The Pentagon System
by Noam Chomsky
Z Magazine, February 1993
Like all advanced societies, the U.S. has relied on state
intervention in the economy from its origins, though for ideological
reasons, the fact is commonly denied. During the post-World War
II period, such "industrial policy" was masked by the
Pentagon system, including the Department of Energy (which produces
nuclear weapons) and NASA, converted by the Kennedy administration
to a significant component of the state-directed public subsidy
to advanced industry.
By the late 1940s, it was taken for granted in government-corporate
circles that the state would have to intervene massively to maintain
the private economy. In 1948, with postwar pent-up consumer demand
exhausted and the economy sinking back into recession, Truman's
"cold-war spending" was regarded by the business press
as a "magic formula for almost endless good times" (Steel),
a way to "maintain a generally upward tone" (Business
Week). The Magazine of Wall Street saw military spending as a
way to "inject new strength into the entire economy,"
and a few years later, found it "obvious that foreign economies
as well as our own are now mainly dependent on the scope of continued
arms spending in this country," referring to the international
military Keynesianism that finally succeeded in reconstructing
state capitalist industrial societies abroad and laying the basis
for the huge expansion of Transnational Corporations (TNCs), at
that time mainly U.S.-based.
The Pentagon system was considered ideal for these purposes.
It imposes on the public a large burden of the costs (research
and development, R&D) and provides a guaranteed market for
excess production, a useful cushion for management decisions.
Furthermore, this form of industrial policy does not have the
undesirable side-effects of social spending directed to human
needs. Apart from unwelcome redistributive effects, the latter
policies tend to interfere with managerial prerogatives; useful
production may undercut private gain, while state-subsidized waste
production (arms, Man-on-the-Moon extravaganzas, etc.) is a gift
to the owner and manager, who will, furthermore, be granted control
of any marketable spin-offs. Furthermore, social spending may
well arouse public interest and participation, thus enhancing
the threat of democracy; the public cares about hospitals, roads,
neighborhoods, and so on, but has no opinion about the choice
of missiles and high-tech fighter planes. The defects of social
spending do not taint the military Keynesian alternative, which
had the added advantage that it was well-adapted to the needs
of advanced industry: computers and electronics generally, aviation,
and a wide range of related technologies and enterprises.
The Pentagon system of course served other purposes. As global
enforcer, the U.S. needs intervention forces and an intimidating
posture to facilitate their use. But its economic role has always
been central, a fact well-known to military planners. Army Plans
Chief General James Gavin, in charge of Army R&D under Eisenhower,
noted that "What appears to be intense interservice rivalry
in most cases...is fundamentally industrial rivalry." It
was also recognized from the outset that these goals require "sacrifice
and discipline" on the part of the general public (NSC 68).
It was therefore necessary, Dean Acheson urged "to bludgeon
the mass mind" of Congress and recalcitrant officials with
the Communist threat in a manner "clearer than truth,"
and to "scare hell out of the American people," as Senator
Vandenberg interpreted the message. To carry out these tasks has
been a prime responsibility of intellectuals throughout these
Public acquiescence was largely secured by fear. By the 1980s,
however, the cry that "the Russians are coming" was
losing its efficacy. The problem of the vanishing pretext was
a troublesome one throughout the decade, heightened by the erosion
of public tolerance in the face of growing economic problems.
Major propaganda efforts were undertaken to conjure up new demons:
international terrorism, Qaddafi and crazed Arabs generally, Sandinistas
marching on Texas, Hispanic narcotraffickers, etc. The absurdity
of the pretexts did not prevent them from having a certain effect
though with only temporary success, a problem that must be faced.
