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Lex Fridman (00:00):

The following is a conversation with Noam Chomsky, his second time on the podcast. This episode is focused on the war in Ukraine, and it is a departure from the way I usually do this podcast in several ways. Noam is a strong and healthy 93-year-old, but this conversation is remote to be cautious. It is brief, only one hour. It is more of an interview than a conversation due to the limitations of our audio and video connection. I decided it’s best to get Noam’s clear thoughts on this war and the complicated geopolitics of today and the rest of the 21st century that is unrolling before us, with our decisions and actions fully capable of either helping humanity flourish or unleashing global destruction and suffering. As a brief aside, perhaps you know this but let me mention that I traveled to Ukraine and saw, heard, felt things that are haunting and gave me a lot to think about. Because of that, I’ve been really struggling to edit the videos I recorded.


I hope to finish it soon. I’m sorry for these delays, and I’m especially sorry to the people there who gave me their time, their story, their heart. Please be patient with me. I hope you understand. And now, a quick few second mention of each sponsor. Check them out in the description. It’s the best way to support this podcast. We’ve got Skiff for email, Inside Tracker for longevity, Onnit for supplements, and Blinkist for nonfiction. Choose wisely, my friends. And now, onto the full ad reads. As always, no ads in the middle because I hate those. They break the flow of the conversation. Some of my favorite podcasts do them.


It is what it is, that’s life. I deal with it. But now, because I have some control of where the ads, or a lot of control where the ads on this podcast go, even if I lose money, I care not, my friends. I am first and foremost just a fan of podcasts, so I get to do this podcast in the way that I like to listen to podcasts as a fan. So, there it is.


But, if you skip the sponsors, which I make super easy for you, apparently, please still check out the sponsors. I enjoy their stuff, maybe you will too. It really is the best way to support this podcast. This show is brought to you by Skiff, a private end-to-end encrypted email. I just read a blog post about them somewhere. This is not a very kind of informative head read. I read a blog post about Skiff, how they’re revolutionizing a lot of aspects of email, that they’re doing an incredible job.


I’ve been using Skiff for a while for a document collaboration for email. They got all kinds of features, fast search. You can do custom domains for the email, and you can migrate from whatever the email service you use like Gmail, ProtonMail, or Outlook. Man, it’s been a while since I opened up Outlook. I used it for a while for the most shady of emails, but I think Outlook is used quite a lot in the sort of business sector, in the professional sector. So, if you’re one of those folks, you should move, upgrade to the end-to-end encryption and the really easy, powerful, accessible interface of Skiff. So, sign up at slash lex. That’s S-K-I-F-F dot com slash lex.


This show is also brought to you by InsideTracker, a service I use to track biological data. They got blood data, DNA data, fitness tracker data, all that kind of stuff. They shove it all in into a machine learning algorithm and then make predictions for what you should be doing with your life. Of course, in a way that protects your privacy, in a way that gives you control over that data, but I would love it if some of the aspects of my life were all integrated to where I could have an advisor, how I should allocate my effort throughout the day in order to be most optimal, how to maximize my wellbeing, how to manage things like social media access. I just feel like my body has a lot of data about my wellbeing, and the software I use doesn’t have access to any of that data. It just seems like those two things should be connected. And InsideTracker is really pushing towards that direction of using data from your body to give lifestyle changes advice for you.


It’s personalized. Get special savings for a limited time when you go to slash lex. This episode is also brought to you by Onnit, a nutrition, supplement, and fitness company. They make Alpha Brain, a nootropic that helps support memory, mental speed, and focus. When my life is going great, the thing I start with every single day is a deep work session. So I spend several hours just really focusing on a difficult task. Now, some part of that is coffee. Some part of that is just the clarity in the morning with water, with some electrolytes in it.


And then if I just need an extra boost, whether the session is difficult or I didn’t get enough sleep, I just need that extra boost. I’ll take an Alpha Brain right before to give me that extra mental clarity and focus. And I think the start, I would say the first 15 minutes is the hardest. If you can achieve focus over the first 15 minutes, the world starts to dissipate away. And all it is is just you and the task.


