Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power
a book by Noam Chomsky
(our site's book review)
Political philosopher, activist, and linguist Noam Chomsky is beloved around the world for the strength of his personal commitment to the truth as he sees it and for the brilliance of his ideas. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 7, 1928, he studied linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania and received his PhD there in 1955. Chomsky has taught at MIT for fifty years and is currently Institute Professor Emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. His linguistics work is widely credited with having revolutionized the field, and his political writings have made important contributions for decades. In 2001, he published 9-11: Was There an Alternative? (the dumbest book on 9/11 yet, because he refuses to see the obvious controlled demolition), which became his first international bestseller and was arguably the single most influential post–9-11 book, unfortunately. Chomsky is the author of many other very good best-selling political works, including Profit Over People, Media Control, Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Hopes and Prospects, Masters of Mankind, What Kind of Creatures Are We?, and Who Rules the World?.
This is one of the most important books (and documentary films) ever written, and it comes at a critical time in American history. It is a coherent narrative of the corruption of our American socio-economic-political systems. In addition to being a requiem, the film is also a post mortem, containing descriptions of the strategies and tactics that have transformed the United States of America into an oligarchy. If Chomsky's knowledge and brilliance cannot help us, we are so far beyond screwed we couldn't catch a bus back to screwed. (But they CAN help. Read this book. Learn it. Respond. Resist. And never ever ever give up!)
Chomsky's knowledge and brilliance CAN help. Read this book. Learn it. Respond. Resist. And never ever ever give up!
If Chomsky's knowledge and brilliance cannot help us, we are so far beyond screwed we couldn't catch a bus back to screwed
It is a dangerous time, a time when a reality star who knows nothing about politics has managed to trick his way into the White House, riding in on a campaign of bluster, pretense, fake promises, and demonization of everyone and everything who didn't buy his brand of political poppycock. Trump brags he doesn't like to read, and he honestly doesn't understand what that says about him, his ideas, his knowledge and his character. Trump knows nothing except business and marketing. His Make America Great Again baloney fooled millions who should have known better, but were incensed with the establishment's game of giving us candidates who would not change things like they said they would, so they made fools of us when we voted for them. Trump was supposed to be the outsider that represented the people, yet he obviously represented, primarily, his own business interests. He claimed he was the anti-establishment candidate, but his actions are not anti-establishment—they are, for the most part, pleasing the hell out of the Republicans, the rightwingers, the extremists, the regressivies, the Culture Warriors, and especially the corporatocracy who view his very low corporate taxes as their favorite wet dream.
Big surprise—the hero that will ride in on a white horse and save us from all this Concentration of Wealth & Power is not Donald J. Trump. It is us!
So, it turns out that: big surprise—the hero that will ride in on a white horse and save us from all this Concentration of Wealth & Power is not Donald J. Trump. It is us! Come on, folks, wake up! The man is a billionaire businessman looking to double his wealth, and willing to squeeze it from the public coffers as needed. The man loves all the attention—as all narcissists do. If Trump was a thinking man (not so much), he'd be revelling in the irony of tricking the American public into VOTING FOR A GREEDY BILLIONAIRE TO HELP THE LITTLE GUYS GET OUT FROM UNDER THE OPPRESSION OF THE ELITES, WHO HAVE BEEN USING THEM AS CASH COWS TO EXACERBATE THE ALREADY EGREGIOUS SITUATION OF OUR ELITES' Concentration of Wealth & Power! These are simple formulas, folks. The less we get, the more they get. The more they shake down the poor and middle class, the more they engorge their already overflowing bank accounts. It's classic win-lose in a world desperately needing win-win. The only positive perspective here is that they have to leave us enough money so we can buy their products, or they'll end up losing money.
