Klein in Town to Talk 'Shock'

Author/activist Naomi Klein will be in Austin this week to discuss the bailout and other upbeat topics

Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein

The Wall Street bailout bill passed by Con­gress and signed by President Bush has received a fair amount of attention, but according to author and activist Naomi Klein, it's just the first step. The "dumping of private debt into the public coffers is only stage one of the current shock," Klein wrote in September. "The second comes when the debt crisis currently being created by this bailout becomes the excuse to privatize social security, lower corporate taxes and cut spending on the poor. A President McCain would embrace these policies willingly. A President Obama would come under huge pressure [to] embrace austerity and 'free-market stimulus.'"

For Klein, the bailout falls in lockstep with the hypothesis of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, the challenging, provocative call to arms she authored last year. The doctrine is elucidated by free-market maestro Milton Friedman, whom Klein quotes as saying "only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable."

Drawing parallels to electroshock therapy – which psychologists once posited could remake patients – Klein cites numerous incidences of radical policies remaking economies during a crisis, domestically, abroad, and in our Pax Americana invasion of Iraq. It explains why Republican Rep. Richard Baker exclaimed in the days following Hurricane Katrina: "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did," or why with Iraq in flames after the U.S. invasion, a top priority of the Coali­tion Provisional Authority involved absurdly trying to fashion the Iraq stock exchange after Wall Street's own. And far from applying only to economics, the shock and awe of attack and tragedy can be used to implement most anything – just look at the passage of the USA PATRIOT act in the days after 9/11.

This isn't the first time Klein has courted controversy: No Logo, her 2000 treatise against marketing and branding, remains a highly influential, hotly debated book, and last year, she had a knock-down, drag-out war of words with former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan over neoliberal economics on Democracy Now! On Sunday, Oct. 12, at 6pm, Klein speaks at St. Andrew's Presby­ter­ian Church, in an event sponsored by Third Coast Activist Resource Center, Monkey­Wrench Books, and Workers Defense Project/Proyecto Defensa Laboral, regarding her book and the doctrine's current implementation. It looks like she should have a lot to say.

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Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan

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