Mr Chomsky that impotence of voters, that
angry impotence as you talk about, presumably you’d say that is what is responsible for
the rise of Donald Trump, is it? It’s pretty clear what is responsible for
the rise of the support for Trump and there’s general agreement about it. If you take a
simple look at economic statistics, the primary support for Trump is coming from mostly white
working class poor people who’ve been cast by the wayside during the neo-liberal period.
They’ve lived through a generation of stagnation or decline. Real male wages are about what
they were in the 1960s. There has also been a decline in functioning democracy, the overwhelming
evidence reveals that even their own elected representatives barely reflect their interest
and concerns. A contempt for institutions, especially congress has just increased, skyrocketed
it’s down single digits often. These are people who, meanwhile there has of course
been wealth created, it’s gone into very few hands, mostly into a fraction of the top
1%. So there’s enormous opulence. Yes indeed and how dangerous do you think
this all is in terms of Donald Trump for example. I mean he has been toning down some of his
most extreme pronouncements recently. He may, if he ever got anywhere near power, he could
be held in check by congressman. How dangerous do you think he is to America?
Well the greatest danger that he and indeed every republican candidate poses is barely
mentioned. It’s kind of reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes’ dog that did not bark. The greatest
danger is – there are two huge dangers that the human species faces. We’re now in a
situation where we have to decide whether the species survives in any decent form. One
is the rising danger of nuclear war, which is quite serious. The other is environmental
catastrophe. Now on these issues Donald Trump and the other republican candidates are basically
uniform. On the threat of nuclear war. And do you believe that Hilary Clinton, the
democratic frontrunner, would champion those issues in a way that would satisfy you?
Not in any way that would satisfy me, but at least she recognises that climate change
is going on and that we have to do something about. Every single republican candidate denies
that it’s happening, with the soul exception of Kasich who says sure it’s happening but
we shouldn’t do anything about it and that’s having an impact. The Paris negotiations last
December were aiming at a treaty, they couldn’t reach it for a simple reason; the republican
congress would not accept it. So it’s a voluntary agreement which means even the weak
standards that we’re proposed will be barely, maybe it undermines the likelihood that even
they will be met. Every Republican candidate, including Trump wants to eliminate the environmental
protection agency, Richard Nixon’s legacy, to cut back regulation to restart the press
of business quickly as possible. On militarism, every one of them wants to raise the huge
military budget, already over half of discretionary spending leading right now. It’s one factor
leading to confrontations which could be extremely hazardous and this again is not being discussed.
And briefly, I’d suggest one thing that you might agree with Donald Trump on would
be about the EU. He talks about the UK may leave the EU, you’ve railed against European
Union bureaucracy. Could you agree with him on that?
No I don’t. In fact I actually have no real strong opinion on Brexit but my concern about
it would be that it would weaken the European Union but it would also probably leave Britain
even more, don’t want to use too strong a word, subordinate to US power than it is
today. Which I don’t think would be a good thing for the world or Britain.
What in a nutshell is the answer to “Who rules the world now?”
As I try to discuss in the book, there is no simple answer. We usually think of states
when that question is raised and with regard to states there’s no doubt that the United
States, despite its decline for many many years, is still overwhelmingly more powerful
than any state or group of states. But that’s only one factor. States have internal structures.
An internal distribution of power. In the United States power is overwhelmingly and
increasingly, in recent years, in the hands of a very narrow sector of corporate wealth,
private wealth and power. And they have counterparts elsewhere who agree with them, who interact
with them largely and that’s another dimension in who rules the world. And there’s also
the public. The public can have, sometimes does have, enormous power. We can go back
to David Hume, first major modern work on political philosophy. Foundations on the theory
of government pointed out that force is on the side of the governed, those who are governed
have the force if they are willing to and eager to and recognise the possibility to
exercise it. Sometimes they do. That’s a major force in who rules the world.
But when it comes to state power, you don’t buy the idea of China as the next superpower,
the imminent superpower? China? I mean China plays a very important
role in the world undoubtedly. If you take a look at say per capita income, it’s far
behind the United States and other developed states. It has enormous internal problems,
demographic, ecological, resources and so on. It’s undoubtedly going to play an important,
in military terms it’s not even a fraction of the United States and Western powers. So
yes, economically it’s significant but bear in mind that a good deal of Chinese production
is actually far unknown. Apple, world’s major corporation happens to produce in China,
largely, but that’s US production which happens to use Chinese facilities, labour
and other facilities. So China is a growing, developing power, in some domains in fact
it’s gone quite far even in the high technology industry. So for example in production of
solar panels, China’s in the lead, not just in mass production but also in innovation
and high tech development. All of this is significant but it is by no means of power
on the scale of the United States. In fact take a look at the confrontations between
China and the United States now. There are serious confrontations. Are they in the Caribbean?
