Noam Chomsky on Ron Paul

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Chomsky at the World Social Forum (Porto Alegr...

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Posted by personman
Sun Dec 02, 2007 06:21:21

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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95 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky on Ron Paul

  1. Pingback: Noam Chomsky on Ron Paul’s 9/11 Theories: What He Said Is Completely Uncontroversial « Dandelion Salad

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  3. I had a different opinion in 2007 and 2008 because Kucinich was in the primaries, then Nader in the General election. Now, we don’t have anyone to vote for… except Ron Paul.

  4. Here’s the thing though.

    We know Ron Paul’s economic policies are stupid.

    He’s still the best candidate in the GOP field when it comes to anti-war, anti-spying, civil liberties, etc etc.

    Besides that, Noam Chomsky tells people not to vote. WHY?!?! So he has more to complain about later? So he can sell more books? I don’t trust that old fart any further than I can throw him.

    • “We know Ron Paul’s economic policies are stupid.”

      That’s an extremely uninformed comment. The truth is Ron Paul is the ONLY person in government talking ANY sense on economy and the monetary system WHATSOEVER.

      I have the utmost respect for Chomsky. However, the above is mostly a bunch of strawman arguments. It seems to me Chomsky doesn’t really know or understand Ron Paul’s positions on issues or his reasoning behind them.

  5. well, anyway, sorry for attacking kucinich. i only mean to point out his endorsement.


    “Lol, the paul-bots got quiet now.”

    what are you talking about? how do you figure?

    and i think you need to understand a little more about the vaious positions people hold. ron paul has been democratically elected, ten times is it?

    no dice jason.

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  7. Lol, the paul-bots got quiet now. Well there are a few basic forums were they SPAM it up but I have a fun time literary taking them out. Just prove that Paul is anti-democratic and that any civilized society will never allow him into power was my best bet. They tend to then admit they are anti-democracy, and at that point just make them realize that if they campaign on a ticket of “anti-democracy”, they will probably lose big time. At least Obama and McCain try to trick people into thinking they are “people of the people”.

    Not that Obama is better or that McCain would have been. Of course, in the end, they are all pieces of shit.

    Oh and does anyone notice that these pol-bots think they are the economic gods of the world, that there are laws in economics and that you can never betray them???? Hilarious. Makes me giggle.

  8. oh yeah, kucinich, too bad he sold out AGAIN to the democrat party. why is he endorsing Obama!!!!??

    stand up kucinich, join the 3rd party rally!

  9. Hi Natureboy, yeah, it gets bumped up on forums that have a link to this post every now and again so it gets new viewers all the time. Thanks for your comment.

    And thanks to everyone else for commenting.

  10. Fascinating.

    But are we still discussing this? Paul, Chomsky and Kucinich, despite their obvoius ideological differences, are fixated on one common topic, that being the illegal militaristic atrocities of the USA (which is why the US mainstream will never care one whit about any of them, it’s like saying NASCAR is boring…)

    With McBomb the likey next closer, we have a lot to worry about (as if we dind’t know already then, in 2007, when all this started, and of the three, it was Kucinich who was the wise choice, with Chomsky as cabinet advisor, the guy is great).

    Fast forward another stolen rovian split-vote, the amerigoons get the coboy they crave, and the war ramps up a few kilotons.

    Geoplitics and economics quickly back seats to finding a bunker fast.

    Davis Fleetwood has the right idea.

  11. Chomsky is right about Ron Paul, I think, though wrong about 911, etc.. I admire Paul’s courageous stance about the coming police state and the ongoing warmongering of our government, but small government is a bad idea. We don’t need small government. Government is the only major institution that is at least theoretically responsible to all the people.

    What we need is an active and engaged citizenry that never again takes its eyes off what its representatives are up to, that doesn’t allow the formation of a Beltway corporate/governmental nexus.

    • “small government is a bad idea. We don’t need small government. Government is the only major institution that is at least theoretically responsible to all the people.”

      I would like to know what evidence you know of for this hypothesis.

  12. “WOW, you right-wing libertarians are nuts”

    one man represents everyone else, really? u r famliar with the word collectivist, no?

    you should contact the oxford dictionary and explain the latest version of socialism unless this sounds familiar: socialism- political and economic theory of social organization advocating state ownership and control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

    and while you are at it, take a gander on
    its a pretty good read.
    “a refutation of the economics of socialism …. It is also a critique of the entire intellectual apparatus that accompanies the socialist idea”

    for the record, i am not attacking chomsky. i really like what he has to say and enjoy his work thoroughly. but there are some very fundamental ideas at the heart of these debates. it is worth discussing. there is a video of chomsky debating that imposter william f buckley. did he debate murray rothbard? no. he could still debate with ron paul, lew rockwell, or mayeb david gordon. heck, i like michael rozeff too. either way. i guess they are all battling the powers that be. hopefully they may find time to meet in the future.

