16 Dec 2012

The Ancient Meaning of Christmas

Jesus was a Sun King (maybe like Mithras of Persia and Osiris of Egypt before him). You can tell by the way he is usually depicted with a halo of sun rays shining out from around his head. He is the latest in a long line of symbols of our sun worship that is many thousands of years old. The most important date in the solar worship calendar is the winter solstice: usually 21st December. This is when the sun 'dies' and is soon 'born again'. It is when its midday zenith (its highest point in the sky) stops descending and starts ascending. The rate of descent/ascent for a few days around the solstice is so slow that it is imperceptible to the naked eye. Not until telescopes were perfected by Galileo in the seventeenth century could astronomers see the infinitesimal changes in the sun's zenith either side of the solstice. Before that they had to work it out logically as Ptolemy did in ancient Greece by recording the sun's zenith through December and January and calculating the time of the solstice after the event. For thousands of years people saw the sun reach its lowest ebb and 'die' until, on the third day, it slowly began its re-ascent towards the summer solstice, bringing with it the promise of new life, another spring and another summer. They created the myth of the sun resurrecting itself on the third day.

Most people today know that the Christian church took over the pagan rebirth festivals of Yule and Easter and incorporated aspects that they couldn't erase. One important detail, mentioned several times in the Gospels and featured in the Eucharist or Mass, is how Jesus’ death is followed by his resurrection on the third day. Although Christianity has woven the myth of the resurrection on the third day into the rebirth festival of Easter rather than the birth festival of Christmas, it is nevertheless an example of Christianity building its myth on the ancient sun-worshipers' meaning. The Meaning of Christmas and of Yule before it is that, even in the darkest time, there is hope for the future.

As the Beatles said, "Here comes the Sun King, everybody’s laughing, everybody’s happy ... "

1 Nov 2012

Noam Chomsky on Adam Smith

I've posted before about Chomsky's reading of Adam Smith: see The invisible hand of Adam Smith. Chomsky also frequently quotes Smith saying "All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." In a speech in September for the Center for Popular Economics, entitled, "Who Owns the World?" he said: 

"Who Owns the World?" Actually, a good answer to this was given years ago by Adam Smith, someone we’re supposed to worship but not read. He was—a little subversive when you read him sometimes. He was referring to the most powerful country in the world in his day and, of course, the country that interested him, namely, England. And he pointed out that in England the principal architects of policy are those who own the country: the merchants and manufacturers in his day. And he said they make sure to design policy so that their own interests are most peculiarly attended to. Their interests are served by policy, however grievous the impact on others, including the people of England.
But he was an old-fashioned conservative with moral principles, so he added the victims of England, the victims of the—what he called the "savage injustice of the Europeans," particularly in India. Well, he had no illusions about the owners, so, to quote him again, "All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." It was true then; it’s true now.

Complete transcript at www.democracynow.org/2012/10/26/who_owns_the_world_noam_chomsky

26 Oct 2012

Three approaches to the eco-crisis

There are broadly three points of view on the ecological crisis. The political mainstream of Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour recognise it and hope to deal with it one day but not now while we are in difficult economic times which require us to create growth and jobs in the traditional way.

Next are the Greens who maintain that the juggernaut of our globalised economy can be turned around in time to avert ecological catastrophe. Measures such as the Green New Deal or One Million Climate Jobs, for example, can solve the economic crisis in a way that is environmentally sustainable.

The third point of view is that it is already too late to avert the most important ecological problem, which is global warming or man-made climate change. So, for example, there is nothing we do now can stop the polar ice caps from melting into the sea. Some projections are that this will happen in decades, some in centuries. Estimates are that sea levels will rise by several metres if the Arctic melts and by several tens of metres if Antarctica melts. Coupled with projections about extreme weather and storm surges, the worry is that islands, low-lying countries and coastal cities will all be flooded and uninhabitable. The nuclear power stations that are by the sea, as most of them are, will be under water along with their radioactive material, contaminating marine life and the food chain.

Many people, I'm sure, worry about this and say nothing. For how do you prepare for a post-catastrophe world? Don't have children? Flee to high ground? Learn survival skills? Enjoy what we have while it lasts and let tomorrow be damned?

