The Chomskian worldview,ANY fundamental validity?
Posted: 10 April 2005 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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There are some of you on this forum who have spent
  considerable time and energy refuting many of the
  claims of people like Chomsky,Ward Churchill,etc..
  Many of you have done your homework and I have
  little doubt many, if not most of your refutations
  are valid. I don't think many of the claims of the
  aforementioned,true or false have any particular
  relevance. The questions that should be pondered
  are more fundamental to my mind and they are
  as follows:

1. Has "America"(by america I mean a substantial proportion
  of individuals,organizations,corporations,foreign policy,etc..
  having their origins in America proper in particular and the
  modern western world in general) been directly/indirectly
  responsible for a very significant degree of human misery
  across the globe AND enviromental devastation?
2. If the answer is yes,can we somehow justify these
  negative manifestations as a truly "neccessary evil"?
3. Does the "america/western way" really have both
  sound rational and ethical justifications?
4. If the answer is no,what precisely are the superior
  alternatives to the socio-economic/political systems
  under which we live?

  I feel I cannot answer questions 1,2 or 4. I think I cannot
  rightfully answer these questions because my beliefs
  regarding these matters are not sufficiently strong
  enough for my standards. I do however, have strong
  enough beliefs(not 100% certitudes and I welcome
  anyone who wishes to challenge these beliefs) regarding
  question 3. I believe the "american/western way" cannot
  justify many prevailing beliefs using sound ethical principles.
  Many of them can be,fairly easily justified in rational grounds
  however.

  The late Anton Lavey, the founder of the infamous "Church
of Satan" and author of the "Satanic bible"was a man who
to say the least,I have scant respect for. Nonetheless,I have
read some of his writings and I merely applied the "cafeteria
method" to them (as I do with most things). In the case of
Lavey, I found few of his ideas appetizing,but some of them
are quite palatable. Among his more "tasty" ideas can be
found in his "Devil's Notebook". They are hardly original
ideas,but few ideas are. In particular,there is a chapter
in this book with rather humorous(IMO) title of;"duck-billed
platitudes". One of the platitudes Lavey lists with that venerable
monotreme mammal in mind is;"Hard work is the key to success."
Lavey then describes why he considers this platitude to have
it's origins in aquatic environments in Australia and Tasmania.
He claims what really matters in terms of "success", is giving the
people what they want. Beyond that, it matters little how hard
one works or not. It is hard to believe this is not obvious to
more westerners. It certainly was to me long before I read
Lavey's book. People like Bill O'Reily would apparently have
us believe in this "duck-billed platitude."I seriously doubt he
himself is naive enough to believe it,but he is sure hoping
his audience buys it. It does appear that many of them actually
do,atleast superficially.I think this is a very common,unconsciously
accepted, partially calvinist inspired myth.It most likely aids
many americans and others in their sense of entitlement.Many
of you secularists(and to be fair,some believers) would agree
that human charecteristics,whatever they are,come from nature/nurture.
"Hard work" can help to lead to "success" but certain involuntary elements
must first be in place.I really doubt a mentally retarded person employed
as a "bagger" at a major supermarket chain store is ever going to move
very far up the corporate ladder in spite of how hard they work.It would
seem to me this is a society that gives gifts for gifts.So long as one is willing to do whatever is neccesssary(this could imply hard work,but it often does not) to share their gifts.This sounds like a certain species of
social darwinism to me.Assuming this is the case,we can then justify it
as "human nature" and although perhaps unfortunate,neccessary and
even just. It seems to me mankind has few problems altering any kind
of "nature" including his own, whenever it suits it's needs or more accurately,desires, to do so.

  So really good fortune must be on your side before you can expect
  anything else,including quality medical care and legal representation
  in this society.So we have a society in which the paris does'nt- deserve -
  -capitals hiltons,Bill Gates and Oprah Winfreys have countless millions
  and billions at their disposal and billions who work harder than all three
  combined make relative chicken feed.It is easy to argue how such a society can be rational. I challenge someone to convince me how it is just.
This is only one tiny example of "western mythology" IMO.It is possible
  that many priveledged westerners can stop considering themselves
  so pure and innocent? Are we truly better than the slave-holders most
of us roundly and rightfully revile? My general thesis is that much of the
modern/post-modern occidentally-inspired theory and practice is, with
little doubts to my mind, to as much,if not far,far more human suffering
and enviromental devastation as any other theory and practice in history.
When keeping the Hegelian Dialectical method in mind,(and plain common sense)I would then ask if truly superior and workable alternatives exist. If not,then I am as convinced as I can be that
human civilization as we know it,if not our very survival and much
of the life on this earth,is getting very close to it's final doom.Perhaps
we should stop wasting time refuting the claims of people like Chomsky,
Churchill etc…. and ask ourselves if there is not some foundational basis
for many of their ideas in spite of true, or false manifestations.

