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Friday, August 23, 2013

Noam Chomsky's Q and A on student loans

LIK: Current student loan debt has hit record levels. As you know, these levels are unsustainable. Why, then, would policy makers insist on maintaining these levels, even at the expense of the well-being of the overall economy? Is this a case of "All for ourselves, and nothing for other people" by the ruling elites as you have quoted Adam Smith as saying? Could this be an attempt by the corporate state to leverage coercive power against it's citizens, is this purposeful policy and if so to do what?

Noam Chomsky: Lots of factors converge. The corporatization of the universities and the neoliberal campaign to undermine the public sector all conform to Smith’s “vile maxim of the masters of mankind,” who often act in ways that will harm their own long term interests – creating environmental catastrophe for short-term gain, for example. Debt is also a disciplinary technique, imposing obedience and conformity, thus strengthening the rule of the masters.

LIK: The Vietnam War protests grew over the course of several years, finally resulting in some significant socio-political change. Much of the Occupy movement was driven by the student loan crisis. Could this crushing debt be the catalyst for a new wave of social change? Could it rally otherwise apathetic and unengaged citizens?

Noam Chomsky: I’d like to believe it. That was true in Mexico, recently in Quebec, and is having a major impact in Chile. Not here as yet. This is a highly atomized and very frightened society.

LIK: What would you want to say to young people who are beginning their adult lives already burdened by debt of the current magnitude? When every attempt is being made to atomize Millennials, making them feel alone and helpless, what would you suggest they do to fight back against their circumstances?

Noam Chomsky: There’s only one known form of advice, the advice followed in the cases I just mentioned, and often in our own history: organizing, acting as appropriate. No magic keys have ever been discovered.

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