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John Stossel vs. Noam Chomsky on Venezuela

The famed MIT linguist once praised former socialist President Hugo Chávez. How about now?

Venezuela used to be the richest country in Latin America. Today, its economy and civil society are disintegrating. The country is experiencing widespread hunger and out-of-control violence—a result of former President Hugo Chávez' move, starting in 2002, to nationalize industries, establish price controls, and block foreign capital from entering the country.

Back when Chávez was still in power (and still alive), U.S. celebrities, including Danny Glover, Naomi Campbell, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, and Sean Penn, praised the former president and his brand of "Bolivarian" socialism. As did left-wing intellectuals, including the famed M.I.T. linguist Noam Chomsky.

What do they have to say now?

In an exchange with John Stossel, Chomsky said that he never described Chavez's "state-capitalist government "as 'socialist,'" and that capitalists "undermine the economy" in all sorts of ways.

Which brings to mind the phrase "useful idiots" (attributed to Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin), which means a person who champions a cause they don't fully understand.

Produced by Naomi Brockwell. Edited by Joshua Swain.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    If regular media outlets had any balls they would show that map of how many countries had tried Socialism and that it failed.

  • timbo||

    The more I watch the spiral to hell around this place, the more I realize that something needs to start happening.

    Those few of us in the liberty camp and certainly anyone not beholden to the progressive leftist craze needs to start referring to the left and the Marxists and the antifa and the anti-business environmentalists as just as psychotic and dangerous as racists and homophobes and all of the other boogeymen of the day.

    meaning since words are soon to become a crime, what's the harm in denouncing all leftists as murderers and Nazis and haters and oppressors?

    Of course we know what happens when you do that though

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Listen: you have to be reasonable and realistic.

    Be sure to couch your logic and viewpoints on the prevailing politics of the system which is completely ignoring you, anyway.

  • ThomasD||

    I have designed a perpetual motion machine. It guarantees unlimited energy with no pollution.

    But only when run perfectly and under ideal conditions.

    Any other way and in the real world all it guarantees is immiseration and death.

    The only thing my creation actually excels at is attracting suckers and refusing to die.

  • H. Farnham||

    But.... Kansas.... Brownback experiment!!!!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    How are the businesses doing in Kansas, anyway?

  • H. Farnham||

    To be honest, I don't think the tax cuts or the recent tax increases had a noticeable effect on businesses one way or the other. Personally, I liked the cuts because my wife was running a home daycare while she was going back to school. We had no state income tax liability from those earnings, but that didn't necessarily incentivize us to have a business. What really did the "experiment" in was that people realized we couldn't continue increasing state expenditures (especially regarding education and 'the children'). Reading the local papers, you'd have thought Brownback was personally burning school books and throwing impoverished children into coal mines.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I was more curious about the performance of private industry there. The fact that government couldn't just continue spending recklessly should be surprising to no one. Those who were, are either stupid or being disingenuous.

  • H. Farnham||

    Don't ever underestimate stupidity as it pertains to politics and the general population... as Mr. Stossel's video demonstrates.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Kansans are welcome to ship their excess children to me. I can use them for my 24 hour drive thru monocle polishing business, and also for pediatric blood harvesting. Nothing like the blood of orphans and unwanted children to restore one's vigor.

  • Grooveman||

    How's things in Detroit, Stockton, San Bernardino, Chicago, Illinois?

  • turco||

    I never understood why Kansas was supposed to be an experiment on the value of cutting taxes to stimulate business. The bulk of income tax is federal. Cutting state tax by 50% starves the state out of funds, but does not make a huge dent in the total tax liability . No surprise it did not stimulate the economy enough to make up the difference.

  • Brian||

    It proves the prevailing progressive wisdom: if you want a certain level of government, then, really, someone else is going to have to pay for it.

  • ImanAzol||

    I'm going to assume that's satire, since the number of successful socialist countries remains zero, while every capitalist nation has topped any comparable nation's socialist "economy."

    Because if it's not, you're a dangerous shithead in need of half a helicopter ride.

  • ||

    I think his user name would suggest he is being satirical.

  • Aloysious||

    Boom. This Streusel fellow rawks.

    Now I am hungry for pie.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    I'm expecting Francisco to make an oh so rare appearance any minute now.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What do they have to say now?

    This borders on whataboutism. That's not allowed.

  • meister574||

    So the capitalists should just allow the government to take their businesses. If capitalists are so bad, they should be happy that they are leaving.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    They were happy that they left, but they just weren't happy that they didn't leave all their shit worth stealing behind.

