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Shock Doctrine in the UK

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I was watching the world news on BBC America a few nights ago and the talking heads were all in agreement that the Tory government had no choice but to make draconian cuts to the UK budget. Unless they wanted to emulate Japan, which did not reduce living standards during its economic troubles in the ’90s or during the current world wide slowdown. Japan may not be paradise but it seems to be getting through the crisis as well as or better than most of the industrialized world. .

Here is George Monbiot , describing what the Coalition government in Britain is up to. This will also serve as a prediction of what the Teabag Republicans will do if they win a majority in the House of Representatives and start drafting federal budgets:

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein shows how disaster capitalism was conceived by the extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago. These people believed that the public sphere should be eliminated, that business should be free to do as it wants, and almost all tax and social spending should be stopped. They believed that total personal freedom in a completely free market produces a perfect economy and perfect relationships. It was a utopian system as fanatical as any developed by a religious cult. And it was profoundly unpopular. For a long time its only supporters were the heads of multinational corporations and a few wackos in the US government.

In a democracy under normal conditions, those who were harmed by abandoning public provision would outvote those who gained from it. So the Chicago programme couldn’t be imposed in these circumstances. As the Chicago School’s guru, Milton Friedman, explained, “only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.” After a crisis has struck, he added later, “a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity.”

The first such opportunity was provided by General Pinochet’s coup in Chile. The coup was plotted by two factions: the generals and a group of economists trained at the University of Chicago and funded by the CIA. Their ideas had already been comprehensively rejected by the electorate, but now the electorate was irrelevant: Pinochet used the crisis he had created to imprison, torture or kill anyone who dissented. The Chicago School policies – privatisation, deregulation, massive tax and spending cuts – were catastrophic. Inflation rose to 375% in 1974; the highest rate on earth. Even so, Friedman insisted that the programme was not going far or fast enough. On a visit to Chile in 1975 he persuaded Pinochet to hit much harder. The result was a massive increase in unemployment and the near-eradication of the middle class. But the very rich became much richer, and the corporations, scarcely taxed, deregulated, fattened on privatised assets, became much more powerful.

By 1982, Friedman’s prescriptions had caused a spectacular economic crash. Unemployment hit 30%; debt exploded. Pinochet sacked the Chicago economists and started re-nationalising stricken companies, whereupon the economy began to recover. Chile’s so-called economic miracle began only after Friedman’s doctrines were abandoned. The Chicago School’s catastrophic programme pushed almost half the population below the poverty line and left Chile with one of the world’s highest rates of inequality.

But all this was spun by the corporate media as a great success. With the help of successive US governments, similar programmes were imposed on dozens of countries in which crises ensured that the population was unable to resist. Other Latin American dictators copied Pinochet’s economic policies, with the help of mass disappearances, torture and killings. The poor world’s debt crisis was used by the IMF and the World Bank to impose Chicago School programmes on countries that had no option but to accept their help. The US hit Iraq with economic shock and awe – privatisation, a flat tax, massive deregulation – even as the bombs were still falling. After Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans, Friedman described it as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system”. His disciples immediately moved in, sweeping away public schools while the residents were picking up the pieces of their lives, replacing them with private charter schools.

Our crisis is less extreme, so, in the United Kingdom, the shock doctrine cannot be so widely applied. But, as David Blanchflower warned yesterday, there’s a strong possibility that the cuts programme will precipitate a bigger crisis: “it’s a terrible, terrible mistake. The sensible thing to do is to spread [the cuts] over a long time”. That’s another feature of disaster capitalism: it exacerbates the crises on which it thrives, creating its own opportunities.

Of course there is more and I invite everyone to go ZSpace and read the whole article. I would comment that South American countries like Argentina and Brazil have done relatively well since they moved left, away from Friedman’s Randian pipe dreams.

I suspect the Tories know these draconian cuts will make them unpopular, but they are willing to risk losing the next election if they are able to tie the hands of the next Labour government. Of course, the British Right have Murdoch on their side just as do the Teabaggers in the U.S. As for the Liberal Democrats, they will probably be nearly wiped out unless they somehow manage to distance themselves from Cameron and his Thatcherite policies.

Written by slothropia

October 22nd, 2010 at 10:17 am

Layton, NDP Question Toronto Police G20 Actions

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Received an email from my pen pal Jack Layton today in response to my message to him and the NDP about a lack of NDP response to police misconduct during the Toronto G20 meeting.

In part, Jack said, and I quote:

Thank you for your previous email outlining your concerns over the recent G8/G20 Summits in Toronto.

New Democrats feel that these meetings failed to deliver concrete action on the most important issues facing the world. Instead, Prime Minister Harper fought to keep subsidies flowing to oil companies and taxes low for the big banks.

The G20 meetings fell short on several fronts, offering no movement to allow African nations to have a formal voice at the table, providing none of the anticipated new commitments on nuclear disarmament, and failing to adopt a strategy to curb abuses in speculative markets to protect our economies from future economic crises. The only real announcement was an agreement by the G20 leaders to reduce their annual deficits by 50 per cent by 2013.

It didn’t have to be this way. Prior to the meetings, we outlined sensible, pragmatic steps that the Canadian government could take to show leadership in helping eradicate poverty, tackling climate change, and reforming the global economy. I invite you to read our proposals at this link: http://www.ndp.ca/New-Democrat-priorities-for-G8/G20.

Now that the summits are over, many questions remain. Not least of which questions about the implementation of security plans including:

– Why did the federal government ignore the concerns and suggestions of the local government in holding the summit in downtown Toronto on a weekend?
– Who requested the temporary suspension of basic civil liberties for the duration of the summits? Moreover, why was this done in secret?
– What role did federal officials play in the Integrated Security Unit in policing the summit?
– Will the government compensate Toronto for the damage that Harper’s summits have caused?

We take these questions very seriously. We want the House of Commons Public Safety Committee to get to the bottom of these lingering questions and develop a post-summit accountability report on both the spending and operations sides of the summits.

First of all, I am very grateful to the party for responding to me I vote New Dem 99.99% of the time when I live in Canada – I could not vote for a candidate like Bev Desjarlais, for example, if I am aware of their positions – but I am not there right now so they don’t have lot to gain by being nice to me.

Of course, Layton did not write to me personally. It was a mass mailing to (among others) people who contacted them with the same complaint I had. I, and many others I am sure had complained that the NDP was not taking a strong stand on a critical human rights issue, namely the right of everyone in Canada to assemble freely and demonstrate peacefully. It appeared at the time that the New Democrats were reacting to and maybe even pandering to the understandable revulsion of the public and right wing media to the violence in Toronto. Much has been written and said about exactly how and why that violence occurred,but I won’t go into that here.

I am glad to see my old party finally addressing (however tepidly) the out of control police behaviour in Toronto that G20 weekend. And again, I think it is clear that the lack of response to the crackdown had become a problem for Layton among NDP members and supporters. But it should not come as a surprise t anyone that if there is one thing that all NDP voters and activists agree on it is that the party needs to at all times stand on guard for human rights. To not do so invites cynicism about the party which is supposed to be more idealistic than the Libs and Tories.

Of course, Layton and the New Democrats are also quite rightly criticizing the Shock Doctrine agenda of the G20 summit, which is what the demonstrations were supposed to be about. Good for them.

Written by slothropia

July 7th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Economic Shock Therapy

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There is a good interview of Naomi Klein by John Amato at Crooks and Liars. It is mostly about the Wall Street Bailout Giveaway as economic shock therapy.

I wish Obama would check it out. Here’s the You Tube:
Part I

Part II

Written by slothropia

September 28th, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Economy

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