Monday, November 22, 2010

A Comment on the Above

I think what we are looking at right now is shock capitalism. The idea is from a book by Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

From Wikipedia:
The book argues that the free market policies of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman have risen to prominence in some countries because they were pushed through while the citizens were reacting to disasters or upheavals. It is implied that some man-made crises, such as the Falklands war, may have been created with the intention of being able to push through these unpopular reforms in their wake.

Per Wikipedia, Klein argues that the invasion and destruction of Iraq is the biggest attempt at shock capitalism thus far. Out of the disaster is supposed to rise an oil exporting economy friendly to Western oil companies.

The shock doctrine -- or something like it -- was used in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, either by accident or intentionally. The country's economy was ripped apart; the social safety net vanished; and the citizens were impoverished. The average life span dropped, something not seen in any other country. In the end, Russia had a capitalist economy. The accumulated wealth of the Russian People, formerly controlled by the state in the name of the people, was in private hands, many of those hands belonging to former Communist Party hacks or former gangsters. As I remember, the Russian government was being advised by Harvard economists when all this went down.

Something similar appears to be happening here. The right is attacking the social safety net, what remains of it. The idea is (it seems to me) to reset the rules of society, creating a far more predatory America, where most people are poor and frightened.

The government as it exists now is not likely to survive. As Krugman says above, it isn't working at the moment; and shock capitalism is going to require a strong central power to control the population. That suggests a dictatorship, though there are other options. A crippled form of the Republic may continue. The country may simply break down and break apart, like the former Soviet Union; or the population may get angry enough to challenge the rich and remake society.

I may be wrong. I am not in an optimistic mood right now. It's possible we can limp along with an economy and government that don't really work any more.


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