301 of 307 people found the following review helpful
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Edit of 20 Jun 09 to add links (feature not available back then)
This book begins with a very fine introduction by Robert McChesney, who defines neoliberalism as an economic paradigm that leaves a small number of private parties in control and able to maximize their profit (at the expense of the people). He goes on to note that a distracted or apathetic or depoliticized public essentially "goes along" with this, resulting in the loss of community and the rise of consumerism.
Chomsky himself, over the course of 167 pages, points out the damages of neo-liberalism (public abdicating power to corporations), not just to underdeveloped nations and their peoples, but to the American people themselves, who are suffering, today, from a fifteen year decline in education, health, and increased inequality between the richest and the poorest.
Over the course of several chapters, he discusses various U.S. policies, including the U.S. policy of using "security" as a pretext for subsidizing the transfer of taxpayer funds to major arms dealers. The declaration of Cuba as a threat to U.S. national security is one that Mexico could not support--as one of their diplomats explained at the time: "if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing."
At the end of it all, Chomsky comes down to the simple matter of protecting both civilization and the civilians from their own governments in cahoots with corporations. His observations on the deaths by disease, starvation, and so on, at the same time that billions are being spent on arms which perpetuate the cycles of violence, are relevant. So also are his observations on the dramatic increase in both the extent and the damages caused by increasingly unregulated financial markets. He singles out the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) as an especially pernicious organization whose machinations are invisible to the public and harmful as well.
I note with interest a review of this book that seeks to call Chomsky a liar, uninformed, and a laughingstock among "serious" scholars. I wish to address that point of view kindly. I can understand, when scholarship consists largely of going through the motions, reading a limited number of works, and answering by rote with the prescribed thought, how so many of our allegedly educated people in business and government are simply socially tuned in. I have myself come to the conclusion that Washington runs on 2% of the available international information (and is largely witless about the 75% or so that is in foreign languages), and I also agree with Howard Bloom's observation in Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, to wit, that half one's brain cells are killed off by the time one is an adult, due to normal biological adjustments to accommodate the prescribed social, cultural, and intellectual parameters that are demanded if one is to "get along." In that light, I view Chomsky as one of our more important vaccinations against premature stupidity among our loosely-educated adult policymakers. For myself, with considerable reading and a 25-year national security career behind me, I find that while Chomsky is repetitious, he is generally meticulous about foot-noting (something that cannot be said for the lazy authors residing in most think tanks, all of them being paid to think along very specifically prescribed directions).
The bottom line for me is clear: citizens must read and think, or perish from the earth as slaves to those who control money. There is only one thing that matters more than money in this world, and that is the vote. In a representative democracy, the vote can be bought with ease *until* the moment comes when citizens realize that they can combine the use of public sources to reach conclusions (open source intelligence) with self-organization via the Internet, with civil action (cyber-advocacy, street-advocacy, communication and voting) to *take back the power.* It is not terrorism that scares the corporate carpetbaggers, it is something much more powerful: thinking citizens willing to spend the time keeping their corporate servants in line.
Chomsky has labored for over fifty years to keep that part of our brain alive that our schools, seeking to train obedient factory workers, have worked so hard to kill. It can be disheartening, to see citizens so freely give up their rights and their powers, but I do believe, that with the The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics (Halstead and Lind), The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (Rya and Anderson) and other books I have reviewed, there is, without question, a tipping point. The Internet has changed everything-now we need for the people to notice, and act. Chomsky sheds light in a way that no prostituted scholar or preppy business acolyte will respect-but if the workers wish to begin reading for the future salvation of their children's rights, Chomsky is as good a place as any from which to step off into true democracy.
