Noam Chomsky is a rare bird indeed. On the one hand, he is an established intellectual, a member of the respected academic elite; on the other hand, he is a world-famous, radical leftist critic — especially of the U.S. On the one hand, he is a professed anarchist and socialist whose critical views lie far outside the mainstream, having nothing to do with the typically constructive proposals usually offered to business and the state. On the other hand, he insists that his anarchist and “libertarian socialist” views are anything but extreme, but rather merely express the natural desire of all mankind: the desire for freedom. Chomsky regards himself as part of an intellectual tradition that is as humanistic as Europe and as American as apple pie, a tradition that includes intellectual luminaries such as Humboldt, Schelling, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Jefferson, J.J. Rousseau or Michael Bakunin. For Chomsky, regardless of the theoretical and practical disputes between these thinkers, as ardent advocates of freedom they agree on the most important point of all: “‘Man is in his essence a free, searching, self-perfecting being…’ [whose] true end [consists in] the full harmonious development of human potential in its richest diversity.”
In Mesopotamia, irregular militias have managed to become a regional power factor and proclaimed an “Islamic state.” They wage their war in order to consolidate their existence and extend their reach. In the West, the new power, which rules over parts of Syria and Iraq, is perceived exclusively by the bloodthirsty ways they enforce their rule: mass executions of overpowered enemies, soldiers and civilians alike; brutal expulsion of ethnic groups with the wrong beliefs or wrong loyalty; but especially by the demonstrative beheading of people the jihadists consider to be representatives of the West. The Islamic state and its objectives are fully subsumed under these barbaric practices — and because they admit no justification, no good reason for it, politicians and public opinion in the West deny the unwelcome upstart absolutely any political motive and purpose. President Obama grants “neither religion nor state!” to the ravages of these warriors. They are the pure evil that wants nothing more than the destruction of the good: violence for the sake of violence, murder for the sake of murder. The Islamic state is declared to be an enemy of mankind that must be destroyed in order to save civilization. All violence against it is legitimate and the help of all countries is due.
In December 2015, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan took the birth of their child, this moment of private happiness, as an occasion to publicly anounce their intention to donate 99 percent of their Facebook assets — just a measly 45 billion — to charity. In a letter to their baby girl, they professed that the birth moved them to reflect on the world in which she will grow up. And of course, the inventor of the platform for self-promotion on the world wide web decided not to keep the letter under wraps until his daughter could read it, but posted it for the whole world to read on Facebook. The Zuckerbergs have big plans: “Like all parents” they want only the best for their child, but unlike the vast majority of parents, this does not mean making sacrifices and saving money so that their child can go to school and have a better life than her parents. Given the enormous private power embodied by their wealth, the Zuckerbergs are more demanding: they wish to lay a whole “better world” at their little daughter’s feet.
The modern world needs oil. The way it does business with it shows how progressively and rationally the world is set up.
When a word becomes a slogan, it starts getting treated as a concept. Yet, just because it gets used over and over again doesn’t guarantee that those who use the word, who consider it to be so meaningful, have actually conceived anything. In fact, people never start with an explanation of what exactly the discussion is about when they haul out their clever word. On the contrary, a proper slogan indicates someone in the know, spares the need for any further comment, and demands general agreement; this, no doubt, explains the popularity of slogans among those of our contemporaries intent on earning a bit of irrefutability for their otherwise quite personal opinions. On the other hand, slogans have earned a bad reputation among people mindful of the bad habit of using some shorthand to avoid reasons and explanations, and to kill off any attempts by others in this direction. To those who occasionally want to know something more precisely, fiddling about with slogans is a dishonest manner of discourse. It is a way of conjuring up necessities without any sensible basis and demanding general recognition for them — necessities that are in no way as necessary as the so eagerly bandied-about slogan would suggest. On the contrary, these necessities are intended to conceal interests and intentions that really deserve no recognition at all, but rather closer examination.
The United States, together with Great Britain, is at war with Iraq. Their declared goal is the removal of Iraq’s ruling regime. With that, they present the rest of the world with what are largely faits accomplis, demanding agreement by everyone and assistance from allies without allowing any other state any influence on their plans and proceedings, and thereby vexing these same allies quite a bit.
It is well known that in this world “competition prevails”; it is ubiquitous as the principle of the way people deal with each other and as an imperative, anonymous law shaping the behavior of modern individuals.
Politicians show their respect for this fact when providing their citizens with equal opportunities, whether in education or in the economic world, where an antitrust law and an antitrust office make sure that the power of money is competed for properly. But they also do so when they decree reforms to the nation they govern and justify them as a service to their business location, which is facing the challenge presented by other business locations. And they do so especially in all their decisions aimed at security — i.e., in the questions that states and their leadership are so intent on because they face a trial of strength that must be won with the will and ability to use force.
In the economy, which sees to the production and distribution of wealth — not only within nationally delimited societies but, in the age of globalization, all over the world — there is nothing at all that the people in charge do without regard for competition. Setting prices and wages, calculating costs and surpluses, creating and eliminating jobs, introducing new production methods — in short, all aspects of investing are both reactions to the course of competition and actions aimed at succeeding in the contest of businessmen and business spheres. Businessmen or managers are always concerned with their company’s competitiveness; the lack of it is what’s to blame for any failure, unless government obstacles or other adverse business conditions have made it utterly impossible to be competitive. A competitor’s success is of course often evidence that it has violated the principle of genuine, free competition. Putting the comparison of products and prices, productivity figures and returns into practice is the reason for and the purpose of the decisions that management makes in banks and companies large and small; and the current market-economy theorists also regard any real or supposed limitation of this business practice as a harmful restriction of freedom.
Nobody wants to say that prosperity and poverty — free access to the wealth of goods produced in the world and exclusion from them — necessarily belong to our unbeatable economic system; that would be something like critique of capitalism, god forbid. The idea is that there is some match between money earned and job. As if one and the same yardstick showing thousands per month were applied to the different jobs, and one job ended at the second thousand while the other was only just starting at the twentieth or two hundredth. Differences in income aren’t all right just like that, they are all right because they are fair. Just as the double meaning of ‘to earn’ says: receiving income and being entitled to it belong together. The relation being, by common consent, that income depends on what a person deserves, not the other way round.
At least in principle. In the real working world, everybody, when it comes down to it, knows plenty of cases in which the equation between just deserts and financial remuneration doesn’t quite work out.