Chomsky on Democracy in America | Summary and Q&A

June 3, 2011
Big Think
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Chomsky on Democracy in America


American democracy operates similarly to guided democracies, with candidates being vetted by corporate interests and elections being largely influenced by money and advertising.

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Key Insights

  • βœ‹ American democracy shares similarities with guided democracies, such as candidates being vetted by higher authorities.
  • πŸƒ Corporate financing significantly influences US elections, making it difficult for candidates without substantial support to run.
  • ☠️ The high incumbency rate in Congress is not necessarily indicative of public support, but rather a lack of viable alternatives.
  • πŸ˜ƒ Public trust in the US government is low, with the majority feeling that it works for the interests of a few big corporations rather than the people.
  • πŸ‡¨πŸ‡« The democratic deficit in the US leads to a disconnect between public policy and public opinion on critical issues.
  • πŸ₯³ Both major political parties in the US tend to be more right-leaning than the general population.
  • πŸ‡¨πŸ‡« The feeling of helplessness and impotence among the public reflects the democratic deficit in the US.


American democracy is a what we call a guided democracy in countries that we don't like like Iran so in Iran uh elections are putting aside you know questions of The credibility of Elections elections are the candidates are vetted by the leadership the clerical leadership Guardian Council decides who can run okay we're pretty much the same uh here ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How are elections in the US similar to those in guided democracies like Iran?

In both systems, candidates are vetted by a higher authority. While in Iran it is the clerical leadership, in the US, corporate interests play a major role in vetting candidates for elections.

Q: What is the role of corporate financing in US elections?

Corporate financing and support are essential for a successful campaign in the US. Candidates who receive substantial backing from financial institutions or corporations have a significant advantage over their opponents.

Q: Why do incumbents often win in Congress despite low public trust?

The overwhelming majority of incumbents win because voters feel they have no other choice. This is due to limited options, with candidates vetted by corporate interests, leading to a lack of alternative candidates that align with public preferences.

Q: Why does the US democratic system suffer from a democratic deficit?

The democratic deficit is evident in the sharp division between public policy and public attitudes on important issues, as well as the feeling of helplessness among the population. The government's alignment with corporate and big interests instead of serving the people contributes to this deficit.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • American democracy resembles guided democracies like Iran, with vetted candidates and corporate financing being crucial for running a successful campaign.

  • Elections in the US are heavily influenced by money, with candidates supported by corporate interests having a significant advantage.

  • The democratic system in the US suffers from fundamental defects, such as low public trust in Congress and a disconnect between public policy and public attitudes.

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