Summer Reading List – The Shock Doctrine

“Klein derides the “disaster capitalism complex” and the profits and privatisations that go with it but she does not supply a cogently argued critique of free market principles, and without this The Shock Doctrine descends into a muddle of stories that are often worrying, sometimes interesting, and occasionally bizarre.” –Robert Cole

I started Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” over Christmas break. I got about 30 pages into it and wanted to throw the damn thing out the window. I put it away and left it for summer break, when I was less like to commit homicide over it.

My second attempt had me as annoyed at the first. I was furiously taking notes, google’ing assertions she makes, and yelling at the book.

Her book outlines the idea that populations only accept free market policies when they are faced with some type of disaster, from war to natural disaster. She argues that politicians/economists/leaders will exploit naturally occurring disasters or create their own to push through these reforms. These reforms only benefit the wealthy/powerful and effectively screw the little people. Throughout the book, she parallels the economic “shocks” with a discussion of psychological experiments conducted by Ewen Cameron using electroshock therapy.

Let’s start with this. Have governments (the US in particular) involved themselves in the affairs of other nations to benefit themselves or their citizens? Yes. Have ideologues shoved their reforms down the throats of a population with no regard to outcome? Yes. I’ not disputing that. However, Klein portrays all free market reforms as “evil” and every economist who has ever come out of the University of Chicago might as well be Satan himself.

My biggest issue with the book is summed up in this singular example. She mentions the Crash of ’29 and the “good” reforms that came afterwards briefly. So economic shock and reforms you agree with = ok? While economic shock and reforms you don’t agree with = EVIL?

Economics isn’t a hard science. You can’t take a couple of societies, stick them in a control group, and take a few others and test out some economic theories.

I think Klein could have written a great book on the subject and made some really excellent points about how the uber wealthy will try to exploit disasters to fatten their own pockets. Instead, she verged into hysterical Coulter-esque ranting about conspiracies and electroshock therapy.

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