The more the rich shake down the poor and middle class, the more they engorge their already overflowing bank accounts
If you greedily eat two slices of cake instead of one, it will be yummy on the tummy—greed is good, but if you eat the whole damn cake all by your greedy little self, you'll get sick and probably barf
At least the rich will leave us a few scraps once they're done eating
In a nasty twist of the the law of diminishing returns we can say that in all productive processes, adding more of one factor of production (greed), while holding all others constant, will at some point yield lower incremental per-unit returns, which means that even if Gordon Gekko from the Wall Street movie is right that greed is good (?), too much of it will bite one in the ass. Leaving us enough money so we can buy their products, or they'll end up losing money—this is but one example. If you greedily eat two slices of cake instead of one, it will be yummy on the tummy—greed is good. If you eat the whole damn cake all by your greedy little self, you'll get sick and probably barf. Too much greed is bad, and bad for you. "Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered" is an old Wall Street saying that warns investors against excessive greed. So is "Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered." Or "Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered."
This pig is getting fed and taking only what he needs
These hogs got so fat they couldn't walk so they got slaughtered to put them out of their misery (hint-hint, Wall Street)
In Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, Chomsky lays out the 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power. They are ugly. They lead to ugliness. But rich oligarchs distract themselves from any feelings of guilt that arise from shaking down the rest of us by rolling around in their money bins, screaming with evil laughter.
The rich oligarchs distract themselves from any feelings of guilt that arise from shaking down the rest of us by rolling around in their money bins, screaming with evil laughter
What it gets down to is this: Rich people hate democracy. They try to minimize it in as many ways as they can. They'd be happy to drop the pretense and create a system based on aristocracy where they sit on thrones all day, waited on hand and foot by the serfs. This may happen someday, but for now, the rich just make sure that things run like an oligarchy rather than a democracy. To pacify the sheep/citizens, the oligarchs continue to call it a democracy, and they wink at one another when no one is looking. Folks, it is NOT a democracy. The U.S. is an oligarchy. See for yourself: Democracy—an American Delusion.
If the people had any real power, they'd stop the rich from screwing the poor and middle class, so the rich would become less rich, which they would hate, so the rich ensure the nonrich are powerless
Why do they hate democracy? Because if the people had any real power, they'd stop the rich from screwing the poor and middle class, so the rich would become less rich, which they would hate, so the rich ensure the nonrich are powerless. If citizens had any power, they'd stop the rich from exploiting the poor and middle class, and the rich would have to settle for 2 yatchs, 3 houses, 7 Rolls-Royces, and 18 billion dollars in the bank rather than 3 yatchs, 5 houses, 9 Rolls-Royces, and 23 billion dollars in the bank. Boo-hoo! According to Chomsky, the first principle of concentrating wealth and power is to reduce democracy.
Corporatocracy prevails, so democracy takes it on the chin
The oligarchs would be happy to bury democracy six feet under in order to maximize their wealth
"Chomsky observes the present-day United States with such lucid clarity that readers may feel they are viewing familiar terrain for the first time. . . . Chomsky and his collaborators have created a perceptive and revelatory examination of the forces driving America inequality."—Publishers Weekly
"A primer in Chomsky’s analysis of the faults of the American political and economic system. Taking as its backbone the idea that “a significant part of the American Dream is class mobility: You’re born poor, you work hard, you get rich,” Chomsky systematically documents the many ways the system is rigged from top to bottom to ensure that corporations always win."—Billmoyers.com
Chomsky systematically documents the many ways the system is rigged from top to bottom
"Noam Chomsky in Requiem for the American Dream directs the fierce light of his intellect on the utopian ideology of neoliberalism, the absurd idea that markets should dictate all aspects of human society. He dissects the disastrous consequences of this ideology for our society, culture, and politics. He explains how corporations indoctrinated the public, academia, and the mass media to sign on for a project that has devastated the lives of working men and women and obliterated the common good. Every promise made by the proponents of neoliberalism is a lie. Its power to write its own laws and regulations, Chomsky points out, has ultimately created a mafia economic system and a mafia political system that is exemplified in the rise to power of the demagogue Donald Trump."—Chris Hedges
So what, then, are the ten principles of concentration of wealth and power at work in America today? They're simple enough: reduce democracy, shape ideology, redesign the economy, shift the burden onto the poor and middle classes, attack the solidarity of the people, let special interests run the regulators, engineer election results, use fear and the power of the state to keep the rabble in line, manufacture consent, and marginalize the population. These, then, are the 10 principles of Oligarchy and the elites live by them, and in this MUST-READ book, there are brillantly laid out details as each principle is discussed. The book is easy to read—it's written so that the layperson can understand it. But its meaning is depressing to contemplate. So, here are the 10 principles in list form:
- Reduce Democracy
- Shape Ideology
- Redesign the Economy
- Shift the Burden
- Attack Solidarity
- Run the Regulators
- Engineer Elections
- Keep the Rabble in Line
- Manufacture Consent
- Marginalize the Population
The burst of activism and democracy in the United States in the 1960s scared the protectors of wealth and privilege, and Chomsky admits that he did not anticipate the strength of the backlash through which we have been suffering since. In plain English, the rich saw that the nonrich—unless stopped—could use democratic methods to attempt to make life fair for all classes and races and genders. But if it was fair, the rich would get only their fair share and no more. But, like the spoiled little girl in the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the rich simply do not intend to settle for only their fair share, they want the whole world and they want it now. Perhaps they never learned to share as children. Sounds like bad parenting to us—which also applies to the cute, bratty little girl in the movie.
