Sunday, March 19, 2006

Noam Chomsky and the Quest for Social Justice

And now for our first featured article: Noam Chomsky and the Quest for Social Justice by Paul Postal. First though, I'd like to tell you a little bit about Paul. He is a senior research scientist in the department of linguistics at New York University. He is also someone whose name is known to the entire field of American theoretical linguists.
He is a member of a very exclusive group which I shall refer to as the Last Lions – those whose careers began in graduate school in the 1950s, who came to prominence in the great linguistics wars of the 1960s, and who took their places in the high constellation of those who had the most influence on the field, or who gained the greatest recognition for their creative ideas about language, or for their ability to defend their positions or to attack the positions of others.
Paul taught at MIT in the 1960s, and was one of the forces behind the development of a theory of linguistics called generative semantics, of which it was said that Postal, "below only Chomsky in stature", was "the guru", "the big gun", "the brains behind the outfit". These quotes are from The Linguistics Wars, in which Randy Harris describes Postal’s work as "uniformly very reasoned, very detailed, and the reasoning is very explicit."
Harris’ book details a titanic battle between Chomsky and Postal at the 1969 Texas Conference on the Goals of Linguistics – a sort of ‘King Kong Meets Godzilla’ affair in which Postal’s brilliantly argued paper was subjected to a prolonged Chomskyan attack – an attack which had all the classic trademarks of Chomskyan argument: vitriol, belligerence, and the intentional mischaracterization of Postal’s powerful work. It was a true example of the irresistible force meeting the unmovable object.
Paul has gone on to develop and publish works explicating his own theories, including his most recently published book Skeptical Linguistic Essays. His new book, currently in development, is tentatively titled A Graphic View of English Object Structure. Paul was also one of the contributors to The Anti-Chomsky Reader.
His political development has also diverged from that of Chomsky. Whereas Chomsky is ending his career as an unreconstructed Leftist and ‘intellectual’ leader of the worldwide anti-American movement whose theories on language have, in the view of some, been completely discredited, Postal has placed himself firmly on the right, and has nothing but contempt for the political claims of Chomsky. Hence the article below, which is a response to an article published in the summer of 2005, which represents Chomsky’s goofy attempt to delineate a connection between his evanescent notions of the universality of language and some equally fevered notion of a corresponding ‘universality’ of the precepts of ‘social justice’.

Noam Chomsky and the Quest for Social Justice
by Paul M. Postal
Noam Chomsky, in a recent Boston Review article, What We Know: On the Universals of Language and Rights, briefly discusses human rights. His remarks reflect his tediously monomaniacal goal of berating the United States, its government, its officials, its history and its capitalistic and free market economic organization in seeking justification for his own vague and inexplicit collectivist ideas of how society should be organized.
For those unfamiliar with Chomsky’s oeuvre, the following quote regarding the 2004 presidential election is fully representative of the standard of seriousness of his political views:
"The question of [electoral] fraud, though it may exist, is pretty marginal. There's something much more important about the election, namely, that virtually the entire population was excluded. And we know this very well. Public opinion in the United States is studied very carefully, and we have a huge amount of data. The most prestigious institutions that monitor public opinion came out with extensive studies related to the election. Right before the election, this October. They were scarcely reported, almost not at all. And they are very interesting: they tell you a lot about the election. In fact, what they tell you in effect is that the election didn't take place."
Chomsky refers to scarcely reported studies by organizations operating in unnamed localities with unspecified population samples and unspecified questions – studies which were able to reveal – in October 2004…(never underestimate the role of time travel technology in this kind of study) – that the election many believed would take place in the United States in November 2004, and which numerous citizens less politically informed than Chomsky may still believe did take place, actually did not.
The one hundred and twenty million votes tabulated, along with the thirty one states carried by the winning candidate were just a fantasy apparently, because virtually the entire population was excluded.
Who knew?
People like me even imagined they voted. And so, as is so often the case with Chomskyan assertions of fact, one faces a cognitive clash: they seem more preposterous than even shameless parodying of him would permit.
