Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Disaster Capitalism

This phrase was coined by Naomi Klein. Two recent examples of disaster capitalism: Hurricane Katrina provided an opportunity to close down housing projects in New Orleans; and the chaos in Iraq has made it possible to ram through an oil privatization law.

As Klein puts it: “The window of opportunity opens up, and it is deliberately exploited.” Her newest book is called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

For years, global corporations have been thriving on national economies that are in meltdown. And to complete the circle, these meltdowns are often created or exacerbated by the IMF and the World Bank.

Using Katrinagate as an example, Klein says: “I was in New Orleans when the city was still flooded. I was interviewing lobbyists who were already camped out at the state legislature building in Baton Rouge, talking about all the tax cuts they were going to get, and the new labor flexibility, and what a great opportunity this was…There was a great deal of excitement.”

The term “reconstruction” is just a euphemism for a war on the public sector. In present-day New Orleans: “The public housing projects are boarded up and stand empty. You have condo developers circling. Their largest public hospital, Charity Hospital, is empty. This was the hospital that was treating the uninsured. The New Orleans public education system is now the country's leading laboratory in the charter school model…All of that happened, not because there was a community consensus for it, but because the disaster was expertly exploited by politicians, think tanks, and lobbyists to push through radical policies in the chaos after the disaster. That's disaster capitalism.”

She continues: “New Orleans is a laboratory for the corporatization of disaster response. You had Carnival Cruise ships providing housing. You had the big contractors from Iraq such as Bechtel building privatized trailer parks guarded by private security. What we're seeing is that, first, disasters are used to push through the radical privatization of hospitals, schools, roads, and so on.”

And the parallels between Iraqmire and Katrinagate: “Many of us in New Orleans who had been to Iraq felt that the Green Zone had just been lifted out and moved to the Gulf Coast…The parallels were very striking. There were the same contractors — Blackwater-Halliburton-Bechtel. The point of this is that disaster zones are laboratories. They're testing grounds. In the chaos of this moment, you have these leaps forward for the privatization agenda. What was Blackwater doing there? They claim that they had just seen the disaster on television and wanted to help, right? But this was an extraordinary incursion into what we think of as a core state function. Why wasn't the National Guard there? Where were the local authorities?”

And referring to the “reconstruction” in Iraq, she says: “The dream of building a model state in someone else's land is a deeply dangerous and racist dream, and a violent dream.”

So it appears.

Here are some more links to Disaster Capitalism.

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Blogger Mentarch said...

My mind still have difficulty in wrapping itself fully around this concept of Disaster Capitalism ... but Mrs. Klein does make compelling arguments ...

October 16, 2007 at 6:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mentarch: Yeah, she seems pretty well grounded in this interview. I hadn't heard of her before but she doesn't seem to be an extreme leftist or anything; more in favor of a balance between free enterprise and "government intervention."

October 16, 2007 at 6:58 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

She was great on Bill Maher. Very bright and well spoken. And she admits it's a problem perpetuated by both parties.

October 16, 2007 at 9:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

J. Marquis: I've never seen her on TV but from her interview and all the links about her, she definitely seems bright and well spoken. And she doesn't seem to be pointing the finger at either party; this is something that's been brewing for decades.

October 16, 2007 at 11:04 PM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

Great post on Naomi Klein Tom, she seems to be all over the place now. It's good to know people see her and are actually listening to what she has to say. See Frontline

October 17, 2007 at 1:52 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

It's the American way, we just have less checks on it than before. Which speaks volumes as to how fucked up it really is these days. And of course, the reason why New Orleans was fucked was because of the blacks, and Iraq because of the Arabs. Whitey is just trying to help the best way it knows how, the infallible doctrine of the free market.

Not that it's really free, but don't tell anyone.

October 17, 2007 at 4:57 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: Thanks for that link. In her BuzzFlash interview she mentions her previous book about brands and logos, but I didn't really follow what she was referring to. She really has it dialed in this article -- Starbucks equals "community," Nike is "sports," "you belong at Applebee's," etc.

Randal: Ah yes, Whitey has to clean up after them Ay-rabs and colored folk; they'll just screw everything up if we leave them to their own devices.

