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. Kevin Carson February 10, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    Done! I’ll be surprised if you get a coherent answer that doesn’t talk past your framing of the question, though. I posed a similar question to him, and he basically restated his position while refusing to acknowledge the apparent contradictions in it.

    • Josh February 11, 2010 at 2:21 am #

      I wrote him last year and recommended him your work!

  2. Brandon February 10, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    I don’t believe Chomsky would agree that the state is the source of business power. I think his view is that it’s the “unaccountability” that businesses have, the fact that no one but stockholders can vote on what a business’s policies are going to be, that is the problem.

    I read an interview recently with Michael Moore where he says the same thing. His Capitalism movie presents a few Worst Case Scenarios, offers no solutions, and when called on it, Moore cops out to “I’m not an economist”, before a vague suggestion that people should be able to use voting power somehow where corporations are concerned.

    • Roderick February 10, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

      I don’t believe Chomsky would agree that the state is the source of business power.

      Well, depends if it’s an even- or odd-numbered day of the month. One can certainly find Chomsky passages on both sides of that question.

      Moore cops out to “I’m not an economist”

      To which the appropriate response would be Rothbard’s:

      “It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

  3. King Mob February 10, 2010 at 9:28 pm #

    You should just ask him why he’s such a statist counter-revolutionary.

  4. P.M.Lawrence February 11, 2010 at 12:24 am #

    “…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… has been to show that the power of large corporations derives primarily from state privilege… why isn’t abolishing the state a better strategy for defeating business power than enhancing the state’s power would be?”

    There’s a transitional issue here. With regards to Chomsky himself, I think he can only maintain a consistent position by distinguishing the different time scales and acknowledging the need for a transition to bridge them, but it still wouldn’t be very constructive unless he offers something towards that.

    I’d suggest looking at it this way (on untangling line, from Geoffrey Budworth’s Knot Book):-

    ‘No matter how methodically you stow away line, when you go to use it again, it looks like a bird’s nest. To sort out such a muddle, there is an effective trick. First, keep the tangle as loose as possible. Do not pull experimentally or impatiently so that the whole thing jams up. Locate the point where the end enters the tangle. Enlarge the opening around it, so that the tangle resembles a doughnut [presumably a torus, not an honest British doughnut]. Rotate this “ring” outwards so that the lengthening end of the rope continues to emerge from the center [sic] of the mess.

    ‘This method of untangling knots often works and is always worth a try… If the rope is too snarled up to use this method, there is no alternative but to go through the laborious process of pulling the loose end through again and again.’

    In his section on untying knots, Geoffrey Budworth also writes “Occasionally it may be necessary to cut line. Never hesitate if it will prevent or reduce loss or harm to someone.”

    To my mind, a good transition could involve some or all of:-

    – A moratorium on new companies (corporations) being set up by using standard machinery, so any new ones would have to be justified individually on a case by case basis (the way things were in Britain for a long time).

    – Putting companies low on the list of priorities for winding back state burdens, as compared with individuals, partnerships, mutual societies, etc., so they would no longer outcompete; this is one of the reasons for a position I took that Stephan Kinsella once objected to as statist (read the whole post, and maybe the others it links to). However, there are separate reasons why it might be a good idea to commute corporation tax obligations for issues of shares to be held as part of a state pool of revenue yielding assets – to position for other winding back of the state and for free trade externality reasons.

    – Make it practical (though not mandatory) for company managements to buy out and reorganise their firms as partnerships, say paying for it with bonds issues and/or anonymous partnership titles (to be swapped for shares), delivering any necessary limited liability for anonymous partners by using unregistered bearer shares (this would not directly address any continuing effect of past inequities, but it would set things up so they could be wound back separately at an individual level in the future without disrupting current business operations); this would be taken up more and more as other forms of organisation stopped being hindered.

  5. Brad Spangler February 11, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    I have a theory about Chomsky. As many reading this will be aware, there was a time when Konkin was one of the few who would publish Chomsky’s stuff. Perhaps a few will also be mindful that in NLM he mentioned an initial “premature” NLA in the 70’s.

    That much we know.

    It doesn’t seem like a great deal of conjecture, after those two known data points, to suppose that:

    1) Chomsky may have been a deep-cover NLA agorist all along,

    2) that he’s been aware of the ways in which “anarcho-capitalism” and “libertarian socialism” are more or less reconciled,

    3) that he has been specifically working to obfuscate that and stoke rivalry/bad blood in order to keep the anti-statist left from being drawn into libertarian electoral political reformism and…

    4) that he has done so because he belongs to a hypothetical minority faction of that first generation of agorists who embraced the notion of encouraging the state to bankrupt itself as soon as possible.