In fact, Chomsky is perfectly aware that the 2004 U.S. election took place and that John F. Kerry lost because he got fewer electoral votes. See his article 2004 Elections. Thus, his statement is simply one of his innumerable childish propaganda excesses. This particular one converts his emotional distress at the defeat of the more leftwing candidate he favored – as well as the fact that American political opinion has always been vastly to the right of where he would like it – into a sour grapes rant to the effect that the American political process is illegitimate. Or consider this comment about public policy from On What Matters:
"Social Security is a democratic system based on the principle that people care about each other, that we have a community responsibility to make sure vulnerable people are taken care of."
A teenager could give a better description of the Social Security system than this mere emotive babbling. Here is what the system is actually based on:
workers and employers are taxed jointly at a fifteen point three per cent rate regardless of employee earnings up to $90,000;
the funds are distributed to former workers regardless of their wealth or vulnerability, including to those as wealthy as (or wealthier than) millionaires like Chomsky.
His statement does not even distinguish the system from church-based charities or welfare programs means-tested to target only the poor.
All this having been said – and given Chomsky's undeniable notoriety as well as the dreary evidence that many people manage, mysteriously, to take his declarations seriously – it is perhaps worth utilizing his remarks as the basis for a few general comments on the topic of so-called ‘rights’.
To start, let me assert my own view of our rights, a view which reflects the understanding of many others, I should think:
The U. S. Constitution, whose first ten amendments are traditionally referred to as the Bill of Rights, specifies a variety of rights. These are constraints on government power and action, generally of the ‘Congress shall pass no law’ variety and do not involve material benefits;
Inherent in the notion of right is a corresponding obligation. If citizens have the right to keep and bear arms, the government has the obligation not to interfere with their keeping and bearing them, etc;
The U.S. Constitution doesn't promise anyone any money. Or any stuff.
Confusingly to many, however…the term right has been extended in modern leftist discourse to cover something beyond mere limits on governmental power: a right can also be a guarantee of a material benefit which one deserves to have – the deserving being so imperative that it is actually wrong for one not to have it. To distinguish these diverse notions, I’ll call the entitlement rights must haves.
Traditional rights indicate things that the government should do or not do; must haves denote material things which somehow should be supplied. Must haves share with traditional rights the attribute of obligation, of moral force. Like traditional rights then, if some person is guaranteed a particular must have, it stands to reason that some other entities are obliged to supply that person with that must have. I return to this.
Now then. A major repository of claimed human ‘rights’ comes with the imprimata of the United Nations. As Chomsky stated in his Boston Review article:
"The standard codification of human rights in the modern period is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [hereinafter ‘declaration’] adopted in December 1948 by almost all nations, at least in principle."
Chomsky had earlier gushed about the importance of the declaration, quoting Harvard professor Mary Ann Glendon:
"The declaration broke new ground in significant respects. It enriched the realm of enunciated rights, and extended them to all persons…Glendon observes that the declaration ‘is not just a ‘universalization’ of the traditional 18th-century ‘rights of man,’ but part of a new ‘moment’ in the history of human rights...belong[ing] to the family of post-World War II rights instruments that attempted to graft social justice onto the trunk of the tree of liberty,’ specifically Articles 22-27, a ‘pillar’ of the declaration ‘which elevates to fundamental rights status several ‘new’ economic, social, and cultural rights.’
Chomsky again: "It is fair to regard the declaration as another step towards ‘recovering rights’ that had been lost to ‘conquest and tyranny’, promising ‘a new era to the human race’, to recall the hopes of Thomas Paine two centuries ago.
Finally: "Glendon stresses further that the declaration is a closely integrated document: there is no place for the ‘relativist’ demand that certain rights be relegated to secondary status in light of ‘Asian values’ or some other pretext."
Chomsky's more recent article made this additional claim:
"The [declaration] reflected a very broad crosscultural consensus."
Broad crosscultural consensus…? Really? Even given its vagueness, Chomsky’s claim is impressively preposterous and deceptive. For instance, as Article 17, Part 1 states:
"Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others."