The Manufacture Of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class - And What We Can Do about It (BK Currents (Paperback))
The Working Poor: Invisible in America
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future - and What It Will Take to Win It Back
The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power
The People's Business: Controlling Corporations and Restoring Democracy
57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 1999
This isn't the type of reporting you want to hear, but it is the type of reporting you must hear if you believe in the democratic ideals this country was founded upon. Some might find something wrong with whistleblowing, but if you don't and you're not afraid to confront some disturbing truths, then grab this book and read it and think about how you can change this world. There must be something seriously disturbing in Chomsky's writing to the right wing to provoke such truth twisting and distortion in order to attempt to discredit Chomsky. If you want to know what they're afraid of, read this book (or any of Dr. Chomsky's other books, for that matter!
105 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2000
Chomsky's "Profit over People" is a careful and thought provoking (not to mention exhaustive) examination of the ultimate goals of the world of private business: profit, power, and the maintance of the status quo and the class system at any cost. If that cost is to be paid in human lives and soles, (as in East Timor and elsewhere); so be it. Of particular interest in this work by Chomsky are the sections in which he examines the recent changes from 'real' business, viz., business linked to production etc., to modern 'speculative' business, i.e, gamblers buying and selling foreign currencies etc., and the effect this has had (and will continue to have) on a global economy obsessed with nothing but profit, profit, and more profit.
Do yourself a favour and read this book. Forget Clancy, Archer, etc. That's released on to the market simply to distract the peasants of society (i.e. non-millionaires). Read instead Chomsky, Herman, Orwell, Wells, Said, Huxley, et al. Gain an insight into how much harm we, as citizens of democratic societies, are inflicting on the Third World. In addition, ponder on why you have not seen this (or any other) book by Chomsky reviewed in the main stream press. If Professor Chomsky's observations and views are as easy to dismiss as his critics would have us believe, why don't they?
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
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"Profit Over People" is very sobering work by McChesney and Chomsky about a topic that exists in virtually all aspects of our lives. However, it's rarely defined nor even mentioned in the American mainstream media. There are reasons for this. A lack of interest for details by the public and a mainstream media that doesn't cover the topic. In addition, the US was founded by and for the elitist oligarch minority that still runs the USA today. One powerful - yet peaceful - buffer to maintain power today, is by controlling of the mainstream media.
In the beginning stages of the United States as a nation-state, Madison wrote and voiced concerns over the masses participating in decision-making. He feared for interests of the small minority of aristocratic land-owners and wealth holders. This belief system and governmental structure continues to dominate, and is still reinforced by the mainstream media 235+ years later. The message is the same, but the medium of dissemination is different.
During the height of the Cold War, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles commented that the US is "hopelessly far far behind the Soviet Union in developing controls of the minds and emotions of unsophisticated peoples" (page 48). There are those who study media and propaganda who disagree with this statement. The US propaganda during the Cold War was very effective and comprehensive. But Foster's statement reveals how propaganda and manipulating "belief" is so important to the maintenance, growth, and utter survival of a nation-state. Especially if it's ideologically competing with a rival or enemy.
Today, Neo-Liberalism is a concept and contemporary policy composed of left, right, and center. Implicitly and explicitly influenced and controlled by, and motivated to focus on, benefiting the wealthy industries of less than 1,000 corporations. Ironically, as powerful a force as Neo-Liberalism is, this term is rarely if ever used in the the United States in the mainstream media.
One of the major points of Neo-Liberalism is the advocacy of free markets and "entrepreneurial drive" which ostensibly opposes bureaucracy and governmental interference, but in reality often does not. It depends to which interests are being catered to. Because of the massive financial backing, organization, and PR campaigns, few people in the United States question the motivations, the negative, the benefits, and results of Neo-Liberal policies. These policies have permeated into almost every level of political, economic, and cultural realms of US society. Again, Neo-Liberalism is not only an economic system but a cultural and political system as well.
All 3 are Intertwined. Enmeshed.
All of these 3 reinforce and support one another, and the economic, cultural, and political systems, are constantly reinforced by the mainstream media. One example among many, is the "NY Times" being consistently cited throughout this book, as being in support of Neo-Liberal policies and philosophies.
Question: who owns the top 5 media conglomerates in the USA?
