Hawking Up Hairballs

Monday, July 02, 2007


I love Noam Chomsky. He has a real ability to frame things clearly and succinctly. I'm posting a quotation from him here. It's from an interview he had on a site called Naked Punch. I don't vote and this is why, because the system is set up so that you can't really effect any changes by voting. At best, elections are the ways in which the ruling class gauges the public mood, and I think that people are best served by refusing to participate in them.

Now take a look at the richest country in the hemisphere. We had an election in November 2004. There was no genuine participation. There are no authentic popular political parties. The parties we have are candidate-producing organizations. The choice in the election was between two men, each born into wealth and privilege, who went to the same elite university, Yale, where they were trained to be members of the ruling class, and they were able to enter into the political race because they were supported by huge concentrations of wealth and power—the same controlling interests, basically, with only slight differences in distribution. They had similar programs. The real issues were kept out of the electoral arena. Most people had no idea where the candidates stood with respect to the important issues, the extent of which is dramatic. This is a very well-studied society so we know a lot about public opinion. Just to take one example, consider the Kyoto Protocol. The public is very strongly in favour of it. A majority of Bush voters thought he was in favour of it. Now that failure to be acquainted with the positions of the candidates and the parties is very widespread, and it’s not because people are stupid or uninterested. It’s because the elections are designed that way. The elections are run by the public-relations industry, and their task is to package the candidates and sell them very much the way they sell other commodities. So when you turn on the TV set and see an advertisement for a lifestyle drug or a car or something, you don’t expect to learn anything from it. Markets that are based on consumer choice, you know, based on rational consumers making informed and rational choices, those are inventions of the economics profession. Business would never tolerate anything like that. They try to establish markets in which uninformed consumers make irrational choices. Again, that’s a truism. That’s what advertisements are for. They’re meant to delude and deceive with imagery, not to present information, and the political campaigns work the same way."


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