Thursday, February 19, 2009


From Understanding Power, courtesy of This Modern World:

Incidentally, I think there is another reason why a lot of powerful people were out to get Nixon at that time-and it had to do with something a lot more profound than the Enemies List and the Watergate burglary. I suspect it had to do with the events of the summer of 1971, when the Nixon administration basically broke up the international economic arrangement that had existed for the previous twenty-five years [i.e. the so-called "Bretton Woods" system, established in 1944 at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire]. See, by 1971 the Vietnam War had already badly weakened the United States economically relative to its industrial rivals, and one of the ways the Nixon administration reacted to that was by simply tearing apart the Bretton Woods system, which had been set up to organize the world economy after World War II. The Bretton Woods system had made the United States the world's banker, basically-it had established the U.S. dollar as a global reserve currency fixed to gold, and it imposed conditions about no import quotas, and so on. And Nixon just tore the whole thing to shreds: he went off the gold standard, he stopped the convertibility of the dollar, he raised import duties. No other country would have had the power to do that, but Nixon did it, and that made him a lot of powerful enemies-because multinational corporations and international banks relied on that system, and they did not like it being broken down. So if you look back, you'll find that Nixon was being attacked in places like the Wall Street Journal at the time, and I suspect that from that point on there were plenty of powerful people out to get him. Watergate just offered an opportunity.

Much much much more here.

Chomsky then goes on to observe that, when compared to LBJ, JFK, Eisenhower and other US presidents, Watergate was fairly tame, all things considered--I mean, it's not that Nixon wasn't worthy of impeachment or anything like that - his real crimes, like the bombing of Cambodia, go beyond the pale - but Watergate, as a crime, wasn't really worth removing a legally elected president.

Anyway, this is a GREAT book. It really affected how I, well, understand power. And it's all over the place, the Middle East, capitalism and socialism, intellectualism and universities, democracy, the news media, you name it. Easy to read, too: the text is taken from countless interviews, so the language is less dense than when you have the old linguistics professor sitting at his typewriter. It's also good for piecemeal reading, lots of short essays. In its totality, you get a really good sense for how Chomsky analyzes politics and culture, which is something you definitely don't get in college civics classes.

And now the whole book is online. I HIGHLY recommend it, even if you just sort of scan through and read what seems interesting. Even if you disagree with everything you read, you'll be better off for understanding some real leftist thinking, not that drivel the media passes off as "liberal."

Go read it now!