Noam Chomsky: Kapitalisme voor mij, Socialisme voor de rest

Door Redactie

20 oktober 2005

De socialistische intellectueel Noam Chomsky werd onlangs in een wereldwijde poll tot de beste publieke intellectueel gekozen. Tegelijkertijd kan hij echter ook als de grootste hypocriet ter wereld gekozen worden. Want wat blijkt, de socialist Chomsky doet er alles aan om zelf zoveel mogelijk fortuin te bemachtigen en zo weinig mogelijk aan de belastingen af te dragen. Op zich is er niets mis met dat gedrag en valt het enkel toe te juichen, maar voor iemand die talloze boeken en essays heeft geschreven waarin hij het kapitalisme aanvalt, en spreekt over een nieuwe klassestrijd van arm tegen rijk, is dit toch wel heel pikant.

Op staat een interessant artikel over de financiele handel en wandel van Chomsky. Hieronder een paar hoogtepunten:
*He has frequently lashed out against the "massive use of tax havens to shift the burden to the general population and away from the rich" and criticized the concentration of wealth in "trusts" by the wealthiest one percent. The American tax code is rigged with "complicated devices for ensuring that the poor -- like eighty percent of the population -- pay off the rich."
But trusts can't be all bad. After all, Chomsky, with a net worth north of $2,000,000, decided to create one for himself. A few years back he went to Boston's venerable white-shoe law firm, Palmer and Dodge, and with the help of a tax attorney specializing in "income-tax planning" set up an irrevocable trust to protect his assets from Uncle Sam. [...] Chomsky favors the estate tax and massive income redistribution -- just not the redistribution of his income. No reason to let radical politics get in the way of sound estate planning.

*Chomsky offered no explanation for why he condemns others who are equally proud of their provision for their children and who try to protect their assets from Uncle Sam. Although he did say that the tax shelter is okay because he and his family are "trying to help suffering people."

*Indeed, Chomsky is rich precisely because he has been such an enormously successful capitalist. Despite the anti-profit rhetoric, like any other corporate capitalist he has turned himself into a brand name. [...] Chomsky's business works something like this. He gives speeches on college campuses around the country at $12,000 a pop, often dozens of times a year. Can't go and hear him in person? No problem: you can go online and download clips from earlier speeches-for a fee. You can hear Chomsky talk for one minute about "Property Rights"; it will cost you seventy-nine cents. You can also by a CD with clips from previous speeches for $12.99.

*Chomsky's marketing efforts shortly after September 11 give new meaning to the term "war profiteer." In the days after the tragedy, he raised his speaking fee from $9,000 to $12,000 because he was suddenly in greater demand. He also cashed in by producing another instant book. Seven Stories Press, a small publisher, pulled together interviews conducted via email that Chomsky gave in the three weeks following the attack on the Twin Towers and rushed the book to press. His controversial views were hot, particularly overseas. By early December 2001, they had sold the foreign rights in nineteen different languages. The book made the bestseller list in the United States, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. It is safe to assume that he netted hundreds of thousands of dollars from this book alone.

*Over the years, Chomsky has been particularly critical of private property rights, which he considers simply a tool of the rich, of no benefit to ordinary people. "When property rights are granted to power and privilege, it can be expected to be harmful to most," Chomsky wrote on a discussion board for the Washington Post. Intellectual property rights are equally despicable. According to Chomsky, for example, drug companies who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing drugs shouldn't have ownership rights to patents. Intellectual property rights, he argues, "have to do with protectionism."
Protectionism is a bad thing -- especially when it relates to other people. But when it comes to Chomsky's own published work, this advocate of open intellectual property suddenly becomes very selfish. It would not be advisable to download the audio from one of his speeches without paying the fee, warns his record company, Alternative Tentacles. (Did Andrei Sakharov have a licensing agreement with a record company?) And when it comes to his articles, you'd better keep your hands off. Go to the official Noam Chomsky website and the warning is clear: "Material on this site is copyrighted by Noam Chomsky and/or Noam Chomsky and his collaborators. No material on this site may be reprinted or posted on other web sites without written permission." However, the website does give you the opportunity to "sublicense" the material if you are interested.

*In October 2002, radicals gathered in Philadelphia for a benefit entitled "Noam Chomsky: Media and Democracy." Sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Democratic Left, for a fee of $15 you could attend the speech and hear the great man ruminate on the evils of capitalism. For another $35, you could attend a post-talk reception and he would speak directly with you.
During the speech, Chomsky told the assembled crowd, "A democracy requires a free, independent, and inquiring media." After the speech, Deborah Bolling, a writer for the lefty Philadelphia City Paper, tried to get an interview with Chomsky. She was turned away. To talk to Chomsky, she was told, this "free, independent, and inquiring" reporter needed to pay $35 to get into the private reception.

*Corporate America is one of Chomsky's demons. It's hard to find anything positive he might say about American business. He paints an ominous vision of America suffering under the "unaccountable and deadly rule of corporations." He has called corporations "private tyrannies" and declared that they are "just as totalitarian as Bolshevism and fascism." Capitalism, in his words, is a "grotesque catastrophe."
But a funny thing happened on the way to the retirement portfolio. Chomsky, for all of his moral dudgeon against American corporations, finds that they make a pretty good investment. When he made investment decisions for his retirement plan at MIT, he chose not to go with a money market fund, or even a government bond fund. Instead, he threw the money into blue chips and invested in the TIAA-CREF stock fund. A look at the stock fund portfolio quickly reveals that it invests in all sorts of businesses that Chomsky says he finds abhorrent: oil companies, military contractors, pharmaceuticals, you name it.

Nogmaals, er is vanuit libertarisch oogpunt niets mis met proberen zo weinig mogelijk belasting te betalen en zelf zo veel mogelijk geld te verdienen. Integendeel. Maar voor iemand die juist altijd tegen deze zaken ageert is het behoorlijk hypocriet. En voor iemand die naar eigen zegge schrijft om de wereld ten goede te veranderen, is het opmerkelijk dat hij zijn materiaal niet gratis ter beschikking stelt zodat zoveel mogelijk mensen er kennis van kunnen nemen, maar in plaats ervan zijn copyrights met hand en tand verdedigt.

Vergelijk dit gedrag bijvoorbeeld met dat van het Ludwig von Mises Institute dat zich sterk maakt voor het pure kapitalisme, voor een volledig vrije markt en daarmee, net als wat Chomsky beweert, voor een betere wereld. Deze 'kapitalistische zwijnen' hebben zo'n beetje de grootste economie-site ter wereld, met duizenden artikelen, e-books, honderden lezingen in mp3- en videoformaat, conferenties die je on-line kunt bijwonen, beurzen voor studenten, ze dwingen vrijwel nooit copyrights af, enzovoorts, enzovoorts. Allemaal he-le-maal gratis en voor niets. Vrijwillige donaties van particulieren bekostigen dit alles zodat eenieder kennis kan maken met de economische logica en moraliteit van het kapitalisme. Als er een term was met de precies omgekeerde betekenis van 'hypocriet' dan zou het Mises Institute die verdienen.

Gerelateerde link:
- De Ondraaglijke Hypocrisie van Marcel van Dam