Who would imagine that Western capitalist notions of private property were acceptable to the communist Soviet Union, or to the untold thousands of Marxists throughout the world? Although Chomsky chides the U.S. for picking and choosing among declaration rights it accepts, and writes as though decency required acceptance of the declaration in toto, he himself strongly rejects the ownership of private property, if his other writings are to be believed. For it is easy to argue that Article 17 justifies the existence of corporations, legally recognized economic entities by which individuals (stock holders) voluntarily associate (by buying the stock). And yet here is what Chomsky has to say about corporations in History is Not Over:
"I don’t think corporations should exist any more than fascism should exist. They are similar totalitarian institutions."
So I guess that means that Chomsky does not agree with the declaration’s assertion that everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others; but then perhaps if he had ever worked for a real corporation (as, incidentally, I have), he might have avoided such infantile sophistry and grasped some of the subtle distinctions between, say, the United Parcel Service and true totalitarian organizations such as the Soviet Union or the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It is also preposterous to accept, as implied by Chomsky's talk of crosscultural consensus, that Moslem U.N. members are fully in accord with the content of Article 2, which states:
"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."
Could even Chomsky pretend that Moslem culture accepts a lack of distinction between men and women, given the following truths?:
That many Moslem governments permit men to have four wives but none permits women to have more than one husband;
That in many such countries women complaining of being raped are viewed as adulterous and subject to death;
That such cultures sanction ‘honor’ killings of women but not of men;
That in one such country women are not even permitted to drive;
That divorce procedures are entirely asymmetrical for men and women, etc.
Does he believe that Westerners form part of a broad crosscultural consensus which accepts such actions as Saudi firemen allowing school girls to die in their burning school rather than permit them to escape ‘improperly dressed’? Is he part of a consensus accepting such actions?
Could even he maintain with a straight face that Moslem culture accepts that Jews are to be accorded equal rights with Moslems? Such a thing would contradict the holiest writings of Islam.
While the Israeli legislature has Moslem members, can he point to any Moslem country which at any point since 1948 has had a Jewish legislator or government official?
Some Moslem countries are so hostile to Jews that they do not even permit them to set foot on their territory. Does he imagine that he, a Jew, would be permitted in Saudi Arabia? Could even he find that this ingrained hostility accords with Article 1, which preaches brotherhood?
Clearly, then, what the declaration represented at best was some degree of cultural consensus among the Western powers who were responsible for the creation of the U.N. It is hardly an accident that it is located in New York and not in Moscow, Beijing, Buenos Aires or Riyadh.
The thirty articles making up the declaration cover considerable ground, representing a set of rights, each of which is no more – and no less – important than any other. These rights range from constraints on government action similar to those in the U.S. Constitution to religious-sermon-like injunctions (Article 1) that ‘[human beings] should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’
And then there are the equally important must haves:
"Everyone…has the right to equal pay for equal work." (Article 23)
Chomsky's recent article remarks favorably on this lack of distinction among ‘rights’:
"All of [the declaration’s] components were given equal status, including ‘anti-torture rights’, socioeconomic rights, etc. and is critical of the US for not supporting them across the board." He adds:
"Whatever consensus the declaration did or did not represent, there is evidently a vast lack of conformity between contemporary life and the injunctions of the fifty-seven-year-old declaration."
To what is Chomsky referring to here?
Is he referring to the Iraqi citizens which Saddam Hussein's government was torturing, mutilating, feeding into shredders, etc., even though they had the 'right', according to Article 5, not to 'be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment'?;
Is he referring to the tens of thousands who have starved in North Korea in recent years despite the fact that they have, according to Article 25, a ‘right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care’?;
Is he referring to women in Saudi Arabia who are denied almost all political rights and even the possibility of legally driving a car even though they are are, at least according to Article 7, ‘equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law’?;
Is he referring to each inhabitant of Harare in Zimbabwe that the government of Robert Mugabe is driving from his or her home in the thousands and each farmer whose land that government has seized without compensation despite their right, according to Article 17 not to ‘be arbitrarily deprived of his property’?;
Is he referring to followers of the Bahai religion in Iran, persecuted, even executed by the Islamic government since 1979, despite having been given, through Article 18, ‘the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’?;
Is he referring to Cubans, citizens of a country which has permitted no meaningful elections in any of the forty-six years since a communist takeover put the current leader in power have, who nevertheless have, according to Article 11, the right to express their will ‘in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage’?