  Landulf

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Posted: 10 April 2005 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Chomsky and Churchill’s ideas are as “western/occidental” as any they criticize. And no, they have no more basis in reality than the ideas of Jack Chick, Jerry Falwell or any other fundamentalist.

It isn’t a question of whether “America” is morally justifiable. It’s a matter of what objective evidence shows. And the evidence (which I, at least, have posted on several places on these boards) shows that America/Western civilization is no better or worse than any other. It is human, and its crimes are the crimes of all human socieities, without exception. The notion otherwise, to which much of the Chomskian worldview plays, that somehow other cultures were less brutal or oppressive or more harmonious and peaceful before “the West” came along, is itself a Western myth. The Chomskian worldview is willing to question everything about “the West” except for this one myth, and hence, it is not worth paying any attention to, IMO.

There is some objective evidence (which I posted, I think, on a thread about Iraq) that the globalization of liberal capitalism has actually materially improved the lives of Third World peoples, as well as increased their liberties.  That evidence came from the United Nations. David Brin has recently pointed out that the environmental impact of modern Western civilization is measureably less than that of “primitive” cultures, and it is merely the fact that there are so many humans that skews the evidence otherwise (I will look for a link to his writing on the subject). Evidence is the only basis on which skeptics can rationally judge these questions; ideologies of all kinds should be laid aside.

So, the short answer to your question: no, there is no fundamental validity to the Chomskian worldview. Only the arrogance of its fundamentalist believers (which is the arrogance of all fundamentalists) tells them otherwise.

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Posted: 10 April 2005 02:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I agree with you that chomskian ideas are no less western than any
others.I would not argue that our society is any more/less brutal and
repressive than any in history. I don’t think you would disagree in these
two regards. We now possess means to be far more destructive than
any previous society. Secondly,I don’t think you will deny how many
westerners and americans in particular, consider themselves/their society
morally superior to others.
 
  Although I can agree that the western world has improved the lives of
a significant many,you would do well to read John Perkins’ book (if you have not)“confessions of an economic hit man”. You can refute his claims
if you choose/ to do so.As a person who has travelled the world
fairly continously for 25 years,I can tell you first hand that the west
has also devasted countless lives within and without the third world.

  I have seen the unexploded US ordanance on the “Plannes de Jarres” in
Laos. It kills about 1 or 2 people per day. I have not seen the world’s richest nation doing anything substantial to clean it up. I have seen the
horrendous ecocide the US and the columbian government are inflicting
on that region’s extremely rich biodiversity. All in the name of fighting
a “war on drugs”. My uncle is a plant biologist and I have been to the
country with him on three occasions.This is just the very tip of the iceberg
of the human misery and ecological destruction I have witnessed first hand. I have seen the poor people of the Phillipines destroying their once
spectacular coral reefs just to survive by selling the coral,sponges and other marine life. Where do you think much of that winds up? In the shops of curio vendors in the Florida Keys and elsewhere, to be bought
by fat,hawaiian shirt-wearing,cigar sucking, baby boomer tourists. I understand over-population and population density has much to do with this. Who would have more control over these matters than the western world? Instead we get the pope bleating about the evils of birth control and abortion. No one ever SERIOUSLY talks about population control of any kind in the west,it’s just a topic that’s considered unfit for discussion.

  I don’t claim to have the answers,if I did I would’nt be spending any time on this forum or any other, I assure you. The overall worldview
in the west,despite alot rubbish to the contrary, appears to be one of
selfish,hedonistic nihilism. If this is human nature,fine. If we can’t or won’t
change it,that’s ok to. Speaking for myself, I guess the next 911 or worse could be chalked up to “human nature.” Anyone who wishes to tell me how “evil” the terrroists are after that, will get very limited sympathy from me. When someone’s kid dies of cancer because we found it ok to
devastate potential cures in rain forests,oceans,etc…then my level of
sympathy will be the same. So raise the flag,here’s to the american
way!!! Let’s just all continue to do nothing about it because we say we cannot or because we say it’s human nature or there’s no alternative.If
we would just admit how much it works for us and that we really could
give a rat’s a** about the third world,the children’s future or the rainforests because we’ll be dead and gone when it all finally goes down the toliet anyway,I would atleast find the honesty refreshing.