  • Dillinger||

    What do they have to say now?

    "we're all filthy rich and don't care about the people of Venezuela except for the three washing our cars."

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    What do they have to say now?

    NOT REEL SOSHALLISM!!!

  • Zeb||

    Chomsky's still alive?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Unfortunately.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Good on him for being the only one to respond. His response was weak, but at least he didn't just hide away like everyone else.

  • Zeb||

    I still have mixed feelings about Chomsky. Yeah, he's wrong about almost everything in the actual world. But he has had some interesting insights into how public opinion and behavior can be manipulated. And I have to give him some credit for turning me toward more out-of-the-mainstream political thought, even though I quickly realized his "libertarian socialism" thing was a load of crap and not ultimately very libertarian.

  • ImanAzol||

    "Libertarian socialism" is like "peaceful violence." Or "food shit."

  • Elias Fakaname||

    I would have used the 'you're shitting me' retort when he spewed that ridiculous line about it being the capitalists' fault. Although I do believe Chomsky is likely that delusional.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    "Something something... not real socialism... mumble mumble... next time we'll do it right... argle bargle... wreckers, hoarders, and saboteurs..."

    It would be funny if morons like Chomsky's excuses for Venezuela's failure weren't so predictable.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The internet makes what these clowns so funny because you can see them live saying it. There is no media filter to put these old socialist lies under the carpet.

    Venezuela's socialist failure is 100% socialism's failure and people like Noam Chomsky said how great a socialist paradise Venezuela was. Now it has failed. Predictably so.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    No Marxists will ever hold themselves accountable for anything, ever. It will always be someone else's fault.

  • rts||

  • DevilDog943||

    You forgot to mention the early Stalin era 'Kulaks'. They were pure evil blood sucking parasites on the body of the state...

  • Jonny Scrum-half||

    I'm sure that US attempts to destabilize Chavez's government had nothing to do with the spiral into anarchy. It's all on "socialism."

  • Zeb||

    Nothing has just one cause. But Chavez's own policies brought about pretty much all of the severe economic and social problems.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    They're an oil producing nation that nationalized the oil drilling business and replaced the corporate managers with state bureaucrats. The bureaucrats did so well that Venezuela now imports their oil. But sure, it's America's fault. Not their great central planning.

    Seriously, Jonny, do you believe that it's REALLY our fault, and if not for the US things would be great? Really?

  • Jonny Scrum-half||

    The short answer to your question is no. But I also think that placing the sole blame on socialism is disingenuous. What a lot of people here would call socialism seems to work pretty well throughout much of Northern Europe. China and Vietnam both have done pretty well economically recently. Meanwhile, there are a lot of non-socialist countries that are very dysfunctional.

    In short, the issue isn't "socialism," but rather the rule of law.

  • Zeb||

    Whether it's "socialism" or something else, it's the Venezuelan government's policies that have caused the problems.

  • timbo||

    It is socialism by definition though. The government owning the means of production and dictation of market prices and rules.

    And that will always fail because a central body cannot understand the wants and needs of the whole population; certainly not individuals. Consumers often set the price just as much as the seller. The value of competition immediately comes into play when the entrepreneur sees opportunity to enter the market either by lower costs or more innovation.

    price discovery, proper allocation of capital, and weeding out of inadequate participants(creative destruction) results from competition and the freedom to transact individually, not by gov't dictate. Everyone wins with more competition. Governments never encourage competition. They hold monopolies and foster monopoly schemes through onerous licensing, regulations, and protectionism that comes from lobbyist, donors, and various pimps.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    There's no way these policies can be put into place without laws. And you haven't read very much about northern europe. China and vietnam only started to improve their impoverished existence when they relaxed their command economies.

    Shorter version of your argument: it's not real socialism and the wrong guys were in charge.

  • Jonny Scrum-half||

    I don't think that's a fair summary of my argument. I think that there's a spectrum of economies that libertarians would call "socialism." Some work well, some work poorly, some don't really work at all. It's not black-and-white.

  • timbo||

    He is right though that Vietnam, China, Denmark, and Sweden have all relaxed their command economies and moved towards a capitalistic economy, not further away from. They have allowed private enterprise to have a foothold with less crippling taxation and/or regulation and that is what has spelled prosperity for their economies. Northern European countries did it out of necessity because their entitlement programs were soon to utterly fail.

    China and Vietnam are however, still very heavy handed with control and oppression. They may let the few connected get in on the game but they are very much controlling the banking systems and the enforcement of regulations that do not allow everyone an equal opportunity.

