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Naomi Klein - Corporatism

Bill interviews Naomi Klein author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
more from Naomi Klein Greenspan and the Myth of the True Believer

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Just a test, I got a 406 message in trying to post and want to see if I made a mistake.

You can watch a short video on the Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein & Alfonso Cuaron here:

or of course, here:

Harper's magazine recently printed Klein's "Disaster Capitalism" essay in its September issue. It was a brilliant piece.

Her work, coupled with Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas? (also excerpted in Harper's), present clear and reasonable arguments about the destructive nature of "free market" economics and the nefarious political power that promotes it.

The working class in America has allowed its own political power base to be overtaken by representatives who have, since Reagan came to power in 1981, dismantled the social and economic protections that generations of working class people fought so hard to get established back in the early, violent years of the labor movement.

Working class people allowed fringe issues like abortion, gay marriage, illegal immigration, and religion guide their voting instead of for their own economic self-interest. They elected representatives who worked against the self interest of the working class and for the benefit of the wealthy.

Guess what? We all don't get to be billionaires or millionaires. Most of us will always work for a living at jobs that don't even pay comparable wages to what American workers were earning back in the 50s and 60s in terms of purchasing power and economic security. And our education system is much worse now than it has been in generations. And our infrastructure is crumbling around us. The illusion of what we are, promoted by the powerful media controlled by the moneyed class, is much different than what we truly face.

So now what? Our national health care, education, and infrastructure are in shambles, and the divide between rich and poor has never been more wide.

The Wal-Marting of America hasn't been much of a success. The illusion of prospertity we have is backed by the massive personal debt held by a large portion of our citizens. How many people are a serious illness or a paycheck away from the poor house? Just because you "own" a car, house, and a couple of big screen tvs doesn't mean you are prosperous if your debt load is so great you are only paying the interest and not the principle on your debt.

How protected are we if our economy goes south and all the social safety valves we once had in place are not there to buffer the fall?

Ah, I'm just one of those old school socialists who believe the balance has tipped far away from the people.

Any of us who work in corporate America have met at least a dozen guys like this: talk a blue streak for an hour, intoning authoritative airs the whole way, and they say nothing (or worse) the whole time. This guy's one of the better trained corporate sock puppets out there, and that's why he's pushing a book and being featured on TV when he is, as that writer mentions, one of the more mindless characters in the MSM (and there's plenty of competition for that palm). It's what happens when profit trumps journalism in big media, and it's what we'll have for as long as millions of people will sit in front of those glowing boxes every night to listen to these nebishes.

Here's what I don't get:

The author makes a fair criticism that government is giving tax dollars to private for-profit corporations. She points out that this is the opposite of "free market", and more closely resembles Mussolini's fascism.

In the next sentence, she explains why the elimination of income tax is a bad thing, and that we need some way to pay for Blackwater.

Was this dry sarcasm, over my head? Was this a total logical disconnect?

I personally believe that the working class of America get little or nothing in exchange for their taxes. Also, as mat_scheck1 pointed out, purchasing power has DECREASED in recent decades.

Therefore, isn't the obvious solution to allow people to keep the money they earn, thus enjoying more purchasing power? Wouldn't this also go leaps and bounds towards decreasing corruption? After all, without those tax revenues, the sociopaths at Blackwater find themselves unemployed (and imo rightfully so).

In other words, I agree with mat_scheck1 right up until the word "socialism". Wouldn't that simply empower more corpo-fascism? Wouldn't that simply give this administration even more power to abuse and exploit?

And sure, assume we get a good President in '08 and then institute this change. But what happens in '12 or '16 when we get another crooked administration?

On the other hand, if we extremely limited the scope and power of government, and eliminated the income tax, wouldn't this provide the working poor with more incentive to earn? Instead of funding wars of occupation, they might instead save, invest or purchase much-needed health insurance.

To preempt an obvious complaint: yes, this system benefits those who earn more income moreso than it benefits those who earn less. However, it seems the flipside to that is a greater social mobility.

Is it a terrible thing if "the rich get richer" if- and this is key- the lower classes gain the social mobility needed to join them?

Please give me a good anti-Ron Paul argument. I simply do not understand the opposing view on this.

Zaphod, No disrespect intended, but I think your thesis makes two false assumptions. One seems to be that money is an infinite resource -- that it is possible for both the rich and the poor to become wealthier simultaneously. Wealth is in fact a finite resource, which is why it has value. The poor are people who for one reason or another have given their money to the rich. Removing regulations that from certain perspectives seem to limit increased profit actually exacerbates this imbalance. Which brings me to the second false assumption, which is that there is a level playing field. Limiting the scope & power of government, as you suggest, would further weaken the working class's position. And, yes, I think she was being sarcastic. She was trying to point out that taxes even pay for programs that benefit conservatives, and that the anti-tax position is therefore untenable.

