Noam Chomsky

“In his book Politics, which is the foundation of the study of political systems, and very interesting, Aristotle talked mainly about Athens. But he studied various political systems - oligarchy, monarchy - and didn't like any of the particularly. He said democracy is probably the best system, but it has problems, and he was concerned with the problems. One problem that he was concerned with is quite striking because it runs right up to the present. He pointed out that in a democracy, if the people - people didn't mean people, it meant freemen, not slaves, not women - had the right to vote, the poor would be the majority, and they would use their voting power to take away property from the rich, which wouldn't be fair, so we have to prevent this.

James Madison made the same pint, but his model was England. He said if freemen had democracy, then the poor farmers would insist on taking property from the rich. They would carry out what we these days call land reform. and that's unacceptable. Aristotle and Madison faced the same problem but made the opposite decisions. Aristotle concluded that we should reduce ineqality so the poor wouldn't take property from the rich. And he actually propsed a visin for a city that would put in pace what we today call welfare-state programs, common meals, other support systems. That would reduce inequality, and with it the problem of the poor taking property from the rich. Madison's decision was the opposite. We should reduce democracy so the poor won't be able to get together to do this.

If you look at the design of the U.S. constitutional system, it followed Madison's approach. The Madisonian system placed power in the hands of the Senate. The executive in those days was more or less an administrator, not like today. The Senate consisted of "the wealth of the nation," those who had sympathy for property owners and their rights. That's where power should be. The Senate, remember, wasn't elected. It was picked by legislatures, who were themselves very much subject to control by the rich and the powerful. The House, which was closer to the population, had much less power. And there were all sorts of devices to keep people from participation too much - voting restrictions and property restrictions. The idea was to prevent the threat of democracy. This goal continues right to the present. It has taken different forms, but the aim remains the same.”


Noam Chomsky, Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire
tags: government
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Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire by Noam Chomsky
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