Where are the leaders with ideas and strategies about what to do? By promoting traditional growth, the mainstream is just setting us up for a bigger crash when it happens. As to the Green New Deal, etc, I don’t know if it will make any difference: If you fall out of a plane and someone has given you a parachute that is fine, but if all they gave you was an umbrella, it wasn’t worth having.  I'm still looking for what people are saying about how to prepare future generations for a post-catastrophe world.

To end on a positive note, Rupert Read www.rupertread.net has a helpful outlook based on optimism of the will over pessimism of the intellect, while Joanna Macy www.joannamacy.net has a helpful philosophy of The Great Turning. That is what keeps me going for now. Any other helpful thoughts, please let me know …

1 Oct 2012

Austerity

Austerity is not working, so why are we still being promised years of it to come? The truth is that the leaders of all the major parties are committed to austerity, not because it’s good for us, but because it’s good for them and their wealthy friends.  The highest earners are making a killing while the rest of us face job insecurity and cuts to pay, pensions, services and benefits.
The millionaires in government and the media want us to focus on the ‘lazy’ unemployed, lone parents, immigrants, and disabled people. But even their own figures for benefit fraud are infinitesimal compared to tax avoidance and evasion – and the vast sums spent on bailing out the banks.

from Brighton Benefits Campaign

16 Sep 2012

Climate sceptic admits that humans cause global warming


Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at California University, has had a change of mind following the results of his own recent research, published in July. "The average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by 1.5 degrees C over the past 250 years ... The most straightforward explanation for this warming is human greenhouse gas emissions."  http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/berkeley-earth-press-release-july-29.pdf 

12 Aug 2012

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - a metaphor for capitalism

International globalised capitalism is a system that humanity has created and, like the broom in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, it is out of control. We have created a tool to work for us and now we cannot stop it from destroying our environment. Here is the wikipedia entry for The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Der Zauberlehrling, poem by Goethe).

The poem begins as an old sorcerer departs his workshop, leaving his apprentice with chores to perform. Tired of fetching water by pail, the apprentice enchants a broom to do the work for him — using magic in which he is not yet fully trained. The floor is soon awash with water, and the apprentice realizes that he cannot stop the broom because he does not know how.

Not knowing how to control the enchanted broom, the apprentice splits it in two with an axe, but each of the pieces becomes a new broom and takes up a pail and continues fetching water, now at twice the speed. When all seems lost, the old sorcerer returns, quickly breaks the spell and saves the day. The poem finishes with the old sorcerer's statement that powerful spirits should only be called by the master himself.

Capitalism is a system that puts short-term profit and greed above all other values. The present-day symptoms include widespread corruption: expenses scandals, phone-hacking, Libor-fixing among, respectively, elected politicians, the media and police and the banks. It is not enough to tackle the symptoms. If we don’t dismantle capitalism it will destroy us.

1 Aug 2012

Democracy Now! on the Olympics

Democracy Now! is the best daily alternative to the corporate-controlled media: yesterday’s (Tues 31 July) show was about the Olympics and headlined “Olympic Goodwill Image Belied by Arrests, Censorship and Corporate Ties Behind London Games”. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet tuned in to Democracy Now! to sample this edition. It is at http://www.democracynow.org/2012/7/31/goodwill_image_belied_by_arrests_censorship where you can view it online on video or download a podcast.

23 Jul 2012

Why GDP per head is a flawed measure of economic well-being

One reason is that, being expressed as an average, it hides shocking disparities between the top and the bottom. So, for example, if you look up Gross World Product in the World Factbook at www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook, you find that in 2011 it was 79 trillion US dollars, which is orld population was just approaching seven billion, the average for every man, woman and child on the planet was $11,800 per person per year. 

Compare this to the widely quoted statistic that more than one billion people live on a dollar a day, which is mentioned for example in “Millennium Development Goal 1 – To eradicate extreme poverty” at http://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/resources/change_the_world_in_eight_steps/files/goal_1_updated.pdf
www.oxfam.org.uk/education/resources/change_the_world_in_eight_st
Similarly, the UK average hides shocking disparities between the top and the bottom. In 2011 GDP per person per year was average for every man, woman and child on the planet was $36,600 or £23,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. This would be £92,000 a year for a family of four.

