If you have time to read only one book in the next few months, I beg that you chose Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. No other author that I have stumbled over has Klein’s keen insight into the dynamics of the major international economic and monetary crises of the last forty years. Documentaries have been made from her book and her thesis has not been refuted in any substantive or intelligent way that I have found.
Klein's book is about how the current so-called free global market economy spread throughout the world, starting in Pinochet’s Chile, on to other South American nations, and then to Margaret Thatcher’s England, Poland, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and so on. She shows how even natural disasters such as Katrina in New Orleans, tsunamis in So. Asia, were used to achieve economic change, beneficial to free market corporations.
Klein calls this disaster capitalism and traces its origin to Milton Friedman’s economic theories. Boiled down to its essence, Friedman and his acolytes, the infamous “Chicago boys,” believed in three main ideas to achieve a free market world, privatization, deregulation and shaved-down government.
As Milton Friedman wrote, “Only a crisis, real or perceived, produces real change.” [Here] And when a crisis occurs, leaders reach around for ideas that are ‘laying around.” Obviously, he believed that only his “correct ideas” should be laying around to be picked up.
The book’s website gives us just a sampling of the examples that are discussed in detail in the book: [Here]
At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq’s civil war, a new law is unveiled that would allow Shell and BP to claim the country’s vast oil reserves…. Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly out-sources the running of the “War on Terror” to Halliburton and Blackwater…. After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts.... New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be reopened…. These events are examples of “the shock doctrine”: using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters -- to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy. Sometimes, when the first two shocks don’t succeed in wiping out resistance, a third shock is employed: the electrode in the prison cell or the Taser gun on the streets.”
As we see unprecedented amounts of corporate money, even foreign corporate money allegedly siphoned through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, pouring into Republican coffers to sway voters in this coming election, it all sounds very, very reminiscent of what has happened in the past forty years from Chile to New Orleans. And we must admit that parts of our country are in an economic shock.
Following lessons learned from Klein’s book, we can expect many things. Certainly there will be a push from Obama’s Deficit Commission to weaken or gut Social Security, perhaps in preparation to an attempt to privatize it. Can’t you imagine the insurance industry and the stock brokers drooling over the prospect? There will be attacks on the teachers’ unions and a push for more charter/parochial schools. (GOP N.Y. Gov. candidate Paladino is already campaigning for it.) The list will be long.
Remember: Privatization. Deregulation. Small Government
This whole ball of wax is called neoliberalization. In my opinion there is nothing “neo” about these theories. They were rampant in the 1890’s and we spent years and years to make capitalism more humane through the union movement and government regulation and taxation. We should call this Friedmanism the Neo-Gilden Age. Its proponents are certainly not liberals.
They are, of course, reactionaries...