Noam Chomsky on Corporations

Political Activist


"Occupy" is first public response in class war in 30 years

"Occupy," says Noam Chomsky, "is the first major public response to 30 years of class war," a people-powered movement that began in NYC on September 17, 2011, and rapidly spread to thousands of locations worldwide. Although police have raided and shut down most of the original sites, by early 2012 the movement had already transitioned from occupying tent camps to occupying the conscience of the nation.

In "Occupy," Chomsky points out that one of the movement's greatest successes has been to put the inequalities of everyday life on the national agenda, influencing reporting, public awareness and language itself.

Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 9 , May 1, 2012

Abolish corporate personhood via Constitutional Amendment

Q: What about enacting a Constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood or to get corporate money out of politics?

A: These would be very good things to do, but you can't do this or anything else unless there is a large, active, popular base. If the Occupy movement was the leading force in the country, you could push many things forward. But remember, most people don't know that this is happening. Or they know it is happening, but don't know what it is. And among those who do know, polls show that there's a lot of support. That assigns a task. It's necessary to get out into the country and get people to understand what this is about, and what they can do about it, and what the consequences are of not doing anything about it.

Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 39-40 , May 1, 2012

Wealth distribution is heavily weighted to top tenth of 1%

The population is angry, frustrated, bitter--and for good reasons. For the past generation, policies have been initiated that have led to an extremely sharp concentration of wealth in a tiny sector of the population. In fact, the wealth distribution is very heavily weighed by, literally, the top tenth of 1% of the population, a fraction so small that they're not even picked up on the census. This is mostly from the financial sector--hedge fund managers, CEOs of financial corporations and so on.

At the same time, for the majority of the population, incomes have pretty much stagnated. Real wages have also stagnated, sometimes declined. People have been getting by in the US by much higher workloads. For African Americans almost all wealth has disappeared.

Concentration of wealth leads almost exclusively to concentration of political power, which in turn translates into legislation, naturally in the interests of those implementing it; and that accelerates what has been a vicious cycle.

Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 54-5 , May 1, 2012

Occupy movement put "income inequality" on the agenda

One of the remarkable successes of the Occupy movement is that it has simply changed the entire framework of discussion--like the imagery of the 99% and 1%; and the dramatic facts of sharply rising inequality over the past roughly 30 years, with wealth being concentrated in actually a small fraction of 1% of the population.

Earlier this month, the Pew Foundation released one of its annual polls surveying what people think is the greatest source of tension and conflict in American life. For the first time ever, concern over income inequality was way at the top. It's not that the poll measured income inequality itself, but the degree to which public recognition, comprehension and understanding of the issue has gone up. That's a tribute to the Occupy movement which put this strikingly critical fact of modern life on the agenda.

Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 69-71 , May 1, 2012

Stakeholders should have as high priority as shareholders

If you could take a look at standard texts in business economics--you know, nothing radical--standard texts in business economics point out that there's no economic principle or any other principle that says that SHAREHOLDERS should have a higher priority than STAKEHOLDERS--workers and community. Shareholders are very narrowly concentrated, the top 1% of the population, and that means big banks, interlocking directorates, and so on. There's no economic principle that says they are the ones who should determine investment policy. There's no law of economics that says that has to happen. It could just as well be done by stakeholders, by the workforce and the community--perfectly consistent with anything that anyone claims about economic theory.
Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 95 , May 1, 2012

Hand over reconstructed auto industry to the auto workers

One of the things that Obama is praised for is for having essentially nationalized the auto industry and reconstructed it. That's pretty much what happened. Well, once the auto industry was nationalized, there were alternatives. And one alternative was to reconstruct it and hand it back to the original owners--not to the same names, but to the same class, the same banks, and so on. That's what was done. But another possibility would have been to hand the auto industry over to the workforce and the communities, the stakeholders, and redirect it towards things that the country really needs.
Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 96 , May 1, 2012