Anyway, you can get a special discount on Alpha Brain at slash Onnit. This show is also brought to you by Blinkist, my favorite app for learning new things. It takes key ideas from thousands of nonfiction books and condenses them down into 15 minutes that you can read or listen to. Sapiens is on there. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is on there. Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch is on there. I really have to talk to David Deutsch. I was in London briefly to hang out with DeepMind folks and that fell through. But yeah, I definitely want to talk to him. Such a brilliant human being.


Anyway, if you don’t know any of his work, this is a good way to get into it. You get a quick summary and you get to see if you want to read the whole thing. Also, if you already read Beginning of Infinity, you can use Blinkist to remind yourself of the key sort of ideas in there. And sometimes not even just remind.


Maybe your mind was focused on particular aspects of that book and totally missed the key central ideas. So that kind of integrative summarization of a text is really, really useful no matter what. You can claim a special offer for savings at slash Lex. This is the Lex Friedman podcast. To support it, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now, dear friends, here’s Noam Chomsky.


You have studied and criticized powerful leaders and nations in times of global conflict and struggles for power. So let me ask you, what do you think motivates Vladimir Putin? Is it power, legacy, fame, geopolitical influence, or the flourishing of a nation he loves and represents?

Noam Chomsky (07:49):

I have no particular insight into Putin’s mind. I can only watch the actions over the last 20, 25 years and read the statements. Took power, about almost 25 years ago, has held it since as prime minister or president. His first task was to try to overcome the chaos and disarray of the 1990s. During the 90s, Gorbachev had a proposal.


He called for a cooperative enterprise with the West. They would share an effort to rebuild what he called a common European home. In which there would be no military alliances, just Russia, Western, U.S. accommodation, with a move towards social democracy and former U.S.S.R. and comparable moves in the United States.


Well, that was quickly smashed by Putin. The United States had no interest in that. Clinton came along pretty soon, early 90s. Russia was induced to adopt what was called shock therapy, a harsh, quick market transformation, which devastated the economy. It created an enormous social disarray, the rise of what are called oligarchs, kleptocrats, and high mortality. And Clinton started the policy of expanding NATO to the East in violation of firm, unambiguous promises to Gorbachev not to do so. Yeltsin, Putin’s friend, opposed it. Other Russian leaders opposed it, but they didn’t react. They accepted it.


When Putin came in, he continued that policy. Meanwhile, did reconstruct the Russian economy. The Russian society became a viable, deeply authoritarian society under his tight control. He himself organized a major kleptocracy with him in the middle, barely became very wealthy. On the international front, he pretty much continued the former policies as US diplomats, practically every diplomat, who had any context or knew about it, as they all warned from the 90s that what Clinton was doing, expanded by Bush afterwards, was reckless and provocative, that Russia did have a clear red line before Putin, which he adhered to, namely no NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.


This is pretty much how things went on through the 2000s, 2014. In 2008, Georgia, Ukraine to join NATO, that was vetoed by France and Germany, but under US pressure, it was kept on the agenda. The Russians continued to object to Western diplomats, including the present current head of the CIA and its predecessors, warned that this was reckless, provocative, shouldn’t be done, continued. Putin didn’t do much until pretty recently.


After 2014, the uprising that threw out the former president, who was pro-Russian, instituted anti-Russian laws, the United States and NATO began a policy of moving to effectively integrate Ukraine into the NATO command, joint military exercises, training, sending weapons and so on. Putin objected, other Russian leaders objected, they’re unified on this, but didn’t do much, continued with the proposals that Ukraine be excluded from NATO and that there be done best region.


Meanwhile, in reaction to the the uprising in 2014, Russia moved in and took over Crimea, protecting its warm water base and major naval base. US objected and recognized it, but things continued without notable conflict.