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Posted: 10 April 2005 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Do you really have complete confidence in the evidence that the UN puts
out? I doubt whether primative cultures possessed great capacity to effect
global warming,ozone depletion,etc…Also you should consider why many
corporations find it more profitable,thanks to NAFTA etc… to operate outside the US. The enviromental laws are far less strict in countries like
Peru than they are in the USA or other western nations. Sorry, first-hand observations and communication with the local populations who generally all say the same things across the globe,seem like fairly decent evidence to me. Again,I would never be foolish enough to say the nebulous “west"is the root of all evil by any means.The late Soviet Union,India,the PRC,North Korea,the arab nations and others all contribute
more than their fair share. Where did they get much of their models and even means from? You are right,times change people don’t. I think it is now become imperative for us mabye, for the first time in our history,seriously consider whether we can or are willing to change.
It may be that some very fundamental questions regarding the nature
of man etc.. have gone unattended. As an agnostic,I believe it’s possible
the answers could potentially lie in the material or"spiritual” (whatever that means,if anything) dimension or both. Until we break free of the sound and fury,glamour/glitter and the bells and whistles of this post-modern world,we cannot expect to answer the more foundational questions regarding the nature of man,reality and our place in the grand scheme of the universe. Unless we do,I have very little hope we can change dramatically enough to extricate ourselves from the hideous morass we find ourselves in.

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Posted: 11 April 2005 12:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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Here is the relevant portion of my previously-mentioned post about the effects of globalization, edited to remove superfluous comments.

The United Nations Human Development Report for 2001 noted the following facts, which coincide with the rise of “globalization” and the end of the Cold War.

After noting the urgent need to address issues of poverty, women’s emancipation, and so on, the report notes:

The magnitude of these challenges appears daunting. Yet too few people recognize that the impressive gains in the developing world in the past 30 years demonstrate the possibility of eradicating poverty. A child born today can expect to live eight years longer than one born 30 years ago. Many more people can read and write, with the adult literacy rate having increased from an estimated 47% in 1970 to 73% in 1999. The share of rural families with access to safe water has grown more than fivefold. Many more people can enjoy a decent standard of living, with average incomes in developing countries having almost doubled in real terms between 1975 and 1998, from $1,300 to $2,500 (1985 PPP US$).8

The basic conditions for achieving human freedoms were transformed in the past 10 years as more than 100 developing and transition countries ended military or one-party rule, opening up political choices. And formal commitment to international standards in human rights has spread dramatically since 1990. These are only some of the indicators of the impressive gains in many aspects of human development.

Achievements noted in the report:

Between 1990 and 1998 the proportion of people living on less than $1 (1993 PPP US$) a day in developing countries was reduced from 29% to 24%.

The number of undernourished people in the developing world fell by 40 million between 1990–92 and 1996–98.

Around 80% of people in the developing world now have access to improved water sources.

By 1997 the female enrolment ratio in developing countries had reached 89% of the male ratio at the primary level and 82% at the secondary level.

Only 32 countries have achieved a reported maternal mortality ratio of less than 20 per 100,000 live births.

In 1990–99 infant mortality was reduced by more than 10%, from 64 per 1,000 live births to 56. Under-five mortality was reduced from 93 per 1,000 live births to 80 in 1990–99.

Contraceptive prevalence has reached nearly 50% in developing countries.

The number of countries adopting sustainable development strategies rose from fewer than 25 in 1990 to more than 50 in 1997.

Now, again, all of this has coinicided with the rise of globalization, the end of the Cold War, and the spread of democratic capitalism worldwide. Those who argue against the trend have to demonstrate why an alternative system is better, and they have to do it with evidence.

This stuff does not come from RNC talking points, either. It is from the United Nations Human Development Programme.

The PPP mentioned in the report stands for “Personal Purchasing Power,” a truer standard of economic empowerment that mere percentages. Consider this example:

Suppose we compare the incomes of two people, one who makes $5,000 a year, and another who makes only $200.  The “rich” person in this example makes $4,800 a year more than the poor person. Five years later, we come back and compare again. This time, the “rich” person is making $7,500 a year, and the poor person is making $2,000. This time around, the “rich” person is making $5,500 a year more than the “poor” person. So, if we looked only at the pay differential, it would seem that the “rich” person did better at the expense of the “poor” person.

But look closely. The “poor” person’s actual income multiplied ten times in five years, while the “rich” person’s didn’t even multiply once. In real terms, the “poor” person has improved a lot more than the “rich” person.

The PPP is a measure of this. The above analogy is really what has been going on in the Third World over the last 30 years… coinciding with the rise of globalization. True, there is still a long way to go, and things aren’t as good as they could be… but then, when are they ever?

