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America’s gadfly is Noam Chomsky. One imagines a number of American elected officials and corporate moguls wishing Chomsky would quit writing about their poor judgment, interference, and undue influence in world affairs. Chomsky is a critic of American government, capitalist excess, and corporate welfare just as Socrates was a critic of the Greek Polis. History suggests Socrates, like Chomsky, never held public or private office. They are similar in that each believes they know better “how to govern” than those who are elected or appointed. There is inherent unfairness in their criticism because neither was in the position of making government or organizational decisions. Socrates and Chomsky measure performance against an ideal, an inherently unchallengeable illusion.
The question Chomsky might ask himself is would he live anywhere else but America? If he would, how perfect is that other nation? This is not to say that Chomsky and other critics of America are not good for society. They are critically important to the betterment of society. Intelligent critics are our modern Socrates; i.e. our gadflies.
America does need to do better but if all one only listens to Chomsky, depression, apathy, and inaction take the place of progress toward a Socratic vision of the “good”.
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