I won’t go through all the details. When Joe Biden came in, he expanded the program of what US military journals call the de facto integration of Ukraine within NATO, proposed September 2021, proposed an enhanced program of preparation for NATO mission, extended with a formal statement in November. We’re now practically up to the invasion. Putin’s position hardened France, mainly France, moves towards possible negotiations.


Putin dismissed them, moved on to the direct invasion. That’s what are his, to get back to your question, what motivates him? I presume what he’s been saying all along, namely establishing his legacy as a leader who overcame the extensive destruction of Russia, a massive weakening over it, restored his position as a world power, prevented Ukraine from entering NATO. It may have further ambitions as to dominating and controlling Ukraine, very likely.


There is a theory in the West that he suddenly became a total madman who wants to restore the great Russian Empire. This is combined with gloating over the fact that the Russian military is a paper tiger that can’t even conquer cities, a couple of kilometers from the border, but defended not even by a regular army.


But somehow along with this, he’s planning to attack NATO powers, conquer Europe, who knows what. It’s impossible to put all these concepts together. They’re totally internally contradictory. So what’s my judgment? I think what motivates him is what he’s been demonstrating in his actions. Restore Russia as a great power, restore its economy, control it as a total dictatorship, enrich himself and his cronies, establish a legacy as a major figure in Russian history, make sure that Ukraine does not join NATO, and probably by now he’s hardened the position, maintain Crimea and the southeastern corridor to Russia, and some ambiguous agreements about the Donbas region.


That looks like his motivation. There’s much speculation that goes beyond this, but it’s very hard to reconcile with the assessment of the real world by the same people who are making the grandiose speculation.

Lex Fridman (17:33):

Putin has been in power for 22 years. Do you think power has corrupted him?

Noam Chomsky (17:39):

I don’t think anything’s changed. It seems to me his policies are about the same as what they were. They’ve changed in response to changed circumstances. So very recently, right before the invasion, a few weeks before, for the first time, Putin announced recognition of the independence of the Donbas member.


Up till then he had pretty much kept to the long-standing position of some kind of accommodation within a federal structure in which the Donbas region would have considerable autonomy. So that’s a harshening of the position.

Lex Fridman (18:30):

So even the human mind of Vladimir Putin, the man?

Noam Chomsky (18:35):

I can’t read his mind. I can only see the policies that he’s pursued and the statements that he’s made. There are many people speculating about his mind. And as I say, these speculations are, first of all, not based on anything. Never said anything about trying to conquer NATO. But more importantly, they are totally inconsistent with the analyses of Russian power by the same people who are making the speculations.


So we see the same individual speculating about Putin’s grandiose plans to start attacking NATO powers on the one hand saying that, on the other hand gloating over the fact that his military power is so miniscule he can’t even conquer towns a couple of miles from the border. Well, it’s impossible to make sense of that position.

Lex Fridman (19:45):

Why did Russia invade Ukraine on February 24th? Who do you think is to blame? Who do you place the blame on?

Noam Chomsky (19:55):

Well, who’s to blame? Any power that commits aggression is to blame. So I continue to say, as I have been for many months, that the invasion, Putin’s invasion, is on a par with such acts of aggression as the US invasion of Iraq, the Stalin invasion of Poland, other acts of supreme international crime under international law aggression, of course he’s to blame.

Lex Fridman (20:35):

The US committed 6.9 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. Should the US keep up with the support?

Noam Chomsky (20:45):

There are two questions. One has to do with providing support for defense against the invasion, which is certainly legitimate. The other is seeking ways to end the crime before even worse disasters arise. Now that second part is not discussed in the West, barely discussed.


Anyone who dares to discuss it is immediately subjected to a flood of invective and hysterical condemnation. But if you’re serious about Ukraine, there are two things you ask. One, what can we do to support Ukraine in defense against aggression? Second, how can we move to end the war before it leads to even worse destruction of Ukraine, more starvation worldwide, reversing the efforts, the limited efforts to deal with global warming, possibly moving up an escalation out of the war, the nuclear war. That’s the second half of the borrower phrase attributed to Winston Churchill. There’s a lot of war, war, but no joy, joy, joy.