The point here is that the evidence indicates that “corporate” “control” of the global economy has been better for the world’s poorest people than has any previous system.

The only thing I’d add regards your comments about over-population. One of the other things noted in this report is the correlation between political liberty, economic empowerment, and lower birth rates. As more and more people feel more and more secure about their economic future, they tend to have fewer children, both because they don’t “need” extra kids to help with the family income, and also because they feel less pressure to pass on their genes. This, combined with improving women’s status in traditional societies and improving access to contraception, has already had positive influences on birth rates in the Third World. True, it is still a big problem, but the point is that trends are (or at least were, at the time of this report) moving in the right direction, as a direct consequence of the “western” economic policies you point to.

In short, I’m cautiously optimistic about the future of the human species, and I think we should look at evidence wherever and whenever it is available to determine which policies are best, leaving aside ALL ideological concerns and grandiose analyses like Chomsky’s, especially if they deny or directly contradict the evidence without compelling evidence of their own. Because so much of the Chomskian worldview IRT to this evidence depends on fabrication, misdirection and outright lying, I don’t think the worldview is worth a pile of dung.

This is not to say that globalization of liberal capitalism is an unmitigated good for all humans everywhere. I, for one, think we need to do better WRT environmental protection laws on a global scale, and on the normalization of labor protections. But even without those reforms, the best evidence available to us indicates that liberal capitalism and liberal political systems are less destructive than previous systems. Therefore, they should be supported, and only criticized as part of a “loyal opposition” attitude and not a revolutionary one.

I doubt whether primative cultures possessed great capacity to effect global warming,ozone depletion,etc..

“Primitive” cultures don’t manage their resources as effectively as “we” do today. Practically every human society has practiced over-farming, the displacement and hunting of local species to extinction, and expansionism into other ecospheres to make up for the loss they imposed on their own. It’s only been as the result of “western” environmentalism that such tendencies have begun to be mitigated. A big chunk of global warming is the result simply of having so many people in the world; the methane gas produced by six billion humans farting every day results in something like 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and when you figure in the methane produced by the farts of all the livestock reared to feed people, that accounts for another 15 percent. So, merely by reducing meat consumption and encouraging the aforementioned trends, we find ourselves addressing a seemingly insurmountable problem. Brin’s essay (which I’m still looking for) points out that the average human individual in a modern “western” society actually has less direct impact on the ecology than does a more “primitive” person using “traditional” techniques. If we encourage greater technological advancement in the Third Word (and do it smartly), we can therefore actually improve (or at least mitigate) our ecological problems by increasing “westernization” rather than curbing it.

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Posted: 11 April 2005 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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I like Chomsky.  I disagree with him all the time, but it does not stop me from enjoying the points that he makes.

Ultimately, I think that the worldview attributed to him is more of a creation of his followers than of himself.  Chomsky says, over and over again, that he has no desire to convince anyone of anything, but rather, wishes to help them convince themselves.

Chomsky’s advice to gather information from multiple sources, in an attempt to “triangulate” on the truth is extremely cogent.

As far as the specific “crimes” being attributed to America. . .  Well, that is a more difficult matter to judge.  For me, the question should not be about relative levels of crime at all.  There are really two questions: 1. Is what we are doing right or wrong?  2. Is what we are doing sustainable?

Of course, question 2 is a subset of question 1, but I single it out because it is more easily answerable than question 1, and of greater immediacy to mankind as a species.

All of the good things that have come about in the last 50 years will be not be remembered fondly if they come at the cost of many more years of suffering.  We must consider the impact of pollution, deforestation, extinction, and fossil fuel dependance.

To me, it seems to be quite clear that things cannot sustain as they are now.  Of course, things will not stay as they are now.  Perhaps there is still a technological breakthrough which will allow the current rate of development to continue, although I am doubtful.

So, I put this challenge out there to everyone who reads this:  Study the way that corporate structures currently earn their money.  Study the way that billions of people are currently getting their food needs met.  Study the state of oil reserves and how much of our current economy is bound to oil.  Study the state of viable oil alternatives.  After studying all of these things, ask yourself what kind of a world is waiting for our great great grandchildren, and ask yourself how they will judge the choices that we are making right now.

-Matt

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Posted: 11 April 2005 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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I really do not want to continue this thread much longer. Your evidence
is based on statistics. My evidence is based on first-hand observation,some statistics and what many others have wrote and said.
I am not going to say that your evidence is superior/inferior to mine.
What I will say is you have evidence you consider credible to justify
your beliefs. I have justified my beliefs the same way. I would guess
this may mean we are both partially right and partially wrong. I am
not 100% certain your UN statistics are correct,but i’m not 100% certain
of anything.