18 Jul 2012

‘High pay is good for Britain' ...?

‘High pay is good for Britain. In fact it is vital.’ So wrote Michael Spencer, chief executive of interdealer broker, ICAP, who has a fortune worth half a billion pounds, in the Independent on 10 March 2012. Not true, as shown in this rebuttal of “trickle-down” economics by Stewart Lansley of The Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at Bristol University and the author of The Cost of Inequality: why economic equality is essential for recovery.
See Inequality and instability: why more equal societies have more stable economies at www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/CPAG-Poverty142-inequality-instability.pdf

16 Jul 2012

Marx's Ecology

Went to “The End of Oil: Capitalism and the Future of Energy” at Marxism 2012 on 9/7/12: excellent workshop by Gareth Dale. I asked him about Schumacher’s comment that Marx’s labour theory of value takes for granted that the earth provides natural resources free, and he referred me to "Free Gifts” by John Bellamy Foster. a leading proponent of Marxist ecology. Can't find it but Mr Google comes up with “Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature", which sets out a “basis for ecosocialism grounded in Marxist science rather than mysticism.”
On my question how the planet can cope with growing population amid dwindling resources he referred me to his article, The growth paradigm: a critique, in International Socialism, March 2012
Further reading also at http://www.green-blog.org/2012/07/04/the-growth-machine-is-killing-our-planet-so-why-hasnt-it-been-stopped/

8 Jul 2012

Germany sets new solar power record

On Sat 26 May, German solar power plants produced "nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs" according to a Reuters report:

Germany sets new solar power record - German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour - equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity - through the midday hours on Friday and Saturday … Norbert Allnoch, director of the Institute of the Renewable Energy Industry (IWR) in Muenster, said the 22 gigawatts of solar power per hour fed into the national grid on Saturday met nearly 50 percent of the nation's midday electricity needs.

The point was also mentioned, slightly wrongly, by Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, on Democracy Now! on 27 June.

Contrast this with DECC’s statistic that UK renewables contributed 9.5% of electricity in 2011.

21 Jun 2012

Mystery Of The Missing Clocks

From a thought-provoking blog on Truth by David Edwards of Media Lens:
"The truth peeks out at us from the most unexpected places. It can be seen, for example, in the empty spaces where one might otherwise hope to find a clock in shops. The average retailer doesn’t approve of customers clock-watching - they might realise they have something more important to do and cut short their shopping trips."

Edwards goes on to explore the importance of self-awareness and meditation later in the Cogitation, a refreshingly spiritual tack in what is normally an entirely political blog.  Or maybe it's just an example of how the personal is political.

Elsewhere Edwards refers to Chomsky's point that Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984 would not have become literary classics if they'd criticised our society, rather than that 'reviled enemy', the Soviet Union. On the subject of literary classics, I'm just re-reading Jack London's White Fang and The Call Of The Wild in a Penguin Popular Classics edition which features a two-page bio of the author that makes no mention of his revolutionary socialist politics nor his third most important novel, The Iron Heel. That is the kind of airbrushing out of history that Chomsky and Edwards are talking about.

15 Jun 2012

FoE UK abandoning opposition to nuclear power?

Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees, has published a revelation that Friends of the Earth is seriously considering abandoning its decades-long opposition to nuclear power, according to FoE’s head of policy, science and research Mike Childs. Now that George Monbiot and James Lovelock have gone pro-nuclear, I was worried that this was another anti-nuclear stalwart doing an about-face. On closer reading, however, the interview does not reveal anything like what Lynas claims. Moreover, on the same day, FoE announced that Britain’s energy future lies in renewables and energy saving, not nuclear power.

Lynas was high in my estimation, as I'd just read Six Degrees, and found it readable and well-argued, well-informed but not too technical. Not any more.

Still, technical confusion abounds: comments on Lynas' blog and elsewhere refer to Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) technology and how it may provide a solution to the problem of existing nuclear waste.

5 Jun 2012

Cultural and atmospheric pressure

Culture is a collective force that presses down on the individual from all sides. In that way it is like atmospheric pressure. The key features of atmospheric pressure that I want to compare with cultural pressure are that it is very heavy but you don’t notice it and that it is crucial to life. The key contrast is that cultural pressure is entirely man-made and can therefore be changed.