As in earlier efforts to sustain the Pentagon system, the
Somali intervention may serve other purposes. The U.S. supported
Siad Barre through his worst atrocities because of its interest
in Somali bases for the intervention forces aimed at the Middle
East and for possible operations in Africa; such considerations
might remain of some importance (not much, I suspect, alternatives
being readily available). Furthermore, in large parts of Africa
and the Middle East the rise of Islamic fundamentalism (which
may well be accelerated by the intervention) is a matter of growing
concern, for traditional reasons: like secular nationalist tendencies,
liberation theology, labor and peasant organizing, democratic
socialist political initiatives, some military regimes, and other
potentially independent forces, Islamic fundamentalism falls under
the rubric of "ultranationalism," a term that covers
any threat of deviation from the subordinate role assigned to
the service areas, whatever its political coloration. Nevertheless,
it seems likely that at the current moment, the prevailing factor
is the domestic one, the crisis of state industrial policy, as
the more serious commentary and reporting often indicates obliquely.
Industrial Policy for the 1990s
The decline of the traditional form of industrial strategy
is a serious matter. To convince the taxpayer to subsidize advanced
industry by the methods designed in the early postwar years is
becoming increasingly difficult. It is not surprising, then, that
we now hear open discussion of the need for "industrial policy"
-- that is, new forms, no longer masked by the Pentagon system.
The old methods were running into difficulties for reasons
beyond the loss of the standard pretext and the erosion of tolerance
on the part of people suffering the effects of Reaganite spend-and-borrow
abandon. The Pentagon system of industrial subsidy and planning
has obvious inefficiencies. These were tolerable in the days of
overwhelming U.S. economic dominance, less so as U.S.-based corporations
face serious competitors who can design and produce directly for
the commercial market, not awaiting possible spin-offs from high
tech weapons or space shots. Furthermore, the cutting edge of
industrial development is shifting to biology-based technology.
That is one reason why the West, with the U.S. in the lead, is
insisting that GATT agreements and NAFTA (North American Free
Trade Agreement) provide enhanced protection for patents ("intellectual
property"), thus locking the Third World into dependency
on high-priced products of Western agribusiness, biotechnology,
the pharmaceutical industry, and so on. It is important to ensure
that TNCs control seeds, plant varieties, drugs, and the means
of life generally; by comparison, electronics deals with frills.
Public subsidy and state protection for biology-based industries
can not easily be hidden behind a Pentagon cover. For such reasons
alone, new forms of state intervention are required (see Year
501, South End Press).
In the 1992 electoral campaign, the Democrats showed more
awareness of these issues, gaining support from sectors of the
corporate world that recognized them to be more attuned to real
world problems than Reaganite ideologues. Not that Reaganites
were reluctant to use state power to protect the wealthy from
market forces. The primary mechanisms were the usual military
Keynesian ones. To mention one striking case, a 1985 OECD study
found that the Pentagon and Japan's state planning ministry MITI
were distributing R&D funds much the same way, making similar
guesses about new technologies. A major Pentagon funnel was SDI
("Star Wars"), which was openly advertised as a state
subsidy to the "private sector," and lauded by the business
press for that reason. The Reagan-Bush decade ended in fall 1992
with a well-publicized improvement in the economy, attributed
in the business press to a sharp rise in military spending much
of it for computer purchases. While almost all industrial societies
became more protectionist in past years, at great cost to the
Third World, the Reaganites led the pack, introducing more import
restrictions than all postwar administrations combined. British
MP Phillip Oppenheim, ridiculing Anglo-American posturing about
"liberal market capitalism," notes that "A World
Bank survey of non-tariff barriers showed that they covered 9
per cent of all goods in Japan -- compared with 34 per cent in
the U.S. -- figures reinforced by David Henderson of the OECD,
who stated that during the 1980s the U.S. had the worst record
for devising new non-tariff barriers" (basically, ways to
strong-arm competitors). He adds that OECD figures show U.S. state
funding for non-military R&D to be about one-third of all
civil research spending, as compared to 2 percent state funding
in Japan. The Thatcher record is similar.
