When Democracy Gets in the Way of Reform

February 22, 2008 at 4:36 pm (Free Market Capitalism)

pickpocket.jpgAs a follow-up to my previous post, consider these words from John Williamson, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, during a speech on economics given in 1993:

“One will have to ask whether it could conceivably make sense to think of deliberately provoking a crisis so as to remove the political logjam to reform.”

A couple things are noteworthy here: First, according to the model Klein has dubbed “Disaster Capitalism,” things such as the will of the people playing a role in how their societies are run (or, “democracy”) are seen as “political logjams.” This is precisely why Friedman advocates keeping neocon ideas alive until a moment of crisis or disaster — after a shock, people are less able to resist such “reforms.” I mean, it was kind of hard for the 4000 or so members of the New Orleans teachers union to do anything about their union being busted and their jobs stolen away since they had been evacuated to other parts of the country after Hurricane Katrina.

And secondly, the metaphor Klein uses to describe this economic policy (i.e., pickpocketing the stunned victim of a car accident) is only half correct in many cases. Before you can slip your fingers in and grab the wallet, you’ve gotta first run them off the road.


  1. Julay said,

    You might be interested in the BBC documentary Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004). It’s a three hour documentary in three parts that chronicles the rise of Islamic “fundamentalism” and the corresponding rise of neoconservatism in the USA. I enjoy reading your blog.

  2. The Pundit said,

    Thanks, Julay, I enjoy your blog as well (the whole blogging thing is new to me, but I do seem to be getting some decent traffic).

    Where is that documentary available? It sounds interesting.

    It fascinates me how similar American- and Islamic fundamentalism are (see the Jihad post below). It’s almost as if it’s all about the costume you wear, not about whether holy war itself is a good idea or not.

  3. Julay said,

    I think the implicit argument in the BBC documentary is that neoconservatism is a fundamentalism of its own — a fundamentalism of Christianity and Pre-moderm political theory. You can check out the documentary on youtube. Below is a link for the first 10 minutes. It is posted in ten-minute segments. The entire documentary is three hours long, divided into three parts. So, on youtube, each part is divided into 6 10-minute clips. Start at the link below and at the end of the clip, click the link below the video that says “this is a response to X.” That will take you to the next 10-minute clip. Pretty clever set-up, actually. However, it can be confusing if you forget where you are in the video, so bookmark of favorite it you pause.

    I’ve just started blogging for the public, too, although it really is just a venue for me to think through things myself — kind of like a journal for my political thought (broadly construed). But, if others people find my thinking to be fruitful for their own thinking about things, then I welcome their readership and comments to help me along!

  4. Julay said,

    I forgot to post the link!

    Power of Nightmares:

  5. Johnny T said,

    “It’s almost as if it’s all about the costume you wear, not about whether holy war itself is a good idea or not.”

    Isn’t that what militant nationalism is all about? We are just supposed to root for our team, not question the value of the game. Our opponents are bad and wrong because they are not us, which means their best interest is not our best interest; they aren’t bad because they do anything substantially worse than we do. It is just in this game there are winners and losers and we don’t want to be losers becuase losers live miserable lives of instability and poverty.

  6. The Pundit said,

    One one level I agree with you, Johnny T, but I also wonder how much the average American is aware of what “the game” looks like when viewed from really good seats.

    Take Iraq: We are constantly told that our missiles hit only strategic, military targets, and when they hit a school or a hospital, it was just a staging ground for al Qaeda. And that guy with no legs in a coma who died because after we bombed his house we bombed the hospital where he was taken? Two words: human shield.

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