Are they off the coast if California? No, they’re in waters around China where China
and others have territorial claims. That’s symbolic reflection of the nature of state
power. Well you describe, scathing about the United
States, no one will be surprised to hear that. You described it as a leading terrorist state.
I’m just interested how you’d describe Russia.
How I describe Russia? Authoritarian, brutal, harsh. Carrying out ugly actions in its own
region. The United States on the other hand carries out such actions all over the world.
In fact again, look at the – there are serious confrontations between Russia and the United
States and once again are they on the Mexican border? The Canadian border? No, they’re
on the Russian border. In fact right at the point of the traditional invasion route through
which Russia has been virtually destroyed several times in the past century, also earlier
history. Again, that’s no apologetics for what Putin may be doing but it should lead
us to understand, have a rational perspective on the relationship between these forces in
the world. As for the U.S. being the leading terrorist state I should say that’s hardly
just my opinion. So for example I noted when I was introduced, the person who introduced
me said that I regard the United States as the gravest threat to world peace. That’s
not exactly, it a little misrepresents the situation. There are international polls run
by the leading U.S. polling agency, Gallop, its international affiliates Gallop/WIN and
one of the questions they ask is “which country is the greatest threat to world peace?”
and the United States is first by a huge margin. Far behind in second place is Pakistan, that’s
undoubtedly inflated by the Indian vote and others have slight mention, so that’s global
opinion. And I should mention that this was not even reported in the United States, happen
to be reported by the BBC but wasn’t reported in the United States. As for being a terrorist
state, President Obama’s global assassination campaign, draw an assassination campaign,
is extreme terrorist war. I mean if Iran, let’s say was carrying out a campaign to
assassinate people around the world who would thought might be planning to harm Iran, we
would regard it as terrorism. For example, if they were bombing the editorial offices
of the New York Times and The Washington Post which publish [ ] by prominent figures saying
that we should bomb Iran right now, not wait. So obviously they want to harm Iran. Suppose
Iran was assassinating them and anybody who happened to be standing around, all over would
we regard that as terrorism? I think we would. Let me put a few questions to you from people
online. People are sending in questions off our Facebook. First Gary says what are the
dangers of T Tip? Putin? The dangers are-
No, Sorry. What are the dangers or T TIP? The Transatlantic Trade Partnership? TTIP?
Oh, TTIP? They’re pretty extreme. In fact Greenpeace, a couple of days ago, released
280 pages of internal documents on this so-called trade agreement and they spell out details
of what all of us should know. The so-called free trade agreements are not free trade agreements.
In fact to a large extent they’re not even trade agreements. These are investor right
agreements. There’s a reason why they’re kept secret from the public and as soon as
you look them you see why. Notice I say secret from the public, not secret. They’re not
kept secret, they’re not secret to the corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the
detailed regulations. Of course in the interests of their constituents, doesn’t happen to
be the public of the world or their own countries. So these are highly protectionist for the
benefit of private power, so-called intellectual property rights, effectively raise tariffs.
They’re called patents but which have an enormous impact on economies. Great, wonderful
for pharmaceutical and media court conglomerates and others. Investors, corporations are given
the right to sue governments, something you and I can’t do but a corporation can, to
sue governments for harming their future, potentially future profits. You can figure
out what that means and such cases already in the courts – they’re not in the courts
they go to private trade adjudication groups made up largely of corporate representatives.
They’re already going on with NAFTA and we can expect more of them. There are provisions
that undermine efforts at regulation including incidentally, regulation of environmental
dangers and rather strikingly the phrase “Climate Change” does not appear in these 280 pages,
which are illustrative of the whole structure. So they have almost no, I should say that
these agreements, so-called Pacific and Atlantic have virtually no effect on tariffs. Tariffs
are already quite low among the major trading partners. When you read the propaganda about
it, it says “oh yeah sure, Vietnam is going to have to lower its tariffs.” Yeah, almost
no effect on trade. The major trading partners already have agreements that have reduced
the terrorists very substantially. There are few exceptions, not many. So these are basically
– we should disabuse our self of the illusion that these are free trade agreements, anything
but. And to a large extent not even trade agreements. We have the experience of others
like NAFTA, many years of experience. So take say NAFTA, it has all of the aspects that
I just described but even more. Consider even what is called trade. Interactions across
the US-Mexico border, they’ve increased substantially since NAFTA. So economists will
tell you trade is greatly increased but have a look at them. So for example, suppose that
General Motors produces parts in Indiana, sends them to Mexico for assembly and sells
the car in Los Angeles. That’s call trade in both directions, but it’s not. Its interactions
internal to a command economy. It’s as if during the days of the Soviet Union, parts
were made, say in Leningrad, sent to Warsaw for assembly and sold in Moscow. We wouldn’t
call that trade. That’s interactions internal to a command economy.
Well Noam Chomsky, Thank you very much for being so generous with your time and for staying
on to have that live online discussion. Thank you.