Some Thoughts On the Shock Doctrine

Wednesday night we went to hear Naomi Klein talk about her book, The Shock Doctrine: the Rise of Disaster Capitalism. I haven’t had the time to properly digest everything she talked about but some initial thoughts:

She did a remarkable job of explaining the shock doctrine* and how it applies to not just recent history (both the obvious, like 9/11 and the fall of communism) and with tying it in with the election and the economic meltdown.

One of the striking points was how many of the crisis that the doctrine has are economically motivated. For the super capitalists pushing this doctrine, it’s all about creating avenues for making money and doing so quickly, without all those messy regulations, laws and decency. So, in a sense, those of us who were shouting about Iraq being a war for oil were half right. What we had wrong was a failure of imagination on our part. It was about oil, only in the sense that oil was one of a dozen business opportunities that the war was creating. And that was the scary part: the war had no other purpose. It was started as part of a business plan: to create chaos that destabilizes a country, move in and pass laws that would turn Iraq into a free market fantasy land, and make as much money off of the carnage as possible. That’s why Bush didn’t want to set a time line for withdrawal and why he kept claiming the surge was working. It was. All the contractors in Iraq are making record profits, so for them, Iraq is a success. That nearly a million people are dead and another 2 million displaced is simply part of the egg breaking that comes with capitalist omelet making.

And they did it again in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the wild fires in California the summer before last. And they are doing it with the financial meltdown that’s going on right now. Everyone’s talking about how we’ve effectively nationalized AIG and most of the insurgence market but this is only a short term thing. According to Klein, what happens next is the Gov decides to break up the giant national company they just created and privatize it. This has the added benefit of costing the tax payers more money. We did business with these fuckers, then paid to bail them out so they wouldn’t collapse (most of them anyway) and then we’ll pay the fees to set them up again.

Klein made a point that really hit on a creeping fear I’ve had for a while. While it’s generally accepted that McCain would be 4 more years of Bush, this is wrong: Obama will be 4 more years of Bush. McCain will be far, far worse than Bush.†

What she meant by this was that Obama, like Clinton before him, is running as a populist with some mildly left of center platforms: single payer health care and green energy, etc. But like Clinton, once he gets into office, he’ll have a “come to Jesus” moment and realize that free market capitalism is super groovy. Now, I don’t think Obama would be quite as bad as Bush. But he is a politician, and as such, will have to compromise, if not hsi soul, at least his ideals. Obama will be a disappointment to everyone who is expecting us to elect Superman. I’m taking bets that he’ll only be 75% as bad as Bush, and most of this will result form pressure from the Dem Congress, who as you may have noticed, hasn’t done dick to stop Bush’s economic plans, and in fact, has signed off on this financial bailout, said to be the largest in US history. So Obama will be more of the same disaster capitalism, just better managed. McCain will be a gooey clusterfuck. There’s no doubt about that. So in November we’ll have to decide if we want the depression to be staved off by Obama for five or six more years, or just run headlong into it under McCain. If we let them.

Klein’s big ideas for how to prevent this are old school social democracy and direct action. Community organization, if you will. Frame our demands as radical far left ones: Universal Health Care and 100% oil free, green energy in 10 years. If we’re demanding big fat lefty demands, this changes the frame of the argument. I mean, if Congress can work through the night and find the loose change to Nationalize Wall Street, Universal Health Care should be just as doable, right? These demands will force Obama, who will govern as a centrist, to drag his actions to the center-left.

Another of Klein’s big fat lefty dream was nationalizing Exxon/Mobile. Which sounds about right to me. 400 Billion in revenue last year. Imagine what a moderately functioning government, pressured by grass roots activism, could accomplish with $400 billion! It’d cover the bail out, health care and education for everyone. Hell, we might even be able to afford a half way decently funded arts program, like the ones Canada and Britain have.


*The Shock Doctrine in brief: certain ubercapitalists use the disorienting effects of disasters to push through an agenda of free market fundamentalism and deregulation that they would not otherwise be able to. These arenice, wholsome and good people, naturally.

†McCain’s solution to the problems caused by deregulation and privatization is to have more of the same. That sure is Mavericky, huh?