And there ought to be joy, joy if you care about Ukraine and the rest of the world. Can it be done? We don’t know. Official US policy is to reject a diplomatic settlement, to move to weaken Russia severely so that it cannot carry out further aggression, but not do anything on the joy, joy side, not think of how to bring the crimes and atrocities to an end. That’s the second part of the question. So, yes, the US should continue with the kind of calibrated support that’s been given. The Pentagon wisely has vetoed the initiatives to go well beyond support for defense up to attack on Russia.


Russia has vetoed plans which very likely would lead on to nuclear war, which would destroy everything. So calibrated provision of weapons to blunt the offensive, allow Ukraine to defend itself, if sensible, combined with efforts to see if something can be done to bring the crimes and atrocities to an end and avert the much worse consequences that are in store. That would be all, instead, the US only dealing with the first, and all of us.

Lex Fridman (24:07):

Do you worry about nuclear war in the 21st century? How do we avoid it?

Noam Chomsky (24:12):

Anyone who doesn’t worry about nuclear war doesn’t have a gray cell functioning. Of course, everyone is worried about nuclear war or should lead. It’s very easy to see how steps could be taken. They’ve even been recommended that would lead to nuclear war. So you can read articles even by liberal commentators who say we should drop all the pretenses, just go to war against Russia, they have to be destroyed. You can see proposals coming from Congress, other leading figures, saying we should establish a no-fly zone.


Pentagon objects, they point out correctly, that to establish a no-fly zone, you have to have control of the air, which means destroying Russian air defence systems, which happen to be inside Russia. We don’t know that Russia won’t react. Even the call, now almost universal, to ensure that Ukraine wins, drives out all the Russians, drives them out of the country, sounds nice on paper, but notice the assumption. The assumption is that Vladimir Putin, this madman who just seeks power and is out of control, will sit there quietly, accept defeat, slink away, not use the military means that of course he has to destroy Ukraine.


One of the interesting comments that came out in today’s long article, I think Washington Post reviewing a lot of leaks from, actually not leaks, actually presented by US intelligence and US leaders about the long build-up to the war, and one of the points it made was surprised on the part of British and US leaders about Putin’s strategy and his failure to adopt, to fight the war the way the US and Britain would, with real shock and awe, destruction of communication facilities, of energy facilities and so on. They can’t understand why he hasn’t done all that. Well, could. If you want to make it very likely that that will happen, then insist on fighting until somehow Russia faces total defeat, then it’s a gamble.


But if he’s as crazy and insane as you claim, presumably will use weapons that he hasn’t used yet to destroy Ukraine. So the West is taking an extraordinary gamble with the fate of Ukraine, gambling that the madman, lunatic, mad Vlad won’t use the weapons he has to destroy Ukraine and set the stage for escalation up the ladder which might lead to nuclear war. It’s quite a gamble.

Lex Fridman (27:38):

How much propaganda is there in the world today, in Russia, in Ukraine, in the West?

Noam Chomsky (27:44):

Extraordinary. In Russia, of course, it’s total. Ukraine is a different story. They’re at war. They expect propaganda. In the West, well, let me quote Graham Fuller, very highly placed in US intelligence, one of the top officials for decades, dealing mostly with Russia and Central Asia. He recently said that in all the years of the Cold War, he’s never seen any extreme Russiophobia.


I think that’s pretty accurate. I mean, the US has even cancelled Russian outlets, which means if you want to find out what Sergey Lavrov or the Russian officials are saying, you can’t look it up on their own outlets. You have to go through Al Jazeera, Indian state television or some place where they still allow Russian positions to be expressed. And, of course, the propaganda is just outlandish. I think Fuller is quite correct on this.


In Russia, of course, you expect total propaganda. There’s nothing, any independent outlets such as there were have been.