It appears that, despite Chomsky's endorsement of Glendon's talk of ‘a new moment in the history of human rights’ and ‘a new era to the human race’, ‘rights’ as enumerated in the declaration describe little more than pious hopes. Nothing in them connects to any practical means of realizing the desired states of affairs.
This is hardly surprising. The doctrines embodied in the declaration evolved in that small group of countries in which these most desirable ‘rights’ already existed. Understanding that to be the case, what, then, was the meaning of the declaration?
To the diverse array of fascist, communist, totalitarian, tyrannical and dictatorial regimes whose political organizations were essentially incompatible with the terms of the declaration, it was a toothless call to transform themselves.
Governments that in no sense accepted much of the content of the declaration signed on to them without qualms simply because doing so was essentially cost-free. The Soviet Union was as unhindered in running its slave camp gulags after signing as before. Moreover, signing had the minor side benefit for some of making them seem more reasonable in Western eyes! It was mediocre diplomatic theater, which only someone with political ideas as little linked to reality as Chomsky's could take seriously.
But perhaps we should make an addendum to the dreary state of affairs outlined above. Despite the vast scale of failure on the part of so many nations to comply with the provisions of the declaration, certain developments in recent history have led to huge improvements in the satisfaction of such rights within certain political entities.
I refer to countries which go by the names of Kuwait…Bosnia…Kosovo…Afghanistan…and Iraq. In each of these countries – places where horrible massacres, rape, pillaging, torture, ethnic cleansing, religious persecution, etc. were taking place as a result of the actions of governments or government sanctioned and supported groups – such government-sponsored crimes are no longer taking place.
But the actions which brought about these rights improvements were without exception not only not praised but energetically opposed by Chomsky. What, then, did each of these transformations have in common?
Each involved – indeed, required – the intervention of military forces of the United States. All of these interventions required hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars to pay for military hardware and personnel, as well as for the costs of reconstruction and nation-building. In two cases, Afghanistan and Iraq, thousands of American lives have been sacrificed.
These circumstances leave no doubt that – whatever his lip service to ‘rights’, or to the declaration, etc. – Chomsky’s concern for these ideas invariably takes second place to his real Job One, which is the denunciation and denigration of his own country and its actions.
I do not recall, for instance, any writing of his in which he systematically tabulates and praises U.S. humanitarian efforts following disasters like the Asian tsunami or the recent earthquake in Pakistan; but why would there be such a work, which could hardly aid Chomsky's program of demonization of his own country?
Or consider Chomsky’s concerns with regard to Article 25:
"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."
To the question of why the must haves in Article 25 have not been implemented, Chomsky offers his tediously invariant answer to almost any perceived sociopolitical problem:
the selfish perfidy of ‘wealth and power';
the machinations of large corporations, with their influence over the U.S. government, which has sabotaged the implementation.
To call this viewpoint infantile would be too kind to it. The reality behind the failure to provide these must haves involves several key elements:
the failure of the declaration to obligate specific organizations to effect these ‘rights’;
the lack of any enforcement mechanism for the declaration; and,
the fact that any achievement of must have ‘rights’ would require – I’m sorry, but there is no other way to say this – vast amounts of money.
Consider the initial factor. While it's great that everyone has a ‘right' to all of these must haves, who is obliged to provide them? About such obligations, the declaration is fecklessly vague. The only relevant passage is:
…every individual and every organ of society…shall strive…to promote respect for these rights and freedoms…to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance…
This invocation to some vague universal ‘striving’ manages through its obscurity to avoid imposing a precise obligation on any specific entity. Good feelings aside, if no fixed entity or group of entities is obliged to any of the must have benefits, then there can be no moral force brought to bear to facilitate their satisfaction.
Another characteristic of the must haves is vagueness and obscurity. For instance, the doctrine which demands ‘equal pay for equal work’ lacks discernible content because ‘equal pay’ and ‘equal work’ are undefined, nor is it specified who should define them.