  That said,I have no major reason to doubt your statistics. As a matter
  of fact,I’ve heard them before and they have not significantly altered
my beliefs. Your general thesis appears to be that “global democratic
capitalism” is better than any previous system and any alternative will
be worse. Fundamentally speaking,I would agree with the first part.
I am not at all certain regarding the second part.In my mind,the two
“evils” we are dealing with in the modern world are over population/population density AND global democratic capitalism
of kind we happily practice. They feed off one another.For example,
I have been a certified scuba diver for around 20 years. I live in South Florida. I have been diving in the Fla keys for that long and snorkeling
there for over 25 years.

  I have witnessed first hand how both over-population/pop density AND
  the free market,commercialism,etc…have significantly damaged the reefs. Modern technology coupled with the commercialism has also helped.
  I really don’t think you need me to explain exactly how it has worked.I
  may also remind you that something like 45% of the world’s rain forests
  have been destroyed SINCE 1945. Also,35% of the world’s living coral reefs have disappeared. You can go ahead and blame that all on over-pop/den etc…in the developing world. Again, I would ask you even if that
is the case,who but the west would have any real control over these factors? Also I don’t dispute your UN statistics,the capitalists must throw
some crumbs to poor. It helps them to keep the people atleast grudingly
satisfied and not revolting, and provides cheap labor. So ok, mabye
much of the world is living relatively better,healthier and longer. My
question would be ofcourse,for what? So that they can be wage slaves
who will be lucky to enjoy an overall quality of life equivalent to america’s
“working poor”? Even if more and more escape into the wonderful world
of the middle and upper classes you still have more impoverished to
one degree or another, than ever before. This is because of failure to do
anything about population. You still ofcourse, have an enviromental crisis
as well.


  Which by the way,I see you ignored my first-hand observation- evidence
  in regards to the situation in Columbia. Will you blame this on population ,under-developement etc…? If you think Columbia is
the only country where US/western intervention is directly causing
“ecocide”,think again. How about the number of deaths,diseases,injuries
etc…that occur as a direct result of the capitalist machine in the US?
We have 40,000 automobile deaths alone which ofcourse, if we really
did something to significantly reduce these deaths would impact the
precious automobile,oil,insurance,etc…industries. Would’nt the
the money that is saved by absolutely forbidding chronically bad,drunk
and aggressive drivers from owning/operating motor vehicles make up
for some of the losses? I would guess that a substantial percentage of
auto deaths are caused by the aforementioned. It just so happens that
the auto,insurance,oil etc….are powerful enough to see to it that nothing
is done that may cut into their profits. Even if it would prove to save more money overall.

  The same thing goes on with guns,tobacco,alcohol,legal drugs,junk food
  toxic chemicals,etc… ad nauseum. Can you justify Mcdonald’s and all the
  other junk food peddlers who market their products to children? So what
if the parents fail to prevent their kids from eating the trash? Does this then mean the junk food capitalists now have the right to market their
poison to young children? Many children develope an obesity problem
at a very young age in the USA. We also have a nuclear power plant about 25 miles from where I live. This plant is located very close to the major agricultural region in South Florida. It provides much of the produce
we eat down here (as well as the country’s). Dentists have noticed a very high level of strontium 90 in the teeth of S.Florida’s children. There
is also an exceptionally high rate of childhood leukemias in this region.

  All I can say,with all due respect GVI,is you can keep on extolling the
  virtues of the almighty free market,modern technology,etc…I will be the
  first to admit it is not without many merits. After 33 years of living on this planet,observing life and enviroments all across the globe etc…my
beliefs about it are vastly different than your own. I seriously question
whether the benefits outweigh the costs. As for alternatives,I freely admit
i’m not smart enough to offer anything other than theories. I certainly
  don’t think the ones i’ve heard from anarchists,socialists and others
  sound particularily appealing,especially to westerners who are accustomed to modern medicine,travel and other fundamentally positive
  aspects of the modern world.

  So all the statistics you have provided and the research of Mr. Brin,a
  person i’ve never heard of,simply don’t cut it for me. Like I tried to
  say before,I think mankind has figured out how to fly before he/she could crawl.

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Posted: 11 April 2005 03:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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So, you can tell, just by looking, what all of the residual negative and positive effects of a centuries-old and globe-spanning economic system are? Just by looking? Statistics which don’t flatter your presumptions are therefore suspect?