    • Black Bloke February 11, 2010 at 10:23 am #

      Tune in for another edition of “Amazing Stories” folks :-p

      • Roderick February 11, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

        So if Brad’s right, Chomsky’s a closet agorist. And if MBH is right, Obama is just short of being a closet agorist. What if it turns out that everybody’s a closet agorist, and we’ve been delaying the revolution for nothing? (Reminds me of the news story from the 90s about some white separatist group that turned out to be mostly police spies who didn’t know about each other.)

        • MBH February 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

          Ha! I think you’re a closet short-run user of the state. 🙂

        • MBH February 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

          BTW, Universal Closet Agorism sounds like a kick-ass Twilight Zone episode.

  6. Bryan Caplan February 11, 2010 at 3:50 pm #

    I think this is a waste of time. Chomsky’s “anarchism” is thinly-veiled Leninism, as his Hanoi speech shows:

    • Roderick February 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

      Well, the speech certainly shows something; but I think it falls short of showing thinly-veiled Leninism, unless everyone who said similar things in the 60s and 70s (including Rothbard) was a thinly-veiled Leninist.

      In any case, the audience for my question is not just Chomsky but his fans on reddit.

    • Zanthorus February 12, 2010 at 10:34 am #

      Please can people not throw the word “Leninism” around as if it serves as blanket label for anyone who is even mildly sympathetic to state-socialism. If Chomsky is guilty of anything it’s being far too sympathetic to the Left-Communists and glorifying Luxemburg and Pannekoek et all whilst ignoring their less than praiseworthy elements (Like support for the vanguard party concept).

      Then again, maybe I shouldn’t expect the author of “anarcho-statists of spain” to appreciate the various factions within Marxism…

  7. freeman February 11, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    The wording of the question here doesn’t provide any avenue for considering contextual issues.

    I think that any attempt to converse with Chomsky without explicitly presenting some sort of dialectical libertarian vision will predictably result in the same types of dismissals Chomsky has relied on in the past. In other words, this question will likely result in Chomsky merely criticizing “magic button” approaches, atomistic approaches, and/or Ron Paul/LP approaches.

    • Roderick February 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

      True. But I was constrained by the need to ask a short question. I wish Chomsky would read a bunch of our stuff in detail and respond to it, but I don’t know how to get him to do that.

      • Josh February 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

        You should just write him! He answers (from what I know) just about all his email. And he’s very generous in engaging in debate.

  8. JDHURF February 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Noam Chomsky discussing this topic with David Barsamian:

    Chomsky: “I don’t know if you recall that in a previous interview with you I made some comment about how, in the current circumstances, devolution from the federal government to the state level is disastrous. The federal government has all sorts of rotten things about it and is fundamentally illegitimate, but weakening federal power and moving things to the state level is just a disaster. At the state level even middle-sized businesses can control what happens. At the federal level only the big guys can push it around. That means, that if you take, say, aid for hungry children, to the extent that it exists, if it’s distributed through the federal system, you can resist business pressure to some extent. It can actually get to poor children. If you move it to the state level in block grants, it will end up in the hands of Raytheon and Fidelity—exactly what’s happening here in Massachusetts. They have enough coercive power to force the fiscal structure of the state to accommodate to their needs, with things as simple as the threat of moving across the border. These are realities. But people here tend to be so doctrinaire. Obviously there are exceptions, but the tendencies here, both in elite circles and on the left, are such rigidity and doctrinaire inability to focus on complex issues that the left ends up removing itself from authentic social struggle and is caught up in its doctrinaire sectarianism. That’s very much less true there. I think that’s parallel to the fact that it’s less true among elite circles. So just as you can talk openly there about the fact that Brazil and Argentina don’t really have a debt, that it’s a social construct, not an economic fact—they may not agree, but at least they understand what you’re talking about—whereas here I think it would be extremely hard to get the point across. Again, I don’t want to overdraw the lines. There are plenty of exceptions. But the differences are noticeable, and I think the differences have to do with power. The more power and privilege you have, the less it’s necessary to think, because you can do what you want anyway. When power and privilege decline, willingness to think becomes part of survival.”

