The Leftist View Of The World

Readers of my blog, especially those who comment frequently, know my good friend Jon. He’s a recent convert to the left and believes in it passionately. A common theme of his world view, and those on the left in general, is the tug of war between the rich and the poor. The powerful and the non-powerful. The politically connected and the those with no political power. Basically the heart of leftist’s worldview revolves around this paradigm.

Every political fight, every economic decision and every current event is filtered through this prism.  Since I consider Jon a smart, honest and sincere person, I have been trying to understand how he could be so enthralled by such a political philosophy. I try to read, watch and listen to everything he asks me to. And a big part of that is Chomsky and his writings. So I go over to Chomsky’s site and this is the latest article of his, on the Winsconsin union political fight:

As working people won basic rights in the 1930s, business leaders warned of “the hazard facing industrialists in the rising political power of the masses,” and called for urgent measures to beat back the threat, according to scholar Alex Carey in “Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.” They understood as well as Mubarak did that unions are a leading force in advancing rights and democracy. In the U.S., unions are the primary counterforce to corporate tyranny.

By now, U.S. private-sector unions have been severely weakened. Public-sector unions have recently come under sharp attack from right-wing opponents who cynically exploit the economic crisis caused primarily by the finance industry and its associates in government.

Popular anger must be diverted from the agents of the financial crisis, who are profiting from it; for example, Goldman Sachs, “on track to pay out $17.5 billion in compensation for last year,” the business press reports, with CEO Lloyd Blankfein receiving a $12.6 million bonus while his base salary more than triples to $2 million.

Instead, propaganda must blame teachers and other public-sector workers with their fat salaries and exorbitant pensions — all a fabrication, on a model that is all too familiar. To Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, to other Republicans and many Democrats, the slogan is that austerity must be shared — with some notable exceptions.

The propaganda has been fairly effective. Walker can count on at least a large minority to support his brazen effort to destroy the unions. Invoking the deficit as an excuse is pure farce.

In different ways, the fate of democracy is at stake in Madison, Wis., no less than it is in Tahrir Square.

Lost on Chomsky, and which bears no mention in this article or other writings, is an investigation into whether or not the claims of opponents of teachers unions are actually true. This is typical Chomsky. He doesn’t care about declared motives. There has to be other reasons, and those reasons have to fit into a powerful vs nonpower paradigm. Anything else is not even worth investigating.

Ignored by Chomsky then is the long trail of writings and arguments that opponents of teachers unions have been making. Opponents of teachers unions make the claim (among others) that the teachers union stifles reform and entrenches a low quality public education system. One that ultimately harms the poor most, especially minorities.

The proof of this is so one sided that even traditional supporters of unions have a hard time making a compelling case in their defense and instead resort to distortions and misleading claims (see here for an example). But where is Chomsky on this issue? Nowhere. He is so blinded by his worldview, that anything contrary to union power is ipso facto a power grab against the ‘poor and powerless’ in favor of the ‘rich and powerful’.

I bet you can read all of Chomsky’s material, all of his writings, videos and historical accounts and you will not find anything on say, the unions role in entrenching racism (pdf), or vast corruption throughout history, or more currently, the teachers unions negative affect on public education – his is a simple storyline, unions and ‘workers’ are good, rich people are evil.

This is typical of Chomsky and leftist in general. Their simplistic paradigm is so ingrained in them that they often cannot see the forest for the trees, and miss the fact that it is the students and poor minorities in particular, who are the powerless in need of defending, and it is the teachers unions and their political allies that are the powerful.

6 Responses to “The Leftist View Of The World”


  • I think that you are wrong about two things here. First of all, ignoring declared motives and focusing on actions is usually associated with a positivist, Chicago school approach. I think that is a legitimate way to understand peoples actions, even if I think his models are ridiculous. I understand that what your claiming is that he hasn’t looked into the claims made that might present a different model, but he has a simplistic, retarded model that he follows, and he doesn’t feel the need to look elsewhere.

    And I haven’t read any of Chomsky’s writing where he discussed union racism, (or sexism, which was even more prevalent), but I recently finished Howard Zinn’s Peoples History of the United States, which I’m sure is a good proxy for Chomsky’s thinking (I think they worked together on the Pentagon Papers and other activism). Zinn routinely would mention union racism, even though his rhetoric would minimize it. For example, he would say something like “Samuel Gompers gave a speech where he proclaimed ‘All working people, black and white, are brothers’. However, there was still much racism in the Unions”. In other words, he abandons the positivist approach when it disagrees with his conclusions.

    I think the failure is failing to even consider other models for human actions. In particular, they don’t consider individual human actions, they consider only group actions.

  • From what I know Chomsky would agree that public education is seriously defective. So you might be surprised to find that you agree with him in many ways. Here he briefly describes his own experience with public education:

    http://www.chomsky.info/books/reader01.htm

    My position is that the problems with public compulsory education are institutional. I think Chomsky would agree but I’m not sure. Problems associated with unions in my view are not the root of the problem. Unions aren’t perfect. But there is a lot to criticize in the world and naturally people are forced to make choices about what they want to emphasize.

    Unions are democratizing institutions, unlike corporations. More privatization means less democracy. You might prefer that, but Chomsky tends to have a desire to strengthen democracy. So he’ll first criticize institutions that are undemocratic, like Wall St’s grip on Washington and subsequent destruction of the economy which leads politicians in the direction of punishing teachers monetarily. He’s said that if you did resolve these problems he wouldn’t at that point quit. He’d go on to find the next injustice. That could involve union abuses, assuming we’ve established democratic governance.

  • Jon you are wrong about privatization. “More privatization means less democracy.” Every time you spend a dollar with a company you vote for it. Companies fail when they do not meet the demands of its consumers, until Bush/Obama decided to practice bailouts. Also, most businesses were never meant to have strategic plans that were controlled by every employee. That is what unions attempt to do. You assume that a janitor, understands the vision of the company, and should determine its direction. That is wrong. The owners determine its direction, and like I said before if its interests are not in line with its consumers, it risks failure. Also thanks to unions teachers have tenure. Tenure is by far the stupidest thing I have ever heard of. A CEO of a company can be fired, but a teacher cannot. Thank you Unions.

  • One dollar one vote is more like plotocracy. One person one vote is democracy.

    Not that I think everything should be democratic, but saying that I vote by spending means if I can spend more I can vote more. It’s a vote, but it’s not democratic.

  • Your argument for a plutocracy assumes the buyout of government (which is morally wrong in my opinion). The government is a civil service, that should never have been bought out. I am talking about a real market, where once you buy a product you have one. Just because you have a million dollars doesn’t mean you have more voting power in a toaster company. You buy one toaster, just like a a person making 50,000 dollars.

  • Micro-farmers are poor, but they are not weak. They are ignorant, but they still use their influence to effect the global price of food. They consume and, yet, they donot produce. This is power. In the case of the Mexican “farmer,” their actions keep the “contolling” rich wealthy, becasue they consume food made available to them by the rich food producers.

    Many countries like Mexico in their socialist zeal, provides or GIVES scarce, valuable farm land (see wiki “ejido”) to ignorant peasant farmers. Walk through any ejido and you will see small tracts of land occupied by the “farmer” and his family. These micro-farms are graced with flowering gardens, horses and other pets. You won’t see any vegetable gardens, as they’re too lazy and/or ignorant to plant food. Yet these “farmers” will have more children than they can educate and provide for, because they plan to eventually send them north to work in order to be able to maintain the family “farm.” The cycle of poverty continues.

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