Requiem for the American Dream: A Critique of U.S. Domestic Policy
March 2, 2017
Noam Chomsky is one of the most influential intellectuals alive today despite the fact that he rarely appears on major media outlets. After revolutionizing the field of linguistics by the age of 30, Chomsky got heavily involved in the anti-war movement of the 1960's. He is Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he has worked for over 60 years. A constant activist, Chomsky has authored over 100 books on subjects such as politics, war, and mass media.
According to the film's website, "Requiem for the American Dream is the definitive discourse with Noam Chomsky... on the defining characteristic of our time – the deliberate concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few." Take a look at the trailer below.
In the film, Chomsky discusses what he calls the ten principles of concentration of wealth and power; strategies that he says have enabled the "highly class-conscious" elite sector of society to maintain their privileged status. The following is a cursory summary of each principle, and constitutes only a small fraction of the information in the video.
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The 10 Principles
1 - Reduce Democracy
The main framers of the Constitution (Madison, Hamilton, and others) felt strongly that the system should be set up to "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." Thus, only white, land-owning men were given the right to vote, and members of the Senate were selected by state legislatures.
2 - Shape Ideology
Both the Powell Memorandum and the Trilateral Commission's 'The Crisis of Democracy' give us an inside look into the "business offensive" that began in the 1970's in response to the democratizing wave of the 1960's.
3 - Redesign the Economy
Financialization of the economy has allowed hedge fund managers and other corporate executives to get wealthy merely by moving money around in complicated ways while doing little, if anything, for society. They employ fewer workers, pay them less, and eventually outsource their jobs to countries that lack basic labor laws.
4 - Shift the Burden
Alongside the redesign of the economy came enhanced lobbying efforts which led to deregulation and lower corporate taxes, both of which continue to this day. Regular people have been forced to shoulder more and more of the burden of sustaining the society despite decades of wage stagnation.
5 - Attack Solidarity
Cut-throat capitalism carries with it certain moral implications. The "all for myself and nothing for anybody else" mentality is an essential aspect of the attacks on social security, medicare, and public education.
6 - Run the Regulators
The regulations that are currently in place are largely unenforced due to a process called regulatory capture, whereby the industry being regulated unduly influences the regulatory agencies. Georgetown Law Professor, Scott Hempling explains how it happens:
"..legislators who under-fund the commission or restrict its authority, presidents and governors who appoint commissioners unprepared for the job, human resource officials who classify staff jobs and salaries based on decades-old criteria unrelated to current needs, intervenors who treat the agency like a supermarket where they shop for personal needs, and who treat regulatory proceedings like win-loss contests rather than building blocks in a policy edifice."
7 - Engineer Elections
"Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power, particularly so as the cost of elections skyrockets, which forces the political parties into the pockets of major corporations." Chomsky points out that although it was clearly intended to give legal rights to freed slaves, the 14th Amendment has mostly just been used to give rights to corporations. The Supreme Court ruled in Buckley v Valeo that money is speech, and in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that such speech can't be curtailed.
8 - Keep the Rabble in Line
Labor unions have become a highly partisan issue in the United States. The video provides the historical context necessary to see just how different today's workplace would be were it not for union efforts.
"A major reason for the concentrated, almost fanatic, attack on.. organized labor, is they are a democratizing force. They provide a barrier that defends worker's rights, but also popular rights, generally."
9 - Manufacture Consent
Markets are supposed to be based on rational consumers making rational decisions, but this isn't reflected in advertising. Advertisements are designed to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational decisions. Advertisers fabricate consumers by fabricating wants, and they use the same strategies when marketing candidates. Why don't they just provide us with unbiased information? This question brings us to the tenth principle.
10 - Marginalize the Population
"Because public opinion on policy is sharply disconnected from what the two-party leadership and their financial backers want. Policy, more and more, is focused on the private interests that fund the campaigns with the public being marginalized."
To learn more about this disconnect, take a look at a study conducted by the Princeton Political Scientist, Marten Gilens, titled “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens.”
The video is packed with information that I couldn't cover here. If this topic interests you, please watch it in its entirety. This is precisely the information that people need to have if we ever want to break away from this two-party disaster, and start electing honest, quality candidates.