  1. Atmospheric pressure is 15 pounds per square inch at sea level but as it’s just normal you don’t notice it. But you’d soon notice if you had to carry a few extra 15lb weights on your back.
  2. Atmospheric pressure is crucial to life because without it the air is too thin to breathe.  On Mount Everest, for example, which is some 8,000 metres above sea level, mountaineers need bottled oxygen or they would asphyxiate.
  3. Human culture goes back thousands or maybe millions of years to the dawn of human evolution, some one million to five million years ago. It weighs a ton, but as it is as normal as the air your breathe, you hardly notice it.
  4. Like atmospheric pressure, human culture is crucial. Without the accumulated knowledge and culture of our billions of ancestors we couldn’t farm, cook or even speak. We’d barely know what to eat as our instincts are almost defunct.
But here’s the rub. Although necessary our culture is oppressive.  It embodies features like sexism, racism and militarism, which contribute to human suffering. It is only when you start thinking critically about it that you notice how hard it bears down and how hard it is to shift it. In free-thinking Western societies it appears to have no resistance – like air at sea-level – yet it bears down relentlessly. It is man-made so it can be changed. The first step is to acknowledge it is there, rather than ignore it, as we tend to do with atmospheric pressure.

1 Jun 2012

Failed UN response in Syria

Johan Galtung, interviewed on DemocracyNow! 17 April 2012, suggests the way to peace in Syria is to establish a federation government, with peacekeeping forces from Islamic countries. This is one of the most helpful commentaries on Syria that I've heard. (I'm swayed by Johan Galtung's reputation as a principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies.) What Johan Galtung is saying here is that if the UN removes Assad and has nothing to offer instead but the probable dictatorship of the Sunni majority, the UN won’t get a ceasefire. 

JOHAN GALTUNG: With due respect for Kofi Annan, I think the [U.N. Security Council is] putting the cart before the horse. … [Syria] is run by an Alawite Shia dictatorship, headed by Assad, father and son. It’s a dictatorship. Introduce democracy in that one and let a Sunni majority have the power, it will be a majority dictatorship. The Shias are afraid of it. The Jews are afraid of it. The Christians in Syria are afraid of it. The Kurds are afraid of it. They are scared to death by the prospect of democracy in the sense of the dictatorship of majority. Now, you may try and use a ceasefire, but a ceasefire without any type of solution. And the solution, in my view, would be a federation, a federated Syria. You see, if you have democracy, in the sense of majority rule, in a country with so deep contradictions, with the fault lines so absolutely almost unbridgeable, then the majority rule will be majority dictatorship. And they’re heading in the same direction in Iraq, but there the Shias are in the majority, 61 percent. So then you have two countries—one Sunni, one Shia—neighboring countries. It couldn’t be worse. And this is the outcome of U.S. foreign policy.  ...

The way to peace is a federation, linkage with neighboring countries, peacekeeping forces—not by NATO, anything like that, but again, by Islamic countries in cooperation with UNSC. But first have a solution before you talk too much about ceasefire. People are not giving up their arms if they don’t see a solution. Why should they? They are fighting for their lives, and they are scared to death by what might happen. So you have to be closer to a solution. Put the horse before the cart.

(My edit of the DN! transcript) 

23 May 2012

Green Drinks visit the Apricot Centre

15queenstreet has published my blog post on behalf of Green Drinks, a group of green-minded people in Colchester, about our tour of the Apricot Centre organic market garden on Saturday 21 April. It is at: www.15queenstreet.org/post/23483386691

21 May 2012

Paul Krugman on Austerity

There is a comparison that politicians continually make, which is that at home we have to balance our books: what is wrong with that analogy?
PAUL KRUGMAN: What’s wrong is that we are an economy, not a family, … your spending is my income, and my spending is your income. And if we all try to slash spending at the same time, the result is that all of our income falls. The result is that we go into a depression, and we end up worse off.

Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist. Professor of economics at Princeton University and centenary professor at the London School of Economics. http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/17/paul_krugman_debt_commission_chair_alan

17 May 2012

Watergate and Cointelpro

The Watergate scandal of 1972 is generally assumed to be the classic example of a vigorous and feisty free press defending the constitution and bringing down a corrupt regime. What is still virtually unknown is that another huge campaign of political subversion came to light at the same time. This was the FBI Cointelpro program of bugging, theft, sabotage and political assassination under four presidents.

The reason Watergate was headline news was that one half of US political power, the Republicans, took on the other half, the Democrats. The scandal demonstrates that powerful interests in the US are capable of defending themselves against attack. By contrast, the targets of the FBI Cointelpro (Counterintelligence Program) were leftists, feminists, Communists, the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Panther Party. When minority movements without power are attacked, the facts go unreported.

Notes

Watergate

The Watergate scandal began with the burglary in June 1972 of the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate building in Washington DC, which was followed by the Nixon administration's attempt to cover up its involvement, and ended with the resignation of President Nixon in August 1974.

Political assassination

At dawn on 4 December 1969, 21-year-old Fred Hampton, a leader of the Illinois Black Panther Party, was shot dead in his bed at home in Chicago by armed police.

www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-rutberg/nothing-but-a-northern-ly_b_355670.html

www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAhamptonF.htm

FBI Cointelpro program

“The FBI began COINTELPRO—short for Counterintelligence Program—in 1956 to disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States. In the 1960s, it was expanded to include a number of other domestic groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Black Panther Party.” http://vault.fbi.gov/cointel-pro

Further reading and viewing

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon, 1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, concluding chapter.

Video of BBC2's The Big Idea, 14 February 1996, one of a series of thirty-minute interviews – http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4827358238697503# (Start at 16 minutes for section on Watergate and Cointelpro.) 
Where Egos Dare: Andrew Marr meets Noam Chomsky – www.medialens.org/articles/the_articles/articles_2001/de_marr_chomsky.html


8 May 2012

Vietnam: 50th anniversary of the US invasion

This year is the 50th anniversary of the US invasion of South Vietnam: the worst atrocity in the post war period. It killed millions of people and destroyed four countries. There is hardly a word about it in the media. It's like it didn’t happen. To explain why this 50th anniversary is so important, here is an extract from Afghanistan and South Vietnam, a 1984 essay by Noam Chomsky (quoted in The Chomsky Reader, p224). Chomsky contrasts the way that mainstream history recognises that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1980, but does not recognise that the US ever invaded South Vietnam, in the one case rejecting, and in the other case allowing the excuse that the invaders were invited in by the government of their client regime.
In 1962, the US attacked South Vietnam. In that year, President Kennedy sent the US Air Force to attack rural South Vietnam, where more than 80 percent of the population lived, as part of a program intended to drive several million people to concentration camps (called “strategic hamlets”), where they would be surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards and “protected” from the guerrillas who, we conceded, they were willingly supporting. … In the following years, the US continued to resist every attempt at peaceful settlement and in 1964 began to plan the ground invasion of South Vietnam which took place in early 1965, accompanied by bombing of North Vietnam and an intensification of the bombing of the South, at triple the level of the more publicized bombing of the North. The US also extended the war to Laos, then Cambodia. ...
For the past twenty-two years, I have been searching to find some reference in mainstream journalism or scholarship to an American invasion of South Vietnam in 1962 (or ever), or an American attack against South Vietnam, or American aggression in Indochina – without success. There is no such event in history. Rather, there is an American defense of South Vietnam against terrorists supported from outside (namely, from Vietnam), a defense that was unwise, the doves maintain.
(extract from Afghanistan and South Vietnam, 1984, The Chomsky Reader, p224)

3 May 2012

Chomsky and Trotsky

Trotsky was the one who laboured to destroy and undermine the popular organizations of workers in the Soviet Union, the factory councils and soviets, [and he was the one] who wanted to subordinate the working class to the will of the maximum leader and to institute a program of militarization of labor in the totalitarian society that he and Lenin were constructing. That was the real Trotsky – not only the Trotsky who sent his troops to Kronstadt and wiped out Makhno’s peasant forces once they were no longer needed to fend off the Whites, but the Trotsky who, from the very first moment of access to power, moved to undermine popular organizations and to institute highly coercive structures in which he and his associates would have absolute authority, with absolute submission of the working population to these leaders. That was the essential doctrine of Trotskyism in power, whatever he may have said before or after.
- from interview in The Chomsky Reader, p41, Pantheon Books 1987.