  13. “Socialist power bloc”????

    WOW, you right-wing libertarians are nuts. How the hell are the people in power socialist??? You right-ring libertarians don’t know what socialism is.

    Chomsky speaks truth here. You Ron Paul bots have failed in trying to trick people with left feelings and leanings to go to your side.

  14. Chomsky is a tool of the elite Socialist power bloc. Those looking for truth and a way to make a difference should not waste time dissecting his verbose hypothetical viewpoints.

    Believe in the Declaration of Independance and support Ron Paul!

  15. you have to ask the question….who is the big business you speak of? and then, how did they become big business?
    you know, the largest corporation is probably the federal reserve. their assets must be over a trillion dollars by now, the last figure i saw was 650 trilion and that was in the mid nineties.
    so tell me then, if ron paul is so big business….then why does his financial support come from ordinary citizens. why does big business, like the military industrial complex, big pharma, unions, support the other candidates?
    it just doesn’t add up. you see, big business is dependent upon our government, reduce government and the money flowing thorough it and you get to the heart of the issue.

  16. “ok J_D, i need to ask…have you asked yourself why you think that? could you explain why? or point us in the right direction? cuz i totally disagree. but i am totally willing to learn if you can prove it”

    Well, like I said, I essentially agree with Chomsky’s analysis for what I feel are pretty compelling reasons. Ron Paul believes in dismantling big government and simultaneously believes in allowing big business to flourish. Note how Paul wants to dismantle big government but does not want to dismantle corporations or the corporate system. In fact, Paul has even revered Bill Gates for his wealth (a wealth, I might add, which would not have even happened without big government – something which Paul entirely fails to take into account). In this respect, Paul’s point of view is much the same as those who want to dismantle affirmative action – it does not take into account the imbalance within the system. So, Chomsky is right – if you dismantle big government and not the corporate structure, what you will get is a mass population with zero protection from the small ownership class (as Chomsky notes, the protection is not so great right now but at the very least it is something). Paul’s argument seems to come down to the fact that the free market should be left to its own devices and this will help correct social problems more so than a big government. Maybe this is true (it has never been tested – hence “wildly hypothetical”), but in order to know for sure, you would have to start from the beginning of the system being implemented, not after the business class has had a 250 year head start. These kinds of variables Paul doesn’t take into account – and, for good reason, in my opinion. The consequences of his plan gives even more authority to corporations and even less authority to the people. 250 years ago may have been another story.

    • What Ron Paul is in favor of is simply allowing the free-market to work without government intervention that only serves to reduce efficiency, waste resources, and lower the population’s standard of living.

  17. ok J_D,
    i need to ask…have you asked yourself why you think that? could you explain why? or point us in the right direction? cuz i totally disagree. but i am totally willing to learn if you can prove it.

    wildly hypothetical? lol. ok. i’m not sure you understand why i take the position in agreeing with ron paul’s position. otherwise you might chuckle a little too.

    here’s an audio of one of Ron Paul’s books.
    Mises and Austrian Economics: A Personal View

    it’s pretty good, y’all might b surprised.

  18. Chomsky is right – Ron Paul’s wildly hypothetical approach would, at best, serve to strengthen the ownership class and marginalize the working class even further.

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  21. natureboy,

    if we had been following our own “american” laws, not international, this war could have been avoided.

  22. I’m truly surprised at all this jaded complaining about Noam Chomsky. This man is immensely brainy intellectual, but has also devoted an enormous effort to highly detailed issues concerning war and illegal & immoral militaristic atrocity.

    I hope people will go, for example, to this site:

    And listen to particularly the lecture on US foreign policy and its sudden exclusion of itself, illegally and in contempt of, the UN charter and the precedents achieved via various war-crimes tribunals.

    Had the neocons obeyed the international laws to which our nation is irrevocably a signatory to, the Iraq war could never have been prosecuted. This all just happened in the late 90’s and was consummated with this invasion of Iraq.

    Rarely do I hear anyone on the anti-war left discussing the legal ramifications of UN charter and the laws to which we are bound. It is under this law that the world should be prosecuting the entire administration, and which we should be demanding be enforced.

    It is extremely important that people understand what he’s saying here. As he points out in this lecture, the public is not in agreement with the war policies of the neocons, and are probably unaware of the blatant illegality of US actions pursuant to the treaties to which it is bound.

