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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Radical guru Noam Chomsky is more of a dishonest asshole than most people realize

As the intellectual fairy godfather of dimwitted, radical western academic loons, Noam Chomsky has been an inspiration for polemical dunces such as Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, and many of the vacuous drones who traverse the Dantesque chambers of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.  Chomsky is certainly an articulate individual, making him all the more admirable in the eyes of his airhead acolytes.

Another aspect of Chomsky's appeal to his fanatical followers is his absolute detestation of the United States, shaping him a hero to both self-loathing American academics and foreigners who share that hatred. His open contempt for the country that gave him all his immense opportunities is such that aside from championing many of America's contemporary enemies, Chomsky has even acted as an apologist for Imperial Japan, its mortal enemy in World War 2 that was responsible for countless atrocities and war crimes.

Nonetheless, Chomsky has a large following among muddleheaded western radical leftists; the types of people who usually fall prey to the personality cults of commissars and gurus. One of the common features of such cultists is that like other religious fundamentalists, they take the word of their messiahs as absolute truth, no matter how transparently false it may be.

One such example is a recent speech Chomsky delivered a couple of months ago in which he claimed capitalism and democracy are incompatible. Leaving aside his inability to show any success that democracy has had under any other economic system, or the consistently repressive, anti-democratic nature of political systems Chomsky and his disciples find so appealing, the Ayatollah of anti-Americanism told some pretty blatant lies that day that his followers probably never picked up on.

When trying to discredit libertarianism and its use of the theories of Adam Smith, the 18th Century Scot who was one of the fathers of political economics, Chomsky made the ridiculous, and patently untrue assertion that Smith's famous "Invisible Hand" theory was an argument against what anti-capitalists call "neoliberal globalization."

Said Chomsky about Smith's Invisible Hand:
"Adam Smith actually did use the term, rarely, but take a look at how he used it. In Wealth of Nations, his major work, it's used once, and if you look at the context, it's an argument against what is now called neoliberal globalization, and what he argued is this, he was concerned with England, of course, he said suppose in England that the merchants and manufacturers invested abroad, and imported from abroad. He said, well, that would be profitable for them, but would be harmful to the people of England. However, they will have enough of a commitment to their own country, to England, what's called a home bias in the literature, they'll have enough of a home bias so that as if by an invisible hand, they'll keep to the less profitable actions and then England will be saved from what we call the ravages of what we call neoliberal globalization."
Chomsky basically goes on to claim that Adam Smith was essentially arguing for government intervention in economies and against the free market.

Which is a mammoth crock of shit that Chomsky's worshipers are too stupid and gullible to challenge when coming from their god.

In fact what Smith wrote in Wealth of Nations in reference to the Invisible Hand was that people, including manufacturers and importers, will unwittingly serve society through the natural course of acting in their own interest.  Chomsky has it ass-backwards when he says Smith was claiming the English would not buy from abroad because of a home bias. That case would only apply if domestic goods were being sold at a comparable price to foreign ones. Smith goes on to argue against high tariffs to maintain nationalistic monopolies for a domestic market, and theorizes that national commerce will adapt to create that which is most efficient and cost-effective.

But don't believe me. Here's what Smith wrote in Wealth of Nations regarding the Invisible Hand  (pay particular attention to the last two paragraphs of Smith's quoted below):
The produce of industry is what it adds to the subject or materials upon which it is employed. In proportion as the value of this produce is great or small, so will likewise be the profits of the employer. But it is only for the sake of profit that any man employs a capital in the support of industry; and he will always, therefore, endeavour to employ it in the support of that industry of which the produce is likely to be of the greatest value, or to exchange for the greatest quantity either of money or of other goods. 
But the annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry, or rather is precisely the same thing with that exchangeable value. As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value; every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.
What is the species of domestic industry which his capital can employ, and of which the produce is likely to be of the greatest value, every individual, it is evident, can, in his local situation, judge much better than any statesman or lawgiver can do for him. The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which could safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it. 
To give the monopoly of the home market to the produce of domestic industry, in any particular art or manufacture, is in some measure to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals, and must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. If the produce of domestic can be brought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful. It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. The tailor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them of the shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes, but employs a tailor. The farmer attempts to make neither the one nor the other, but employs those different artificers. All of them find it for their interest to employ their whole industry in a way in which they have some advantage over their neighbours, and to purchase with a part of its produce, or what is the same thing, with the price of a part of it, whatever else they have occasion for. 
What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry employed in a way in which we have some advantage. The general industry of the country, being always in proportion to the capital which employs it, will not thereby be diminished, no more than that of the above-mentioned artificers; but only left to find out the way in which it can be employed with the greatest advantage.
So in fact, despite what anyone stupid enough to take Noam Chomsky's word for something may believe, Smith was indeed arguing against government intervention and for what Chomsky calls "neoliberal globalization."

