Libertarians aren't supposed to like Noam Chomsky. For many classical liberals, mere mention of his name is enough to provoke a visceral rage, matched in intensity only by the fawning adulation he receives from so many of my crunchy comrades at NYU. But for years, his books have been a guilty pleasure of mine. So how could a nice free-market boy like me find himself curled up in bed (figuratively speaking) with the radical left's most notorious demagogue?
Let me answer by way of anecdote. I recently attended a 15th anniversary gala for FAIR, the ultra-left media watchdog group, at which Chomsky was the keynote speaker. He was introduced by the spectacle of Phil Donahue, visibly humbled after his ouster from stardom by the likes of Oprah and Springer, and clearly yearning, despite his professions of radicalism, to return to the womb of the Democratic Party. Old Phil was flung from the political mainstream, he explained, by his conversations with Chomsky, which began with a single sentence, still vivid in Donahue's mind: "Never trust . . ." Big corporations? Exploitative capitalists? Nope: "Never trust the state!"
This was an "applause line," but the crowd's response was palpably lukewarm: their animus was towards capitalism, and only secondarily towards the (current, ostensibly capitalist) state. Unlike his acolytes, who play at revolution by flying to WTO protests on daddy's credit card, Chomsky is the genuine article: an anarchist. (Well, a tenured anarchist, but close enough.) And believe it or not, that puts him a hell of a lot closer to libertarians than he or his groupies dare admit.
Read the whole thing, it something you don't hear everyday. But I have to say, what i found most heartening was the final pararaph:
Libertarians have spent so much of the last decade cozying up to conservatives that the snide characterization of us as "Republicans who smoke pot" is beginning to feel uncomfortably apt. This strategy has had some degree of success (in getting funding for our think tanks, at least), but has also left plenty of "low-hanging fruit" unplucked among the ranks of the student left. How many of these kids are only a copy of Economics in One Lesson away from realizing that markets, rather than statism in the guise of "democratic social justice", are the last, best hope of the world's poor? Remember, the late and very brilliant Robert Nozick started out a socialist, only to be brought around by a libertarian friend. For all we know, his successor is standing on a protest line now, waiting to be turned. If we don't soon get over our myopic focus on the right as a source of potential allies, we may have another Chomsky to grapple with instead.
I hate to always bring it back to this, but this is exactly why these debates are so damn impotant for us. There are droves of liberals just waiting to become libertarains. Right Avi?
Thanks to Avi for the link.