A key principle of skepticism is, trust the evidence. If there is a contradiction between the evidence and your beliefs, then it is your beliefs, not the evidence, that is more likely to be wrong.

And if you’re unwilling to keep contributing to the thread, why did you start it?

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Posted: 11 April 2005 06:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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I told you I basically accept your stastics. I just have strong reason to
believe they hardly tell the whole story. When you say “flatter my presumptions” are you implying that I would get an ego kick if I was
proven right? Mabye Noam Chomsky fabricates alot of things for whatever
purpose,I do not. I have no problem really, continuing the thread but if
it merely must consist of tit for tat, “my proof is better than your proof”
I hardly see the point. I have given as much evidence as I care to,if you insist on more I feel I can provide it. I do not feel it will do much good. You will just dig up counter-evidence you claim is valid,and I will respond
in kind. I really get to the point where I get tired of providing evidence
when I know in advance it will be endlessy refuted You have obviously decided
upon a certain worldview. I will be and have been the first to admit,it is far from being entirely invalid. This is not a black and white situation from
my perspective anyway. I have already said that no superior system to
global capitalism has ever been tried. I am not at all sure no better system is possible. I just see global capitalism as a factor that does significantly contribute to many problems in the modern world,while alleviating others. This is far from a monolithic situation as a Noam Chomsky would have us believe while claiming at the same time
he does not consider the USA the root of all “evil”.The way I see it
is over pop/pop density+few limits on applications of certain technologies+global capitalism+a whole host of other socio-economic
and political factors,for ONE example, hyper-urbanization which is leading
to the spreaad of disease epidemics and possibly pandemics=one whale
of a global problem the likes of which we have never seen. In the face
of this dilemma,the average american seems content to drive an SUV
and be as much of a hedonistic,nihilistic,selfish pig as they possibly can get away with. Perhaps the rainforests in Columbia and elsewhere in South America would be in better shape if americans and other westerners
would quell their appetite for cocaine. So if your looking for me to point fingers at ONE arch-enemy like global capitalism,look elsewhither. The
problems are legion and they are human in origin. So since the people
of the developing world have relatively few controls over the tides of the
globe, I think I can safely lay most of the troubles at the doorsteps of
the west. Global capitalism is a dualistic “God”. Once this god’s equilibrium
is disturbed, that’s when the evils occur.

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Posted: 12 April 2005 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Let’s back up. I think we’re both making some unwarranted assumptions about each other.

I’m not an ideological capitalist. I think I basically agree with your assessment of capitalism’s impact on the Third World, though I might be more optimistic about it than you are. I think that combining a free market with stronger environmental and labor protections for Third World ecologies and people will do more good than curbing global capitalism will.

The best way to end exploitation of Third World workers is to raise their standard of living and make them as economically independent as those in the West. In other words, raise their economies to the same level as those of the West.

Along the way, all governments and economies need to start addressing population issues and environmental concerns, especially alternative energy options. Raising the standard of living through free market economies will itself help alleviate population problems.

In short, while I see some aspects of “global capitalism” as part of the problem, I would not agree that it is one of the root problems. There are, of course, different models of capitalism, and some will undoubtedly be worse than others. But the evidence from the UN indicates that we’re doing something right. We need to figure out what that is, and do more of the same.

I think it’s possible, in theory anyway, that mankind will one day invent an economic system that’s “better” than capitalism. If we do so in my lifetime, I hope I will be smart enough to recognize it, and not cling to the past. But for right now, the evidence convinces me that liberal capitalism is the best we’ve done so far.

For what it’s worth, it was the evidence that changed my mind. I haven’t arbitrarily “chosen” to back capitalism; I used to be a faithful Chomskian, an “anarchist,” and a socialist. Those were my articles of faith.

But above all those, I was a skeptic. Looking at the evidence convinced me I was wrong.

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Posted: 12 April 2005 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Just curious if either of you have read Gar Alperovitz’s new book:
“America Beyond Capitalism”, ISBN: 0-471-66730-7.

Wondering what others might have thought about it.

Ed.

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Posted: 12 April 2005 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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As for unwarranted assumptions,I think your correct. I do indeed apologize for my part. I also agree that raising the living standards
in the third world is a goal we should be aiming for.

I am very glad you mentioned that we must seek alternative energies
in order to do this without the obvious catastrophic consequences this would entail.

  I am not an ideological anti-capitalist either.I can tell you I must confess
that as little brief as I hold for George W. and others of his ilk,I do strongly believe spreading freedom and democracy across the globe
could seriously help to diminish many of the problems we face.