Consider Factories A and B situated in locations where living costs differ radically (Central Mississippi and coastal California), and assume that A and B produce the same product. Does ‘equal pay’ require equal dollar amounts or different amounts pro-rated for local costs? Suppose that the workers in Factory A produce more product per man hour than those in Factory B. Should their more productive labor nonetheless be remunerated ‘equally’? How about differentials due to seniority?
And what of different types of work? Who decides – and how is it decided – whether logging in Siberia is ‘equal work’ to doing electric line repair in Spain, or whether functioning as a nurse in India is equal to doing accounting in Finland or translation in Canada, etc.? Is the labor of police in small towns in thinly-populated Nova Scotia to be equated with the more dangerous task of policing large, crime-ridden cities like Mexico City and Detroit? Such questions reveal that the declaration must haves could have no practical meaning in the world.
The ‘right’ to adequate nutrition.
What does a standard of living adequate for the must have of nutrition entail? Since so many people are overweight, does the food must have require enough to keep an overweight person overweight, or just enough to maintain the ideal body weight, the latter to be established perhaps by some subsequent U.N. decree? Does the right guarantee three meals per day (with dessert?), or high quality, low-fat protein like shrimp? Do imprisoned murderers have the right to the same amounts and quality as regular citizens? Again, such questions reveal the stated must have as an empty piety.
The right to excellent medical care.
Medical care is certainly a desiderata for everyone, but what does it include? How many dental checkups per year must be available to conform with the proclamation? Does the medical must have guarantee heart transplants for seventy-seven-year olds, cosmetic breast implants for those whose ideas of their ‘well-being’ includes an ample bosom nature failed to provide, liver transplants for elderly alcoholics, grief counseling for teenagers who have broken up with their boyfriends, unlimited numbers of lateterm abortions? What about MRIs? Does the medical must have guarantee timely access to an MRI?
In Canada, polls show that people like their miserable medical system because it is level, which is to say, it’s bad for almost everyone. Citizens of Canada, a country very positively oriented toward the U.N., say that they prefer theirs to a better system with significant inequalities like ours. Their actions, however, sometimes betray their words, as their frequent appearance in Vermont medical centers, attempting to get quick access to American MRI diagnoses, testifies. (The point is nicely dramatized in Denys Arcand's prizewinning film L'invasion des barbares (The Barbarian Invasions), which depicts health care in socialist Quebec.)
And we won't even get into questions of how long one is to be guaranteed artificial life support. Who is to decide what the ‘right’ to medical care should cover and whether or how the concrete interpretation of that ‘right’ should be modified as medical science advances providing new treatments, new preventive measures, etc.?
Chomsky's 2005 article sneers at the heartless U.S. officials Paula Dobriansky, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Morris Abraham who rejected the seriousness of the declaration:
"Neither nature, experience, nor probability informs these lists of ‘entitlements’, which are subject to no constraints except those of the mind and appetite of their authors."
Chomsky's dismissal of the view of these officials was not backed by any reasoning or argumentation. He provided no specificity to the various must haves. Still less has he indicated who is obliged to satisfy them and with what resources, or how these are to be obtained. All Chomsky says, in connection with a 1990 U.S. veto of a U.N. resolution on a supposed ‘right to development’ is:
"The fundamental error of the alleged ‘right to development' is that it presupposes that Article 25 of the declaration actually means what it clearly says, and is not a mere ‘letter to Santa Claus’."
But as is already indicated, vagueness renders nearly comical any talk of the declaration’s saying something ‘clearly’. Thus, as Kirkpatrick stated, the socioeconomic provisions of the declaration are indeed a letter to Santa Claus.
In a very real sense then, the declaration serves as a global roadmap toward what the Left often refers to as the concept of ‘social justice’. The driving principles of the ‘social justice movement’ are:
the view that poverty exists because wealth does, so that the rich are responsible for the poverty of the poor;
the idea that the way to deal with poverty is for the wealth of the wealthy to be transferred to the poor. (This would work well in a nondynamic universe, a fixed pie, but of course that is not reality.)
In reality, the only way to reduce poverty is to increase overall wealth, which is what the Western world has been doing successfuly for centuries, which is why our ‘poor’ live better than the non-poor of earlier times.