    Even still, just a hint if capitalism, albeit perverted, has made massive strides towards an improved standard of living for these asian countries. China has a middle class now because of it.

  • Barbara Yarhead||

    Of course he is right. Any country with socialist leanings that has been successful instinctively knows you shouldn't kill the golden goose of capitalism. They let the profit motive remain so the horse keeps pulling the wagon and they hop on said wagon. As long as the wagon doesn't get too heavy, you have successful "socialism".

  • ||

    What a lot of people here would call socialism seems to work pretty well throughout much of Northern Europe.

    You seem to be casting a pretty broad net with the word "socialism."

    What are those things, exactly, that Venezuela and Denmark, for example, have in common that you would refer to as "Socialist?"

  • GILMORE™||

    What a lot of people here would call socialism seems to work pretty well throughout much of Northern Europe.

    Nonsense. Welfare-states aren't socialist. They're just hi-tax/hi-benefit capitalist countries.

    No one here ever calls them that except @#$()*( idiots like Tony and Buttplug.

    most of these so-called 'socialist' countries have lower-business-regulation and simpler corporate tax-regimes than the USA....

    Firstly, far from being socialistic, the economic recipes that have led Denmark or Sweden to have sustainable Welfare States are those usually identified with the free market: deregulated economies and flexible labor markets. Secondly, the burdensome taxation system in the Scandinavian countries is rather regressive; hence, the fiscal burden is essentially borne by low and middle classes.

    etc. etc.

  • Paloma||

    China and Vietnam both moved AWAY from socialism. That's why they are "doing pretty well".

  • timbo||

    jonny,
    If you are serious, and I doubt you are, indulge me.

    What is your definition of free market, laissez faire capitalism?

    What is your definition of communism and socialism and fascism as most represented by Marxist ideology?

    Remember, there is free market capitalism and then there is everything else.

  • Jonny Scrum-half||

    I'm no scholar, and I'm not even knowledgeable about the specific ills of Venezuela. I gave somewhat of an answer above, but to your specific question about free-market capitalism I'll say only that I think that libertarians too often adopt a black-and-white approach that doesn't accurately reflect reality. It seems to me that all healthy economies are the result of a consistent application of the rule of law. The exact laws that are being enforced consistently can vary - sometimes government regulation is a hindrance to the economy, and other times it's helpful. In all cases, some government regulation is necessary, if only to enforce the rule of law.

    I'm sure that Venezuela is a shithole. I'm also confident that it could be just fine with different people running the show. But I don't know that "free market, laissez faire capitalism" is the only way to a functioning economy.

  • timbo||

    I would counter however that the "some government regulations is necessary" or "helpful" arguments are the slippery slope that leads to bureaucratic dysfunction.

    You are correct that rule of law has to be applied evenly. You left out that absolute private property rights have to be part and parcel with these enforcements.

    Socialism does not happen over night and it did not happen with Chavista. The decent into socialism usually occurs with the failures of heavy handed governments that usually begin with massive government intrusion into private enterprise in the form of regulations, protectionism, and cronyism. All of these are the furthest thing from free markets. They are in fact more akin to fascism as it was marked with rampant government-business collusion, protectionism, and cronyism with a heavy does of nationalism. Not unlike what the US is doing today. The next step is always socialism and then outright totalitarianism.
    Striving for the freedom of responsibility, liberty, and the right to do business as I please, with whom I please, where I please, as long as it is a mutually beneficial and agreed upon transaction is the only thing we should strive for. That would be free market capitalism. Whether we ever get there or not, it is correct to set that as the goal.

  • Jonny Scrum-half||

    I think that the "slippery slope" argument is a bogeyman used to argue against government intervention in the economy. I read "The Road to Serfdom" several years ago, and I recall that he supported some things like a basic welfare safety net that too many libertarians would say are a step towards inevitable tyranny. I don't buy it.

  • timbo||

    Look at our completely bankrupt broken basic welfare net. The result has been an explosion of sovereign debt. Massive sovereign debt has led to two pretty devastating wars. WWI was the result of Germany going bankrupt due to their welfare state attempt. Among other things yes but that was a huge factor.
    WWI led to WWII.

    We say this because it will fail. You cannot give away free stuff on the backs of taxpayers while continuing to spend in drunken profligacy on everything else. That is what bureaucrats do though.

    This is a time tested and easily cited historical downfall of all marxist economies/countries.

