Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Shock Doctrine

From the introduction to The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein:

"When I began this research into the intersection between superprofits and megadisasters, I thought I was witnessing a fundamental change in the way the drive to 'liberate' markets was advancing around the world....The three trademark demands--privatization, government deregulation and deep cuts to social spending--tended to be extremely unpopular with citizens, but when the agreements were signed there was still at least the pretext of mutual consent between the governments doing the negotiating, as well as a consensus among the supposed experts. Now the same ideological program was being imposed via the most baldly coercive means possible: under foreign military occupation after an invasion, or immediately following a cataclysmic natural disaster. September 11 appeared to have provided Washington with the green light to stop asking countries if they wanted the U.S. version of 'free trade and democracy' and to start imposing it with Shock and Awe military force.

"As I dug deeper into the history of how this market model had swept the globe, however, I discovered that the idea of exploiting crisis and disaster has been the modus operandi of Milton Friedman's movement from the very beginning--this fundamentalist form of capitalism has always needed disasters to advance. It was certainly the case that the facilitating disasters were getting bigger and more shocking, but what was happening in Iraq and New Orleans was not a new, post-September 11 invention. Rather, these bold experiments in crisis exploitation were the culmination of three decades of strict adherence to the shock doctrine.

"Seen through the lens of this doctrine, the past thirty-five years look very different. Some of the most infamous human rights violations of this era, which have tended to be viewed as sadistic acts carried out by antidemocratic regimes, were in fact either committed with the deliberate intent of terrorizing the public or actively harnessed to prepare the ground for the introduction of radical free-market 'reforms.' In Argentina in the seventies, the junta's 'disappearances' of thirty thousand people, most of them leftist activists, was integral to the imposition of the country's Chicago School policies, just as terror had been a partner for the same kind of economic metamorphosis in Chile. In China in 1989, it was the shock of the Tiananmen Square massacre and the subsequent arrests of tens of thousands that freed the hand of the Communist Party to convert much of the country into a sprawling export zone, staffed with workers too terrified to demand their rights. In Russia in 1993, it was Boris Yeltsin's decision to send in tanks to set fire to the parliament building and lock up the opposition leaders that cleared the way for the fire-sale privatization that created the country's notorious oligarchs."

I could type up the whole thing. This book makes my eyes pop out of my head.

This quotation isn't in the book, but it could be:

"America has proven that empowering free markets and free people is the bulwark of liberty and the surest means to prosperity." - John McCain

Yesterday on Facebook I saw an acquaintance from high school had added the John McCain application and it made me really angry. Well, first I was incredulous, and then I was angry. This girl is like twenty years old. John McCain says he wants to reform the health care system, but he wants to do this by "promoting competition"; John McCain thinks there aren't enough troops in Iraq but he also wants to cut our taxes so maybe if we eliminate some more social programs like Medicaid everything will be superfantastic; John McCain wants to give parents the ability to choose the schools for their children but how will that save a failing public education system if all these parents choose to send their children to for-profit charter schools? Mmm?

One more:

"[Milton] Friedman's radical idea was that instead of spending a portion of the billions of dollars in reconstruction money on rebuilding and improving New Orleans' existing public school system, the government should provide families with vouchers, which they could spend at private institutions, many run at a profit, that would be subsidized by the state.

"In sharp contrast to the glacial pace with which the levees were repaired and the electricity grid was brought back online, the auctioning off of New Orleans' school system took place with military speed and precision. Within nineteen months, with most of the city's poor residents still in exile, New Orleans' public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. Before Hurricane Katrina, the school board had run 123 public schools; now it ran just 4. Before that storm, there had been 7 charter schools in the city; now there were 31. New Orleans teachers used to be represented by a strong union; now the union's contract had been shredded, and its forty-seven hundred members had all been fired. Some of the younger teachers were rehired by the charters, at reduced salaries; most were not."

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