Noam Chomsky on Corporations
In "Occupy," Chomsky points out that one of the movement's greatest successes has been to put the inequalities of everyday life on the national agenda, influencing reporting, public awareness and language itself.
A: These would be very good things to do, but you can't do this or anything else unless there is a large, active, popular base. If the Occupy movement was the leading force in the country, you could push many things forward. But remember, most people don't know that this is happening. Or they know it is happening, but don't know what it is. And among those who do know, polls show that there's a lot of support. That assigns a task. It's necessary to get out into the country and get people to understand what this is about, and what they can do about it, and what the consequences are of not doing anything about it.
At the same time, for the majority of the population, incomes have pretty much stagnated. Real wages have also stagnated, sometimes declined. People have been getting by in the US by much higher workloads. For African Americans almost all wealth has disappeared.
Concentration of wealth leads almost exclusively to concentration of political power, which in turn translates into legislation, naturally in the interests of those implementing it; and that accelerates what has been a vicious cycle.
Earlier this month, the Pew Foundation released one of its annual polls surveying what people think is the greatest source of tension and conflict in American life. For the first time ever, concern over income inequality was way at the top. It's not that the poll measured income inequality itself, but the degree to which public recognition, comprehension and understanding of the issue has gone up. That's a tribute to the Occupy movement which put this strikingly critical fact of modern life on the agenda.
In the 2010 Supreme Court 5-4 decision on Citizens United, Chief Justice Roberts selected a case that could easily have been settled on narrow grounds, and maneuvered the Court into using it for a far-reaching decision that, in effect, permits corporate managers to buy elections directly, instead of using more indirect means.
Corporate campaign contributions are a major factor in determining the outcome of elections, and the same is sure to be true of the virtually unlimited advertising for candidates now permitted by the Court. This alone is a significant factor in policy decisions, reinforced by the enormous power of corporate lobbies and other conditions imposed by the very small sector of the population that dominates the economy.
By 1792, Madison condemned what he called the "daring depravity" of the time. He was pre-capitalist. He thought that a class of enlightened aristocrats would develop, but it turned out to be a class of grasping businessmen, who, as he put it, were becoming "the tools and tyrants" of government. They were "overwhelming" the government with their power, and they were being "bribed" by it as well. Tools and tyrants. Madison didn't like that. And in fact, that is a pretty good picture of what is going on in Washington right now.
These wealthy sectors also want to move the power to make decisions into hands that are invisible and unaccountable to the public.
Inequality is getting pretty close to the level of the 1920s, right before the stock market crash. Democratic forms are functioning less and less well, and what's more, the population knows it. Over 80% of the population now says, in polls, that the government is run for the few and for the special interests, not for the people. That figure used to run a steady 50% for many years. It's just shot up to over 80%, revealing a tremendous alienation and cynicism.
A: I mean fascism pretty much in the traditional sense, [analogous to] a system in which the state integrates labor and capital under their control. The ideal is top-down control with the public essentially following orders.
Fascism is a term that doesnít strictly apply to corporations, but if you look at them, power goes strictly top-down. Ultimate power resides in the hands of investors, owners, banks, etc. People can disrupt, make suggestions, but the same is true of a slave society. People who arenít owners and investors have nothing much to say about it.
Thatís something of an exaggeration because corporations are subject to some legal requirements and there is some limited degree of public control. But corporations are more totalitarian than most institutions we call totalitarian in the political arena.
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