  • Longtobefree||

    Right. Had nothing at all to do with an assassination, nothing at all to do with multiple treaties of mutual defense. Just Germany going bankrupt. The same Germany that was holding it's own in the global arms race, and had seven full armies in the field? That Germany?
    From Wikipedia on German economy:
    By 1913 American and German exports dominated the world steel market, as Britain slipped to third place.
    In machinery, iron and steel and other industries, German firms avoided cut-throat competition and instead relied on trade associations. Germany was a world leader because of its prevailing "corporatist mentality", its strong bureaucratic tradition, and the encouragement of the government. These associations regulated competition and allowed small firms to function in the shadow of much larger companies.

  • timbo||

    I stand corrected. I was referring to an article I read about their welfare state at 100 years. I misunderstood it.
    The point of that particular story was that at 100 years, the German welfare state was a bureaucratic mess with rampant inefficiencies, waste, and poor quality. The bureaucracy was so bloated that its function was gridlocked in many vital areas. From Mises.org. I usually find them to be pretty reasonable rational and sensible.
    It was pitched as a harbinger of things to come for other developed economies what assume national wealth can thwart the inevitable calamity that comes with expensive social programs.
    That much I happen to agree with completely and the British health system is the perfect example currently. Venezuela is the ultimate outcome with out vital reform.

  • GILMORE™||

    It seems to me that all healthy economies are the result of a consistent application of the rule of law

    Praising "rule of law", while ignoring the content of laws being enforced is ignorant gibberish.

    I've heard the North Koreans have nearly no crime and an extraordinarily strict enforcement of their codes, yet the rigidity of their law enforcement somehow doesn't prevent anyone from starving.

    You sound like those types that think markets don't/can't exist without someone establishing rules *beforehand*. Even young students of economics know that the adoption of externally-enforced market rules is a cooperative process and only engaged in when scale and uncertainty demands it. Your local farmer's market would still exist without the USDA... in fact, many many more would exist without them.

  • WuzYoungOnceToo||

    I'm no scholar, and I'm not even knowledgeable about the specific ills of Venezuela.

    So then your claims about the causes of Venezuela's ills were based on ignorance. Got it.

  • Paloma||

    What specifically did the US do to destabilize Chavez' government?

  • R. K. Phillips||

    Oh, the US doesn't need to do much, as Chavez has been unstable from day one.

  • livelikearefugee||

    Unlike their efforts to de-stabilize Illinois which were textbook perfect.

  • Jerryskids||

    As long as everybody's equally hungry, it's a success.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    The only real freedom are their chains.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    As long as everybody's equally hungry, it's a success.

    Everyone except the party apparatchiks and the rest of the ruling class, that is. "Some animals are more equal than others."

  • Brian||

    Noam Chomsky: super douche.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    But is he a bigger douche than John Edwards?

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jWl05VjpUm0

  • Brian||

    Hard to say. There are multiple dimensions to douchery.

    John Edwards is a lawyer.

    However, Noam Chomsky seems determined to use academic freedom as an excuse to come up with the most theoretically horrific ideas for managing people known to man.

    When Chavez is running around, making sure everyone knows he's read your book and loves it: that is super douche.

  • ||

    I would add the distinction that Edwards, as a lawyer, is a cynical, lying scumbag.

    Chomsky, I think, is actually a little crazy, as most academics are. He's done some brilliant and valuable work on how governments manipulate public opinion, but he seems immune to his own observations (again, like many academics).

    At this point, IMHO Chomsky is pretty much 100% ego-driven and doesn't realize it. He's been worshipped for decades and he's existed at the center of a fawning echo-chamber for much of that time. He sincerely believes that where people disagree with him, it's because they are wrong, and no one within earshot of him will tell him otherwise.

  • livelikearefugee||

    I thought he was a linguist. Apparently, not a cunning one.

  • Brandybuck||

    It failed because Twue Commewnism wasn't tried. Need to resurrect Chavez and do it again, this time with more price controls!

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    God that state capitalism deflection is so infuriating

    So did Chomsky solve the economic calculation problem? If not he can kindly go fuck himself because socialism fails on paper just as hard as it fails in practice

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    Noam Chomsky: Capitalists were free to undermine the economy in all sorts of ways, like massive export of capital.

    Actually, when your economy is blazing across the sky like an exploding Death Star, "capital flight" is a feature, not a bug.

    Pro-tip: when anyone with half a brain and capital is fleeing your economic system like a sinking, rat-infested ship, it's time to look in the mirror.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""What do they have to say now?""

    It's someone else's fault.

