Noam Chomsky and the Question of Individual Choice in a Vastly Unequal World

Anjan Basu in The Wire:

As a scientist, Chomsky always locates the question of rational choice at the centre of any debate about issues of real public interest. That is not to say, though, that he is concerned with rationality alone. Far from it, in fact. Chomsky has written extensively about how a ‘rational’ debate can be so constructed as to completely undermine – indeed, subvert – the irreducible moral values implicit in a choice.

With withering scorn, he wrote in his 1969 classic, American Power and the New Mandarins, about well-known American liberals who managed to successfully mask the immorality of  the war on Vietnam, projecting the debate around the war as primarily one about the proportionality of its costs to its likely outcome. In a talk given at Harvard in June, 1966 in the course of the anti-war protests– later published as the celebrated essay The Responsibility of Intellectuals – Chomsky argues that Americans “can hardly avoid asking (themselves) to what extent the American people bear responsibility for the savage American assault on a largely helpless rural population in Vietnam”.

More here.