Requiem for the American Dream

A dark picture of American government, big business and social inequality in the United States brilliantly painted by Noam Chomsky

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks)

Requiem for the American Dream is a very powerful documentary featuring Noam Chomsky, an American activist and professor of linguistics widely regarded as the most intellectual of our time. As I just finished watching it for the third time in 2 weeks I felt the need to transcribe most of the documentary into a summarized copy of what Mr. Chomsky calls the “10 principles of concentration of wealth and power” that expose corruption, wealth and power deeply embedded into the U.S. government by comparing previous generations to today’s in a somewhat obvious yet groundbreaking analysis of society and enterprise.

Most of the following copy is taken directly from the documentary. Thoughts and comments are either Mr. Chomsky’s or from external sources and therefore not my own (although I try to contribute wherever I can). It’s a (very) long read but well worth it.


During the First Great Depression there was an expectation that things were going to get better — a real sense of hopefulness. Sadly today, such expectations are nonexistent. Inequality is unprecedented and comes from the extreme wealth in a tiny sector of the population; a fraction of 1% which Mr. Chomsky refers to as the super wealthy — the top one tenth of a percent. And not only is it extremely unjust in itself, but inequality also has highly negative consequences on the society as a whole because the very fact of inequality has a corrosive, harmful effect on democracy.

Source: Al Jazeera America

In the United States there are professed values like democracy. In a democracy, public opinion is going to have some influence on policy and then the government carries out actions determined by the population… That’s what democracy means. It’s important to understand that privileged and powerful sectors have never liked democracy for very obvious reasons: democracy puts power into the hands of the general population and takes it away from them. It’s kind of a principle of concentration of wealth and power.

Vicious Cycle of Concentration of Wealth and Power

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of power… Particularly so as the cost of elections skyrockets which forces the political parties into the pockets of major corporations. And this political power quickly translates into legislation that increases the concentration of wealth.

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks)

Think fiscal policies like tax policy, deregulation… Rules of corporate governance and a whole variety of measures… Political measures designed to increase the concentration of wealth and power which in turn yields more political power to do the same thing over and over again. We then have this kind of vicious cycle in progress.

This cycle is so traditional and was already described by Adam Smith in 1776 in “The Wealth of Nations”. Adam Smith says that in England, the principal architects of policy are the people who own society — in his day, merchants and manufacturers — and they make sure that their own interests are very well cared for, however grievous the impact on the people of England or others. Today it’s no longer merchants and manufacturers but financial institutions and multinational corporations; people who Adam Smith calls the “masters of mankind” who follow the vile Maxim “all for ourselves and nothing for other people”. In a nutshell, they’re just going to pursue policies that benefit them and will harm everyone else.

Principal #1: Reduce Democracy

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks)

Right through American history there’s been an ongoing clash between pressure for more freedom and democracy coming from below and efforts of elite control and domination coming from above, which goes back to the founding of the United States. James Madison, the main framer, felt the U.S. system should be designed so that power should be in the hands of the wealthy because they’re the more responsible set of men. Therefore, the structure of the formal constitutional system placed most power in the hands of the Senate. At the time the Senate was not elected; it was selected from the wealthy — men as Madison put it had sympathy for property owners and their rights.

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks)

During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Madison expressed that the major concern of the society had to be to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority”. Indeed, suppose everyone had to vote freely… If they had the liberty to do so, then the majority of the poor would get together and organize to take away the property of the rich, which to Madison would have obviously been unjust. Therefore, the constitutional system had to be set up in a way to prevent democracy. 

If you look at the history of the United States, there’s been a constant struggle with this democratizing tendency that has mostly been coming from the population (pressure from below). The 1960s are a perfect example of a great period of democratization where sectors of the population that were usually passive and apathetic became more organized, active and increasingly involved in decision-making, activism, and so on. This changed consciousness in a lot of ways with minority rights, women’s rights, concern for the environment, opposition to aggression, concern for other people, etc. These were all civilizing effects that caused great fear and retribution.

Principle #2: Shape Ideology

There has been an enormous, concentrated and coordinated business offensive beginning in the ’70s to try to beat back the egalitarian efforts that went right through the Nixon years. Over on the Right side you see it in things like the famous Powell memorandum titled “Attack on the American Free Enterprise System”. Sent to the Chamber of Commerce in 1971, Lewis Powell — Associate Justice of the Supreme Court — warned that business was losing control over society and that something had to be done to counter these forces, which he called “defending ourselves against outside power” (meaning society).