Sit-down strikes really frighten the business world

I'm just old enough to remember the Great Depression. There was militant labor union organizing going on. It was getting to the point of sit-down strikes, which are really very frightening to the business world--you could see it in the business press at the time--because a sit-down strike is just a step before taking over the factory and running it yourself. The idea of worker takeovers is something which is, incidentally, very much on the agenda today, and we should keep it in mind.
Source: Occupied Media, by Noam Chomsky, p. 25 , May 1, 2012

Corporations are legal persons with more rights than people

Over the years, the privileges granted to these state-created private tyrannies have been extended, primarily by courts. Corporations are legally persons under the law, with rights far beyond those of human beings.

In the 2010 Supreme Court 5-4 decision on Citizens United, Chief Justice Roberts selected a case that could easily have been settled on narrow grounds, and maneuvered the Court into using it for a far-reaching decision that, in effect, permits corporate managers to buy elections directly, instead of using more indirect means.

Corporate campaign contributions are a major factor in determining the outcome of elections, and the same is sure to be true of the virtually unlimited advertising for candidates now permitted by the Court. This alone is a significant factor in policy decisions, reinforced by the enormous power of corporate lobbies and other conditions imposed by the very small sector of the population that dominates the economy.

Source: Hopes and Prospects, by Noam Chomsky, p. 31-32 , Jun 1, 2010

Since 1700s, grasping businessmen overwhelmed US government

James Madison, one of the most influential framers at the Constitutional Convention, explained and stressed and urged that the primary responsibility of government was, in his words, to "protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." Therefore, democracy is a threat.

By 1792, Madison condemned what he called the "daring depravity" of the time. He was pre-capitalist. He thought that a class of enlightened aristocrats would develop, but it turned out to be a class of grasping businessmen, who, as he put it, were becoming "the tools and tyrants" of government. They were "overwhelming" the government with their power, and they were being "bribed" by it as well. Tools and tyrants. Madison didn't like that. And in fact, that is a pretty good picture of what is going on in Washington right now.

Source: Dialogues, by Gov. Jerry Brown, p.214-5 , Feb 12, 1996

Most believe government is run for the special interests

You can find analogs to the current period. The 1920s and the 1950s were partial analogs. The Gay Nineties, the last decade of the last century, were very similar. There were times, like now, where enormous power was shifting towards very narrow sectors of wealth and privilege whose goal was to undermine functioning democracy, to convert the society into roughly a 2-tiered society.

These wealthy sectors also want to move the power to make decisions into hands that are invisible and unaccountable to the public.

Inequality is getting pretty close to the level of the 1920s, right before the stock market crash. Democratic forms are functioning less and less well, and what's more, the population knows it. Over 80% of the population now says, in polls, that the government is run for the few and for the special interests, not for the people. That figure used to run a steady 50% for many years. It's just shot up to over 80%, revealing a tremendous alienation and cynicism.

Source: Dialogues, by Gov. Jerry Brown, p.218 , Feb 12, 1996

Corporations are fascist and incompatible with democracy

Q: You view corporations as being incompatible with democracy, and you say that is we apply the concepts that are used in political analysis, corporations are fascist. What do you mean?

A: I mean fascism pretty much in the traditional sense, [analogous to] a system in which the state integrates labor and capital under their control. The ideal is top-down control with the public essentially following orders.

Fascism is a term that doesnít strictly apply to corporations, but if you look at them, power goes strictly top-down. Ultimate power resides in the hands of investors, owners, banks, etc. People can disrupt, make suggestions, but the same is true of a slave society. People who arenít owners and investors have nothing much to say about it.

Thatís something of an exaggeration because corporations are subject to some legal requirements and there is some limited degree of public control. But corporations are more totalitarian than most institutions we call totalitarian in the political arena.

Source: Secrets, Lies, and Democracy, by Noam Chomsky, p. 9 , May 2, 1994

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