Saturday, July 22, 2006

"a business-driven engine of deceit"

While Chomsky gets the Brockes treatment in the liberal Guardian, the right-wing Telegraph carries a very decent summary and review of Failed States by the novelist James Flint:

[W]e take him seriously when he draws parallels between the behaviour of the current Bush administration and that of Hitler's in the 1930s. The core of the problem, as Chomsky defines it, has been the growing power of capital. The global financial liberalisation that has taken place since the collapse of the Bretton Woods currency-exchange agreement in 1971 has enabled the rise of an international power elite centred on America, "a 'virtual Senate' of investors and lenders who can exercise 'veto power' over government decisions by threat of capital flight, attacks on currency, and other means".

This new business class has no interest in the maintenance of traditional democratic structures - even Adam Smith, its leading guru, warned that it is in the interests of merchants and manufacturers "to deceive or even to oppress the public". And in America, the past few decades have seen a business-driven engine of deceit so completely take over the electoral machine that it is left to a TV series, the superlative West Wing, to educate the populace about what a healthy democracy might look like if it should ever again have a possibility of operating.

Today, the American electoral process is "run by the public relations industry", the primary task of which is "to delude the public by carefully constructed images that have only the vaguest resemblance to reality". The power of this network was demonstrated by its effective theft of the 2004 presidential election, at which point, says Chomsky, the new elite finally cemented its hold over Washington.

Perhaps the biggest single untruth peddled by this elite is that we're better off under its neo-liberal agenda. Since these policies took hold in America in the 1970s, "real wages for the majority have largely stagnated or declined" and have gone from the highest in the world to close to the lowest among industrial societies.

In the 1990s, living conditions stagnated for the middle classes. Between 1983 and 1998, the average wealth of the top one per cent rose 42 per cent, while the lowest 40 per cent lost fully three-quarters of their already modest worth. Not to mention the significantly slower rates of economic growth and a national debt fast approaching $9 trillion.

Chomsky argues that the situation is now so extreme that democracy is no longer functioning in America. What has taken its place is a corporate totalitarianism that routinely deploys Orwellian double-speak to clamp down on society and has all but isolated itself from its own population, which reputable polls reveal as holding an entirely different set of moral priorities from those claimed for it by the government: 33 per cent regarding the leading threat to the country not as terrorism but "greed and materialism"; 80 per cent judging that universal healthcare is more important than holding down taxes.

There is a plot against America, says Chomsky, and it is real. ...

- via This Space


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