Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shock and Aw, Shucks

I have been taking a little time off of my usually highly sporadic posting schedule to work on a book, which I'm now considering abandoning, as Naomi Klein has gone me one (waaaaay) better with The Shock Doctrine, a fantastic exploration of Milton Friedman's economic theories and how they've created much of the mess we're currently in, economically speaking, in the world.

I've also just read a great piece on AlterNet by the always wonderful Barbara Ehrenreich (of Nickel & Dimed fame) on how the country has been in this wonderful period of growth, while everyone is feeling more and more pinched. We're working longer, more productive hours than any other nation on the planet, and yet every year, we make a little less, get by a little less.

As Adbusters once said, it's time the economists learned how to subtract.

The economy is only seen by the macroeconomics folks as a matter of growth, growth growth. As Ehrenreich's article says, if that was happening to you, you wouldn't think it was such a wonderful thing.

When you get cancer, the Gross Domestic Product goes up (because you have to pay the hospital for all that lovely medication). When your house is hit by a tree, contractors are hired to fix the damage, and GDP goes up. Any new car costs the environment, taxes and a multitude of other factors approximately $42,000, assuming a twelve year life span. That's on top of the sticker price. But that's all growth, so to the Chicago School of Economics, that's perfection!

Milton Friedman, the godfather of modern despotism (sorry, free-market economics), was responsible for South America becoming more third world than it already was. As a matter of fact, he helped South America make multiple steps back, by helping coup leaders in various countries sell off their social security systems, educational systems, and health systems to various corporate cronies who were (and I love this part) brought in by the coup leaders to decide who should get all of these businesses at fire sale prices. Strangely enough, the CEOs of these major firms thought they would be best suited to run these formerly state-run systems.

There are many stories in The Shock Doctrine of economists influencing foreign coup leaders into using the shock of the coup to decouple citizens from their money, from their rights, and in many cases, their freedom to change any of it short of violent revolution.

It also works when planes fly into buildings, or a hurricane drowns a city.

I will continue to write my book, tentatively titled, "Our Son of a Bitch! A Short History of Making the World Safe for Democracy."

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