Lex Fridman (29:24):

If the media is a source of inaccuracies and even lies, then how do we find the truth?

Noam Chomsky (29:32):

I don’t regard the media as a source of inaccuracies and lies. They do exist, but by and large media reporting is reasonably accurate. Reporters, the journalists themselves, in the past do courageous, honest work. I’ve written about this for 50 years. My opinion hasn’t changed.


But they do pick certain things and not other things. There’s selection, there’s framing, there’s ways of presenting things. All of that forms a kind of propaganda system, which you have to work your way through. But it’s rarely a matter of straight out right lying.

Lex Fridman (30:29):

So there’s a difference between propaganda and lying?

Noam Chomsky (30:32):

Of course. A propaganda system shapes and limits the material that’s presented. It may tell the truth within that framework. So let me give you a concrete example, which I wrote about extensively. I have a book called Manufacturing Consent jointly with Edward Herman. It’s about his term, which I accepted as a propaganda model of the media. A large part of the book is defense of the media. Defense of the media against harsh attacks by Freedom House.


Several volumes they published attacking the media, charging that the media were so adversarial and dishonest that they lost the war in Vietnam. Well, it took the trouble of reading through the two volumes. One volume is charges, the next volume is evidence. Turns out that all of the evidence is lies. They had no evidence. They were just lying.


The media, in fact, were doing, the journalists were doing an honest, courageous work, but within a certain framework. A framework of assuming that the American cause was basically just, basically honorable, making mistakes, doing bad things. But the idea of questioning that the United States was engaged in a major war crime, that’s off the record. So unfortunately, there was this crime and that crime, which harmed their effort to do good and so on. Well, that’s not lying. It’s propaganda.

Lex Fridman (32:31):

So how do we find the truth?

Noam Chomsky (32:33):

How do we find the truth? That’s what you have a brain for. It’s not deep. It’s quite shallow. It’s not quantum physics. Put a little effort into it. Think about, look for other sources. Think a little about history. Look at the documentary record. It all pretty well falls together and you can get a reasonable understanding of what’s happening.

Lex Fridman (33:02):

If you could sit down with Vladimir Putin, and ask him a question or talk to him about an idea, what would you say?

Noam Chomsky (33:13):

I would walk out of the room, just as with almost any other leader. I know what he’s going to say. I read the party line. I read his pronouncements. Doesn’t want to hear from me. Am I going to say, why did you carry out a crime? Am I going to say, why did you carry out a crime that’s comparable to the US invasion of Iraq and the Stalin-Hitler invasion of Poland? Am I going to ask that question?


If I met with John F. Kennedy today, would I ask, why did you radically escalate the war in Vietnam, launch the US Air Force, start authorizing a bomb, drive launch programs to drive the villagers who you know are supporting the National Liberation Front, drive them into concentration camps to separate them from the forces they’re defending? Would I have asked him that? Of course not.

Lex Fridman (34:14):

Do you think the people who led us into the war in Vietnam, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war in Ukraine, are evil?

Noam Chomsky (34:29):

I mean, it’s very hard to be in a position of leadership of a violent, aggressive power without carrying out evil acts. Are the people evil? I mean, I’m not their moral advisors. I don’t know anything about them. I look at their actions, their statements, their policies, evaluate those. Their families can evaluate their personalities.

Lex Fridman (35:02):

Will there be a war between US and China in the 21st century?

Noam Chomsky (35:07):

If there is, we’re finished. A war between the US and China would destroy the possibilities of organized life on earth. In fact, we can put it differently. Unless the US and China reach an accommodation and work together and cooperatively, it’s very unlikely that organized human society will survive. We are facing enormous problems, problems, destruction of the environment, pandemics, threat of nuclear war.


None of these decline of democratic functioning of an arena for rational discourse, none of these things have boundaries. We either work together to overcome them, which we can do, or we’ll all sink together. That’s the real question we should be asking. What the United States is doing is not helping.