Chomsky notes what more and more (but not enough) of the US public is starting to realize and believe according to polls, as of 2009: that politically, both political parties engage in trivial debates over minor, cosmetic issues. The 2 parties have the same interests, and the same supporters. It's only the packaging that's different.
Neo-Liberalism functions best when there are elections. The public is deluded into thinking they actually have a voice, and are actually participating in the falsehood of a "democratic" process that doesn't really exist.
Today in the year 2008 and beyond, these 1,000 organizations that run the US are more powerful, organized, and aggressive than ever. They are the masters.
This is where "democracies" inevitably lead, historically.
Apply "Profit Over People" to recent U.S. history and the last election cycle. The exclusive 2 parties: more similar that different. New faces, with basically the same policies and agenda. Both political parties lead the masses into the same direction, peppering us with the illusion of the two parties having differences with cosmetic and trivial sound-bytes.
As a distraction to occupy our myopic selves we have shopping malls, Costco, delicious foods, car payments, mortgages sports, Internet, and TV, to keep our minds occupied while the Neo-Liberal agenda progresses, solidifies, and expands worldwide.
"Profit Over People" is both informative and reader-friendly. Here is a historical quote about the phenomenon called "Bread and Circuses." It dates back to Roman times but is just as applicable today.
PANEM ET CIRCENSES
"The Latin "panem et circenses" (literally "bread and circuses") is a derogatory phrase which can describe either government policies to pacify the citizenry, or the shallow, decadent desires of that same citizenry. In both cases, it refers to low-cost, low-quality, high-availability food and entertainment." --Unknown
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2005
Chomsky's Profit Over People is an insighful and at times shocking analysis of the true motives and practices of multinational corporations and the governement economic policies they operate within. Chomsky spares no time in hammering his message against the concentration of power in the hands of the few through the use of several detailed case studies. As a student of economics and finance at Oklahoma State University, this book caused me to step back and question the very foundation of Smith's free market theory which has comprised my studies thus far. As a reader, I became disgusted by the prospect of private interests having the ability to manipulate the world economy, government policy, and the subposively "free" press to serve their own greed-driven interests while watching the masses suffer.
Although this book succeeded tremendously in causing me to question my own assumptions and encouraged me to stand for a change, it left me wondering how to go about doing so. I feel the book could be strengthened tremendously if Chomsky had included a true conclusion in which he provides a means for change to compliment his call to arms.
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
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There is more concentrated political and economic truth in this one slim volume then in any other book that I've ever read. Nowhere is the war against the working class exposed more clearly and accurately. "Free Trade" is the nemesis of true democracy and of the common man. Such a policy only really favors the extremely rich and less than 1000 large global corporations. You won't hear about any of this in the corporate press however, for in the neoliberal democracy all debate is side tracked on trivial issues by two political parties who both basically represent the same corporate masters (kind of like a giant game of good cop/bad cop...)
Ever wonder why you and the people around you feel so powerless and alienated in a vast landscape of shopping malls? You didn't think that "just happened" did you? The decades old goal of the powers-that-be has been to atomise American communities into loose conglomerations of "consumers" incapable of organising, or even thinking of organizing.
If you want the hard FACTS about corporate rule, then read this book. You see, a corporation isn't merely an "immortal person" under law, they are immortal sociopaths- sociopaths backed and enhanced by state power over and above the interests and votes of the common man.
Oh yes, if you want to know how a healthy economy SHOULD function, read _I'll Be Short, Essentials for a Decent Working Society_ by Robert Reich.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2002
Here comes another fascinating compilation of clarifications courtesy of Noam Chomsky. Focusing on the topic of Neoliberalism and the modern yarns fabricated to promote it, Chomsky tirelessly demonstrates how countries demanding trade 'liberalization' today, underwent (and still do) 150 years of protectionism. How same countries deploy artificial barriers and legitimize their tariffs via a compliant business and media elite.
The book discusses the dejected citizenry, the dangers this poses to real democracy and how governments methodically accentuate this trend.
Chomsky exhorts the reader to participate in democracy as the only way to rescue it and details how America has been derailed into a kind of oligopoly of corporations due to the population's ignorance and non-participation.
