even radically reducing their intellectual level. So, you go back to the mid-nineteenth century and these so-called "factory girls," young girls working in the Lowell [Massachusetts] mills, were reading serious contemporary literature. They recognized that the point of the system was to turn them
 into tools who would be manipulated, degraded, kicked around, and so on. And they fought against it bitterly for a long period. That's the history of the rise of capitalism.

The other part of the story is the development of corporations, which is an interesting story in itself. Adam Smith didn't say much about them, but he did criticize the early stages of them. Jefferson lived long enough to see the beginnings, and he was very strongly opposed to them. But the development of corporations really took place in the early twentieth century and very late in the nineteenth century. Originally, corporations existed as a public service. People would get together to build a bridge and they would be incorporated for that purpose by the state. They built the bridge and that's it. They were supposed to have a public interest function. Well into the 1870s, states were removing corporate charters. They were granted by the state. They didn't have any other authority. They were fictions. They were removing corporate charters because they weren't serving a public function. But then you get into the period of the trusts and various efforts to consolidate power that were
 beginning to be made in the late nineteenth century. It's interesting to look at the literature. The courts didn't really accept it. There were some hints about it. It wasn't until the early twentieth century that courts and lawyers designed a new socioeconomic system. It was never done by legislation. It was done mostly by courts and lawyers and the power they could exercise over individual states. New Jersey was the first state to offer corporations any right they wanted. Of course, all the capital in the country suddenly started to flow to New Jersey, for obvious reasons. Then the other states had to do the same thing just to defend themselves or be wiped out. It's kind of a small-scale globalization. Then the courts and the corporate lawyers came along and created a whole new body of doctrine which gave corporations authority and power that they never had before. If you look at the background of it, it's the same background that led to fascism and Bolshevism. A lot of it was
 supported by people called progressives, for these reasons: They said, individual rights are gone. We are in a period of corporatization of power, consolidation of power, centralization. That's supposed to be good if you're a progressive, like a Marxist-Leninist. Out of that same background came three major things: fascism, Bolshevism, and corporate tyranny. They all grew out of the same more or less Hegelian roots. It's fairly recent. We think of corporations as immutable, but they were designed. It was a conscious design which worked as Adam Smith said: the principal architects of policy consolidate state power and use it for their interests. It was certainly not popular will. It's basically court decisions and lawyers' decisions, which created a form of private tyranny which is now more massive in many ways than even state tyranny was. These are major parts of modern twentieth century history. The classical liberals would be horrified. They didn't even imagine this. But the
 smaller things that they saw, they were already horrified about. This would have totally scandalized Adam Smith or Jefferson or anyone like that....

Violence and Youth
You can read the entire interview here:

QUESTION: From the very roots of this country we see that capitalism and so-called "free-market" practices have worked to benefit the prosperous few who manage the economy and dictate social policy. In your estimation, where on the spectrum of capitalist practices is the United States presently situated?

CHOMSKY: In a real capitalist society, the only rights you have would be the rights you get on the labor market. There are no other rights, certainly no human rights. In fact, it's classical economics, but no society could realistically survive that way, though we're closer to that than most others. However, in our system, there is a double standard. The poor, more than anyone, get the rights they can achieve on the labor market, but for the rich, there's powerful state protection. They've never been willing to accept market discipline. The United States has, from its origins, been a highly protectionist society with very high tariffs and massive subsidies for the rich. It's a huge welfare state for the rich, and society ends up being very polarized. Despite the New Deal, and the Great Society measures in the 1960s, which attempted to move the United States toward the social contracts of the other industrial nations; we still have the highest social and economic inequality, and such
 polarization is increasing very sharply. These factors -- high polarization, a welfare state for the rich, and marginalization of parts of the population -- have their effects.

One effect is a lot of crime. You have people who are cooped up in urban slums, which are basically concentration camps, while the rich protect themselves in affluent areas, which are often, in fact, subsidized by the poor. In the 1980s and the 1990s it's been quite striking how much the polarization has increased. A symbol of this is Newt Gingrich, who now is spearheading the "get the government off our backs" campaign. If you look carefully, it again is a double standard. He wants the government "off our backs" when its policies assist the poor, but he wants the government "on our backs" if it's benefitting rich people. In fact, his district, a very wealthy suburb of Atlanta, gets more federal subsidies -- taxpayers' money -- than any suburban county in the country, outside the federal system itself. This rich suburb is carefully insulated from the downtown, so you don't get any poor Blacks coming in there. And here's Gingrich saying, "Get the government off our backs." Well, that
 tells you exactly what it's all about. You get the government out of the business of helping poor people, but make sure it's in the business of helping the rich. And, in fact, once again, if you look at this Republican Contract with America, that's exactly what it says. It's cutting social spending for the poor, but increasing welfare for the rich. That's inevitably going to lead to increased polarization, resentment, brutality, and violence.

QUESTION: How does the money flow from the poor to the rich?

CHOMSKY: Here we are at MIT, which is part of the system whereby poor people fund high technology industries. We have offices and things because the whole system of public funding, meaning taxpayers, ends up supporting research and development. If it's profitable, the technology goes right off to the big corporations.

QUESTION: There sure are a lot of government license plates out in the parking lots.