Is it a terrible thing if "the rich get richer" if- and this is key- the lower classes gain the social mobility needed to join them?

One huge anti-Ron Paul argument is that your "if" hasn't been materializing for the past 27 years. Reagan rode into office preaching smaller government - and that good old time religion was the staple of Bush Sr. too (he "forgot" about calling Reagan's supply-side economics "voodoo economics".) Bush Jr. talks about low taxes while amassing even more debt to pile on the Reagan-Bush(I) debt, because he has no intention of scrimping on the military/industrial complex spending. What psuedoconservatives have learned is that "debt doesn't matter" because the interest is paid to an increasing extent by the middle class (and, especially, by their kids) and is to an increasing extent paid to the wealthy. (Lower taxes. loan the money to government, and get paid interest for it!) Besides, corporatism is more profitable because one can extract bigger profits by using the government to guarantee your profits with no-bid, cost-plus contracts.

As incomes, and wealth (especially) have become more unequal, so has political power shifted to an increasing extent to rich. The rich have much of the government in their pockets and have bought up most of the media too. Ron Paul will do nothing to reverse these trends. With Ron Paul in office, the corporate media will still be there to tell you that your views are "extreme" when you complain about torture, rendition, corruption, or when you and a majority of your countrymen think that government officials are violating the constitution and should be impeached.

what's up with Bill Maher's love of Israel? seriously, its just ridiculous

Well, antizioista, if you're agreeing with Bill on lots of stuff but wondering about his love if Israel, maybe you should try to understand where that love comes from.

I don't, btw, think he "loves" Israel. He just made a comment giving Israel kudos about how it responds to certain events. I'm sure he is critical of lots of things, especially Likudists, as am I (before this devolves into ugliness.)

Naomi Klein's new book is very well written and an immensely important read. She has traveled and lived around the world to see how neoliberal policies have actually been put into place.

The biggest realization is that the rich and powerful after telling everyone else in society to stop looking to public democracies to control the economy have been left to have complete control over the mechanisms of government. The neoliberal agenda is about depoliticizing the economy for the poor and "middle class", so as it has been pointed out the "lower taxes" mantra actually has been to the benefit of the rich. The rich doesn't want small government, that would destroy society (social services make life tolerable , provide job security), what they want is the government to overwhelmingly benefit and profit themselves. This means debt financing in the US, in Canada it means deregulation of the economy so that it can be sold off at alarming rates to international markets only to the benefit of the wealthy shareholders.

In disaster capitalism, cronycapitalists inherent the wealth of what is left, while society is in chaos. In Argentina and Chile, it was previously public industries, in Thailand after the tsunami it was the valuable land, in Iraq it was the oil, and in New Orleans it was the poor's schools and land... all of these things were handed over to crony capitalists for nothing, with a fairly easy fight, and they received years of accumulated collective wealth.

The way to resolve this isn't to get rid of government, it is to reassert public power (aka DEMOCRACY) over the politics of the economy. This is the mantra that the rich do not want to be heard. The economy is political, and the government should participate in the economy. This isn't necessarily socialist, as John Maynard Keynes advocated government's role in the economy and he was without a doubt a liberal economist.

I am sure most educated Candians have read--or at least are familiar--with the works of John Ralston Saul, who was the first public intellectual to attack Chicago School economics and free trade back in the early 90s, among other targets of his ire.

The following is a link to his Massey Lectures, which were packaged as the book called The Unconscious Civilization.

The Unconscious Civilization

Saul's seminal works from this era (Voltaire's Bastards, The Doubter's Companion, and The Unconscious Civilization) were brilliant mainly because what he predicted back then has come true today.

Saul's works should be taken off the shelves and read again. His insight was immensely prescient, and his criticisms of free trade and anti-government movements were dead-on accuracte as to why they would be destructive.

Big Daddy Malcontent:

No disrespect taken. However, I'm not sure I agree that the accumulation of wealth is a zero-sum game. If I earn more, I will spend more. The rising tide lifts all ships- in theory.


I agree with everything you say. I also understand RP skepticism from those who have heard the "free market"/"small government" rhetoric before- and seen the results.

Here's the catch: there hasn't been anything resembling a "free market" in America since before 1913. Our money supply is a monopoly. Our telecommunications are a de-facto monopoly. Energy, housing and banking are each ruled by defensive cabals.

In many ways, I feel sympathy for a socialist who says "how do we know it wouldn't work- we've never tried it?". I think the same is true of Austrian economics (free market, Libertarian, etc).

Thanks for the informative feedback.

"Here's the catch: there hasn't been anything resembling a "free market" in America since before 1913."

It was around that time that the federal courts granted corporations "personhood" status, allowing the 14th amendment to be applied to corporations. So you're right. That's about when the free market concept went down the shitter.

Google "money as debt" and watch the google video.


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