Noam Chomsky Says I Hate School Children and Retirees

I agree with Noam Chomsky on certain things, such as the lunacy of the Iraq War, but I think he's off his rocker when it comes to social programs. He indirectly accuses me of believing things that just aren't true.

We got a way cool gift subscription to NetFlix recently (which we'll probably extend when it expires), which allows us to watch certain movies instantly. I've already watched No End in Sight, a movie about the futility of the Iraq War (about which more in a later post.) Now I'm watching Noam Chomsky: Rebel Without a Pause. It's great stuff. I agree with half of it, but I disagree with the other half.

I think he's right on when it comes to the Iraq War. The Bush Administration has unduly scared the crap out of a lot of Americans and run us economically into the ground with it propagandizing for and prosecuting of the Iraq War.

What surprises me, though, is that Chomsky says that anyone who is against federal government funding of education does not care whether children are educated, and that those who are against Social Security don't care about the old lady down the street.


I support local government and private funding of education. I support privatization of retirement savings accounts (and government--read Federal Reserve--meddling in my 401k is pissing me off royally lately) and family and community support of our elderly.

Public education is very important. But public education in the early years of our Republic was not funded by the federal and state governments. It was funded privately. Literacy percentage then rates were in the high 90's. It was not until Horace Mann and his fellow gangsters came along and thought state and federal governments could do better than what was already occurring that the literacy rate declined.

I wonder whether Noam Chomsky is religious. He apparently has no faith in an sort of charity but the faux charity of government. America is the most charitable country in the world. America showed early on that it is perfectly capable of providing for the education of its young and the caring for its indigent. If we hadn't been "unlearned" of how to take care of ourselves by our own government, we'd still be taking care of ourselves, and we'd be much more kind and courteous to each other nowadays.

So while I respect Noam Chomsky for his mild-mannered defense of the issues that he holds dear, I disagree with at least half of them. Both public education and taking care of our retired and indigent would work much better if government had never gotten involved in the first place.


  1. Both sides inaccurately depict the other. for example, you and yours frequently accuse we liberals of being socialist, which is inaccurate.

    I would note that "public" education in the era to which you refer was typically highly restricted. You often had to be the "proper" religion to be allowed in schools. And heaven forbid you were of the wrong race! It wasn't as idyllic as you suggest.

    Likewise, you are neglecting some key information about the early welfare efforts of the U.S. Yes, religious groups (most notably the Methodists) were incredibly industrious in charity efforts. But the rapid social changes brought on by the ramping up of the Industrial Revolution after the Civil War absolutely swamped all private efforts, as shown by the miserable social conditions of the poor (particularly the urban poor) during the "Gilded Age." Private efforts did not rise to meet the need. Government proved necessary both to try to prevent those conditions (worker protection, consumer protection, environmental protection) and to help ameliorate the damage (a social safety net).

    A question about retirement privatization: How does this help the low-income worker who never makes enough money to save because "market rates" for his labor do not provide them a living wage?

    I agree that family and community should be the first resource for the elderly and otherwise needy. But that prescription neglects to consider the many who don't have families to turn to for help. They fall frequently fall through the cracks. How would a more locally-based support system help them, when local municipalities often try to push them out of their city so that they are someone else's problem?

  2. You are correct about the racial issue. I thought about discussing that nuance, but then decided to hope someone brought it up in the comments. There's no question that this is a negative part of our history. However, inclusion and education of blacks was not non-existent and continued to improve as America got past the issue of slavery.

    As to your statement that "private efforts did not rise to meet the need", this is largely (exclusively?) so because government developed incestuous relationships with certain moneyed interests (bankers) and other capitalists (war profiteers), thus drawing away economic means that should have been benefiting the entire country. The same problem is occurring to day.

    If government were to properly exercise is regulatory role, instead of making cozy with the elite few, we wouldn't be having these problems. Nor would there ever have been an excuse that a federal welfare system was needed. FDR and his cronies saw a definite problem. The solution they provided, however, made the problem systemic. It is now hard to recognize, yet nonetheless true, that Social Security, Medicare, NRA, CCC, and all of these other programs are much bigger problems than the one they intended to solve.

    This is precisely the reason that localities try to push out the indigent, because way too much of the tax revenue pie goes (1) to the federal government, and (2) down a rathole.

  3. I think the "charitable" take on public education is naive (though prevalent).

    There will be no perfect route to perfect education, but consider privatized industry to date, and then accept the fact that rather than pay higher taxes, you would rather subject your children to an education based on text books chosen by the district on the sole basis that the publisher of that text book was the highest bidder, rather than the district focusing on offering the best education.

    This is exactly what would happen in a privatized school system (and does, frequently, with private school systems already). The end result is an education system with no more merit than the advertising driven systems we see now in every private industry.

    Despite the obvious room for improvement in public education (which is, in their defense, consistently underfunded here in Utah), children are worth the taxes. It is selfish of us to act otherwise.

  4. Jason,

    Every problem needs to be explored from its beginning. At America's beginning, education was privatized and/or local. We didn't have, at the beginning, the problem you are describing. Welfare schemes inevitably create less charitable people and people who like to game the system. There's no way to know, but it stands to reason--mine, anyway ;-)--that if the federal government had kept its butt out of the welfare arena, we'd be much better off now than we are.

  5. Social Security pays out about $900 a month. That's not much of a safety net.

    To get that $900, the federal government took 6.2% from you, and another 6.2% from your employer.

    Now, add 12% to your paycheck over a lifetime, invested at an average return of 10%, and I bet you'd get more than $900 a month out of it.


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