Thus, what you see in leftists is two competing wishes. One is to raise the economic level of the poor; the other is to eliminate inequality. Many leftists would, I am sure, reject a move which instantly doubled everyone's wealth, because it would further the gaps, even though it would give more to those at the bottom.
Chomsky has of course nothing coherent to say about any of this: no positive proposals, little more than 1930s communism. Worse, however, he ignores three quarters of a century of experience in the horrors of the communist experiment.
If states ignore must have provisions, the consequences are essentially nil. There is no mechanism which deals with nonconformity. Obviously, for the declaration to be practical, a structure analogous to the legal system of an actual nation would be required: police and a judicial system, with consequences such as prosecution and punishment.
For the declaration to be of universal practical significance then, it would require a world government and an associated planetary-wide legal and police system. Many on the left advocate such and imagine the U.N. to be a protoentity of this type. Consider this from Walter Cronkite:
It seems to many of us that if we are to avoid the eventual catastrophic world conflict, we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government patterned after our own government with a legislature, executive and judiciary, and police to enforce its international laws and keep the peace.
However, this level of authority is not part of the UN charter, and its members have indicated little willingness to abandon their individual sovereignties.
Moreover, given what is known about the U.N.'s corruption, involvement with bribery, sexual abuses, oil for food theft, high-level involvement with Saddam Hussein's government, anti-Semitism, indulgence of terrorism, bureaucratic bloat, pathetic failures to stop ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide in the Balkans, Rwanda, etc., the idea that the U.N. could be a rational candidate for world government fails the laugh test.
Wealth and inequality.
Beyond the vagueness of the must haves and the enforcement issue, there remains a third fundamental obstacle: the realities of wealth and inequality.
Imagine an island whose total population consists of two clans. One is composed of intelligent, hard working and prudent people. They exploit the resources of the island and its surrounding waters, create wealth, are restrained in their child bearing and create a comfortable life for themselves and their descendants.
The other clan is made up of relatively imprudent individuals. They do little work, ruin the land they occupy, overfish their associated sea coasts and breed immoderately. In time, they are nearly destitute. But the declaration must haves of course say they have the right to food, medical care, old age security, etc. A hypothetical force that could enforce the declaration on this island could do so only by either convincing the first clan to share its wealth with the second or else by seizure and redistribution.
The simple moral is that any invocation of the term ‘right’ yields an unavoidable commitment that some of the wealth of some people must be transferred to other people, willingly or not. And this requires some sort of transferring authority. What power is to determine how much wealth is to come from what countries and how much of it is to be distributed to what others? The declaration provides no answers of course, and is again just a structure of empty hopes. For it not to be would require world government.
Moreover, even advanced countries – Germany, for example – find themselves in a position – due to economic stagnation, population aging, foreign competition – which renders them incapable of meeting many of the obligations which the German people have democratically determined should be must haves for themselves.
The idea that must haves should be met by governments, even for just their own citizens, raises a myriad of issues about entitlement spending, tax policy, worker-to-retiree ratio, etc. In the real world, as distinct from dream-like proclamations such as the declaration, attempts to satisfy one type of must have can and do clash with attempts to satisfy others.
A balancing act.
The costs of a rich public medical care system can require limitations on national pension systems and national educational support and conversely, since these systems compete for the resources which taxation can extract from the wealth-creating portion of the population. How are such matters to be adjudicated? It is silly to imagine that such fantastically difficult policy questions can be dealt with by vague decrees valid planet-wide and for all time.
There is a more general point related to satisfaction of the must haves. Redistribution issues aside, such satisfaction depends on the creation of wealth, without which questions of social justice remain largely irrelevant. Wealth creation sufficient for meeting must haves on a near universal scale is limited with a few exceptions to just those states with the sort of economic organizations Chomsky and other collectivists detest and would undermine if they could. (The United States, Israel, Western European democracies, many of the oil-producing countries.)
Rationally then, real interest in satisfaction of the must haves leads to promotion of the sort of economic and political arrangements which facilitate the creation of wealth, free markets, the rule of law, limitations on government regulation, moderate taxation, limited government, free trade, etc.