If there is a valuable lesson to be learned from this, it's that radicals and anti-capitalists are not only dishonest, but they rely on the fact that the people who admire them are too stupid to be able to verify what they hear from the Chomskys, Kleins, and Hedges of this world and correctly process information.

Unfortunately, in that final regard, Chomsky and his ilk may not be wrong.


N.B. If you listen to Chomsky's description later in the video of the use of "Invisible Hand" in Smith's earlier work, Moral Sentiments, and compare it to Smith's actual words, you'll observe that Chomsky's assertion about it is also a big, steaming pile of crap. Chomsky claimed that Smith proposed that a rich landlord would be motivated by sympathy to the poor to provide a socialist-like wealth redistribution. What Smith actually wrote suggests that greedy landlords are motivated by self-interest, innately knowing if they don't keep the poor fed, then there will be no poor to produce goods for the rich, and thus, without intending it as such, provide for the social good. But again, don't take my word for it. Read what Smith wrote in Moral Sentiments for yourself:
It is to no purpose, that the proud and unfeeling landlord views his extensive fields, and without a thought for the wants of his brethren, in imagination consumes himself the whole harvest that grows upon them. The homely and vulgar proverb, that the eye is larger than the belly, never was more fully verified than with regard to him. The capacity of his stomach bears no proportion to the immensity of his desires, and will receive no more than that of the meanest peasant. The rest he is obliged to distribute among those, who prepare, in the nicest manner, that little which he himself makes use of, among those who fit up the palace in which this little is to be consumed, among those who provide and keep in order all the different baubles and trinkets, which are employed in the oeconomy of greatness; all of whom thus derive from his luxury and caprice, that share of the necessaries of life, which they would in vain have expected from his humanity or his justice. The produce of the soil maintains at all times nearly that number of inhabitants which it is capable of maintaining. The rich only select from the heap what is most precious and agreeable. They consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end which they propose from the labours of all the thousands whom they employ, be the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species. When Providence divided the earth among a few lordly masters, it neither forgot nor abandoned those who seemed to have been left out in the partition. These last too enjoy their share of all that it produces. In what constitutes the real happiness of human life, they are in no respect inferior to those who would seem so much above them. In ease of body and peace of mind, all the different ranks of life are nearly upon a level, and the beggar, who suns himself by the side of the highway, possesses that security which kings are fighting for.


truepeers said...

Yes, Chomsky is a douche. However, it is reasonable to argue, as has the republican tradition in the US, that democracy and capitalism are, to some degree, incompatible. I mean just how long do you think the ponzi scheme, that is the welfare state, is going to last? Do you expect democracy to succeed in finding and happily assimilating ever more high value immigrants to pay the pensions and healthcare of our generation and generations to come? We are too busy trying, or not, to pay them to be able to keep Western demographics stable. How is democracy going to even out the resentments of the old and the newcomers?

Democracy has a great problem with innovators, entrepreneurs, because they inevitably disrupt democracy's attempts to make us all equal before the sacred centre of the state. That is why the people at OISE are likely among those who chortle on about the late stages of neo-liberalism. Indeed liberalism and democracy had a couple of centuries of an unsteady marriage but it seems to be coming to an end. In our democratic and victimocratic state how many are still classical liberals, e.g. disagreeing with you perhaps but defending to the death your right to say it?

But we need not get trapped in thinking that the alternative to democracy is tyranny. Rather, the argument here is that democracy may well trend to a kind of tyranny, especially for those democracy has a problem with (like Jews - who don't quite fit in like everyone else). No the alternative to democracy would be a kind of freedom in which private property and individual initiative is protected from big government's attempts to even everyone out. Democracy would be limited - and that is what Chomsky perhaps fears. These were the kinds of concerns Hannah Arendt tackled and she read Adam Smith, despite himself, as serving an incipient socialism, in the sense that she saw that his ideas about political economy could be co-opted by the likes of Marx because of Smith's assumptions about the totality of wealth being a product that could be calculated in term of its total labour input.

Robert What? said...

Is that fossil still alive?

Richard K said...

Yeah, the radical left is using every voodoo spell they have to keep Chomsky breathing. Because once he goes, their "intellectual giant" will be Judith Butler, and even they realize that when that moron becomes their standard-bearer, they're in deep trouble.