I want the whole world and I want it now!
Dump massive funding into militarism would be an 11th principle of concentration of wealth and power if David Swanson was writing it. (He is an Alternet.org contributor.) "Why should this be included? Well, militarism is the biggest public program in the United States. It's over half of federal discretionary spending. . . . [Militarization] generates public interest in fighting foreign enemies rather than enemies hanging out on Wall Street. It does militarize the police for free, however, just in case Wall Street generates any disgruntled customers. . . . Chomsky does, of course, oppose militarism. . . . How the single biggest thing that the wealthy and powerful do in their effort to expand their power over the whole globe didn't make the top-10 list I don't know. . . . The film concludes with a call to build mass movements for change. The United States still has a very free society, Chomsky advises. A lot can be done, he tells us, if people will only choose to do it." (Source: Noam Chomsky Wants You to Wake Up From the American Dream)
The American Dream used to be 'Educate yourself wisely so that you can get a high-paying job one day, and you can end up with a nice slice of the American Pie' but now it's 'There are no jobs—if I join the Army, I can get a few bucks for school'
"Mr. Chomsky concludes that 'there’s a lot that can be done if people organize, struggle for their rights as they’ve done in the past.' You get the feeling, though, that, given all the challenges he lists [the 10 principles of concentration of wealth and power], Mr. Chomsky no longer quite believes that." (Source: Review: Noam Chomsky Focuses on Financial Inequality in ‘Requiem for the American Dream’, Daniel M. Gold, NY Times)
The huge income gap in the USA screams to all who will listen: the United States is no longer a democracy, it's a corrupt oligarchy
Mano Singham says, in a book review, that Chomsky says "the elites will never, ever, voluntarily give up their hold on power or wealth. The only way things have improved for ordinary people is if they have organized and demanded their rights, and this can be seen in the history of the labor, suffragist, and civil rights movements. It is only when the elites are frightened by the specter of mass revolt and violence in the streets that threatens to take power completely away from them that they relinquish at least some of their control and redistribute at least some of the wealth." (Source: Film review: Requiem for the American Dream (2015), Mano Singham)
The rich no longer care about the little guys—they've become invisible and irrelevant
IF WE DO NOT organize and just keep on truckin' with business as usual, here is what we can expect: There is an old saying that life's a poop sandwich except that they don't actually furnish any bread. But we heard a new version of it on The Middle (© ABC) the other day: In the immortal words of Mike Heck, We're all born with a crap sandwich. Some people get a big one. Others get a small one. You eat your way through it and then you're dead.
It's not just that "Every promise made by the proponents of neoliberalism is a lie." The very idea that we expect Big Daddies to furnish us anything is flawed. It was obvious from the start that they—in spite of rosy rhetoric to the contrary—are only interested in what they can take from us. This progressive "getting" idea needs re-examination in the cold light of realism. Mike Heck expects he'll at least get bread with his crap. But after reading Chomsky's incredibly insightful book, we can clearly see now what we can expect from the "they" who we think are looking out for us. Oh, we'll get the crap sandwich all right, but there simply won't be any bread. Heck was too optimistic.
We can clearly see what we can expect from the "they" who we think are looking out for us. Oh, we'll get the crap sandwich all right, but there simply won't be any bread, however, there will be crap painted to look like bread, cheese and pickles