I am somewhat disappointed that many of our western allies in Europe and elsewhere,don’t seem to consider that as important as some of us here do. If we get rid of the kim ill sungs,Sadaams and others that is a step in the right direction. Ultimately,I would like it if the USA and other countries to a lesser extent, no longer felt the need to pour so much
funding into defense.

  Certainly with the right amount of global pressure or whatever it takes,the minor totalitarians like Korean Kim would be RELATIVELY
easy to deal with. The big problem is from my estimation,Korea’s
neighbor to the west.I would almost consider China these days to be more of a certain type of fascism,rather than a communist regime. History
would suggest that most,if not all such fledgling powers tend to be quite
expansionistic and aggresive, whether they be communist,fascist or anything else.

In short,I think China represents a big problem that does not seem to
be getting alot of attention. I am also very uncomfortable with the direction Russia seems to be taking under Mr. Putin. The issues in the
Muslim world are also tough nuts to crack,literally and figuratively speaking. I am not so sure a missle defense shield(if it ever becomes operational and effective) will solve these problems. Future technologies
may circumvent this,render it obsolete, or whatever. Also,what if China can successfully develope their own MDS system? Are we prepared to
nuke China to prevent them from doing so? This also does not solve the
problems of other WMD that need not come in the form of an ICBM to wreak terrible problems.


  Like I said before,the problems of the modern world are anything but
monolithic. I feel very strongly that global capitalism is currently aggravating the problems far more than is neccessary.I do not claim absolute 100% certainty regarding this.I have just seen alot of evidence that certainly suggests this and I am not yet at all satisfied by anything
that suggests otherwise. Irrespective of that, I must admit I am quite pessimistic in regards to China and many other factors. It seems to me that the world may,in the coming century be stuck between a rock and a
hard place when it comes to China. We can either play the Neville Chamberlain game until it blows or we can be more pro-active. Considering what modern warfare could entail,neither one sounds
particularily attractive. I hardly think conflict is inevitable,but if history
is any guide at all,there is grave reason for concern.

  The enviromental concerns and population issues are a whole other
ball of wax. I would say the average westerner who enjoys atleast
a middle-class standard of living has a better overall quality of life
than the royalty of the 15th century. I hate to bring the bible into this,but
I’ll give credit where credit is due. “To he who much is given,much is expected.” I hate to rain on anybody’s parade,but I feel many people
in the west really have their priorities twisted. I see an awful lot of fiddling
and I think we in the west need to sober up a bit. Too many young people and even not-so-young people I meet can’t find India on the map. The same people seem to have no problem describing in detail, the last penis
Paris Hilton has encountered. Until the masses are awakened from their
childish bliss,I really don’t see dramatic changes on the horizon. So how
exactly do we go about rousing them from the arms of a mundane Morpheus? Well my friend,your guess there is as good as mine.

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Posted: 12 April 2005 11:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Since you said you were once an Anarchist,socialist or whatever you choose to call it,I am seeking some insight from you. Call me stupid,
but everything I’ve ever read or heard from anarchists etc…regarding their alternative vision of society strikes me as extremely vague.
They seem wholly unable to define their terms in clear language and really explain in rational terms,exactly how they have looked at all angles
especially through the prism of the Hegelian dialectical method and come to the conculsion that their methods are workable. Everytime I encounter an anarchist or their literature,I really feel i’m: A. missing something or B. sane and by comparison,rational and these people, whatever their intellects/credentials truly don’t have clue as to what they are talking about.

  From everything i’ve read by Chomsky,he does not seem to offer much
in the way of alternative visions. Although he seemed to find the pre-caudillo Spanish collectives to his liking. I really would appreciate it if
you could tell me PRECISELY WHAT DO MOST ANARCHISTS HOPE TO ULTIMATELY ACHEIVE?  I know the term is highly subjective,but I think you know the essentials of what I mean by “anarchist”. Also, what are the
RATIONAL arguements (if any do indeed exist) they employ to make their
goals feasible,if only in their own minds. For example,is there anyplace
within the “Anarchist vision” for something say like,modern transportation
and travel as we know it? Considering all the goals,if I understand them correctly,it would seem exceptionally difficult for the aforementioned to
exist and be accessible to all who desire it within their framework.Like I said,call me stupid but I find the average “anarchist vision” to be relatively incomprehensible, not to mention utterly unrealistic.

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Posted: 12 April 2005 11:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Actually,I have never heard of the man. I will check it out when I have a
moment to dedicate. I appreciate the suggested reading and I would further appreciate a brief synopsis of the book if you can provide it.

