Thursday, August 14, 2008

I'm more European than an English Muffin

I talk a lot of junk about hippies, and the Commies. But deep down, my heart bleeds for endangered fluffy bunnies and Mother Earth. And for our neighbors to the North, I give you guys some crap, but sometimes I think I wouldn't be better as a Canadian.

You see, I was born without a profit motive. As for money I just...I just don't care. So when it comes to corporations I'm at best ambivalent. Sure, they can do some good, but since they have no reason to exist other than to provide their shareholders with a return, sometimes they're downright evil.

So when I read Naomi Klein's (Canadian Jew!) The Shock Doctrine, it confirmed my paranoia. Klein has a real bone to pick with Milton Friedman, seemingly mild-mannered economist and sworn enemy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal.

Friedman took a psychological experiment using electro-shock therapy and turned it into the dominant economic and political theory of the last 60 years. The idea is to shock a country or region into disorientation, either through natural disaster or war or some other traumatic event. With the public reeling, the government needs a quick fix. So Friedman trained economists from all over the world to step in and offer lessons in privatization, and corporate-friendly labor laws and taxes. He started in Chile with Augusto Pinochet, then moved through South America privatizing Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia following the coups that occurred there. His acolytes promised new wealth, freedom, and democracy.

The only problem is that the coups were often funded and provoked by the CIA. And once the wildly unpopular economic plans were announced, and citizens were a little upset when their healthcare and wage protections were revoked, the governments invariably arrested and killed thousands of dissenters.

The privatizations allowed a few to become wildly rich, and the vast majority to become fantastically poor. Friedman's theory was tested in South America, and then unleashed in Indonesia, Poland, Russia, and Great Britain. The World Bank and the IMF were created to provide funding for underdeveloped countries, and they used that opportunity to make the loans contingent on extensive privatization. Eventually natural disasters were exploited, like the 2004 tsunami and Hurricanes Mitch and Katrina. In most cases either Friedman's students or corporate officers themselves who drafted the new economic regulations.

And then there was that whole Iraq thing. Friedman's followers are responsible for the incredible amount of contracting going on in Iraq, as well as in many other areas of the US government. Guys like Grover Norquist, who said that "I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." This is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, invaluable adviser to Bush, and co-drafter of Newt Gingrich's 1994 Contract with America. For a guy who hates government so much, he sure has an awful lot to do with it. Although how are we supposed to take a guy named Grover seriously?

So aside from all that, the book was HILARIOUS. You'll laugh until you cry. And if you live in Canada, you'll probably drink yourself silly, comforted in the knowledge that your trip to the hospital for alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis will be paid for by a bunch of snooty Quebecois.

I guess my point is, hoooooooooray for capitalism.

1 comment:

Ali said...

the free health care makes it worth all the jokes you toss my way.