This week Naomi Klein appeared on "The Colbert Report" to talk about The Shock Doctrine.[1]  --  Klein and Colbert engaged in light-hearted banter about torture, war, natural disaster, economic crises, corruption, and the prison-industrial complex.  --  A brief, humorless account of The Shock Doctrine follows.[2] ...



October 4, 2008


By Mark Jensen

United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
October 2007

University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman "first learned how to exploit a large-scale shock or crisis in the mid-seventies, when he acted as adviser to the Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet" writes Naomi Klein in her new book. Chile "was the most extreme capitalist makeover ever attempted anywhere, and it became known as a 'Chicago School' revolution, since so many of Pinochet's economists had studied under Friedman at the University of Chicago." It was Friedman who coined the term "shock treatment" for the reforms introduced in Chile, which were introduced as the solution to an earlier shock, that of severe hyperinflation. Pinochet introduced a third sort of shock, this one more literal in nature: he introduced an "epidemic of torture that punished hundreds of thousands of people who believed in a different kind of society."

"Exactly thirty years after these three distinct forms of shock descended on Chile, the formula reemerged, with far great violence in Iraq. First came the war . . . Next came the radical economic shock therapy, imposed, while the country was still in flames, by the U.S. chief envoy L. Paul Bremer -- mass privatization, complete free trade, a 15 percent flat tax, a dramatically downsized government." And Iraqis who resisted "were rounded up and taken to jails where bodies and minds were met with more shocks, these ones distinctly less metaphorical."

William S. Kowinsky, the author of The Malling of America, wrote on Sept. 23, 2007, in the San Francisco Chronicle that "The connections are daring . . . the result is convincing. With a bold and brilliantly conceived thesis, skillfully and cogently threaded through more than 500 pages of trenchant writing, Klein may well have revealed the master narrative of our time. And because the pattern she exposes could govern our future as well, The Shock Doctrine could turn out to be among the most important books of the decade." Iraq and post-Katrina New Orleans have something in common: both are victims of a will to "destroy public and local institutions in favor of outside crony corporations."

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, writing on Sept. 28, 2007, in the International Herald Tribune, said: "Klein is not an academic and cannot be judged as one. There are many places in her book where she oversimplifies. But Friedman and the other shock therapists were also guilty of oversimplification. . . . [T]he case against these policies is even stronger than the one Klein makes. . . . Market fundamentalists never really appreciated the institutions required to make an economy function well, let alone the broader social fabric that civilizations require to prosper and flourish. Klein ends on a hopeful note, describing nongovernmental organizations and activists around the world who are trying to make a difference. After 500 pages of The Shock Doctrine, it's clear they have their work cut out for them."