Help Noam Chomsky Find His Inner Anarchist

Noam Chomsky

A reader tipped me off that Noam Chomsky has agreed to answer the top-rated questions submitted via this reddit page; the reader suggested that I condense my “Chomsky’s Augustinian Anarchism” gripes into a question.

So I did. Here’s my question for Chomsky:

Although as an anarchist you favour a stateless society in the long run, you’ve argued that it would be a mistake to work for the elimination of the state in the short run, and that indeed we should be trying to strengthen the state right now, because it’s needed as a check on the power of large corporations.

Yet the tendency of a lot of anarchist research – your own research most definitely included, though I would also mention in particular Kevin Carson’s – has been to show that the power of large corporations derives primarily from state privilege (which, together with the fact that powerful governments tend to get captured by concentrated private interests at the expense of the dispersed public, would seem to imply that the most likely beneficiary of a more powerful state is going to be the same corporate elite we’re trying to oppose).

If business power both derives from the state and is so good at capturing the state, why isn’t abolishing the state a better strategy for defeating business power than enhancing the state’s power would be?

Users can vote comments upward or downward on the list; so if you’d like to see Chomsky answer the above question, go here and try to boost it up the list. (Or ask one of your own, of course!)

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54 Responses to Help Noam Chomsky Find His Inner Anarchist

  1. J.R. April 8, 2010 at 10:45 am #

    Hi Roderick,

    Have you penned any thoughts in response to Chomsky’s answer to your question?

    I’d love to read them if you have.

    Thanks so much for all your efforts, J.R.

  2. Nathan April 11, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    It’s odd to hear him talking about “private unregulated” heathcare. Why is it that people use a sort of relativism where “unregulated” means “a bit less regulated”? It’s similar to pointing to the “free market” when what is actually meant is “a bit more free in some respects”.

  3. Sag April 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm #


    If Chomsky thinks it impractical or meaningless to speak of “getting rid of the state” without offering a coherent strategy for doing so, it seems to me he’s a utilitarian anarchist (or anarchy sympathizer). He’s basically saying, of the variety of coercive or voluntary options out there, which one best protects workers’ rights, civil liberties etc.?

    He hasn’t in the least demonstrated that immediate liberty is unworkable. This is something he assumes. I’m glad Roderick asked the question and Chomsky answered because I now understand, I think, why Chomsky is so wrong about this.

    Bryan Caplan above is dead wrong. Chomsky is not a Leninist. Chomsky is an (anarcho) syndicalist. He thinks that worker controlled economic and political structures are the ideal. The path to this he thinks is through workers or the people taking over the most powerful institution, the state, and then presumably, decentralising power to cooperatives/ democratically controlled syndicates etc.

    The point is Chomsky doesn’t believe in liberty itself or market corrections. He thinks liberty has to be rationed out once the people have gained control, cooperatives first set up. I don’t think he’s grappled with the work of Mises (Socialism in particular).

    He’s familiar with Bakunin but I haven’t heard him deal with Bakunin’s criticism of Marx. That is, how can the workers or the people ever take over a fundamentally coercive, large and unwieldy institution such as the state? Inevitably, a vanguard or faction of some sort will have to take over leading to the usual shenangians. This should especially concern him given the thoroughly utilitarian nature of his support for liberty.

    Bascially, the problem with Chomsky’s philosophy is economics. I thought he hadn’t engaged much with the economics of a more optimal society but he has. The problem is he settled for the syndicalist model. He’s also a utilitarian and thus not radical enough. He needs to read Mises (but won’t).

  4. Sag April 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm #


    Chomsky seems to think that immediate liberty would somehow be worse than the current system of complete control by government and politically connected corporations. This is an interesting argument. It’s unproven.

    Chomsky notes that the government is controlled by corporate elites who use it to benefit themselves. If they have more to gain, why wouldn’t they be lobbying for the total abolition of all govermment? Etc.

    Chomsky is just dead wrong. Great on foreign policy, the media, the US power structure etc. But completely wrong on economics.

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