PS Most of my life I’ve seen Trotsky as the revolutionary hero of the 1917 revolution contrasted with the betrayer and villain, Stalin. No doubt this mainly derives from Animal Farm. Chomsky's pithy critique changes my view. 

27 Apr 2012

Short story in six words

Ernest Hemingway's friends made a $10 bet with him in the 1920s that he couldn’t write a complete story in just six words. His story was:
For sale:  baby shoes, never worn.
It has the key element of a good story, the desire to know more, and Hemmingway’s friends paid the bet. Hemingway is said to have considered it his best work.

23 Feb 2012

The Enemy of Nature by Joel Kovel

The Enemy of Nature by Joel Kovel, Zed Books, £17.99
'The Enemy of Nature brilliantly lays out the current ecological crisis in all of its dimensions. Kovel reveals the real "inconvenient truth" surrounding climate change: that capitalism is responsible, and the only way to solve the problem is to get rid of it.' - from review in Socialist Review by Alison Smith, January 2008

7 Feb 2012

Sustainable Energy – without the hot air

"Sustainable Energy – without the hot air" www.withouthotair.com/synopsis10.pdf
Here are some quotes from this book, which debunks several myths about energy consumption and energy production.

For example, “leaving mobile phone chargers plugged in” is often held up as an example of a behavioural ecocrime, with people who switch their chargers off being praised for “doing their bit.” The truth is that a typical mobile phone charger consumes just 0.01 kWh per day. The amount of energy saved by switching off the phone charger, 0.01 kWh, is exactly the same as the energy used by driving an average car for one second. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t switch phone chargers off. But don’t be duped by the mantra “every little helps.” Obsessively switching off the phone-charger is like bailing the Titanic with a teaspoon. Do switch it off, but please be aware how tiny a gesture it is.

 On energy production: ... for any renewable facility to make an appreciable contribution – a contribution at all comparable to our current consumption – it has to be country-sized. To provide 4% of our current energy consumption from wave power would require 500 km of Atlantic coastline to be completely filled with wave farms. Someone who wants to live on renewable energy, but expects the infrastructure associated with that renewable not to be large or intrusive, is deluding himself.

If economic constraints and public objections are set aside, it would be possible for the average European energy consumption of 125 kWh/d per person to be provided from these country-sized renewable sources. The two hugest contributors would be photovoltaic panels, which, covering 5% or 10% of the country, would provide 50 kWh/d per person; and offshore wind farms, which, filling a sea-area twice the size of Wales, would provide another 50 kWh/d per person on average. Such an immense panelling of the countryside and filling of British seas with wind machines (having a capacity five times greater than all the wind turbines in the world today) may be possible according to the laws of physics, but would the public accept and pay for such extreme arrangements?
If we answer no, we are forced to conclude that current consumption will never be met by British renewables. We require either a radical reduction in consumption, or significant additional sources of energy – or, of course, both.

Sustainable Energy – without the hot air "For anyone with influence on energy policy, whether in government, business or a campaign group, this book should be compulsory reading." Tony Juniper, Former Executive Director, Friends of the Earth

31 Jan 2012

the invisible hand of Adam Smith

Chomsky takes apart the notion so loved by neo-con/neo-liberal/neo-classical economics of the invisible hand of the market coined by the economist Adam Smith. Smith used the exact phrase just three times in his writings and in The Wealth of Nations in 1776 he thought the interests of merchants and manufacturers were fundamentally opposed to those of society in general, and that they had an inherent tendency to deceive and oppress society while pursuing their own interests. Quite the opposite of what Smith is usually thought to argue, ie that the result of everyone pursuing their own interests will be the maximization of the interests of society. Many people, although Smith did not, draw a moral corollary from this argument, and use it to defend the moral acceptability of pursuing one's own self-interest.
Watch Noam Chomsky on Adam Smith and the "invisible hand" - extra scene from the 2008 documentary "American Feud: A History of Conservatives and Liberals" at