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Posted: 13 April 2005 07:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Anonymous”]I told you I basically accept your stastics. I just have strong reason to
believe they hardly tell the whole story. When you say “flatter my presumptions” are you implying that I would get an ego kick if I was
proven right? Mabye Noam Chomsky fabricates alot of things for whatever
purpose,I do not. I have no problem really, continuing the thread but if
it merely must consist of tit for tat, “my proof is better than your proof”
I hardly see the point. I have given as much evidence as I care to,if you insist on more I feel I can provide it. I do not feel it will do much good. You will just dig up counter-evidence you claim is valid,and I will respond
in kind. I really get to the point where I get tired of providing evidence
when I know in advance it will be endlessy refuted You have obviously decided
upon a certain worldview. I will be and have been the first to admit,it is far from being entirely invalid. This is not a black and white situation from
my perspective anyway. I have already said that no superior system to
global capitalism has ever been tried. I am not at all sure no better system is possible. I just see global capitalism as a factor that does significantly contribute to many problems in the modern world,while alleviating others. This is far from a monolithic situation as a Noam Chomsky would have us believe while claiming at the same time
he does not consider the USA the root of all “evil”.The way I see it
is over pop/pop density+few limits on applications of certain technologies+global capitalism+a whole host of other socio-economic
and political factors,for ONE example, hyper-urbanization which is leading
to the spreaad of disease epidemics and possibly pandemics=one whale
of a global problem the likes of which we have never seen. In the face
of this dilemma,the average american seems content to drive an SUV
and be as much of a hedonistic,nihilistic,selfish pig as they possibly can get away with. Perhaps the rainforests in Columbia and elsewhere in South America would be in better shape if americans and other westerners
would quell their appetite for cocaine. So if your looking for me to point fingers at ONE arch-enemy like global capitalism,look elsewhither. The
problems are legion and they are human in origin. So since the people
of the developing world have relatively few controls over the tides of the
globe, I think I can safely lay most of the troubles at the doorsteps of
the west. Global capitalism is a dualistic “God”. Once this god’s equilibrium
is disturbed, that’s when the evils occur.

Well, Guest (whoever your are), you’ve pretty much nailed it. This was my problem with anarchism, too. For me, the lure of anarchism (and of Chomsky) wasn’t its rationality or its realism (since it pretty much possesses neither), but its fundamentally positive view of human nature and the sense of moral superiority it allowed me to bestow upon myself. In that way, it was very much like a religion.

I read all the required scriptures—not just Chomsky, but the founders, like Bakunin, Proudhon, Tolstoy, Berkman, Goldman, Kropotkin, etc. They all possessed an idealized vision of the future and an underlying belief in the goodness of human beings that’s kind of inspirational. What they envisioned was a society without governments, where everyone’s got everyone else’s back, where there’s no need for cops or armies or taxes or courts or…

Personally, I don’t think there are any rational arguments for anarchism, though I do think that something like an anarchist society is possible in the future; but it will be a result of evolution, not revolution. A pretty good and practical vision of an anarchist civilization can be found not in the screeds of political activists, but the pages of science fiction. Specifically, Iain M. Banks’ novels of the future show what such a society would look like, and how it would function on an interstellar scale. And frankly, I think if anything resembling an anarchist society is ever to exist, we’ll have to have gotten as technologically advanced as the folks in Banks’ novels.

For me, the breaking point was a realization that anarchists had no plan for the curtailing of negative social behaviors. That is, they did not want to impose consequences on bad people. I can’t say that’s how all anarchists feel, but among the ones I knew, that was the bottom line. My “eureka” moment came during a heated discussion about rape, and what, exactly, an anarchist society was supposed to do about it. Without courts or cops, how could the guilty be identified and curtailed? What would the standards of evidence be? What about the presumption of innocence or due process?

The most common answer I got was, “there would be no rape in a true anarchist society, so your question is moot.” The more honest answer I received was, “we’d take the victim’s word for it about who did it, and allow the victim to decide the punishment.”  Okay, I said, but what if the perp wore a mask? Who would collect DNA samples from the community’s men? Would the men have a choice whether to provide samples, and if so, would their refusal be considered a sign of guilt? And so on. By that point, no anarchists I knew had an answer, and they actually thought that admitting it was a tough question and leaving it at that was a sufficient answer.

I realized that even though I professed my “anarchism” proudly and had read many of the important texts, I still had no idea what anarchism really was, what it meant, what its program for change was. All they seemed interested in doing was propagandizing against The Man and offending the squares. Beyond blanketly condemning everything that the U.S. specifically and “the West” generally ever did for any reason, they had no politics to speak of.

But, that’s just my experience.

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