    Barsamian: “I know when excerpts from that interview we did were published in The Progressive, you got raked over the coals for this position.”

    Chomsky: “Exactly. When I talked to the anarchist group in Buenos Aires, we discussed this. Everybody basically had the same recognition. There’s an interesting slogan that’s used. We didn’t mention this, but quite apart from the Workers Party and the urban unions, there’s also a very lively rural workers organization. Millions of workers have become organized into rural unions which are very rarely discussed. One of the slogans that they use which is relevant here, is that we should “expand the floor of the cage.” We know we’re in a cage. We know we’re trapped. We’re going to expand the floor, meaning we will extend to the limits what the cage will allow. And we intend to destroy the cage. But not by attacking the cage when we’re vulnerable, so they’ll murder us. That’s completely correct. You have to protect the cage when it’s under attack from even worse predators from outside, like private power. And you have to expand the floor of the cage, recognizing that it’s a cage. These are all preliminaries to dismantling it. Unless people are willing to tolerate that level of complexity, they’re going to be of no use to people who are suffering and who need help, or, for that matter, to themselves.”

    Obviously Chomsky, like all anarchists, is opposed to state power, but as he illustrates devolution from the state immediately would leave corporate power free to really run amok and that would certainly be far more disastrous, as insightful anarchists acknowledge, such as those who formulated the concept of “expanding the floor of the cage.”

  9. JDHURF February 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm #

    Also, here’s the link to the dsicussion in full:–.htm

  10. JDHURF February 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    I’m sorry for posting three times in a row, but I just saw Bryan Caplan’s post and had to respond. Bryan, it is truly an absurdity to call Chomsky a Leninist. Everywhere Chomsky has ever discussed Leninism he is very opposed. Here are some obvious examples:

    You can also google the subjects and find a swath of Bolshevik apologists castigating Chomsky for his strong and principled opposition to Leninism.

  11. Raimundo February 12, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    Personally, I think the fundamental issue is Chomsky’s opposition to markets (which he, as well as many others, sometimes refers to as capitalism).

    It is true that he frequently expresses admiration for Adam Smith. Indeed, one of his most recurring arguments is that policies that are dubbed “free market” by its supporters and opponents are in reality violations of market principles, indicating an implicit sympathy at least to some degree for markets.

    As to his whether or not he thinks a freed market could work, it seems to me that the answer is at best a reluctant “maybe” (see this short clip: and at worst an emphatic “no” (see his amicable relationship with “market abolitionists” like Michael Albert and this panegyrical remark regarding Albert’s anti-market Parecon: “A great many activists and concerned people ask, quite rightly, what alternative form of social organization can be imagined that might overcome the grave flaws — often real crimes — of contemporary society in more far-reaching ways than short-term reform. Parecon is the most serious effort I know to provide a very detailed possible answer to some of these questions, crucial ones, based on serious thought and careful analysis.”) We might never get him to say it explicitly, but it seems dubious that Chomsky would approve of communities freely choosing market societies for themselves.

  12. Raimundo February 12, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    Sorry, the correct link to the clip is

  13. FSK February 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    The thing you have to understand about Chomsky is that he’s a State-employed anarchist.

    He works for a university, which receives most/all its funding from the State.

    Fake anarchists like Chomsky are promoted as a means of discrediting real anarchists. “Chomsky is stupid. Therefore, all anarchsits are stupid.” It’s like the Republicans and Sarah Palin hijacking the Tea Party movement, portraying it as a bunch of libertarians, minarchists, or racist white people.

    • Roderick February 13, 2010 at 12:28 am #

      The thing you have to understand about Chomsky is that he’s a State-employed anarchist.

      Just like me!

      • Aster February 13, 2010 at 4:07 am #

        FSK has a point. But the world is better for the existence of both Chomsky and Roderick, the distortions of any associations with power notwithstanding. Unhappy puritans who keep themselves pure for the cause achieve little, and misery distorts idealism at least as much as does corruption. The alternative to an imperfect Chomsky is a Chomsky too exhausted by direct exposure to injustice to speak. Everyone else should correct for the distortions of his position, read his indispensable and true critiques of the American Empire, and keep thinking.

      • Raimundo February 17, 2010 at 7:57 am #


        Have you ever written anything arguing the consistency between state employment and anarchism?

    • Raimundo February 13, 2010 at 6:26 am #

      I don’t think being employed by the state necessarily disqualifies one as being an anarchist. But even if it were true that state-employed anarchists are hypocritical, that would have no effect on the truth-value of their conclusions or the soundness of their arguments. 2 plus 2 will always equal 4 no matter who says it.