“No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility (…) It hardly need be said that the views expressed above are tentative and suggestive. The first step should be a thorough study. But this would be an exercise in futility unless the Board of Directors of the Chamber accepts the fundamental premise of this paper, namely, that business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.

This is basically a call for Business to use its resources to carry out a major offensive to beat back this growing democratizing wave.

Then over on the Liberal side you see something exactly similar to the Powell memorandum with a report by the Trilateral Commission titled “The Crisis of Democracy”.

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks)

The Trilateral Commission is made up of liberal internationalists who pretty much staffed the Carter administration (Brown, Vance, Blumenthal, Mondale, Young) and who were also appalled by the democratizing tendencies of the ’60s and concerned that there was an “excess of democracy” developing in the United States. The report goes:

“Al Smith once remarked that ‘the only cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy’. Our analysis suggests that applying that cure at the present time could well be adding fuel to the flames. Instead, some of the problems of governance in the United States today stem from an excess of democracy — an “excess of democracy” in much the same sense in which David Donald” used the term to refer to the consequences of the Jacksonian revolution which helped to precipitate the Civil War. Needed, instead, is a greater degree of moderation in democracy.”

Previously passive and obedient parts of the population (sometimes called the “special interests”) were beginning to organize and try to enter the political arena, and that scared the internationalists who felt it imposed “too much pressure on the state.” Therefore, the general population had to return to passivity and become depoliticized, but they were even more particularly concerned with what was happening to young people: “The young people are getting too free and independent.” The way they put it, there’s failure on the part of the schools, the universities, the churches, etc. The institutions responsible for the “indoctrination of the young”.

If you look at their study, however, there’s one interest they never mention: private business. That makes sense because they’re not special interest, they’re the national interest. They’re allowed to have lobbyists, buy campaigns, staff the executive, make decisions — all that is fine. But it’s the rest — the special interests, the general population — who have to be subdued.

Principle #3: Redesign the Economy

Source: Unsplash

Since the 1970s there’s been a concerted effort on the part of the masters of mankind to shift the economy in two crucial respects, the first of which is to increase the role of financial institutions (banks, investment firms, insurance companies, etc.), also known as financialization of the economy. If you look at the share of corporate profits in America in 2007, financial institutions had about 40% of all corporate profits — far beyond anything in the past. Back in the 1950s, as for many years before, the U.S. economy was based largely on production which turned the country into the great manufacturing center of the world. Financial institutions, on the other hand, used to have a fairly small role in the development of the economy; their tasks was to distribute unused assets like bank savings to productive activity — now that’s a contribution to the economy.

Back then, a regulatory system had been established and banks were regulated. Commercial and investment banks were separated and cut back their risky investment practices that could harm private people. During this period of regulation there had been no financial crashes, but that changed starting in the 1970s with a large increase in the flows of speculative capital and enormous changes in the financial sector, from traditional banks to risky investments, complex financial instruments, money manipulations, and so on.

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Stats: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

In 1950, Manufacturing represented approximately 28% of the total value of GDP in the U.S. while Finance only accounted for 11% of the economy. By 2010 those numbers shifted to 11% and 21% respectively.

“By the 1970s, large corporations like General Electric could make more profits playing games with money than you could by producing in the United States” — Noam Chomsky

The second crucial respect has to do with increasing off-shoring of production. The trade system was reconstructed with a very explicit design of putting working people in competition with one another all over the world. And what it’s led to is a reduction on the share of income on the part of the working people. It means that an American worker is in competition with the super-exploited workers in China. Meanwhile highly paid professionals are protected — they’re not placed in competition with the rest of the world… Far from it.

Policy is designed to increase insecurity, which Alan Greenspan (famously named one of the “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis” by Time Magazine) expressed while testifying to Congress in 1997. During his testimony Greenspan explained his success in running the economy as based on what he called “greater worker insecurity”. Basically, keep workers insecure and they’re going to be under control… If they’re insecure then they won’t ask for decent wages or decent working conditions or the opportunity of free association (meaning to unionize). For the masters of mankind, that’s fine as long as they keep on making their profits, but for the population it’s devastating.

