Naomi Klein

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On Fire
The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
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The Year of the Naomis

Excerpt from Jim Freeman,, November 26, 2007

Naomi Klein, on the other hand, dispels any notions you may have had about the CIA and its usefulness as a tool in the belt of American democracy.

A Canadian journalist, Klein ruthlessly and in agonizingly researched detail, carries us through Milton Friedman’s Chicago School of nation building. Klein has done the legwork, so we needn’t tromp our way up and down the dusty corridors, lined with closet after closet, ringing with the cries of the tortured, the disappeared, the silenced witnesses to grand theft of their countries.

Countries in social upheaval, surely countries in need of help. Not on your life. Countries that were making amazing progress economically and socially, where life each year was better and the growing middle class had but one problem—it failed to recognize the seniority and primo status of American business. These sovereign citizens of Uruguay, Chile, Brazil and Argentina failed to realize that their prosperity must come second to Ford, GM and ITT.

Friedman first learned how to exploit a shock or crisis in the mid-70s, when he advised the dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Not only were Chileans in a state of shock after Pinochet's violent coup, but the country was also traumatized by hyperinflation. Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy - tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation.

It was the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere, and it became known as a "Chicago School" revolution, as so many of Pinochet's economists had studied under Friedman there. Friedman coined a phrase for this painful tactic: economic "shock treatment". In the decades since, whenever governments have imposed sweeping free-market programs, the all-at-once shock treatment, or "shock therapy", has been the method of choice.

This, from the introduction to The Shock Doctrine and it pretty much hit me between the eyes, as I have been a life-long admirer of Friedman. Who knew? The whole dirty business had been cloaked in secrecy and propaganda.

I gingerly read further, a skeptic, but at this moment an intrigued skeptic. It was like reading that Mother Teresa was actually a long-time doubter of her faith—such things are not meant to come along and shock our sensitivities, much less our doctrine.

I started researching the free market's dependence on the power of shock four years ago, during the early days of the occupation of Iraq. I reported from Baghdad on Washington's failed attempts to follow "shock and awe" with shock therapy - mass privatization, complete free trade, a 15% flat tax, a dramatically downsized government. Afterwards I traveled to Sri Lanka, several months after the devastating 2004 tsunami, and witnessed another version of the same manoeuvre: foreign investors and international lenders had teamed up to use the atmosphere of panic to hand the entire beautiful coastline over to entrepreneurs who quickly built large resorts, blocking hundreds of thousands of fishing people from rebuilding their villages. By the time Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, it was clear that this was now the preferred method of advancing corporate goals: using moments of collective trauma to engage in radical social and economic engineering.

. . . Until recently, these conditions did not exist in the US. What happened on September 11 2001 is that an ideology hatched in American universities and fortified in Washington institutions finally had its chance to come home. The Bush administration, packed with Friedman's disciples, including his close friend Donald Rumsfeld, seized upon the fear generated to launch the "war on terror" and to ensure that it is an almost completely for-profit venture, a booming new industry that has breathed new life into the faltering US economy. Best understood as a "disaster capitalism complex", it is a global war fought on every level by private companies whose involvement is paid for with public money, with the unending mandate of protecting the US homeland in perpetuity while eliminating all "evil" abroad.

Add to Don Rumsfeld's Friedman enthusiasm, the names of Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Eliot Abrams and Douglas Feith; Friedman disciples all and the main architects of the Iraq disaster.

Just 135 pages in to the 465 total, I find Naomi Klein's treatise so absorbing, well written and carefully researched (60 pages of footnotes) that--believe or not believe--it’s a wonderful exploration of what has gone wrong along the route to globalizing American business.

If you read two books this entire year before election day, make them books by the Naomis—Wolf with The End of America and Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.

You're not really well informed unless you do.

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