If even 25% of Naomi Klein's new book is accurate, then Milton Friedman ought to be ashamed of the evil that his been done in his name.
Klein's book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, "explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically." Klein defines disaster capitalism as orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events (military coups, natural disasters, debt crises, and yes…terrorist attacks). Disaster capitalists see these events, not as tragic, but as exciting market opportunities.
She outlines in great detail the violence that accompanied, or more accurately was required, in order to "liberate" world markets in Friedman's name. From Chile and Argentina to Tiananmen Square; from Poland and the Soviet Union to South Africa and Southeast Asia; from 9/11 and the Department of Homeland Security to New Orleans and Iraq. It's all there. When disaster strikes the corporatists always have only one solution…privatize or die. And if you have to crack a few heads to crack open a few markets…well, that's the price you pay for economic freedom.
Is Naomi Klein right? I think so, but read the book and decide for yourself. What is more relevant to this blog, though, is another observation she makes. Read this:
"I am not arguing that all forms of market systems are inherently violent. It is eminently possible to have a market-based economy that requires no such brutality and demands no such ideological purity. A free market in consumer products can coexist with free public health care, with public schools, with a large segment of the economy–like a national oil company–held in state hands. It's equally possible to require corporations to pay decent wages, to respect the right of workers to form unions, and for government to tax and redistribute wealth so that the sharp inequalities that mark the corporatist state are reduced. Markets need not be fundamentalist."
Read that last sentence again…slowly.
Virtually every policy discussion we have here is a tug-of-war over this simple concept. As long as our free-market friends demand ideological purity, it will be difficult to find areas of mutual benefit regarding public policy.