CHOMSKY: Yeah, but it isn't just government license plates, they're simply part of the whole system by which the poor subsidize the rich. And in fact, it was perfectly, consciously designed that way. If you look back to the business press in the late 1940s, they are absolutely frank about it. They said, Look, advanced industry can't survive in an unsubsidized, competitive "free enterprise" economy, in a true market -- the government has to be "the savior." And how do you do it? Well, they talked about various methods, but the obvious method was the Pentagon system, which largely functions as a way of subsidizing the rich. That's why it hasn't declined substantially with the end of the Cold War. There was all this talk about defending ourselves from the Russians. Okay, now that the Russians are no longer a threat, has the Pentagon system gone? No, the U.S. is still spending almost as much on the military as the rest of the world combined. And anyone in industry knows why. There's no
 other way to force people to pay the costs of high-tech industry.

Take Newt Gingrich, for example. The biggest employer in his district happens to be Lockheed. Well, what's Lockheed? That's a publicly subsidized corporation. Lockheed wouldn't exist for five minutes if it wasn't for the public subsidy under the pretext of defense, but that's just a joke. The United States hasn't faced a threat probably since the War of 1812. Certainly there's no threat now. We're not as threatened as the rest of the world combined. In fact, an awful lot of the production of arms is sold to other countries. If anything, that increases any threat. So the whole thing has nothing to do with threats and security; it's a joke. In fact, that was always known. If you go back to the late 1940s, the first Secretary of the Air Force, Stuart Symington, said publicly, I think in Congress, Look, the word to use is not "subsidy," the word to use is "security." That's the way we'll make sure that the advanced industry gets going. That's how the aircraft industry works, that's how
 the computer and electronics industries work also. About 85 percent of research and development in electronics was funded by the government in the 1950s.

Take, as another example, the research and development of automation. The apologists for our system say that the creation of automation is the result of "market principles." That's just baloney. Automation was so inefficient that it had to be developed in the state system for several decades -it was developed by the Air Force. The same holds true for containerization; trade looks efficient because we have container ships. How were container ships developed? Not through the market; they were developed by the Navy, through a public subsidy. They don't have to worry about costs, because the public's paying. Now that it's profitable it's turned over to "private enterprise," and is used to undermine working people who funded it. Automation is now putting people out of work.

QUESTION: What are some of the central ways that these social and economic policies and practices affect the lives of youth in this country?

CHOMSKY: One aspect of this, specifically with regard to children, is something that isn't discussed much here in the United States. There's been a war against children and families for the last fifteen years, a real war. There's an interesting study of this by UNICEF, completed about a year ago, called "Child Neglect in Rich Societies," written by a well-known American economist, Sylvia Ann Hewlett. She compares what has happened to children and families in the last fifteen years in rich societies, and she finds that the results break pretty sharply into two models. The European/Japanese model was supportive of families, with day-care systems and prenatal care, and other such benefits. Whereas the Reagan/Thatcher model, which extended to some extent to the other English-speaking societies, tended to force families into using privatized child care without other support systems. One of the reasons child care was impossible to afford was because wages were being driven down. That means
 that there are plenty of families where you have to have a husband and a wife working fifty or sixty hours a week just to provide necessities. Perhaps much of one person's salary is going to pay day-care. With very little in the way of a public support system, they can't get such things as health insurance because it costs too much. Well, the effect of this, which Hewlett describes in this study, is quite obvious -- kids are left on their own, unsupervised and unprotected much more in the Anglo-American model than in the European/Japanese model. There are a lot more latch-key children, T.V. as baby-sitter, and that sort of thing going on here in the United States. Actually, she reports that contact hours between parents and children in the United States decreased by about 40 percent since about 1960. High-quality contact, where you really pay attention to each other, has declined very, very sharply. The effects of all that are completely obvious -- you get violence against children
 and violence by children. You also get substance abuse. All of these are obvious consequences of that social policy. If kids are neglected, with no care and guidance, they're going to be either watching television or wandering around the streets.

QUESTION: The political right seeks to distract the public from these issues by preaching that a stimulated market will be the answer to our social problems. How could the state of the market possibly resolve the violence of racism, illiteracy, and poverty? It certainly didn't in the "prosperous" years following World War II. How can the market solve what it in fact creates?

CHOMSKY: Maybe people talk themselves into believing that the market is the solution, but the reason they believe it is because the actual system is going to enrich them. They refuse to accept market discipline for themselves, though they insist on imposing it on others. There's almost nobody who advocates market discipline for themselves; it's always for someone else. And that's not because they've figured out that the market is going to solve problems, it's because that double-edged policy is going to enrich them. Adam Smith talks about this; these are truisms.......

QUESTION: How do schools and institutions of education -- which play a significant role in the ongoing formative nature of culture, identity, and social relations by directly influencing children's ways of seeing themselves and others in the world -- contribute to this colonizing of people's minds?

CHOMSKY: Well, every possible way. It starts in kindergarten: the school system tries to repress independence, it tries to teach obedience. Kids, and other people, are not induced to challenge and question, but the contrary. If you start questioning, you're a behavioral problem or something like that; you've got to be disciplined. You're supposed to repeat, obey, follow orders, and so on. When you get over to the more totalitarian end, like the Newt Gingriches, they actually want to do things like coerce kids into praying, and they call it voluntary. But you know, you have a six-year-old kid who's got a choice of praying like everyone else or walking out of the room, it's not voluntary and those demanding school prayer know it. Such forms of state coercion and imposing discipline would absolutely horrify the "founding fathers," not that Gingrich cares one way or the other.



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Received on Sun Apr 04 2004 - 13:57:17 EDT

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