Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shock and Awe

The best book I have read in recent times is The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein. The point of the book is simple -- it outlines the transfer of money from poor to rich, using the simple tenets of "disaster capitalism". These are:

Step 1) Wait for or engineer a shock (military / weather / financial / whatever)
Step 2) Approach the shocked population with a "recovery" plan that you spin as the only possible option
Step 3) Loot.

Here's a brief extract from the website:

At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq’s civil war, a new law is unveiled that would allow Shell and BP to claim the country’s vast oil reserves…. Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly out-sources the running of the “War on Terror” to Halliburton and Blackwater…. After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts.... New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be reopened…. These events are examples of “the shock doctrine”: using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters -- to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy. Sometimes, when the first two shocks don’t succeed in wiping out resistance, a third shock is employed: the electrode in the prison cell or the Taser gun on the streets.

And the reason I'm posting about this today? Well of course - the Paulson (ex-Goldman Sachs) "Bailout Plan", which Shockmaster George is trying to ram through. A plan that - regardless of its possible merits - comes with a scarcely believable downside. As Paul Krugman puts it:

But Mr. Paulson insists that he wants a “clean” plan. “Clean,” in this context, means a taxpayer-financed bailout with no strings attached — no quid pro quo on the part of those being bailed out. Why is that a good thing? Add to this the fact that Mr. Paulson is also demanding dictatorial authority, plus immunity from review “by any court of law or any administrative agency,” and this adds up to an unacceptable proposal.

Straight out of the Shock Doctrine operators' manual. And so simple, so beautiful in its execution. Juan Cole, as usual, gets it exactly right:

Cable and satellite television "news" tells us nothing of elections in India or constitutional crisis in Thailand, and barely mentions a major workers strike at Boeing. Dozens of car bombs go off in Iraq and we are told it is "calm" now. It is a vast electromagnetic form of bread and circuses, wherein hapless celebrities and philandering politicians are fed to the lions before millions of cheering plebes, by corporate moguls desperately hoping that the marks will not notice the legion of pickpockets in the arena, relieving them of their purses.


And in the wake of the greatest and most sustained act of systematic plunder since the Mongol hordes appropriated to themselves the riches of everyplace in Asia from Beijing to Isfahan, the reaction of the supine and slave-like American voting public is to scratch their heads and have a hard time deciding if they would like more of the same.

We deserve what's coming to us. I used to be shocked, but now I'm just awestruck.


Blogger wildflower seed said...


naomi klein has also written about the chinese "model". horrifying. read here :

the people who lead us are the most mediocre among us. they are the least visionary. and yes, maybe we just deserve them.

9/23/2008 1:21 AM  
Blogger wildflower seed said...

and if you think obama is the second coming, read this :

nothing left to do but smile, smile, smile ........ in a boodist way, of course. :)

9/23/2008 1:26 AM  
Blogger ??! said...

Wasn't this the plot of "Tomorrow Never Dies"? Those James Bond writers, eh?

Seriously, though, this isn't just a 'West' thing. Didn't Yeltsin and Putin do exactly the same?

And going even further back, couldn't you argue that the British did the same in the aftermath of the Battle of Plassey? Take advantage of the uncertain political climate to take a stronghold on the trade?

9/23/2008 3:01 PM  
Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Human nature doesn't change, Prof. Bill G is an aberration. Live with it.


9/23/2008 3:10 PM  
Blogger km said...


I'll say Winston Churchill's plan was even more ingenious. He engineered the disaster, did absolutely nothing for the people that were suffering, then went a-beggin' to the good ol' U.S. of A for aid!

You know which disaster I'm talking about.

9/23/2008 7:36 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

i agree, it's a pity that obama is the best available option.

yup, yeltsin and putin did exactly the same. the book is worth reading!

it always goes back to principle #1: people are idiots.


9/23/2008 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's the thing: people are idiots to point when they start realizing the same. On realization, they smart up to cover their idiocy, which brings in an illusion of stability, returning back to being idiots all again. and thus continuing the cycle. Deadlock. Factoring this into an economic theory would be an achievement.

9/24/2008 3:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liked your post... this 21st century style, American "socialism" makes me kinda-sick. And that's the strongest language I've used in years....

Hate being the little guy....


9/25/2008 3:08 AM  
Blogger gaddeswarup said...

Look at the brighter side. You can now buy a house for 1500 dollars:

9/27/2008 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erm..are you at the U of Michigan? just wondering..seems like I've heard what you're talking about!!

10/02/2008 2:08 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

anon (9/24):
that's not a bad idea!

exactly. when *you* start saying "kinda-sick", i duck for cover. (next you'll be rearing your ugly head in my maritime airspace.)

heh! not in my neighborhood... yet... :-)

anon (10/2):
that's not outside the realm of possibility -- juan cole for sure is!

10/03/2008 9:20 PM  

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