The Reaganites also conducted the biggest nationalization
in U.S. history (the Continental Illinois Bank bailout) and enabled
the steel industry to reconstruct by effectively barring imports
and undermining unions to reduce labor costs. They are leaving
Washington with heavy new restrictions on European Community steel
exports that the EC claims violate international trade rules;
Washington's justification is alleged EC dumping, but the EC responds
that total EC steel exports had fallen below the "voluntary
quota" (the Reaganite non-tariff barrier). The Reagan administration
sharply increased export-promotion by means of Export-Import bank
credits in apparent "violation of the GATT," Eximbank
chair John Macomber concedes. They conducted "what was effectively
an `industrial policy'" (contrary to official rhetoric) that
rebuilt the U.S. computer chip industry by such means as an agreement
"essentially forced on Japan" to increase purchases
of U.S. chips and by establishment of the government-industry
consortium Sematech to improve manufacturing technology, the Washington
Post reported, quoting Charles White, vice president for strategic
planning at Motorola, the second-biggest U.S. chip maker, who
said: "You can't underestimate the government's role."
Despite such achievements, the Reagan-Bush faction remains
hampered by ideological extremism, unable to face current problems
of industrial strategy as directly as their political opponents,
some elements of the corporate-financial world assume. Clintonite
thinking on this issue is reflected in the choice of Berkeley
Professor Laura Tyson as Chairperson of the Council of Economic
Advisors. Tyson was a founder and codirector of the Berkeley Roundtable
on the International Economy, a corporate-funded trade and technology
research institute that advocates unconcealed state industrial
policy. She has "longstanding relationships with Silicon
Valley companies that stand to benefit from the policies she advocates,"
Times business correspondent Sylvia Nasar notes. In support of
these policies, Roundtable co-director Michael Borrus cites a
1988 Department of Commerce study showing that "five of the
top six fastest growing U.S. industries from 1972 to 1988 were
sponsored or sustained, directly or indirectly, by federal investment,"
the only exception being lithographic services. "The winners"
in earlier years, he writes, "computers, biotechnology, jet
engines, and airframes were each the by-product of public spending
for national defense and public health." The record goes
back to the earliest days; "defense" and "public
health" are the familiar Newspeak disguises, perhaps a shade
less deceptive than "free market neoliberalism."
Such familiar lessons of economic history can no longer be
concealed, as the Pentagon system and the Cold War ideology have
eroded. The interventionist measures of the Reaganites reflect
these needs, as does the increasingly open discussion of "industrial
policy." A recent study of the National Academy of Sciences
and Engineering proposed a $5 billion quasi-governmental company
"to channel federal money into private applied research";
that is, publicly-funded research that will yield private profit.
Another report, entitled The Government Role in Civilian Technology:
Building a New Alliance, calls for new efforts to extend "the
close and longstanding" government-industry relationship
that has "helped to establish the commercial biotechnology
industry." It recommends a government-funded "Civilian
Technology Corporation" to assist U.S. industry to commercialize
technology by encouraging "cooperative R&D ventures in
pre-commercial areas"; "pre-commercial," to ensure
that profit is restricted to private wealth and power. The ventures
will be "cooperative," with the public paying the costs
up to the point of product development. At that point costs change
to gains, and the public hands the enterprise over to private
industry, the traditional pattern.
"America cannot continue to rely on trickle-down technology
from the military," Clinton stated in a document issued by
his campaign headquarters in September 1992 ("Technology:
The Engine of Economic Growth"). The old game is ending.