      • Scott Bieser February 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm #

        Perhaps, but regardless of whether your tax-sourced paycheck colors your arguments, it can’t help but color your credibility. People can say, “well, it’s easy for Dr. Long to spout off about the virtues of free markets while being so conveniently insulated from their challenges.” The biggest challenge of all being, finding a way to get people to voluntarily exchange their money for your product.

        2+2=4 is not an argument, it is a simple fact. Complex arguments will almost always be considered in light of who is making the argument.

        • Aster February 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

          All of this is true. But the rhetorical liabilities of connexions to power are not necessarily greater than the liabilities of powerlessness.

          Left-libertarianism is currently held back from its world-historical potential by two sets of issues. One of them involves philosophical and political essentials. The second is the vulgar material fact that too many left-libertarians are miserably trapped in backwater basements without the resources to engage in fulfilling lives, including political lives. Complex arguments will also nearly always be considered in the light of whether the person making the argument projects fulfilled self-confidence and can find a girlfriend.

          The #1 reason that contemporary social anarchism refuses to spread much beyond bohemian youth enclaves is that so many social anarchists live in undignified poverty or denied dependence. But social anarchists also make the best of their situation- they form alternative communities, create social resources, maintain an interesting subculture, engage in sustainable mutual aid, and fall in love with each other. They offer an alternative way of living which is far from perfect and yet fulfills human needs in ways which do not require the same kinds of spiritual submission extracted by the system.

          Human beings join and remain with political movements which create climates which fulfill real human spiritual and/or material needs. There’s some kind of hope and dignity in being a social anarchist. Social democrats, liberals, conservatives, fascists, and Objectivists all in different ways and with varying kinds of access and expectations also create internal social spaces and networks.

          Libertarianism hasn’t done this, likely due to its anticompassionate Randian roots and antisocial INTJ male geek constituency. And left-libertarianism has inherited these troubles with the additional practical loyalties caused by being anti-capitalist, not to mention being radical in an era in which the state occasionally tortures, imprisons, and ruins outspoken opponents.

          Left-libertarianism will never thrive so long as its principles offer neither passion nor prosperity to individuals and yet do seem to encourage painting oneself into a hopeless socioeconomic corner untainted by the touch of state or capital. Agorism offers an obvious way out for the creating of alternative economies and cultural formation, but the ground floor of left-libertarianism isn’t organising to take advantage of this possibility. And in reality a movement which keeps its hands clean of contact with the state and capitalism will find itself dependent on traditional and familial networks which will enact greater spiritual prices and continue to silence left-libertarianism’s cultural message.

          Scott is absolutely right to say that there is a rhetorical as well as spiritual price for association with the state or other forms of unjust and oppressive power. But it is impossible to maintain social networks without working with somebody, and the earlier libertarianisms refusal to taint itself with the state was a bellyflop into blind dependency on conservative socioeconomic networks (Steven Molyneux has alluded to this). It would be far more rational to obsess less about clean hands and instead weigh the real costs of possible alliances, including the nature and number of strings attached.

          The alternative is to remain virtuous by slashing one compromised tether after another until one starves in a dark corner. This approach offers one security from betrayal by allies. But the only allies who keep suicide pacts are martyrs and hopeless cases with nothing to lose. Libertarianism has long maintained a policy of symbolic and ritual purity against associations with the state to cover the hypocrisy of blatant and massive collaboration with corporate capitalism, patriarchy, and racism. Left-libertarianism sometimes tries to extend this logic in a principled matter to demand abstinence from association with anyone with any kind of power but the result is to ask the impossible.

          Please, get out of the basement and into the life of the city. My suggestion for those who nobly demand authenticity and independence above all else is to pool resources with fellow individualists and practice counter-economics in the most secure and businesslike matter possible. I noticed a long time ago that the left-libertarians who will stand and be counted of matters of principle are overwhelmingly those who have a real life in the world. Yes, it’s totally unfair, and having a life in the world is largely a matter or privilege, access, and opportunism. But basements breed only resignation and psychosis. Cut the successful among you some slack. You would be years behind where you are without Roderick’s writing and teaching, state employment notwithstanding.

    • Neil February 17, 2010 at 9:05 am #

      It seems to me that being employed by the state – under the right circumstances – is one of the most effective means of undermining it.

