Thursday, February 16, 2006

The confessions of an economic hit-man

Democracy Now for February 15, 2006 has an interesting interview with John Perkins, author of "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man". Ostensibly he worked as an economist for a big consulting company, but he describes his real job as

JOHN PERKINS: We economic hit men, during the last 30 or 40 years, have really created the world's first truly global empire, and we've done this primarily through economics, and the military only coming in as a last resort. Therefore, it's been done pretty much secretly. Most of the people in the United States have no idea that we've created this empire and, in fact, throughout the world it's been done very quietly, unlike old empires, where the army marched in; it was obvious. So I think the significance of the things you discussed, the fact that over 80% of the population of South America recently voted in an anti-U.S. president and what's going on at the World Trade Organization, and also, in fact, with the transit strike here in New York, is that people are beginning to understand that the middle class and the lower classes around the world are being terribly, terribly exploited by what I call the corporatocracy, which really runs this empire.

His story is as an insider to the creation of the current empire, what techniques are used by these self-described economic hit-men. The empire was constructed quietly through economic leverage rather than in obvious ways like marching armies into a country and toppling governments. The fact that we're in Iraq and Afghanistan today is more an example of the extremes to which the economic hit-men will go, that they begin with threats and bribes, but if the individual government leaders do not cooperate under threats or bribes then they can create wars as needed.

He ends with this thought: "...I look at myself as an extremely loyal American citizen. I believe in the principles of this country, which I think that in the past few decades, increasingly, we've put them way in the back burner. But as good Americans, we need to insist that our government and our corporations honor democracy."

But I think that, while he said that very nicely, it's very short sighted. This empire is economic, and is based on the corporations being used as leverage against other countries and to control other countries. In my view this story isn't about the United States controlling other countries ... but instead some other entity, which is not beholden to any one government but instead beholden only to itself. It's using the United States government today simply because of the power the U.S. holds.

I think the same leverage is being used against the United States as well. For example consider the debt being run up under the Bush Administration. John Perkins describes how debt is being used as a lever against these other countries, so of course it's also being used against the U.S. as well. A huge amount of our national strength is going towards paying off that debt.

And, always, when you owe money to others, those others has some measure of control over you.

At a personal level what happens when you "own" a house? The vast majority of people don't own their houses, they have a mortgage and it's the mortgage company that owns the house. If they don't keep up a sufficient income level to pay the mortgage payments, the mortgage company will forclose and take away their house. Therefore the debt they have against "their" house forces them towards some kind of work life, towards having a job so they can have the money to pay their debt. They wouldn't have the freedom to quit their stinking job and go off to the country and paint art. They have to stay in their job to pay their debts.

So it goes also for governments.

Is this the world we want to live in? Where a kind of secretive entity of some kind is controlling the world, toppling governments, etc, all to maintain some kind of power stranglehold?