“A typical restraint on compensation increases has been evident for a few years now, but as I outlined in some detail in testimony last month, I believe that job insecurity has played the dominant role.” — Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve

These two processes — financialization and off-shoring — are part of what led to this vicious cycle of concentration of wealth and power.

Principle #4: Shift the Burden

Source: NPR News

The American dream, like many ideals, was partly symbolic but also partly real. The 1950s and ’60s saw the biggest growth in American economic history — the Golden age. It was pretty egalitarian growth, meaning the lowest fifth of the population was improving about as much as the upper fifth. There were also some welfare state measures that improved life for much of the population. For example, it was possible for a black worker to get a decent job in an auto plant, buy a home, get a car, have his children go to school, etc. — and the same across the board.

When the U.S. was primarily a manufacturing center, it had to be concerned with its own consumers in America — famously, Henry Ford raised the salary of his workers so they would be able to buy cars (although this argument has received skepticism). But when you’re moving into an international “plutonomy” as the banks like to call it (the small percentage of the world’s population that is gathering increasing wealth), what happens to American consumers is much less a concern since most of them aren’t going to be consuming your product anyway — at least not on a major basis. Your goals as a business are: profit in the next quarter (even if it’s based on financial manipulations), high salary, high bonuses, produce overseas if you have to, and produce for the wealthy classes here and their counterparts abroad.

What about the rest of the population?

Well there’s a term coming into use for them too; they’re called the “precariat” or precarious proletariat — the working people of the world who live increasingly precarious lives, and it’s related to the attitude toward the country altogether. During the period of great growth of the economy in the ‘50s and ‘60s, taxes on the wealthy were far higher. Corporate taxes were much higher, taxes on dividends were much higher... The tax system has since been redesigned so that the taxes that are paid by the very wealthy are reduced and correspondingly the tax burden on the rest of the population has increased. Now the shift is towards trying to keep taxes just on wages and on consumption which everyone has to do — not, say, dividends which only go to the rich. 

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Stats: Tax Foundation)
Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Stats: The Congressional Research Service Analysis of 1996 and 2006 IRS Data)

Of course there’s a pretext for this. The pretext in this case is that a reduction of taxes on corporate dividends and capital gains increases investment and increases jobs, although there is no actual evidence for that. If you want to increase investment, give money to the poor and the working people; they have to keep alive so they spend their incomes. That in turn will stimulate productions, stimulate investment, lead to job growth and so on.

Although they have money coming out of their pockets, the major American corporations shifted the burden of sustaining the society onto the rest of the population (I’m thinking of Apple which was recently called out by Marketing Week for keeping hundreds of billions of dollars in cash abroad where it can’t be taxed).

Principle #5: Attack Solidarity

Solidarity is quite dangerous. From the point of view of the masters of mankind, you’re only supposed to care about yourself and not about other people. This is quite different from the people they claim are their heroes like Adam Smith, who based his whole approach to the economy on the principle that sympathy is a fundamental human trait but to the masters, that has to be driven out of people’s heads. It’s taken a lot of effort to drive these basic human emotions out of people’s heads, and we see it today in policy formation — for example, in the attack on social security.

Social security is based on the principle of solidarity — caring for others. Social security basically means, “I pay payroll taxes so that the widow across town can get something to live on.” And for much of the population that is what they survive on, but it’s of no use to the very rich, therefore there’s a concerted attempt to destroy it. One of the ways to do this is by defunding it: if you want to destroy a system, first defund it. Once it’s defunded, the system won’t work, people will be angry and they will want something else. It’s a standard technique for privatizing a system.

Source: The Huffington Post

We see it in the attack on public schools, which are based on the principle of solidarity. The principle of solidarity says, “I happily pay taxes so that the kid across the street can go to school”. This is normal human emotion, but you have to drive that out of people’s heads. “I don’t have kids in school. Why should I pay taxes? Privatize it”, so on. The public education system in the United States, all the way from kindergarten to higher education is under severe attack.

Education is one of the jewels of American society. Going back to the golden age again — the great growth period in the ’50s and ’60s — a lot of that is based on free public education. One of the results of the second world war was the GI bill of rights, which enabled veterans (a large part of the population at the time) to go to college. They wouldn’t have been able to, otherwise. They essentially got free education. The U.S. was way in the lead in developing extensive mass public education at every level. By now, in more than half the states, most of the funding for the colleges comes from tuition, not from the state. That’s a radical change and that’s a terrible burden on students. It basically means that students who don’t come from very wealthy families will leave college with big debts.