  14. Zanthorus February 14, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Aster: ”

    The #1 reason that contemporary social anarchism refuses to spread much beyond bohemian youth enclaves is that so many social anarchists live in undignified poverty or denied dependence.”

    Well I can’t really speak for american social anarchists but here in Britain that simply isn’t true. Here we have two moderately sizeable social anarchist organisations (AFed & SolFed) and many members are just regular working people fed up with the current system.

    I have heard that there’s a bit of a lifestylist infestation in the states though.

    • Aster February 14, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

      Having been both a ‘modal libertarian’ and ‘lifestyle anarchist’ I’m hardly likely to be sympathetic to narratives which oppose “lifestylist infestation[s]” and “regular working people”. I think liberal revolutions belong to everyone and must be truly extended to everyone, but I also think that a good society is one in which everyone has a chance to realise their talents and live with romance and idealism. Populists and Communists for whom leisure and laughter are the plague spots of privilege desire to universalise degradation and level the human spirit. Murray Bookchin and Murray Rothbard both became rotting puritans with age and came to hate anyone who lived for their own fun and freedom. These kinds of politics merely revenge exploitation by making everyone unhappy, and humanists should always unite against them. There’s no necessary dichotomy between bohemianism and paying one’s rent. I prefer the slogan ‘bread and roses’.

      Also, I live in New Zealand, not America, tho’ ultimately we’re all under the same Empire, mate.

  15. JDHURF February 14, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

    The claim that Chomsky isn’t actually an anarchist because he is a University Professor is among the most ridiculous: the implication being that to be truly an anarchist one has to go live in some cave or self-made hut, making one’s own cloths and tending to one’s own garden, that’s just an absurdity, and it clearly diminishes one’s capacity to dissent and be an activist. Chomsky, from his station, is able to educate and help organize globally on a level far beyond what anyone would be capable of if they simply resigned themselves to the wilderness or some squat.

    Interesting and too bad that no one has anything to say about Chomsky’s nuanced position regarding the anarchist concept of “expanding the floor of the cage.”

    • langa February 17, 2010 at 6:10 am #

      It seems to me to be less of a “nuanced position” and more of a flawed analogy, which rests on the false assumption that being in a cage somehow provides protection against predators that come from outside the cage. In fact, just the opposite is true. Being trapped in a cage leaves one even more vulnerable to outside attacks, since your attacker chooses their distance from the cage. Thus, they can choose to attack when you let your guard down, while at the same time, they are easily able to flee when you try to attack them. You, on the other hand, are unable to flee when they try to attack you. Hence, far from providing protection, the cage actually makes its inhabitants more vulnerable and helpless.

      In fact, this is exactly the function of the state. Corrupt private corporations treat the state as both an offensive and a defensive weapon, using it to attack their enemies (i.e. the citizens who are trapped inside the cage), while at the same time using it to insulate themselves from threats (e.g. competition, liability, etc.). Thus, the idea of strengthening and expanding the cage in order to help the people trapped inside it is totally absurd.

  16. Raimundo February 17, 2010 at 7:52 am #


    You ought to read more carefully. The claim was not “Chomsky is not an anarchist because he is a university professor”. That claim is so ridiculous that it’s suspect even as a straw man. The claim was “He works for a university, which receives most/all its funding from the State.” Chomsky could just as easily be a professor at a university not as directly tied to/implicated in state power. Whether or not he should is a legitimate question which is presumably why Aster wrote such a detailed response.

  17. FSK February 17, 2010 at 6:51 pm #

    I didn’t mean “Chomsky is a fool because he works for the State.” (Although I see my comment wasn’t detailed enough.) I meant “Chomsky is a fool because his ideas are stupid.” I’m much more interested in agorism or anarcho-capitalism than Chomsky’s version of anarchy.

    The “Property is theft! Free markets are evil!” version of anarchy is really stupid. That version of anarchy is promoted by State parasites, to create the illusion that all anarchists are fools. Agorism is the One True Version of anarchy.

    For example, “The Anarchist FAQ” gives a pretty lousy description of agorism. Someone reading it might come to the false conclusion that all anarchists are fools.

    Suppose you’re an economic professor, and you write “The USA has an unfair monetary system!” Essentially, you’re calling out all your colleagues as frauds. Via tenure and peer review, you probably won’t get a job.