And I don't know where the Right gets off with their definition of "free enterprise." If a government agency is regulating commerce, just trying to keep a certain degree of fairness, that's socialism. But if a few multi-trillion dollar corporations have a stranglehold on the economy, that's free enterprise. Go figure.

October 17, 2007 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

I liked the point made; "The window of opportunity opens up, and it is deliberately exploited." She is so correct, among Katrina 9/11 and Iraq, our country has made the rich even richer with disasters and a war where corporations and companies are really benefiting by way of millions of dollars.

October 17, 2007 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

Disaster capitalism. What a great way to describe America.

October 17, 2007 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: Yes, that's an excellent quote. A massive tragedy occurs and the "entrepreneurs" are right there to take full advantage of it.

Prague Twin: Yup, sad but true. This is what too many global corporations have sunk to.

October 17, 2007 at 5:23 PM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

Sorry, you've been tagged. However, it's a cool one. See my blog for details.

October 17, 2007 at 6:57 PM  
Blogger Mile High Pixie said...

Man, disaster capitalism. I wish I'd thought of such a perfect descriptor. Architects and urban planners get excited about things like Katrina because we feel it gives our professions a chance to get it "right": provide good, high-quality living quarters and commercial spaces that foster public interaction, safety, and pride in an area. We jump at the chance to rebuild a community physically to reflect its emotional strength. We love love love it because it wipes out the substandard housing and allows us to give everyone the housing they need and deserve.

Alas, I would wager this rarely happens. We get to do some quaint New Urbanist neighborhoods a la Seaside Florida, but there's really no money in housing the poor or helping people who really need it. You can only come into a situation like post-Katrina New Orleans if you're gonna make some mad cash. [rolling eyes] As someone whose profession is supposed to help and provide positive, uplifting, inspiring spaces for all people, this kind of thing disgusts me.

October 17, 2007 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

All these disasters and chaos of war also eliminates a mass load of citizens, and leaves thousands more devasted, which the Repugs embrace for more for themselves.

October 17, 2007 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lizzy: It does sound cool, but I'm gonna have to beg off. Sorry, but I pretty much blanked out when I was reading the questions at your post. (But I do agree with you and PoliShifter about Closer by NIN.)

Mile High Pixie: Interesting take. That dilemma is probably true in lots of professions; there's the chance to either help a group of people or just take advantage of them. And in spite of lots of good intentions the outcome often ends up like New Orleans or Baghdad's Green Zone.

Architecture can make a big difference, whether it's an individual building or a planned community. There's so much potential either way, whether it's a typical suburban housing tract where you can't go anywhere without getting in your car, or the kind of planning that gets it right, like you describe.

Larry: Yup, the Repugs sure do take full advantage of this.

October 17, 2007 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Candace said...

Blackwater was in New Orleans? Jeebus.

Coming soon to a disaster near you... jackbooted zealots from the government, for your protection, of course.

October 17, 2007 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Candace: Oh yeah, Blackwater made a name for themselves in New Orleans right after Katrina. Mostly they were "protecting" wealthy neighborhoods, keeping the riffraff out. And now they're trying to establish another base in Southern California, over the objections of the locals.

It's getting to where any sort of disaster is a double whammy. First there's the disaster itself, and then knowing that Blackwater (or someone like them) will be coming to "help."

October 18, 2007 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

Disaster capitalism, war profteering, etc etc.

Profiting of death, chaos, and carnage is beyond amoral.

And these from the fuckers who claim the religious mantle in America. This from the slimy greedy assholes who call themselves "pro life".

A day of reckoning is nearing as well as a special place in hell for those who profit off the misery of others.

October 18, 2007 at 9:10 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

PoliShifter: Yup, it's ironic all right. They worship fetuses but think nothing of profiting from millions of deaths and injuries when the victims were already born. They're full of fire and brimstone for all kinds of "sins" which are only mentioned in some obscure part of the Old Testament, and then they ignore the other 95% of the Bible. A bunch of sickfucks. Like you said, they'll get theirs.

October 18, 2007 at 9:17 PM  

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