  • Brian||

    Too much damn freedom.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    I find it funny when the left says the problem with capitalism if corruption, as if it only happens with capitalism.

    If they had an issue with corruption, they would not be looking at socialism either.

  • ||

    Why didn't this op-ed provided a full text of Noam Chomsky's email to John Stossel? I would have liked to have read it. Can Stossel provide the full tea Room? Or is there a link to the email that I overlooked? Just asking.

  • The Divine Reactionoid||

    I think it was redacted for humanitarian reasons. When called out for his very public support a brutal dictator, his only defense is that he read something, somewhere, sometime.

    Listening to Chomsky kills brain cells and wastes precious time off your life. He's just a guru, and closest intellectual comparison is L. Ron Hubbard. Both list some obvious phenomenon, then clutter it with word diarrhea to dazzle and hypnotize the weak minded into thinking there's hidden meaning and depth in their nonsense.

    Example: when pontificating about linguistics (his actual field of 'expertise') and predictive AI models he goes on for 15 minutes, sputtering to try and explain this simple axiom: it's hard to predict the future of something without knowing every detail.

    But if you can really draw out the obvious, its a very cheap way to produce full semesters of content, that your college employer can charge students much more for.

  • Empress Trudy||

    It's silly to debate crazy people especially the crazy people who once said they were supporters of Pol Pot.

  • Longtail||

    Everyone understands that unfettered socialism is bound to fail but you also need to be a little careful of unfettered capitalism. The truth is that Venezuela managed to function under Chavez because he was relatively honest (for a politician) and the country had unlimited oil money. Under Maduro it's a cleptocracy and no amount of money will fix that. The other basic truth is that Stossel used to be intelligent until his right wing capitalist blathering got the best of him.

  • Brian||

    And you're a Chavista with an internet connection.

    Woohoo.

  • Bruce 6225||

    So in your worker's paradise everyone is in chains? As Dostoyevsky observed; "a proper man of this age is both a coward and a slave". You seem to fit the bill Longtail. Handcuffs for everybody.

  • Cy||

    Fuck off Slaver!

  • livelikearefugee||

    When have we ever had unfettered capitalism. Please let me know because I want to go there.

  • Bruce 6225||

    Of course, the Socialist of the world will blame their failures on some Capitalist. The sad thing is that there are so many low I.Q. people out there that believe their dirt. It's the Socialist that destroy economies and bring ruin to their nation. Read A book.

  • R. K. Phillips||

    If you put a bunch of people together, capitalism will break out.

  • mmmjv||

    Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, and Rudy Giuliani have all praised brutal dictator Vladimir Putin. What about now?

  • The Divine Reactionoid||

    Seems like you're trying to order the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco, but this is Burger King.

    We don't serve that here, but would you like some fries with that?

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Chomsky is a Useless Idiot!

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: John Stossel vs. Noam Chomsky on Venezuela
    The famed MIT linguist once praised former socialist President Hugo Chávez. How about now?

    If I want a good laugh, I read Chomsky.
    Here's another over-educated idiot who knows nothing about international relations, political science, history, economics or human nature and always makes the wrong conclusion about everything he has written or spoken about.
    Plus, he has taken grants from the Deparment of the Air Force, Navy and Army while calling the Pentagon "an evil institution, not to mention whining about the "evil one percent" while he himself is worth over two million dollars and owns two homes.
    The only bigger idiot other than Chomsky are his legion of brain dead followers.

  • FD||

    This ought to remain the last word on that demented, hypocritical apologist of evil and oppression. Yet Stossel et. al., even in their criticism, continue to pull their punches against that incoherent fool and the children of all ages who follow him.

  • mchughjj||

    Maybe Dr. Chomsky could leave a joint cited reference to the current Venezuelan crisis and how the Khmer Rouge didn't kill millions of Cambodians.

  • Richard Stallman||

    Here's what a thoughtful and somewhat famous writer says about Chávez and Maduro.

    Search for: '2017/08/12/the-battle-for-venezuela-and-its-oil' at 'theintercept.com/'

  • adampeart||

    Stossel, the only contributor worth a damn on Reason.

  • ThomasD||

    Venezuela would still be bad off today, but not quite bad off had Chavez not insisted on trying to be a regional counterweight to the 'Imperialists' by throwing around so much Petro wealth back when they were flush.

    ALBA was a stupid idea. Had Venezuela actually reinvested that money in their own infrastructure they might still have a pot to piss in.

    Not that that isn't anything other than a shining example of just why command economies fail and fail so badly.

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