Noam Chomsky Explains ...
Who Owns the World?
This 2013 excerpt is from TruthOut, Feb 6, which in turn is excerpted from "Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire." Interviews with David Barsamian by Noam Chomsky.
by Noam Chomsky and David BarsamianI think talk about American decline should be taken with a grain of salt. There's a lot of talk about a global shift of power: India and China are going to become the new great powers, the wealthiest powers. Again, one should be pretty reserved about that.
For example, many observers comment about U.S. debt and the fact that China holds so much of it. A few years ago, actually, Japan held most of the U.S. debt, now surpassed by China.
Furthermore, the whole framework for the discussion of U.S. decline is misleading. We're taught to talk about a world of states conceived as unified, coherent entities. One school says there is an anarchic world of states, and those states pursue their ''national interest.'' It's in large part mythology. There are a few common interests, like survival. But, for the most part, people within a nation have very different interests. The interests of the CEO of General Electric and the janitor who cleans his floor are not the same.interests.
Part of the doctrinal system in the United States is the pretense that we're all a happy family, there are no class divisions, and everybody is working together in harmony. But that's radically false.
In the 18th century, Adam Smith said that the people who own the society make policy: the "merchants and manufacturers." Today power is in the hands of financial institutions and multinationals.
Actually, China's economic growth is a bit of a myth. China is largely an assembly plant. China is a major exporter, but while the U.S. trade deficit with China has gone up, the trade deficit with Japan, Taiwan and Korea has gone down. The reason is that a regional production system is developing.
Once we break out of the framework of national states as unified entities with no internal divisions within them, we can see that there is a global shift of power, but it's from the global workforce to the owners of the world: transnational capital, global financial institutions.
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JJS: Itís great to see someone in the pulpit peal away some layers of misconception, but even he does not go nearly far enough. Why is it so impossibly difficult for modern Westerners to see land? Chomsky talks about financial, which means debt, but debt for what? Most debt to bankers is mortgages and most of mortgages is land. Chomsky talks about capitalists but most the power does resides with owners of natural resources, another form of land. Chomsky talks about the size of economies but the biggest stream within GDP is spending for sites and resources, and that spending is a torrent, dwarfing spending for labor and capital. Why canít Chomsky and the rest of the modern Western world see that?
An interesting book was The Persistence of the Old Regime which showed that most wealth was not held by capitalists but by the landed aristocracy. The researcher referred to the World War I era but now, a century later, itís still true, when you broaden land to include resources like oil and privileges like patent hoarding. Is the reason that the Chomskys of the world canít see land is that theyíre all landowners and hope some day to sell out for more than they paid in? Meaning theyíre all land speculators?
Itís not wrong of them to want to profit from land. Itís wrong to profit exclusively from oneís own land. Down that road one falls into speculation, hoarding, bubbles, and recession. Instead, each of us must garner a share of the value of all the land in oneís region. Because itís society in general that generates the value of the land in the region. And itís the only way to profit from land and not treat land as an object. And itíd break up the concentration of wealth and power that so bedevils the Chomskys of the world.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the ďLand RightsĒ course, click here .
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