In the "new era" planned by the Clinton administration,
Times science writer William Broad reports, "the Government's
focus on making armaments will shift to fostering a host of new
civilian technologies and industries" -- just as in the "old
era," but then behind the Pentagon mask. "President
Clinton proposes to redirect $76 billion or so in annual Federal
research spending so it spurs industrial innovation" in emerging
technologies -- which, in unmentionable fact, were largely funded
through the Pentagon system (and the National Institute of Health)
in the "old era." A minimum of $30 billion is to be
taken from the Pentagon's research budget as a "peace dividend"
over four years for these purposes, Broad writes, noting that:
"Significantly, the initiative would spend the same amount
of money as Star Wars, $30 billion, in half the time. "
Also significantly, Clinton's advisers knew all along that
Star Wars was "only tangentially related to national defense"
that its prime function was to serve as "a path to competitiveness
in advanced technologies," as publicly explained in Congressional
Hearings (Clinton's close associate Robert Reich, now Secretary
of Labor, writing in 1985 in the New York Times under the heading
"High Tech, a Subsidiary of Pentagon Inc."). As noted
earlier, the function of Star Wars as part of the system of public
subsidy, private profit, was made clear to the business world
from the start, though largely concealed from the general public
by the doctrinal managers.
The Wall Street Journal reports a study by Battelle Memorial
Institute showing that research spending will remain sluggish
because of "a slowdown in weapons development." "Government
spending over the past five years has swung toward space and energy
programs, and away from weapons development" the principal
author of the report said. That is government spending (the public
subsidy) shifted from one component of the Pentagon system to
"We're now going to develop an economic strategy much
in the way we developed a national security strategy to fight
the cold war," Kent Hughes, president of Clinton s Council
on Competitiveness, proclaimed. It is necessary only to bring
out the striking continuities as old policies are adapted to new
contingencies, and to reinterpret the "cold war" as
what it was. A related matter is the traditional business demand
that the public via government, pay the costs of the infrastructure
required for private power and profit, everything from roads to
education. By now, even such enthusiasts for Reagan's party for
the rich as the Wall Street Journal are concerned by the consequences
of the policies they advocated, such as the deterioration of the
state college systems that supplied the needs of the corporate
sector. "Public higher education -- one the few areas where
America still ranks supreme -- is being pounded by state spending
cuts," the Journal worriedly reports, echoing the concerns
of businesses that "rely heavily on a steady stream of graduates"
for skilled personnel and on applied research that they can exploit.
This is one of the long-predicted consequences of the cutback
of federal services for all but the wealthy and powerful, which
devastated states and local communities. Class war is not easy
to fine tune.
That Clinton will be able to address these problems is not
at all clear. Frivolous Reaganite policies left the country deeply
in debt at all levels, from the federal government to households.
Interest on the federal debt has skyrocketed, now reaching the
scale of the days when the costs of the World War had to be faced.
Had the borrowing been used for productive investment or R&D,
it could have been justified. But it was not. Rather, it was largely
frittered away in luxury consumption, financial manipulations
and swindles, and other Yuppie fun-and-games-much as in Thatcherite
England, the other "revolution" much admired by the
privileged. A National Science Foundation study at the peak of
the mania estimated that R&D expenditures declined by 5 percent
for companies involved in mergers and acquisitions compared to
a 5 percent rise for others. Meanwhile real wages declined, hunger
and deep poverty rose rapidly, the jail population zoomed, and
the society began to take on a distinct Third World aspect. Given
the debt, even the kinds of "moderate increase in infrastructure
spending" and other devices that Clinton advisers are willing
to contemplate, reflecting business concerns, may not be feasible.
Who Decides? For Whom?
The standard rhetorical cloak for the new "economic strategy"
is that its goal is to provide jobs. That is not false, as long
as we recall the meaning of the term "jobs" in Politically
Correct Newspeak. Whether the strategy will provide jobs, and
for whom, is debatable. What is not debatable is that the driving
concern remains the unmentionable seven-letter word, and that
the public is to be excluded, completely, from any participation
in formulating this "economic strategy." The latter
principle follows from the guiding doctrine of elite democratic
theory: the public are to be spectators, not participants in managing
public affairs, which are none of their business. The urgency
of preserving this principle is highlighted by the curious confusions
that the public manifests, reviewed earlier.
The guiding doctrines, of course, have far more general application.
To mention one interesting case, in Poland "Public resistance
to privatization, especially among workers, has been evident since
early in the post-Communist period," the director of Russian
and East European studies at George Washington University, Sharon
Wolchik, observes: "A 1990 survey, for example, found that
only 13 percent of workers, but 37 percent of directors, favored
private ownership of their enterprise," with over one-third
of both workers and directors favoring state and employee ownership.
But the attitudes of the population are inconsequential in the
"new democracies" -- one reason, perhaps, why "the
Communist era is looking better and better" to Poles, as
another academic specialist observes (Jane Leftwich Curry).
Whether in Somalia, or Poland, or any other choice that one
may make, the concerns of the general population are as incidental
to the architects of policy as in the days of Adam Smith's England.
And crucially, the rabble must be kept from interfering with the
plans that will determine their fate.
While state managers may attempt to adapt the traditional
devices of public subsidy and protection to new contingencies,
they will surely continue to support the main lines of policy:
extending the globalization of the economy and establishing more
firmly the decision-making apparatus that is taking shape to serve
the interests of the supranational industrial and financial institutions.
These are important features of the current era, discussed in
earlier articles here (see my Z articles in May, July/August,
November, and Edward Herman's "Doublespeak," November
Nixon's dismantling of the international economic system was
one of several factors leading to a huge increase in unregulated
capital, beyond the power of governments to control. The rich
societies are no longer immune, as European central banks learned
a few months ago. Even the United States, still the world's largest
economy and most powerful state, is facing these problems. The
U.S. can freely disregard lMF "advice" as the Bush administration
showed in October when the IMF prescribed deficit-cutting measures
including new taxes, and "fundamental" health care reforms
-- the kind of "advice" on structural adjustment that
amounts to orders for the Third World, however harmful the consequences,
Doug Henwood notes, reporting the U.S. rejection. But it is not
beyond the reach of international bond investors, who "may
now hold unprecedented power -- perhaps even a veto-over U.S.
economic policy," the Wall Street Journal reported immediately
after the election. This consequence of the huge Reagan-Bush deficit
will serve as brake on any odd ideas that Clinton advisers might
have about spending, the Journal noted reassuringly; spending
of the wrong kind, that is, not directed to the needs of "the
country," in the technical sense.
Related developments of the past several decades have accelerated
the globalization of the economy, along with its immediate corollary:
a growing superfluous population at home as production shifts
to high repression, low wage areas (and, at the same time, productivity
gains reduce the need for industrial workers). The superfluous
people are becoming less significant as a market as well. Increasingly,
production can be shifted to poor and oppressed populations and
directed to the relatively wealthy, a small sector in the traditional
Third World, a far larger one in the advanced industrial societies.
The model pioneered by Henry Ford -- wages high enough for domestic
workers to provide a market -- may decline along with the national
economies on which it was based. Rhetoric aside, these are not
likely to be serious concerns of the "principal architects"
of policy, any more than they have been in the past.
The reversion of much of East Europe to its traditional Third
World status offers new weapons against U.S. workers (and Western
workers generally). As widely reported, GM plans to close two
dozen plants in the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile it bas opened a
$690 million assembly plant in East Germany with great expectations,
heightened by the fact that, thanks to 43 percent unofficial unemployment,
workers are willing to "work longer hours than their pampered
colleagues in western Germany" at 40 percent of the wage
and with few benefits, the Financial Times cheerily explains.
Capital can readily move; people cannot, or are not permitted
to by those who applaud Adam Smith's doctrines when it suits their
needs. Jobs may disappear in the West; "jobs" in the
technical sense will do just fine.
The U.S. (like other states) will continue to defend U.S.-based
corporate and financial interests while seeking to maintain a
global environment in which they can flourish. That requires,
in particular, that the Third World be kept in its service role.