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Stats: Mark Kantrowitz, Wall Street Journal, 2015)

Student Loan Hero paints a general picture of the student loan debt landscape for this year and shows scary results for this year’s graduating class: 43.3 million Americans have student loans, representing $1.26 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt for 2016 alone with a delinquency rate of 11.6%.

The U.S. from the 1950s was a much poorer society than it is today, but nevertheless could easily handle essentially free mass higher education. Today, a much richer society claims it doesn’t have the resources for it… That’s the general attack on principles that not only have humane but are the basis of the prosperity and health of our society.

Principle #6: Run the Regulators

If you look at the history of regulation (railroad regulation, financial regulation, etc.), you will find that it’s quite commonly either initiated by the economic concentrations that are being regulated, or it’s supported by them. And the reason is because they know that sooner or later, they can take over the regulators. This ends up with what is called “regulatory capture” — the business being regulated is in fact running the regulators. Today, bank lobbyists are actually writing the laws of financial regulation… It gets to that extreme.

Source: Unsplash

As the business world moved sharply to try to control legislation, one of the movements that expanded enormously in the ’70s is lobbying. The business world was upset by the advances in public welfare in the ’60s, in particular by Richard Nixon who was the last New Deal president which they (businesses) regarded that as class treachery. In Nixon’s administration, you had the consumer safety legislation, safety and health regulations in the workplace, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). And Business didn’t like it, of course — they didn’t like the high taxes; they didn’t like the regulation... So they began a coordinated effort to try and overcome it. Lobbying sharply increased; deregulation began with a real ferocity. There were no financial crashes in the ’50s and ’60s because the regulatory apparatus of the New Deal was still in place. As it began to be dismantled under business and political pressure, however, we began to experience more and more crashes.

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks)

All this is quite safe for Big Business as long as you know the government’s going to come to your rescue. Instead of letting them pay the cost, Reagan bailed out the banks like Continental Illinois for $7.5 billion in aid (the biggest bailout in American history at the time). In 1999 regulation was dismantled to separate commercial banks from investment banks, then came more and more bailouts through the Bush and Obama administrations (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac asked for more than $100 billion from the US government)… And they’re building up the next one.

Each time, the taxpayer is called on to bail out those who created the crisis — increasingly the major financial institutions. In a capitalist system, that would wipe out the investors who made risky investments. But the rich and powerful don’t want a capitalist system. They want to be able to run to the nanny state as soon as they’re in trouble, and get bailed out by the taxpayer. This is called “too big to fail”.

The people picked to fix the crisis were those who created it — the Robert Rubin crowd, the Goldman Sachs crowd, etc. Although they created the crisis they are now more powerful than ever before. This is no accident when you pick those people to create an economic plan. Meanwhile for the poor, let market principles prevail and don’t expect any help from the government. The government’s the problem, not the solution, and so on. That’s essentially Neo-liberalism. It has this dual character which goes right back in economic history: one set of rules for the rich, an opposite set of rules for the poor.

That’s what happens when you put power into the hands of a narrow sector of wealth, which is dedicated to increasing power for itself.

Principle #7: Engineer Elections

As previously discussed, concentration of wealth yields to concentration of political power, particularly as the cost of elections skyrockets which forces the political parties into the pockets of major corporations. Citizens United v. FEC (Federal Election Commission) is a very important Supreme Court decision that basically “gave corporations and unions the green light to spend unlimited sums on ads and other political tools, calling for the election or defeat of individual candidates.” But this decision has a history.

The 14th Amendment has a provision that says “no person’s rights can be infringed without due process of law.” Although the intent of this amendment was to protect freed slaves, it was almost immediately used for corporations — their rights can be infringed without due process of law, so they gradually became persons under the law.

Corporations are state-created legal fictions. Maybe they’re good or maybe they’re bad, but to call them persons is kind of outrageous. So eventually they got personal rights back about a century ago which extended through the 20th century. The government essentially gave corporations rights way beyond what actual persons have, so if, says, General Motors invests in Mexico, they get national rights of the Mexican business.

