I finished “The Shock Doctrine” on the bus this morning during my brief ride to work. This morning on the news, presidential candidate John McCain suggested (in his latest attempt to find some campaign theme that will click) that Barack Obama is steering this nation toward socialism. He sniggers when he mocks Obama and uses air quotes, knocking Obama for wanting to “spread the wealth around.” Over lunch, I walked my ballot down to Denver City Hall and never felt better about the chances that we are finally saying adios to the Bush years and all that the Bush family represents.
Reading “The Shock Doctrine” was one of the best things I’ve done with my time lately. This is a gripping, compelling piece of work that takes you for an eye-opening trip around the world and through decades of history, examining the role of the United States and the International Monetary Fund in the manipulation of politics and economics.
“The Shock Doctrine” exposes the scorched-earth and exploitive approach of Milton Friedman and the “Chicago Boys”—in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Poland, Russia, China, The Maldives, New Orleans, Sri Lanka and more. Using human torture as a point of comparison, Klein shows how conservative ideologues concocted a toxic mix of authoritarian power and pure free-market ideology to upend economies and disrupt lives in the name of profit. Trying to capture the essence of this book in a couple of sentences is a challenge—it’s much more complex than the sentence above.
Klein has a terrific style. Yes, it’s a bit more argumentative and pointed than straight journalism but the book is extremely well sourced and footnoted. (Go to her Web site if you want to see that she is still accepting corrections for future editions; doesn’t look like there are many.)
In case after case, country and country, crisis after crisis, Klein shows how the super-capitalists swoop in when opportunity strikes and how they till the ground and shock the local population so massive parts of the government functions can be privatized. The result is usually harsh and brutal for those on the lowest economic rungs and Klein documents the impact—and the complicit involvement of the U.S. government.
Which brings me back to Nov. 4, 2008 and the idea that the Donald Rumseld and Dick Cheney crowd may be shown the door. The sections involving the opportunistic development of the drug Tamiflu and the exploitive vultures of Haliburton were the hardest to take—the fact that nothing was done to prevent Cheney and Rumseld to use their positions to ensure that their private investments and private holdings benefited from the very positions they held in government.
Additionally, “The Shock Doctrine” attacks the notion of government-by-contract and how that notion is fundamentally flawed.
Klein’s prose is rich and direct. “The recipe for endless worldwide war is the same one that the Bush administration offered as a business prospectus to the nascent disaster capitalism complex after September 11. It is not a ware that can be won by any country, but winning is not the point. The point is to create ‘security’ inside fortress states bolstered by endless low-level conflict outside their walls. In a way, it is the same goal that the private security companies have in Iraq: secure the perimeter, protect the principal.”
Fortunately (I don’t believe I’m giving away any plot points) there is hope at the end. “Shock Wears Off.” The pendulum is swinging. Let’s hope it continues to swing right back through Nov. 4, 2008.