    The laws also govern the behavior of individual troops, invasions, torture, murder of civilians, etc. which virtually all of the soldiers serving in Iraq are in default of. Had the individual soldiers obeyed their legal obligations and responsibilities, they would have been obligated to abandon the battlefield at once the moment it was shown that Iraq was no threat to the USA, and that the invasion had been prosecuted under false, illegal pretext.

    We the people, in supporting and allowing the current US government to prosecute illegal wars, have rendered ourselves in blatant violation of international law. By doing so, and allowing this precedent to stand unchallenged, we have basically undermined all the powers of the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles and the critical laws assembled and agreed after the horrific atrocities of WW2.

    Whether you can stand Noam’s scholarly texts (I find them dry, because I am no scholar), but I find what he’s saying, and the acumen and historical contexts which he says them, profoundly important for all of us who reside on the side of moral scruples.

    Leaving aside his one flaw regarding 911 (which your president Clinton which so may of you voted for so exuberantly just completely debunked in the most preposterous public manner possible), and also that Ron Paul is EXPRESSLY against any notion of conspiracy behind the collapse of WTC 7. The words and works and message of Noam Chomsky are ones we should be heeding gratefully, for nobody is so consistently dissecting the matters of wars, atrocity, and the violations of law which would render all actions of the US government abroad largely illegal.

    We should be using his studies as resources with which to challenge the actions of our government.
    We should be applauding and supporting our vital anti-war journalists, activists and scholars. What they do is a labor of morality, not some sort of irrelevant or arrogant selfish activity to resent.

  23. j-thap.

    i think that what you speak of in the above post is exactly one of the major points. rothbard has a great lecture he gives (i am searching for the link) talking about the built-in mechanisms of the market. one of the things about “we the people” is the very idea that “we the people” have the power, not the government. “we the people” is a market function. we can choose at any point no to participate and/or change the conditions under which we live. the state is a corporation. the state is an institution. a free market has no such barriers. a free market has no inherent bureaucracy beyond the barriers “we the people” tolerate or enact as law.

    this idea i have presented (roughly) here, i am sure has not necessarily escaped you, but, obviously you are assuming 2 things. 1) that the economic imbalances you speak of have been problems that have arose out of the free market. and in addition 2) the state can solve these imbalances.

    so the question would be….are these two postitions correct?

    i can’t find the link but i will. for now, here are two articles. there are obviously tons more. but it’s late so… to start……here you go!
    thanx for responding again!

    the latest on Mises by Jeffrey Tucker
    How Free Is the “Free Market”?

    also a classic rothbard article for an in-depth perspective and analysis on political elites and economic power in the 20th century
    Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy

  24. Thanks, Jesse, I will gladly read your brother’s essay in full.

    Obviously Ron Paul is concerned with economics. I was perhaps too vague when I said that.

    What I mean is, Ron Paul’s school of libertarianism seems to fear (1) the ability of state-backed coercion to violate people’s freedoms as opposed to fearing (2) the ability of economic imbalances arising from a free market to violate people’s freedoms.

    Irkone, you raise an interesting philosophical point about nature. Your point seems to be that we should be concerned with the environment and I agree. I would not characterize nature as an enemy, since obviously we do need nature to survive. But nature does impair our freedom by providing strict rules that we must follow. Most obviously, nature violates our right to life. Nature orders us to grow old and die. Like it or not, we all seek to fight against this rule. We fight this rule with drugs, with medical advances. We fight it because we want the freedom to live longer lives, to live healthier lives. This fundamental struggle underlies and easily supersedes are struggles against state coercion and the excesses of the free market.

  25. j-thap, it is late and i don’t have time to go into to. but your argument is deeply flawed on a few fundamental points.

    my brother has a quite in depth response to whole ron paul/chomsky debate over on media lens.

    he begins:

    On a forum hosted by MediaLens, which is an online UK-based media-watch project, renowned linguist, author and political activist, Noam Chomsky responded to a post, the subject being presidential candidate Ron Paul.

    Ron Paul is running for president with a platform that strictly adheres to the Constitution. The economic philosophy he advocates is known as the austrian school of economics. It is the purpose of this essay to defend the positions of the austrian school against objections raised by Noam Chomsky.

    In the original post written by a man named Luke, Paul’s position was summed up as stating, “He values property rights, and contracts between people (defended by law enforcement and courts),” to which Chomsky, responded,

    “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.”

    Chomsky’s assumption that “democratic politics” is, or was chiefly responsible for, or in any case would be of necessity to achieve the aforementioned “victories,” I believe is erroneous. The reasons why I believe this will be made quite clear though out the remainder this essay, but to draw this demarcation between Chomsky and myself at the outset is crucial, since we are categorically different in not only our historical analysis, but theoretical platform.

