"Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change." - Milton FriedmanOver the past few weeks, capitalism's raw, corporate agenda has been coming home to roost. All across the American heartland in states like Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin, the Koch brothers' sockpuppets have been trying to use the excuse of a fiscal "crisis" to attack working people and unions. In Britain, a "polite coup" is taking place under David Cameron's Tory reign, one which would make Uncle Milt and Maggie proud. As the full title of Naomi Klein's 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism makes clear, these policies are lethal and depend upon illusions of desperation.
Klein's book has been getting a lot of renewed attention lately. It's probably because the shock and awe of what previously happened elsewhere - in Chile, Russia, Iraq - is now visiting the homeland. It's an excellent book that helps to illuminate the forces that are currently trying to (mis)shape us. As Nobel winning economist, Paul Krugman wrote in his recent New York Times column, "Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.":
From Chile in the 1970s onward, she [Klein] suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.Despite polls showing overwhelming support for collective bargaining, they also suggest support for reducing union benefits. This after Wall Street got away with tanking the world's economy and then received an extension on their tax-breaks as a reward. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi recently asked the most obviously overlooked question of the past few years: "Why Isn't Wall Street In Jail?"
Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.
What happened to the notion of a social contract? It may have been based primarily on self-interest and preservation, but there was once a time when rich bastards saw the importance of social programs and worker benefits as a way to ensure stability and promote profits. But this corporate economy isn't about "profits" any longer. That's just too arcane, too much small grub. Now it's all about corporate control. These dogs are talking billions and trillions and they don't need a healthy middle class to support their industries - they simply need control. As China is proving, you don't need basic rights to ensure consumers shut up and consume. Disaster capitalism serves the mega-rich. Who needs a social contract when you have your own private security forces guarding your own gated community?
Here's Taibbi being interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!: