Thursday, December 06, 2007

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine

As a follow up to yesterday's post about Paul Krugman's dire forecast about the economy, below are two paragraphs that stood out as I read Naomi Klein's great book The Shock Doctrine.

A more accurate term for a system that raises the boundaries between big government and big business is not liberal, conservative or capitalist but corporatist. Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security. For those inside the bubble of extreme wealth created by such an arrangement, there can be no more profitable way to organize a society. But because of the obvious drawbacks for the vast majority of the population left outside the bubble, other features of the corporatist state tend to include aggressive surveillance, once again, with government and large corporations trading favors and contracts, mass incarceration, shrinking civil liberties, and often, though not always, torture.
That is how the shock doctrine works: the original disaster -- the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsunami, the hurricane -- puts the entire population into a state of collective shock. The falling bombs, the burst of terror, the pounding winds serve to soften up whole societies much as the blaring music and blows in the torture cells soften up prisoners. Like the terrorist prisoner who gives up the names of comrades and renounces his faith, shocked societies often give up things they would otherwise fiercely protect... Evacuees at the Baton Rouge shelter were supposed to give up their housing projects and public schools. After the tsunami, the fishing people in Sri Lanka were supposed to give up their valuable beachfront land to hoteliers. Iraqis, if all had gone according to plan, were supposed to be so shocked and awed that they would give up control of their oil reserves, their state companies and their sovereignty to U.S. military bases and green zones.

I'm not finished with the book yet, but I am amazed at the parallels Klein draws between the will to torture, the will to invade, and an almost fundamentalist view of free markets with no tolerance for any interference. She describes true believers of Milton Friedman's economic philosophies as believing that the real enemy of progress was not communism or totaliarianism but instead people who believe in a mixed economic system in which government steps in to correct the effects of an unregulated free market.
Sounds a lot to me like a group of group of people whose supporters would write books with titles such as "In Defense of Internment" or "Treason" or even "How to speak to a Liberal, if you must." As Bill Maher says, they run on a platform of "government doesn't work" and then get into power and prove it.

It's time to get beyond labels such as "Democrat" and "Republican" and instead begin to look at candidates in terms of their "Corporatist" tendencies.

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