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks)

While the notion of person was expanded to include corporations, it was also restricted. If you take the 14th Amendment literally, then do undocumented alien can be deprived of rights if they’re persons. Undocumented aliens who are living in the United States and building your buildings, cleaning your lawns and so on… They’re not persons. But a company like General Electric is a person — an immortal super-powerful person. This perversion of the elementary morality and the obvious meaning of the law is quite incredible.

In the 1970s the Buckley v. Valeo ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court was a significant decision that introduced the notion that spending money on behalf of a candidate or a political party was in fact a form of protected speech and struck down provisions of the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) that had imposed limits on various types of expenditures by or on behalf of candidates for federal office. Then you go on through the years to Citizens United which says that the right of free speech of corporations (mainly to spend as much money as they want) can’t be curtailed. This means that corporations which have been pretty much buying elections are now free to do it with virtually no constraint. That alone is a tremendous attack on the residue of democracy.

The ruling of Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Citizens United v. FEC case is very interesting… His ruling basically said “Well look, after all, CBS is given freedom of speech and they’re a corporation, so why shouldn’t a company like, say, General Electric be free to spend as much money as they want?” It’s true that CBS is given freedom of speech but they’re supposed to be performing a public service — that’s why… That’s what the press is supposed to be, while GE is just trying to make money for the Chief Executive and some of the shareholders.

The majority ruled that the Freedom of the Press clause of the 1st Amendment protects associations of individuals in addition to individual speaks and that it doesn’t allow prohibitions of speech based on the identity of the speaker, thereby giving corporations (identified here as associations of individuals) free speech rights under the 1st Amendment.

It’s an incredible court decision and put the U.S. in a position where business power is greatly extended beyond what it always was. The Supreme Court Justices are put in by reactionary presidents, who get in there because they’re funded by business. It’s the way this vicious cycle works.

Principle #8: Keep the Rabble in Line

Source: Occupy Wall Street (

Organized labor were traditionally put in place to improve the lives of the general population, but they also represent a barrier to corporate tyranny; so it’s the one barrier to this vicious cycle going on, which does lead to corporate tyranny. A major reason for the concentrated, almost fanatic attack on unions and organized labor is they are a democratizing force — they provide a barrier that defends workers’ rights, but also popular rights generally. And that interferes with the prerogatives and power of those who own and manage the society.

Source: Requiem for the American Dream (Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks)

Anti-union sentiment in the United States among elites is so strong that the fundamental core of labor rights — the basic principle in the international labor organization — is the right of free association (C098 — Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949) which would mean the right to form unions. Sadly, the U.S. has never ratified that. It’s considered so far out of the spectrum of American politics that it has never been considered.

The U.S. has a long and very violent labor history as compared to comparable societies, but the labor movement had been very strong. By the 1920s, in a period not unlike today, it was virtually crushed. But by the mid ’30s it began to reconstruct. Strikes broke out all over the country.

“Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war. Voting … is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.” — Howard Zinn, American Historian

Franklin D. Roosevelt himself saw his hands forced by civil disobedience and became rather sympathetic to progressive legislation that would be in the benefit of the general population — but it had to find a way to get it passed. So he informed labor leaders that in order to do so, they would have to force him to by going out and demonstrating, organizing, protesting and developing the labor movement.

“I am not for a return to that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few. I prefer and I am sure you prefer that broader definition of Liberty under which we are moving forward to greater freedom, to greater security for the average man than he has ever known before in the history of America.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fireside Chat 6 on Government and Capitalism

By the mid-’30s there was very substantial popular activism and industrial actions would take place. There were sit-down strikes which were very frightening ownership because those were basically one step before saying “We don’t need bosses… We can run this by ourselves.” Business was appalled. Immediately after WWII the business offensive began in force with the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 which restricted the activities and power of labor unions to “restore justice and equality in labor-management relations”. This exploded even further throughout the Reagan Administration which pretty much told the business world “If you want to illegally break organizing efforts and strikes, go ahead.”

“[Workers on strike] are in violation of the law, and if they do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.” — Ronald Reagan.

According to the American Sociological Association, from 1973 to 2007, private sector union membership in the United States declined from 34 to 8 percent for men and from 16 to 6 percent for women. During this period, inequality in hourly wages increased by over 40 percent.

