Posted August 25, 2015
Book Review by Carl Freitag
In light of what’s happened in our country the last few years it’s time we considered Naomi Klein’s book, Shock Doctrine, the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. She brilliantly writes of how the right wing has learned to exploit crises in a way that has nothing to do with the crisis but instead gives them an opportunity to impose their world view of a more authoritarian and harsh society.
The idea of disaster capitalism stems from Milton Friedman’s concept of unfettered capitalism. He is the one who said after hurricane Katrina, “This is an opportunity to radically reform the educational system of New Orleans.” And indeed they did. They installed a permanent voucher system and over 100 charter schools in the city. Of course, all the union teachers were fired.
Disaster capitalism includes natural and manufactured catastrophic events. Natural catastrophes include hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis and floods. In New Orleans, besides the remake of the school system, the citizens also found out that their public housing, hospitals and old schools will never be reopened.
Another natural disaster leading to market opportunities and economic engineering was the great tsunami in Southeast Asia. In Sri Lanka the coastline was denied to the returning fishing people and turned over to entrepreneurs and new resorts for the rich.
Man-made or manufactured disasters are now more common. Some examples were: the sale of Russia’s state economy to the oligarchs, Pinochet’s Chilean coup, Prime Minister Thatcher’s give away of government wealth, privatization in Iraq and the many changes occurring after 9-11. Also states with super majority Republican administrations doing away with collective bargaining, tenure, and unions and more recently the debt limit fiasco in the congress.
Each of these attempts to use shock doctrine is a long and sordid story. For instance, the republicans under the leadership of “W” virtually raped the country with their aggressive use of disaster capitalism after 9-11. First they cancelled habeas corpus and locked up who knows how many people. The Patriot Act enabled them to spy indiscriminately on U.S. citizens, use torture and renditions and gather combatants at Guantanamo Bay where they said the law did not apply. They formed the Department of Homeland Security with its no-bid contracts with no unions allowed and outsourced the War on Terror to Halliburton and Blackwater.
There is just no end to what you can get away with when the public is disoriented and distracted. Even during the debt ceiling crisis few noticed how the congress quietly dropped funding for the FAA until something could be done about their union problem.
Another culprit in this apparent international conspiracy is the World Trade Organization (WTO). They stipulate that a country in order to get a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) they must accede to three demands. They are privatization, government deregulation and deep cuts to social spending. This market model has swept over the world, but especially in the U.S. Friedman said, in reference to the welfare system, social security and public schools, “Americans cling to their irrational attachment to a socialist system.”
I must be a socialist since I believe in promoting public education and social security. It looks like Milton Friedman’s Chicago School philosophy is capitalism on steroids. There is no place for anything that is not “free market”. Libertarians particularly like every man for himself with little or no government. I wonder if they know that the epitome of free market libertarianism is Somalia.
So a summary of Klein’s book would be how the oligarchy tries to privatize everything that has the word “public” in it, have no regulations for corporations and end social spending, especially for the poor. One way to insure inequality for the poor is to cut them out of the democratic process through voter suppression as we have seen here in Florida.
Heaven to them would be a crisis so severe that the people are psychologically and physically uprooted so much that the situation presents itself as a “clean canvas” where they can begin remaking the world with nothing public, no regulations and no social programs.
A good example of an attempt to create a “blank canvas” was in Iraq immediately after the invasion. U.S. Chief Envoy L. Paul Bremer disbanded the army, mandated mass privatization, downsized the government and mandated complete free trade laws.
The Republican leadership in the congress has recently warned us, in light of their success, that they are going to continue to use manufactured crises to push their agenda. Apparently they eventually plan to privatize everything including the government.
Carl Freitag is a retired psychology professor and a member of the Space Coast Progressive Alliance.