I was thinking a lot about what Naomi Klein has written in The Shock Doctrine; The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how "Free Market Capitalism" has wrecked Latin America, Asia, Africa, Russia, Eastern Europe and so on.
I was also thinking about how Western Europe and North America has largely avoided the disasters (for US in particular, labor and trade protections in forms of corporate welfare and labor achievements won by a military labor struggle from the mid 1800s to the 1930s).
But while corporate subsidies are not being challenged by the Capitalists (they see no problem in handouts to themselves, but handouts to us via the public sector just drives them mad), labor protections and social programs are.
In case after case Klein exposes how "Free Market Capitalism" was never instituted democratically. The working class always radically opposed the economic reforms and despite people like Milton Friedman saying the capitalism will bring about freedom and so on, there has not been one instance where his concept of economics that was put into practice was done so freely with public approval. Either military coups, natural disasters or some kind of "emergency" situation (ie the fall of the Polish and South African governments in the late 80s/early 90s) always predicated the undemocratic economic reforms that stripped away labor protections, social spending and trade barriers (always in favor of the haves but at a huge cost for the have-nots).
And like vultures, foreign nationals/private companies swooped in, speculated prices, sucked out wealth and funneled back to foreign banks in New York and London. Stock Exchanges cheered and Mammon was pleased at the fruits gathered by his minions.
What of freedom? While narrow political freedoms may have existed in some, other places like Bolivia, Brazil and Chile saw their rights sqaushed. Political rights mean squat so long as economic rights are narrowly channeled.
This whole premise of (Disaster) Capitalism is highly accurate and we have got a long enough history to see the effects.
But like I noted, the US has largely avoided it (though it looks like New Orleans was a test run for more to come). We have seen since 9-11 the emergence of Homeland Security and a beefed up Pentagon spending, most of it subsidized contracts to private businesses with little or no oversight of how the act, but cheerleading of the profits they reap.
And with a tanking economy, devaluing dollar, skyrocketing cost of living and depressing living wage I think we should be very keen to economic reforms, especially on social spending (ie social security, healthcare, education, water services). Once these traps are set it will be very difficult to overcome them. Already, we have many economic issues to be dealing with and if the Capitalists have their way, and they usually do, then we better start doing more than just paying attention.
We need to keep our eyes out on disasters or emergency situations that are being used to bring in economic reforms. They may be presented as modernizing the way we do things, or as aid, or technicalities simple-minded folks cant understand, or brought in through back doors. But if we should learn anything from modern history is that they will be brought in when the opportunity presents itself. Unless we are prepared.
Mark my words…