Noam Chomsky – The Decline of the U.S Superpower?

In this talk Noam Chomsky emphasises that Trump’s election and his climate change denial threaten the very existence of the planet and the human species; and he also reminds us that despite America’s increasing political isolationism, U.S. Corporations still reign supreme.

Chomsky starts by saying that he was in Spain when he heard the results of the U.S. election, and the various commotion and commentary which surrounded it, but in fact the first very real negative consequence of Trump’s victory happened on the very same day and yet went largely unnoticed by the world’s media.

At the very same time as the U.S. presidential election results were being announced and analysed, COP 22 was taking place in Morocco, which was the first meeting of the signatories to the Paris Climate Change agreement (COP21) at which most countries agreed in principle to take concrete action to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and try to slow down global warming.

paris-climate-change-agreement

The Paris Climate Change Agreement – Ruined by the Election of Donald Trump?

Because the specifics of the actions to be taken had been left vague after the Paris meeting, the point of COP 22 in Morocco was to start to add in the specific details of the agreement, however, following Trump’s election, and his commitment to scrapping current environmental regulation and monitoring in the U.S., COP 22 ended with no further progress having been made.

In fact, the agenda of the global climate change framework has now changed to one of ‘how can we combat global warming without the U.S. on board’, and nations have now started to look to authoritarian, anti-democratic China for leadership if any progress is to be made in this area.

Chomsky is very clear that environmental catastrophe is now one of the biggest threats facing the survival of the species (the other is nuclear war), and he focuses on Asia to highlight the coming global problems.

In the next few years, 10s of millions of people will be fleeing from Bangladesh because of the severe level of global warming resulting in sea levels rising, which would be a real refugee crisis, unlike the present one which he casts as a ‘moral crisis’ of the European Union.

(According to one climate change scientists, these climate change migrants should have the right to move to the United States and other rich countries that are causing global warming.)

Again in Asia, a second environmental crisis looms in India and Pakistan, in the form of potential conflict over scarce water resources – two states with nuclear weapons, which potentially trigger a survival crisis for the human species.

Chomsky’s next point is that U.S. isolation in the world is increasing in remarkable ways: the U.S. had been heavily involved in South and Latin America in the decades following World War Two, but the IMF has been completely kicked out of some countries in this region and has no military basis in the region at all; elsewhere in the world the TTIP has all but collapsed and other trading blocks are growing in scope, mainly centring around China, which are drawing in some of America’s historical allies such as Peru and New Zealand; finally with Brexit America has lost it’s main ally in Europe, the U.K., which could reduce its influence in Nato.

By looking at national wealth, it seems that U.S. influence is in decline, as its share has shrunk from 50% in 1945 to 25% today,

However, these measurements fail to take into account the crucial factor of the ownership of the world economy – which is virtually never discussed – CORPORATE ownership of wealth.

U.S. Companies Power.jpg

U.S. Companies still own 50% of the world’s wealth

If we look at Corporate wealth, U.S. Companies are well in the lead in terms of ownership of the the global economy, and they are own over 50% of the world’s wealth in nearly every sector of the global economy – manufacturing, finance, services etc… of course although this wealth is held in the U.S. and supported by public money, it is not shared by all the citizens of the U.S.

If you look at the military dimension, the U.S. is of course still supreme.

Chomsky finishes by reminding us that the threats we now face are matters of human survival and they cannot be ignored, they need to be faced directly and soon if the human experiment is not to be a disastrous failure!

How to use this in the Global Development Module?

Basically it fits into the ‘how important are nation states’ aspect of the course.

Firstly, Chomsky seems to be suggesting that the United States still has enormous influence in the world – in that its lack of action on climate change means that it is able to disrupt the ability of other nation states to take coordinated action on climate change (whether this actually happens remains to be seen).

Secondly, it seems that other countries are becoming more powerful than the United States, and the U.S. is losing its political influence in certain ways.

However, if we look at the real ‘power indicators’ – wealth and military expenditure – the U.S. is still by far the dominant superpower.

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Sustainable Development – explores some of the environmental challenges facing the world

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