    Similarly, suppose a political science professor or philosophy professor wrote “Taxation is theft! Government is one huge extortion racket!” Via tenure and peer review, it’d be very hard to get a job.

    Similarly, a psychiatry professor who wrote “The ‘chemical imbalance’ theory of mental illness is a huge mistake!” would have a hard time finding a job.

    State grant money severely distorts the academic process.

    The peer review process, combined with a State research funding monopoly, is an excellent system for preventing scientific progress.

    Most State-licensed scientists work on small incremental improvements of previous research. That guarantees a steady stream of publications, leading to tenure.

    I’ve read quotes from Chomsky but not any Roderick (besides this post). If I thought you were a fool, I wouldn’t bother commenting at all. I very rapidly concluded that Chomsky’s version of anarchy is pro-State trolling. Chomsky represents the “debate ceiling”. Ideas more radical than his are not discussed in the mainstream media. Chomsky is better than nothing, but his ideas come at the expense of better ones.

    The correct answer is “All taxation is theft! Government is one huge extortion racket! The USA has an unfair monetary system!” Agorism is the best strategy I’ve read about, both for resisting evil *AND* for maximizing your personal profit as a non-insider. It’s hard to bootstrap an agorist movement, given that there’s a huge terrorist organization out to kidnap/assault/kill freedom-seekers.

    I earn a decent salary from my wage slave job, and I’d make much less from agorism right now. That may not be true 5-10 years from now. I see progress.

    One advantage of the USA is that the slaves have an illusion of freedom, making criticisms like this permissible. If I lived in China, I’d probably be in prison.

    I’m just pointing out that it’s hard to be employed by the State and criticize the State. I blog under a fake name, because my wage slave employer might fire me for my radical free market beliefs. I work for a huge financial institution, which is a part of the State as much as a university. My blogging efforts and my wage slave job are separate. In some ways, I have more academic freedom than a researcher who’s directly dependent on the State for income.

  18. Joel March 12, 2010 at 11:48 pm #

    I think I’ll just mention that Chomsky only answered three questions, the last of which was this question.


    • MBH March 13, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

      Where do you see that?

      • Joel Schlosberg March 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

        Video (Chomsky’s response to the question starts 15:40 in) and transcript:

        • Joel Schlosberg March 14, 2010 at 3:27 pm #

          OK, I’ve put up a blog post about this:

        • MBH March 14, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

          Dude, I think you still miss Chomsky’s criticism. How exactly do you propose to end the state without taking into consideration peoples’ immediate concerns?

          You may propose agorism, but how the hell is that coherent to anyone who doesn’t study anarchism? You may propose teaching agorism, but how the hell does anyone struggling pay check to pay check have the interest to learn agorism?

          These are the people who will fight with you. But you have to speak their language first. That’s his point. First you have to attract enough people, but you can’t connect with them on your terms. You have to connect with them on their terms.

        • Klamityjane March 14, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

          Is not agorism its own reward if done well?

        • MBH March 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

          No doubt.

          But the question is whether or not a Dr. Strangelove-style bunker community is a sufficient representation of the Agora. Or is it something that ought to infiltrate everyday life — the workplace specifically.

  19. Michael Wiebe March 30, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Holy shit! Chomps actually responded to your question!

  20. Michael Wiebe March 30, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    Btw, the entire video is here.

  21. Scott Bieser April 3, 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    Chomsky’s response, in a nutshell, is that it’s irrelevant to speak of “getting rid of the state” without a offering coherent strategy for doing so; and also that without the development of alternative social institutions, if the state were suddenly got rid of we would have chaos.

    And, more or less, he’s correct in this.

    And, apparently, he hasn’t considered agorism, which both offers a rudimentary strategic theory of how to get rid of the state and how to construct those alternative social institutions.

    The problem at this point, of course, is that agorist theory is still very rudimentary. Chomsky offers a gradualist strategy of developing worker/community cooperatives to re-build failed industries — but he also envisions a degree of corporate/state involvement here which I think is only a little less utopian than getting rid of the state tomorrow. However, I think the gap between Chomskyite gradualism and agorism is not so wide as to be un-bridgeable.

  22. Doug Milam April 7, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    Chomsky has said, of course I can’t recall where exactly, that once he could only publish in right-libertarian journals, and gave credit for that, while then immediately noting that anarcho-capitalism is dangerously savage in its implications, or thereabouts.

    Tangentially, I find this criticism, though Beaumont’s tone annoys, very interesting since from the left:

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion and links!


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