Book Review: Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, by Naomi Klein


I didn’t go to college right out of high school, I sort of relied on my boyfriend (ex-husband after a while) to  point me in the right direction  regarding  my political  thought development.  He was a philosophy major and economics minor in college.  What did I know of communism, socialism, Keynesianism or anarchism.  In fact, we were members of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies), and  our group’s philosophy was  anarcho-syndicalism.  That means we believed in  government owned by the workers—the people who made  things work, the producers.  You’d never know it if you got all your information from  privately owned media:  Google ‘worker collectives’, or even ‘Employee Stock Ownership Plans’ and you may find some successful examples.  In any case, the cold war was sputtering out, and would  continue to for another 20 years or so..more of a trading of insults than a war. In Chile, Pinochet had Salvador Allende killed, and the  fact that he was assisted by our CIA was no secret.  Our government was telling us citizens that Chile was not a democracy, because the wrong guy won.

While you are at it, Google “Marshall Plan” and you will find out that is NOT what the USA has been implementing since  we’ve decided to meddle in the economies of so many countries.

But what did it matter?  It was the 1970’s.  We had declared victory in Viet Nam and left. We could still make our rent &  other expenses on a week’s wages (as long as 3 of us split the rent) &  I didn’t think about health insurance, or saving for a rainy day.  I was too immature, too unsophisticated, to understand the economic system.  Fact is, due to the  entire  group of educational systems in the USA is a make work project for teachers, few of us know how economics works.  You can  ‘graduate’ from primary school and not know compound interest, how to start a business or do bookkeeping,  basic, vital economic concepts.  I found them teaching this stuff in Kenya in 1987.  I know I learned it in the late 1960s. What happened?  Why aren’t parents demanding that their kids be able to function?  Because they’ve been sold a bill-of-goods that their kids are educated if they major in liberal arts.  So much for that…when even a toxicologists can’t find a job, we know we are in trouble…We don’t even know what questions to ask about how our government spends out money.

Klein starts her history of how we allowed  Dubya (President Bush the 2nd) to not  provide immediate help to the  victims of Hurricane Katrina.  She describes how   we (American citizens…after all, having a democracy, WE are responsible for the mayhem)  support so many domestic companies and foreign leaders who really  don’t believe in democracy as we generally think of it.

She describes the orchestrated  overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973…the CIA assisting Pinochet with guns and money,  and destroying Chile.  Why did the CIA do this?  Even though he was democratically  elected, he nationalized  natural resources (the copper mines) for the public good.   Because Allende was a socialist and  Pinochet was a Chicago School free marketeer…. Really.  It’s a fact.  Sen.Bernie Saunders in Vermont is a socialist.  He hasn’t been offed because he doesn’t have that much power. How many of us knew what was happening with out tax $$$?

Is that an excuse?  Are we Americans off the hook? Do we really not understand why the rest of the world hates us?  But,  why individuals in the countries that ‘hate’ us want to take the gamble & try their luck here? Then, remember when Poland chose democracy & threw out the old communist regime?  Well, Klein painstakingly documents (copiously footnoted)  how  the World Bank/IMF insisted on an immediate sell off of  every state owned entity…and they(our government employees doing this on behalf of us..) did the same in Russia, South Africa,  Thailand & much of southeast Asia,  and now Iraq.  In Russia, the Communist Party  oligarchs were allowed to buy the  entities they ran.  In Iraq, they were prevented from bidding.  She  goes into detail how Paul Bremer, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld  totally destroyed the  all of Iraq, making it appear that Saddam Hussein  did this, when WE did this to them & the citizens there know it.  In fact, she describes how they started electing governing councils, and Bremer sent in our army to stop them from doing democracy on their own.

It is 2011 as I write this. President Obama  is either unable or unwilling to embarrass the rich, the Republicans, and bring vital change. Seems he  thinks  our  economic policy as we act and implement abroad is fine.   The American congress is now  deciding how, exactly, to dismantle the  home mortgage  interest & property tax deductions, and makes sure nobody can get by on the  social safety net of Social Security.  We’ve got a bunch of free market senators and representatives who do not know  either history or economics,  thinking—no—KNOWING —they are next in line for largesse.  Their  pensions will NOT be cut, and they will join the corporate boards of all the companies who will benefit by what Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize Winner, called,  a colossal transfer of private wealth into public hands. comparable to Russia’s giveaways to the oligarchs.    His book, Freefall (published by Norton in 2010) is also worth reading. He had been an Obama supporter…

Kinda makes you sick, doesn’t it?  There have recently been news reports (and it was on National Public Radio, which I believe  reports more truth than any other media in the USA) that  about 25% of Illinois homes (my state) are in foreclosure.  1 in 4.  This means so much. It means  a lot of wealth (equity) evaporated.  That money was what people were using to reinvest in the economy.  It’s gone.   If the rich don’t  throw around more,  the economy will never come back.  Not in 10 year, not in 20.   This is it.  Those are families who got dogs groomed, had their hair & nails done.  People who shopped for clothes as a recreational hobby! No more. Orthodontia for the kids?  Please…

You really can’t complain about what is going on  if you don’t understand what is EXACTLY going on.  The book  was published in 2007 by Henry Holt.  I am sure you can get it on Amazon if your local used bookseller (please support them, first, or  all you will have is Walmart & no choice in what is available for reading, except the internet), and if you want your kids to have jobs anywhere in the world, start emailing your elected officials–particularly your senators, representatives, & President Obama and tell them no more  defense spending or foreign aid until we reinvest in ourselves.  You’ve got nothing to lose. It’s all gone…

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