Noam Chomsky on Money in Politics

Noam Chomsky is a highly influential public intellectual known for his incisive social criticism and political activism.

In this post, we present Chomsky’s critique of wealth and power concentration, the influence of neoliberalism, and the resultant detrimental impact on democracy.

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About Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky, born in 1928, is a renowned American public intellectual, recognized for contributions to linguistics, political activism, and social criticism. Often termed “the father of modern linguistics,” Chomsky significantly influenced cognitive science and analytic philosophy. He served as a professor at the University of Arizona and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With over 150 books to his credit, Chomsky’s works span linguistics, war, and politics.

One of his best known books is Manufacturing Consent. In that book, Chomsky argues that the media promotes state policies while sidelining contrary views. This is censorship, he argues, enforced by government-steered “free market” forces. This form of censorship is more subtle and challenging to counter than classic, Soviet-style propaganda. The corporate-owned mainstream media reflects its own interests, restricts its range of opinions and does not question its premises. Some American journalists are dedicated to free speech and contrary views, but the media as a whole rarely criticizes individual politicians and parties and almost never challenges the larger state-corporate nexus it is part of.

Neoliberalism and the concentration of wealth and power

The rest of this post is based on Chomsky’s Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power (2017).

To explain the rise and deleterious consequences of money in politics, Noam Chomsky focuses on how the concentration of power and wealth undermines democracy. Socio-economic policies, particularly neoliberal programs, erode democracy and contribute to a range of societal problems.

Neoliberal programs of the last generation have been designed to undermine governmental and popular institutions that might deal with societal and environmental issues. Neoliberalist ideologies have been successful because they serve the interests of the powerful. The elite redesigned the entire neoliberal economy to favor the wealthy and powerful. Neoliberalism dismantled regulations and destroyed unions. Since the neoliberal turn, around 1980, real wages for most people have stagnated or declined, and job security has been undermined, with more people living in precarity. 

In a well-functioning democracy, people would not vote for policies that lead to their own impoverishment and insecurity. And yet, they do.

Far-right movements arose alongside the neoliberal policies — the policies caused social and economic distress and, as such, contributed to far-right popularity. Facism rose. The far-right’s attempt to undermine the basic tenets of democracy is a dangerous trend that prevents the population from effectively responding to the distress.

The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few has eroded the solidarity of the people, has let special interests dominate, has manipulated election results, and has used fear and state power to control the populace. This is not merely one party who upholds these values. Both liberal and conservative elites alike are marginalizing the population and driving people towards precarity as young people face a future without decent employment.

How did political parties come to be beholden to corporate interests? 

Noam Chomsky argues that wealth concentration leads to power concentration, as rising election costs drive political parties towards corporate funding. This political power converts into legislation that further concentrates wealth through fiscal policy, deregulation, and corporate governance rules. This creates a vicious cycle where increased wealth concentration leads to more political power, further enabling the concentration of wealth and power.


Chomsky’s views on money in politics revolve around the critique of the concentration of wealth and power, the undermining of democracy, and the adverse social effects resulting from neoliberal economic policies. He sees these trends as constituting a threat to the survival of a democratic society.  To counteract the concentration of wealth and power and thus the erosion of democracy, resistance movements, such as that led by Bernie Sanders, matter. We need more popular opposition to the status quo. 

The concentration of wealth and power is the disease. Resistance is the cure.