Meanwhile at home, state power will continue to be employed to
dissolve popular structures (unions, etc.) that might serve the
needs of the general public and enable them to interfere illegitimately
in the management of public affairs It will also be necessary
to find ways to control the growing "Third World at home,"
no small problem. The Clinton Mandate for Change promises no change
in these respects.
Much of world trade (close to half, by some estimates) consists
of intrafirm transfers -- centrally managed trade, internal to
particular TNCs and guided by a highly "visible hand,"
to borrow the phrase of business historian Alfred Chandler. In
an important critical analysis of the GATT World Bank economists
Herman Daly and Robert Goodland point out that in prevailing economic
theory, "firms are islands of central planning in a sea of
market relationships." "As the islands get bigger"
they add, "there is really no reason to claim victory for
the market principle" -- particularly as the islands approach
the scale of the sea, which departs radically from free market
principles, and always has, because the powerful will not submit
to these destructive rules.
As in the past, political institutions are taking shape to
reflect the realities of private economic power: the IMF and World
Bank, G-7, NAFTA, and other elements of the "de facto world
government" described by the international financial press
as the executive for the "new imperial age." These processes
allow major decisions to be insulated from parliamentary institutions,
which may be infected by public influence This important development
carries forward the long-term project of safeguarding wealth and
privilege from public interference and overcoming the threat that
democratic forms might have actual substance. Increasingly, the
general public are not even aware of major decisions that will
determine their fate, hence are in no position to influence them.
A good part of the popular concern in Europe over instituting
EC structures has to do with "the democratic deficit,"
"the fact that policies escape parliamentary control at the
national level and do not come under equivalent control at the
Community level" (John Lambert). The same problems are arising
here, though they are less discussed in our more depoliticized
Neither at home nor abroad does the real world bear much resemblance
to the dreamy fantasies now fashionable among intellectuals about
History converging to an ideal of liberal democracy that is the
ultimate realization of Freedom. Consider NAFTA. One may debate
the consequences, but no one doubts that they will be large in
scale. The NAFTA is an executive agreement reached on August 12,
1992, just in time to become a major issue in the electoral campaign.
It was mentioned but barely. The Trade Act of 1974 established
a Labor Advisory Committee (IAC), based in the unions, which is
required by law to provide advice and information to the executive
branch before any trade agreement is reached. The LAC was advised
that its report was due on September 9, J992. A complete draft
of the text of this elaborate treaty was made available one day
before, on September 8, making it impossible for the LAC to formally
meet, as directed by law. One could hardly con conjure up a more
striking example of utter contempt for democracy. Furthermore,
the LAC notes, "the administration refused to permit any
outside advice on the development of this document and refused
to make a draft available for comment."
The situation in Canada was similar. The British Columbia
Teachers Federation wrote a sharply critical report on the treaty
draft noting the "impossible limitations on the operation
of this committee, "with absurd time constraints and exclusion
of entire provinces from any review of the lengthy and complex
Despite the contemptuous dismissal of both the law and the
public, LAC did provide a review of NAFTA, concluding that while
the treaty would be a bonanza to investors (as all agree), it
would severely harm American workers (about 70 percent of them,
even by the analysis of the advocates). It will also very likely
harm Mexican workers as well, the LAC report notes, as do other
studies. One predicted consequence of the agreement is a rapid
increase in rural migration to urban areas as Mexican corn producers
are wiped out by U.S. agribusiness exports, depressing still further
wages that have fallen some 60 percent during the past decade
and are likely to remain low, thanks to the harsh repression of
labor that is a crucial part of the highly-touted Mexican "economic
miracle." Property rights are well protected by the agreement,
LAC and other analysts note, while workers' rights are ignored.
The treaty is also likely to have harmful environmental consequences;
production can shift to regions where enforcement of laws is lax
or non-existent, and regulations imposed by parliamentary bodies
can be overridden as "unfair restraint of trade," processes
already underway in the Framework of the U.S.-Canada "Free
trade" agreement. In general, the LAC report concludes, "U.S.
corporations, and the owners and managers of these corporations,
stand to reap enormous profits. The United States as a whole,
however, stands to lose an enormous amount." The country
will suffer, "the country" -- in the Newspeak sense
-- will, again, do just fine.
