Update: I E-mailed Prof. Chomsky for confirmation. Z magazine is an official source, but some Ron Paul supporters are calling the forum comments a hoax or a fake. View Prof. Chomsky’s response here. (no longer available)
From the znet sustainers forum:
Questioner: Hello Mr. Chomsky. I’m assuming you know who Ron Paul is. And I’m also assuming you have a general idea about his positions. Here [is] my summary of Mr. Paul’s positions:
– He values property rights, and contracts between people (defended by law enforcement and courts).
Noam Chomsky: Under all circumstances? Suppose someone facing starvation accepts a contract with General Electric that requires him to work 12 hours a day locked into a factory with no health-safety regulations, no security, no benefits, etc. And the person accepts it because the alternative is that his children will starve. Fortunately, that form of savagery was overcome by democratic politics long ago. Should all of those victories for poor and working people be dismantled, as we enter into a period of private tyranny (with contracts defended by law enforcement)? Not my cup of tea.
- He wants to take away the unfair advantage corporations have (via the dismantling of big government)
Noam Chomsky: “Dismantling of big government” sounds like a nice phrase. What does it mean? Does it mean that corporations go out of existence, because there will no longer be any guarantee of limited liability? Does it mean that all health, safety, workers rights, etc., go out the window because they were instituted by public pressures implemented through government, the only component of the governing system that is at least to some extent accountable to the public (corporations are unaccountable, apart from generally weak regulatory apparatus)? Does it mean that the economy should collapse, because basic R&D is typically publicly funded — like what we’re now using, computers and the internet? Should we eliminate roads, schools, public transportation, environmental regulation,….? Does it mean that we should be ruled by private tyrannies with no accountability to the general public, while all democratic forms are tossed out the window? Quite a few questions arise.
- He defends workers right to organize (so long as owners have the right to argue against it).
Noam Chomsky: Rights that are enforced by state police power, as you’ve already mentioned.
There are huge differences between workers and owners. Owners can fire and intimidate workers, not conversely. Just for starters. Putting them on a par is effectively supporting the rule of owners over workers, with the support of state power — itself largely under owner control, given concentration of resources.
- He proposes staying out of the foreign affairs of other nations (unless his home is directly attacked, and must respond to defend it).
Noam Chomsky: He is proposing a form of ultra-nationalism, in which we are concerned solely with our preserving our own wealth and extraordinary advantages, getting out of the UN, rejecting any international prosecution of US criminals (for aggressive war, for example), etc. Apart from being next to meaningless, the idea is morally unacceptable, in my view.
I really can’t find differences between your positions and his.
Noam Chomsky: There’s a lot more. Take Social Security. If he means what he says literally, then widows, orphans, the disabled who didn’t themselves pay into Social Security should not benefit (or of course those awful illegal aliens). His claims about SS being “broken” are just false. He also wants to dismantle it, by undermining the social bonds on which it is based — the real meaning of offering younger workers other options, instead of having them pay for those who are retired, on the basis of a communal decision based on the principle that we should have concern for others in need. He wants people to be able to run around freely with assault rifles, on the basis of a distorted reading of the Second Amendment (and while we’re at it, why not abolish the whole raft of constitutional provisions and amendments, since they were all enacted in ways he opposes?).
So I have these questions:
1) Can you please tell me the differences between your schools of “Libertarianism”?
Noam Chomsky: There are a few similarities here and there, but his form of libertarianism would be a nightmare, in my opinion — on the dubious assumption that it could even survive for more than a brief period without imploding.
2) Can you please tell me what role “private property” and “ownership” have in your school of “Libertarianism”?
Noam Chomsky: That would have to be worked out by free communities, and of course it is impossible to respond to what I would prefer in abstraction from circumstances, which make a great deal of difference, obviously.
3) Would you support Ron Paul, if he was the Republican presidential candidate…and Hilary Clinton was his Democratic opponent?
Noam Chomsky: No.
Edit: It’s interesting to note that his position pretty much mirrors my own thoughts from my blog posting, “The Ron Paul-blem.” – personman
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