Interesting book that is worth reading. However, there are some important points here.
First of all, it always fascinates me that the people who are most in favor of privatization and lassiez-faire capitalism are people that have spent most of their lives outside of business and finance, just like the people who are most in favor of military intervention are people who have spent most of their lives outside the military. There’s something ironic and disturbing that the economists of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that are telling third world nations to privatize everything are people who generally have never worked in a private company in their entire lives.
It’s also telling that the people who were the most skeptical about military intervention in Iraq were people who were the professional soldiers, and the people who are some of the loudest voices against the excesses of capitalism are professional finance people like George Soros and Warren Buffett.
“Being there” changes your perspective in a lot of ways. For example, pretty much everyone who has worked in a private corporation has lost their job at some point, and knows in an emotional way, the consequences have being unemployed. So when I see angry people on the streets of Baghdad and Jakarta, I know what they are feeling because I’ve been there in a way that I doubt most of the economists in the World Bank or IMF have.
I do think that Klein is a bit too much a believer of “incorrect” conspiracy theories, and doesn’t quite appreciate the breathtaking amount of incompetence there is out there. There are people in this world that truly, honestly believe that government is the problem, and that totally privatized world will create a utopia. These people are for lack of a better word, dangerous idiots. Private corporations and private capital can do a lot of good, and the profit motive and pure greed can do some incredibly wonderful things, but you have to consider the entire social system.
I seriously doubt that anyone in the Bush administration intended that New Orleans and Iraq would be in such the awful mess that they are in. Even in cases where there is obvious greed and cronyism, then attitude of the people getting the checks toward society is neutral. People who are making big money off New Orleans and Iraqi reconstruction, frankly don’t care if New Orleans or Iraq prospers or burns, as long as they get the checks, so the trick in getting something useful done is to set up the incentives so that people make more money if New Orleans prospers. This is one reason why you really want local people running things. A corrupt political boss that is located in New Orleans at least spends the proceeds of their corruption locally and has some connection between their political/economic well-being and those of the community.
Finally, I think that Klein totally misses the really, really, really scary implication of her work. One thing that you learn to ask yourself in business is “Who is the competition and what are they doing?”
So who is the competition and what **are** they doing?
Hezbollah and the Islamic Brotherhood has managed to capture the support of large numbers of people because they run schools and services that are competently run. The reason that Islamism has become such a powerful force is because they provide a lot of social services and reconstruction aid. The United States promised freedom to Iraq, and it brought devastation. Meanwhile Islamist groups are getting the job done. If things go on the way that Klein says they are going on, then we are going to lose this war…… And let me say something obvious, in the Middle East, we are losing this war…. We haven’t lost, but we are losing……