Sunday, July 5, 2009

Honduras and The Shock Doctrine

Last year for my birthday my parents got me the Naomi Klein book The Shock Doctrine, which I asked for, since I'm a total Klein-geek. (I also got No Logo, but I haven't read that yet.) I finally got around to reading it, almost a year later. I'm only about 200 pages in, but it's blowing my mind. The basic premise of the book is this:

Free market capitalism as we know it today wasn't born out of peaceful reforms in welfare-state economies. Rather, whenever these countries wanted to radically change their economy into a laissez-faire structure, they had to shock their populations into accepting these changes, or use shocks to quickly restructure the economy. This was the philosophy of the most famous free market economist ever, Milton Friedman.

The scariest thing about this is that the shock treatments that the "disaster capitalists" use directly mimic the use of shock therapy, and later torture, to "remake" people.

People have never willingly subjected themselves to neoliberal policies, and they've mostly been enforced by brute force. There is, then, a discrepancy between the traditional notion of capitalism and freedom (coincidentally, Capitalism and Freedom is the name of Milton Friedman's most well-known book). Pure capitalism cannot exist in a democracy. It must be shocked into existence by quick action from governments when disasters happen.

Think someone like Friedman would never admit the incompatibility of capitalism and democracy? Well, think again:

Friedman's followers at the University of Chicago's school of economics (the "Chicago School") have had a long history of overthrowing Latin American democracies to institute radical free market military dictatorships, the only environment where capitalism can live undisturbed by protesting people. The "Chicago Boys," as they were later known, helped topple regimes in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, and others. This was always with some sort of American support, whether it was from American corporations, the CIA, or the White House.

That is why the military coup of the democratic Honduran government doesn't strike me as surprising, just disgusting. President Zelaya, ousted by the coup, wasn't exactly freedom-oriented, but his pro-union, anti-neoliberal stance would certainly be of some distress to the right wing.

I submit that the military coup in Honduras was nothing more than the execution of economic shock therapy. The reports of labor leaders being rounded up and the free press being shut down are clear indicators that a fascist Friedmanite free market revolution could be the goal in Honduras.

Now we just have to wait and see what happens.

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