While reductive by the standards of scholarly argument, this powerful polemic tempts me to "must-read" hyperbole. Klein uses the analogy of psychological shock therapy to chronicle the rise, since the 1970s, of the economic "shock therapy" (their phrase!) advocated by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School. Sounds contrived and conspiricist, but isn't. This is well reported and argued. Klein's first point is that the Chicago School's free market "counter-revolution" has never arisen naturally by democratic means. It has been foisted upon countries, from Chile to Russia, only at opportune moments of disaster, then sustained through violent state action, usually abeted by the same inner ring of U.S. contractors and advisors. Her evidence, while not comprehensive by academic standards, is wholly convincing in its demonstration of repeated patterns and key players. In every case, the result has been a disaster made deadlier by economic ideology, ground-level mismanagement, and high-level corporate looting. This grim market logic culminates in Iraq with the Bush administration's systematic dismantling of government functions to be replaced by corporations and start-ups free to operate outside of legislative, judicial, or even market constraints. Work that local companies might have done, American companies utterly fail to do at ten times the cost, then pocket their billions, shrug, and move on. This is the economic analysis of the Iraq war that has been frustratingly absent in public debate. It is made all the more coherent by Klein's larger historical context. Worse, under Bush all of this is becoming deeply institutionalized. Large sectors of our economy are coming to depend on a "new frontier" of political and natural catastrophes, terror security chief among them. This important, eye-opening work is is also very well narrated here. One of the most worthwhile audio book I've bought. And no, I am neither friend nor relative nor ideologue, just newly won admirer.
Sorry, but I must take issue with the positive reviews. First, I would rather see the original "Empire of Debt" offered in audio. This is a scenario taken from the documentary. It is a worthy topic and all involved are to be praised for their efforts. But it adds up to sketchy primer on our abysmal debt problems. Worse, the audio makes every effort to be bipartisan by seeking a midpoint between extremes. This is like inviting Bin Laden to help with our security planning.
The audio makes no mention of the "Starve the Beast" doctrine administered by Reagan, Bush, Cheney, and the Norquist radical libertarians. It is now indisputable that running up deficits in an effort to break the U.S. entitlement programs has been one of the GOP-right's only ideologically consistent policies.
Since the days of FDR a radical contingent in the U.S. has regarded Social Security and Medicare as an outright theft of private capital. This cadre favors massive debt, which has the long-term effect of collapsing and privatizing government functions. This political wing of the GOP is personally and financially unaffected by such a collapse. Indeed, they may benefit from it by shorting the dollar, etc. Nor do they personally rely on most government services, apart from the military, law enforcement, and international trade contracts.
It is a tragic error for well-meaning pundits today to make the mistake of assuming "we" are a "nation" with a unified set of interests. Americans must begin to view fiscal policy in terms of economic class instead of nationality if we want a clear view of the choices.
We are not "all in this together." The honorable attempt to remain bipartisan had been outmoded by those powerful interests who benefit by running the nation into default. I am accordingly forced to withhold a positive rating.
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