Principle #9: Manufacture Consent

The Public Relations and Advertising industries have been dedicated to creating consumers since day one and are a phenomenon that first developed in the U.K. and the U.S. for very obvious reasons. It became clear by a century ago that it was not going to be so easy to control the population by force. Too much freedom had been won. Labor organizing, parliamentary labor parties in many countries, women starting to get the franchise, and so on. So you had to have other means of controlling people. And it was understood and expressed that you have to control them by control of beliefs and attitudes. And one of the best ways to control people in terms of attitudes is what the great political economist Thorstein Veblen called “fabricating consumers”.

Source: AKIPress

If you can fabricate wants… Make obtaining things that are just about within your reach the essence of life, then people are going to be trapped into becoming consumers. If you read the business press in the 1920s it talks about the need to direct people to the superficial things of life like “fashionable consumption”. People are to be spectators, not participants.

The idea is to try to control everyone to turn the whole society into the perfect system. The perfect system would be a society based on a dyad, a pair. The pair is us and our television set or maybe now us and the Internet — this represents what the proper life would be, what kind of gadgets we should have. And we spend our time and effort gaining those things which we don’t need and we don’t want. But that’s the measure of a decent life. Like the saying goes, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.

In a TV spot for the Lexus LX 570, the S.U.V. goes off road to arrive at a mountain resort. Source: Lexus

Take advertising on television, for example. Economics 101 teaches us that markets are supposed to be based on “informed consumers making rational choices.” If we had a market system like that, then a television ad would consist of, says, General Motors putting up information saying “here’s what we have for sale.” But that’s not what an ad for a car is. And ad for a car is a football hero; an actress; the car doing some crazy thing like going up a mountain or something. The point is to create uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices.

And when the same institution — the PR system — runs elections, they do it the same way. They want to create an uninformed electorate, which will make irrational choices, often against their own interests. Right after the election, President Obama won an award from the Advertising industry for the best marketing campaign and the International Business Press executives were euphoric.


They said “We’ve been selling and marketing candidates like toothpaste ever since Reagan, and this is the greatest achievement we have.” According to Mr. Chomsky, there was very little discussion of policy issues in Obama’s campaign in 2008 and for a very good reason: public opinion on policy is sharply disconnected from what the two-party leadership and their financial backers want. Policy is more and more focused on the private interests that fund the campaigns… With the public being marginalized.

Principle #10: Marginalize the Population

One of the leading political scientists, Martin Gilens, came out with a study of the relation between public attitudes and public policy which shows that about 70% of the population has no way of influencing policy. They might as well be in some other country… And the population knows it.

This has led to an angrier and more frustrated population that hates institutions and is not acting constructively to respond to this. There is popular mobilization and activism, but in very self-destructive directions. It’s taking the form of unfocused anger, attacks on one another, and on vulnerable targets. That’s what happens in cases like this. It is corrosive of social relations, but that’s the point. The point is to make people hate and fear each other, and look out only for themselves, and don’t do anything for anyone else.

One place you see it strikingly is on April 15th. April 15th is kind of a measure — the day you pay your taxes — of how Democratic the society is. If a society is really Democratic, April 15th would be a day of celebration. It’s a day when the population gets together, decides to fund the programs and activities that they have formulated and agreed upon. What could be better than that? So, you should celebrate it.

In the United States it’s a day of mourning. It’s a day in which some alien power that has nothing to do with you is coming down to steal your hard-earned money, and you do everything you can to keep them from doing it. That is a kind of measure of the extent to which, at least in popular consciousness, democracy is actually functioning… Not a very attractive picture.

Trump supporters wearing “Make America White Again” at a rally. Source:

What is happening today with Trump and his supporters is a much scarier phenomenon of part of the population’s hatred toward others — an unprecedented anger geared towards others to the extent of extreme violence and death threats, as seen below.

In Conclusion

Unless the tendencies that have been described above within American society are reversed, we’re going to be faced with an extremely ugly society based on Adam Smith’s vile maxim “All for myself, nothing for anyone else.” A society in which normal human instincts and emotion of sympathy, solidarity and mutual support will need to be driven out of people’s heads.

“That’s a society so ugly, I don’t even want to know who would live in it.” — Noam Chomsky

If the society is based on control by private wealth, it will reflect the values that are greed and the desire to maximize personal gain at the expense of others. Any small society based on that principle is ugly, but it can survive... A global society based on that principle is headed for massive destruction.

Tune in November 8th.