As is often the case with Chomsky, moments of unintended hilarity are not in short supply either. One example sites how what is accepted and given wisdom in America regarding Cuba, would have "forty million Mexicans will die laughing" according to one Mexican diplomat.
The book does suggest ways for people to improve themselves, yet falls short on detail and lucidity.
As a post script and for the sake of readers trapped in the pits (geographic and mental) let it be known that Noam Chomsky refuses royalty for his books. Having placed his work in trust, he hopes that, in this way, his work will be made available more cheaply to readers.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 3, 1999
Of the nearly dozen books by Noam Chomsky I have read, Profit compelling book to date. It clearly and convincingly destroys most neoliberal arguments with historical and current examples and citations. Chomsky's well developed arguments also plainly point out the absurd hypocrisy of neoliberal and "new" right ideologies that grip much of the English speaking world
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
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In this collection of essays that examines the dynamics of globalization and democracy, Chomsky makes clear that the "profit" imperative of private corporations are clearly triumphing over the needs of the vast majority of "people" in the world.
The superb intro written by Robert McChesney discusses how neoliberalism threatens democractic institutions. McChesney lauds Chomsky for his many contributions to public understanding of how the economic system works and for whom, and for encouraging citizens to demand greater accountability from the unelected corporate elites.
Chapter one is a brief history of the modern world order. Chomsky explains that protectionism has been often used by the U.S. and Britain to nurture their nascent industries to health and prosperity. Yet, Chomsky points out that the dogma of "free trade" has been used to economically colonize weaker countries. For example, Great Britain helped impoverish India's citizens by enforcing trade restrictions, but the captive Indian market served to greatly enrich investors in Britain.
In Chapter two, Chomsky asserts that despite repeated attempts to condition the people to accept the neoliberal doctrine, opinion polls consistently show that people still believe in democratic principles such as fair levels of taxation, ample spending on public programs, etc. This article suggests that people cherish democractic ideals and therefore might have the capacity to successfully demand and win change -- even against entrenched corporate interests with far greater resources at their disposal.
Chapter three examines inconcistencies in U.S. policy with respect to free trade. Chomsky claims that Ronald Reagan was the most protectionist of all U.S. presidents (despite his rhetoric to the contrary). In short, the U.S. supports free trade when it is seen as a benefit but against it when foreigners have comparative advantage (such as when the Japanese automakers had superior high-mileage cars on the market in the early 1980s). Chomsky also discusses U.S. policy with Cuba. The author argues that the real motivation for the U.S. embargo is not to encourage democracy in Cuba but to stifle the appeal of Cuba's redistributive policies and prevent them from spreading to other countries.
Chapter four examines U.S. policy throughout the hemisphere. Chomsky reveals a consistent pattern of preference for protecting the rights of investors and repressing the human rights of citizens in countries that dare to opt for greater democracy.
In Chapter five, Chomsky links the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico with the declining living standards wrought by unregulated corporate access to third world resources and labor markets.
Chapter six discusses the MAI agreement. Chomsky stresses that this misguided treaty was negotiated in secret in order not to alarm democratic populations of the treaty's overt favortism to private capital over people and the environment.
The seventh and final article was written after the MAI proposal was defeated by concerned citizens groups, who made the secret text of the proposal public using the Internet. Chomsky cites this victory as evidence that democracy is "the ultimate weapon" that can be used to protect the rights of the people. However, Chomsky warns that the people must be forever vigilant if we want to prevent further concentration of wealth and power in private corporations.
Throughout, Chomsky ties his lessons back to the Founding Fathers to show how far our country has strayed from its original ideals. Whether you agree or disagree with the conclusions drawn, Profit Over People should at least give readers pause to consider the state of our democracy and what might be required to fix it. Highly recommended.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 1999
A great thing about this book is that one can start anywhere. It's a collection of essays that can be read in any order. What's particularly insightful and chilling is the look at East Timor: we learn the reasons for what's going on in an essay that was written before the conflict became international news.