    Secondly, and as summation, at it’s theoretical core the “free market” is simply a market that is free from coercion. So consequently, it is characterized by cooperative association and contractual relationships. Therefore, the “free market” is nothing more than liberty in practice. Conceptually, of course, cooperation and coercion can only be understood in light of a theory of property. It’s not within the scope of this essay to attempt to justify and expound upon the idea of original approp-riation, the principles of lockean homesteading, or a personal favorite; the very forceful arguments of discourse, or argumentation ethics. But briefly, I believe there are only three choices as the the nature of a property arrangement. ”

    the reason i post this is because you said:
    “A Ron Paul libertarian is only preoccupied with (1) ”

    that alarmed me right off the bat.

    if you knew ron paul’s history you would know that one of the main reasons he cites becoming involved in politics was due to ‘economics’
    namely nixon severing the “gold standard” established under the bretton woods agreement and consequently establishing a full-blown fiat currency policy for not only the US but the world.

    also, ron paul is the only candidate onstage who is actually speaking and attempting to educate the public about ‘inflation’ and how it essentially robs people of their wealth.

    therefore, paul is very concerned about “(2) ECONOMICS”

    i’m tired. g’nite

  26. j-thap, i agree with most of your comments until your blunder about nature at the end.

    To consider nature our enemy is the nature of the beast. We are part of nature, have been for millions of years, and until people, including our leaders, understand our role in ecology, capitalism will continue to register into our minds pathological notions of separation and detachment responsible for ecological destruction. Capitalism requires growth – no matter how frail ecosystems may be rendered as a result – and to inhibit growth is to cease the function of capital; we are then no longer under a capitalist system. R. Paul, in the face of all the evidence, and the overwhelming number of scientists concluding climate change is happening as a result of human activity, believes the crisis is overblown.

    Although Paul’s proposals are still in support of capitalism, they are in a much more innovative sense which could be the push we need towards achieving an ecologically stable economy – if that is even possible at this point. The state, at the moment, is currently subsidizing and enforcing a very particular path of capitalist expansion – oil, military, nuclear ambitions – allowing for a select few to prosper at the expense of many (those being bombed, sanctioned, kicked off their land, working cheap labor in sweatshops) as nonrenewable resources are sought after and engineering firms seek contracts for rebuilding infrastructure.

    R. Paul, as I see it, is opposed to this arrangement – the tainting of market forces. He is endorsing TRUE free markets without the intervention of the state. The question is then: will that allow private entities to spill beyond the state’s capacity to regulate? Blackwater, for instance. Though R. Paul has publicly opposed private military contractor presence in Iraq, how does he plan to enforce such measures? Is it then up to a Third World nation to fight a war against a private army (for security reasons!) that never had to pass legislation through Congress? How many of these then pop up in response to government absence? And when he says it is the business’ decision whether or not to conduct trade with countries exhibiting human rights violations — countries who consent to cheap labor and allow miserable working conditions in order to receive a portion of the profits — how does he plan to oversee and prevent such abuses? Can he? Is that even where his interests lie? Isn’t that what part of this whole R. Paul revolution thing is about? Bringing an end to immorality and injustice? If he is an adamant supporter of capitalism and gives the O.K. to free trade in countries with horrendous records on human rights, insisting it be a judgement made solely by the company, he is merely suggesting that as long as other countries are willing to limit civil liberties, we can retain ours and our right to profit from that condition.

    That, I think, is why Chomsky goes ballistic. Throughout his career, Chomsky has been strongly opposed to private, corporate power and their control over everyday life, services, and the media. There are many concerns looming over this topic – from the corporate perspective as well as the humanitarian perspective. Many capitalists do well maximizing profit under current arrangements and will likely go quite far protecting profitable trends. Will humanitarians go just as far?

    I understand Chomsky’s concerns – I share them – but Hillary and the mainstream candidates are not the answer. If anything, they will continue the same patterns we have been noticing: the merge of state and corporate power, lies, pre-emptive war, torture, civil liberties restrictions etc. Chomsky seems to enjoy dreaming about utopia, but not committing to or participating in one that rests on the periphery. Change is what is needed, and if R. Paul turns out to be a disaster (the projectile of present policy) then it will act as a catalyst for real, fundamental change taken into the hands of the people in the interests of the people.

    [If interested in the argument in the first paragraph, check out Joel Kovel’s “Enemy of Nature; The End of Capitalism or the End of the World?”]

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