To the problems and questions just sketched, Chomsky's remarks bring essentially nothing of substance. This is unsurprising since his goal is to attack the United States and contrast it with the paradise only possible in a Marxist society.
I remember reading somewhere Chomsky’s having said that the illegal immigration from the south is our fault: they are coming here because we stole their wealth.
What a thinker.
Morality as innate.
Finally, I present you with this claim in Chomsky’s 2005 article:
"In recent years, there has been intriguing work in moral philosophy and experimental cognitive science that carries these ideas forward, investigating what seem to be deep-seated moral intuitions that often have a very surprising character, in invented cases, and that suggest the operation of internal principles well beyond anything that could be explained by training and conditioning."
This incredibly obscure and verbose model of how not to write English prose offers a typical kind of Chomskyan hint that supports his ideas about the justification of the declaration and its list of must haves. The implication is that there is some work in moral philosophy and even more amazingly in experimental cognitive science which supports the notion of innate moral intuitions. The suggestion, relatively clear if totally inexplicable, is that this ‘recent intriguing work’ somehow indicates that the declaration must haves Chomsky likes are not just arbitrary choices but somehow deeply rooted in human nature.
Perhaps some notion of innateness can explicate why the declaration lists a ‘right’ to ‘equal pay for equal work’ but not a ‘right’ to have a private swimming pool. At the least, one might think that such a conclusion would lend some support to the notion that the declaration represents some sort of human consensus. But the implication is spurious: if cognitive science principles suggest that a human consensus exists about things like the declaration, then the clear nonexistence of such a consensus must in part undermine those cognitive science principles. (Why were those who traded in and exploited slaves not in touch with their innate ideas of ‘rights’?)
Worse, judging by Chomsky's article, there is no reason even to believe that the ‘intriguing work’ exists. For no reference to it is given, no names are revealed and there is no indication of any publications. One must take Chomsky’s claims wholly on faith. Given the number of times which his assertions have been documented to be – shall we say indulgently – unreliable, there is no reason to take Chomsky's claim seriously.
The last line of the quote above suggests a dichotomy: either a moral principle is in some sense internal, or it exists only by ‘training and conditioning’ – the latter evoking rats in a maze and the sort of conditioning associated with behaviorism. The deceptive implication is that conditioning is the only alternative to internal principles. Chomsky has completely ignored the fact that real learning comes from reading, teaching, insight, and discovery.
But enough of secret research! We would rather hear from Chomsky why so many Moslems seem unable to recognize an inborn moral drive to treat women equitably, or to avoid killing us ‘infidels’. And if only he would account for the Sharia provision that allows the stoning of rape victims as though they were adultresses. I see a bit of cognitive dissonance there, but possibly that's because I haven't been able to consult that ‘intriguing’ research, which, one might suspect, only Chomsky has access to.


For a simple documentation of the extraordinary dishonesty of Chomsky's political positions, consider this claim:
"In 2002 the US and United Kingdom proclaimed the right to invade Iraq because it was developing weapons of mass destruction. That was the "single question," as stressed constantly by Bush, Prime Minister Blair and associates. It was also the sole basis on which Bush received congressional authorisation to resort to force."
The last sentence here could only be true if the Joint Resolution of the 107th Congress of the United States of October 10, 20002 ‘to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq’ was limited in its grounds to questions of developing weapons of mass destruction. But a glance at this resolution shows that, while questions of WMD were paramount, they were in no sense exhaustive of the reasons stated. These included:
violation by Iraq of 1991 Gulf War cease fire provisions by interfering with UN weapons
Iraq’s brutal suppression of its own civilian population;
Iraq’s refusal to release, repatriate or account for non-Iraqi citizens wrongly detained by Iraq;
Iraq’s refusal to return property seized from Kuwait;
Iraq’s multiple attacks on U.S. and coalition forces attempting to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions;
Iraq’s harboring of Al-Qaida members;
Iraq's harboring and support of other terrorist groups.
So either Chomsky had read the war resolution and still made his charge, which is then simply a
lie, or he had not read the resolution; either way, his political prose is entirely deceptive propaganda.
An Anti-Chomsky article published by John Williamson on The Anti-Chomskyan Redoubt.