On a wide range of issues, the LAC report observes, NAFTA
"will have the effect of prohibiting democratically elected
bodies at [federal, state, and local levels of government from
enacting measures deemed inconsistent with the provisions of the
agreement," including measures on the environment, workers'
rights, health and safety, etc. The LAC report calls for the treaty
to be renegotiated, offering a series of constructive proposals.
Neither the contents of this important critical analysis,
nor the scorn for law and democracy shown by the Bush administration,
were reported. These matters are of no interest to the ideological
institutions, or more accurately, are of negative interest --
suppression is necessary, in the interests of "the country."
Citizens know next to nothing; indeed, subversion of democracy
has reached such remarkable heights that they do not even know
that they know nothing. Congress abdicated responsibility. The
Clinton camp had little to say. In such ways, we can approach
the long-sought ideal: formal democratic procedures that are utterly
devoid of meaning, as citizens not only do not intrude into the
public arena, but have scarcely an idea of the policies that will
shape their lives.
It is a striking fact that although these critical issues
have been kept almost entirely out of the public domain, 60 percent
of the public do have an opinion about NAFTA, opposing it by nearly
2-to-1 in October 1992. As usual, that was irrelevant to the presidential
campaign, then in its final weeks. It was enough, however, to
frighten the Wall Street Journal, which ran a fevered front-page
story warning of the "diverse coalition of grass-roots foes"
that is "fighting`Nafta'," including the labor movement,
populist farm groups, and environmental and religious organizations.
These dangerous elements "hit pay dirt," the Journal
reports ominously, receiving funds (a magnificent $50,000) from
a branch of the Unitarian Church.
The corporate world is, naturally, shaking in its boots at
the thought that its monopoly might be challenged. The lesson
for the rest of us is obvious.
More generally, people have little specific knowledge of what
is happening around them. An academic study that appeared right
before the presidential election reports that less than 30 percent
of the population was aware of the positions of the candidates
on major issues, though 86 percent knew the name of George Bush's
dog. The general thrust of propaganda gets through, however. When
asked to identify the largest element of the federal budget, less
than 1/4 give the correct answer, military spending. Almost half
select foreign aid, which barely exists; the second choice is
welfare, chosen by 1/3 of the population, who also far overestimate
the proportion that goes to blacks and to child support. And though
the question was not asked, virtually none are likely to be aware
that "defense spending" is in large measure welfare
for the rich. Another result of the study is that more educated
sectors are more ignorant -- not surprising, since they are the
main targets of indoctrination. Bush supporters, who are the best
educated scored lowest overall. The study also shows that Republican
propaganda (however fraudulent) passed through the media with
greater effect than the Democrats counterpart, an inconvenience
for the charges of "liberal bias" that are particularly
relished by the liberal media, which -- as usual -- greatly appreciate
such condemnation as a tribute to their fiery independence of
With regard to all of these issues, two distinct questions
arise. What will be the likely consequences of the policies under
consideration? Who decides? The answer to the second question
is clear: the "principal architects" of policy are the
traditional ones. The public has essentially no role, and with
the recent advances in destruction of democracy, no knowledge.
As noted, the first question can be debated. Perhaps, as the
scant media coverage generally takes for granted reflexively,
the NAFTA will benefit all; the Clinton and the Reagan-Bush factions
are earnestly seeking to improve the lives and prospects of the
general public, differing only on how to achieve this result;
all are committed to free trade, which is obviously the greater
good; etc. Maybe there really is a tooth fairy. Perhaps. No matter
what one believes, it cannot be doubted that the policy questions
require careful scrutiny and analysis. And that they will not
receive, certainly not on the part of those whose lives and fate
are at stake, unless they organize to do something about it.