Naomi Klein is Canadian journalist, author and activist. Klein’s central argument is that fully privatized capitalism, the type that Milton Friedman advocated under neoliberalism, rises not out of democratic processes, but rather periods of chaos in which sweeping reforms are enacted (shock treatments). Chile under Pinochet is a good case. Modern Iraq would be another. However, her take on China’s Tiananmen Square incident is significantly re-envisioned. I don’t know how she fits Reagan’s deregulation into the mix. To be fair, I haven’t read the book yet, I have only heard her speak about it.
The strongest cases for the shock doctrine are states that had interests in nationalizing industries that previously belonged to American corporations. When the corporations complained, the American government was usually helpful enough to back a coup and install a dictator that would allow American corporations to continue to operate in those countries and in some cases open the door for further exploitation. In Chile, it was the copper mines. In Iraq, it is the oil fields. Before the fall of the Soviet Union, it was easy enough to call the states communist. Today, they are failed states, or state sponsors of terror.
This is good enough to explain a tactic of neocolonialism. However, it does little to address how such issues take hold in industrialized countries. In my mind, it is not the best explanation for the Reagan revolution, which all comes out of the same basic idealogical vein. Whether it be Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand or Libertarians. The rhetoric is intellectually shallow, inconsistent, and effective. It is appealing on an intellectual level, because if everyone does what is in their rational self-interest, it is easy to predict what people will do and what outcomes will be. In short, the appeal is reductionism. However, self-interest is only half of the equation, what people really want is to do well personally, while providing some valuable service for their community. In short, people want to do well, while doing good. It is only a tiny minority of population that would pursue their own personal gain to the detriment of everyone else’s. Unfortunately, it is also the case that those that would do so, the sociopaths, the megalomaniacs, etc. tend to rise to the top of a capitalist system. Whether it be the power of compound interest, or simply taking advantage of opportunities to exploit communities.
My only point is that there is a cultural aspect to it. And a significant number of Americans have been sold on this ideology. We can better explain shock treatments abroad actions than domestic. The domestic agenda seems to take hold because of a loose confederation of single-interests are being pursued, deregulation and disaster capitalism are usually just means to meet an unrelated non-egalitarian end for other single-issue interests.
In spite of the apparent stretches, and to be fair, I should read her book to get the full argument, Klein does provide some insights into the Free Market mythos and how neoliberalism is applied by the current crop of neoconservatives.
So without further ado, here is a speech she gave about her book at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Part 1 of 6