Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Chomsky in the Wall Street Journal

When I saw this comment on Slashdot I was curious. The Wall Street Journal had a nice word to say about Chomsky?

Now and again I take a look at the Opinion section of the Wall Street Journal and they're definitely not your typical Chomsky fans.

But apparently in November 2005 they did publish this article by Takis Michas, which includes stuff such as:

It's a real shame that only Mr. Chomsky's tedious harangues against America get any attention. His body of work deserves more serious treatment. The interesting yet overlooked aspects of his political philosophy cannot easily fit into the left-right dichotomy.

What makes Mr. Chomsky unique is that his criticism of the capitalist economic order takes its point of departure from the classical liberal thinkers of the Enlightenment. His heroes are not Lenin and Marx but Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt. He argues that the free market envisaged by these thinkers has never materialized in the world and that what we have gotten instead is a collusion of the state with private interests. Moreover he has repeatedly stressed that the attacks on democracy and the market by the big multinationals go hand in hand. The rich, he claims, echoing Adam Smith, are too keen to preach the benefits of market discipline to the poor while they reserve for themselves the right to be bailed out by the state whenever the going gets rough. As he puts it: "The free market is socialism for the rich. Markets for the poor and state protection for the rich." He has spoken positively about the work of Peruvian liberal economist Hernando De Soto who sees the problem of poverty in the Third World as being related to the fact that the poor usually lack clearly defined property rights.

As far as I can tell, the WSJ did publish this, although they don't have any easily searchable archive online that I can check against. The piece was written by Takis Michas in response to Noam Chomsky being voted Prospect magazine's Top Public Intellectual. Its a pretty well balanced article, written by someone who has clearly read his Chomsky.

Takis Michas is a Greek journalist who lives in Athens and writes for the left-leaning Greek daily Eleftherotypia. He also contributes articles to the Wall Street Journal Europe. Why did the US WSJ publish his piece about Noam? I'm not sure, but my guess is that the WSJ needed a couple of pieces to follow up on the news of the Prospect vote - something to help their readers make sense of the European view of Chomsky. I imagine the piece by Takis was published alongside an altogether more sceptical piece by the WSJ US writers. That doesn't seem to have been recorded though.

If anyone can shed light on the story behind the publication of this article, I'd be very interested.

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