So the current US policy, which is perfectly open, nothing secret about it, is to what’s called encircle China, the official word, with sentinel states. South Korea, Japan, Australia, which will be heavily armed, provided by Biden with precision weapons aimed at China, backed by major naval operations.


Huge naval operations just took place in the Pacific, many nations participating. RIMPAC didn’t get reported here, as far as I know, but an enormous operation threatening China. All of this to encircle China, to continue with policies like that. Somebody like Pelosi, just probably to make her look more, I don’t know what her motives are, taking a highly provocative, stupid act, opposed by the military, opposed by the White House.


Yes, acts like that, which of course called for the response, are highly dangerous. We don’t have to do that. We don’t have to increase the threat. I mean, right now, the last NATO summit, take a look at it, for the first time, it invited to attend the countries that are in the sentinel states surrounding China, encircle China from the east. And it in fact extended the range of NATO to what’s called the Indo-Pacific region.


So all of us by now, the North Atlantic includes the whole Indo-Pacific region to try to ensure that we can overcome the so-called China threat. Secondly, we might ask exactly what the China threat is. It’s done sometimes. So the former prime minister of Australia, Paul Keating, well-known international diplomat, had an article a while ago in the Australian press, that’s right in the claws of the dragon, asking, going through what the China threat is, he ran through the various claims, finally concluded.


The China threat is that China exists. It exists, it does not follow US orders. It’s not like Europe. Europe does what the United States tells it to do, even if it doesn’t like it. China just ignores what the US does. There’s a formal way of describing this. There are two versions of the international order. One version is the UN-based international order, which theoretically we subscribe to, but we don’t accept.


The UN-based international order is unacceptable to the United States because it bans US foreign policy, literally. It explicitly bans the threat or use of force in international affairs, except under circumstances that almost never arise.


Well, that’s US foreign policy. Try to find the president who isn’t engaged in the threat or use of force in international affairs. So obviously we can’t accept the UN-based international system, even though under the Constitution that’s the supreme law of the land. It doesn’t matter. So the United States has what’s called a rule-based international order.


That’s acceptable because it’s the United States that sets the rules. So we want a rule-based international order where the US sets the rules. In commentary in the United States, even in scholarship to the international order, is that false? No, it’s true. Is it propaganda? Of course it’s propaganda because of what’s not stated. And because of what’s presupposed, in answer to an earlier question. Well, China does not accept the rule-based international order. So when the US imposes demands, Europe may not like them, but they follow them. China ignores them. So take, for example, the US sanctions on Iran.


The US has to punish Iran because the United States unilaterally pulled out the Iran nuclear agreements. So in order to punish Iran for our wrecking the agreements in violation of Security Council orders, we impose very harsh sanctions.


Europe strongly opposes the sanctions, condemns them harshly, but it adheres to them because you don’t disobey US orders. That’s too dangerous. China ignores them. They’re not keeping to the rule-based international order. Well, that’s unacceptable. In fact, it’s said pretty openly. You can hear the Secretary of State and others saying that China is challenging our global hegemony. Yes, they are. They don’t accept US global hegemony, especially in the waters of China.


So that’s a China threat. They do a lot of rotten things, China. I mean, internally, there’s all kind of repression, violence and so on. But first of all, that’s not a threat to us. And second, the US doesn’t care about it, because it easily accepts and supports comparable crimes and atrocities internal to allies.


So yes, we should protest it. But without hypocrisy, we have no standing to protest it. We support comparable things in all sorts of other places. Just take a look at the US foreign aid. The leading recipient of US foreign aid is Israel, which is engaged in constant terror, violence and repression, constant almost daily. Second leading recipient is Egypt, under the worst dictatorship in Egypt’s history, about 60,000 people in jail, free political prisoners, tortured and so on. Do we care? No. Second leading recipient. I mean, what are we talking about? Laughs at us. There’s a lot of failure to understand here about why the global south doesn’t join us in our proxy war against Russia, fighting Russia until it’s severely weakened.


They don’t join us. Here the question is, what’s wrong with them? They look into their minds to figure out what’s wrong. They have a different attitude. They say, yes, we oppose the invasion of Ukraine, terrible crime. But what are you talking about? That’s most of the global south. We can’t comprehend that, because we’re so insulated that we are just obviously right and everyone who doesn’t go along must be wrong.

Lex Fridman (44:55):

Do you think the United States as a global leader, as an empire, may collapse in this century? Why and how will it happen and how can we avoid it?

Noam Chomsky (45:10):

The United States can certainly harm itself severely. That’s what we’re doing right now. Right now, the greatest threat to the United States is internal. The country is tearing itself apart. I mean, I really don’t have to run through it with you. Take a look at something as elementary as mortality. The United States is the only country. Outside of war, life expectancy is declining, mortality is increasing. This doesn’t happen anywhere. Take a look at health outcomes generally. They’re among the worst among the developed societies.


And health spending is about twice as high as the developed societies. You look at the charts, all of this starts around the late 1970s, early 80s. If you go back to that point, the United States was pretty much a normal developed country in terms of mortality, incarceration, health expenses, other measures. Since then, the United States has fallen off the chart. It’s gone way off the chart. Well, that’s the neoliberal assault of the last 40 years.


It’s had a major effect on the United States. It’s left a lot of anger, resentment, violence. It’s simply drifted off the spectrum. It’s not a normal political party in any usual sense, not what it used to be. Its main policy is block anything in order to regain power. That’s its policy, followed religiously by the entire Congress. That’s not the actual political party. So, of course, democracy, violence has increased, the judgments, the decisions of the court in memory.


To go back to the 19th century, decision after decision is an effort to create a country of white supremacist Christian nationalists. I mean, scarcely hidden, if you read the opinions of Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch and others. So, yes, we can destroy ourselves within. And, in fact, the ways we’re doing it are almost astonishing. So, it’s well known, for example, everybody knows that US infrastructure, bridges, subways and so on is in terrible shape. It needs a lot of repair. The American Association of Engineers gives it a failing mark every year. Finally, Congress did pass a limited infrastructure bill to rebuild bridges and so on.


It has to be called a China Competition Act. We can’t rebuild our bridges because they’re falling apart. We have to rebuild our bridges to beat China. It’s pathological. And that’s what’s happening inside the country. Take Thomas’ decision in the recent case in which he invalidated a New York law.


This lasted a couple of weeks ago and validated a New York law going back to 1913 that required people to have some justification if they wanted to carry concealed weapons in public. He was through that with a very interesting decision. He said the United States, he said, is such a decaying, collapsing, hateful society that people just have to have guns.


I mean, how can you expect somebody to go to the grocery store without a gun in a country as disgusting and hideous as this one? It’s essentially what he said. Those weren’t his words, but they were the inputs.

Lex Fridman (50:03):

What gives you hope about the United States, about the future of human civilization?

Noam Chomsky (50:11):

Human civilization will not survive unless the United States takes a lead, a leading position in dealing with and overcoming the very severe crises that we face. The United States, the most powerful country, not only in the world but in human history, has nothing to compare with it. What the United States does has an overwhelming impact on what happens in the world. When the United States pulls out, alone pulls out of the Paris Agreement on dealing with climate change and insists on maximizing the use of fossil fuels and dismantling the regulatory apparatus that provides some mitigation, when the United States does that, as it did under Trump. It’s a blow to the future of civilization. When Republican states today, right now, say they’re going to punish corporations that seek to take climate change into account in their investments, the US is telling the world, we want to destroy all of us.


Again, not their words, but their import. That’s what they mean. So as long as we have a political organization dedicated to gaining power at any cost, maximizing profit, no matter what the consequences, no future for human civilization.

Lex Fridman (52:02):

Thank you for talking today. Thank you for talking once again. And thank you for fighting for the future of human civilization. Again, thank you. Thank you for listening.

Episode Info

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