Naomi Klein’s’ excellent book The Shock Doctrine explores the relationship between the victims of natural and man-made disasters and the business interests that converge to exploit and ultimately profit from these disasters.  She coins the term disaster capitalism to describe this phenomenon and uses several well understood examples to illustrate her point, including the flooding of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina to the war in Iraq to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  According to the doctrine the paralyzing effects of such events give corporations and government benefactors the opportunity to put policies in place that promote commercial hegemony before the shock of disaster has time to wear off. 

The idea, says Klein, is traced back to free market economist Milton Friedman and what he called the concept of economic shock treatment.  Freidman’s’ surprisingly honest and open advocacy of this economic policy is rivaled by its’ widespread influence and acceptance among western political and corporate elites.  The concomitant assumption that democracy itself goes hand in hand with this version of capitalist economic development reinforces this point.  Her book goes into convincing detail how shock economics evolved as well as the manifest harm it has caused to those already vulnerable to the impulses of nature or the weight of corporate opportunism. 

As the above video shows, Klein discusses with cautionary tone the predictable application of shock economics to the desperate situation in Haiti resulting from last weeks’ massive earthquake.  With right-wing think tanks like The Heritage Foundation tipping its hand and licking its lips as it did, the ongoing situation in Haiti will be one to watch, if only to see if the west lives up to its’ rhetorical ideals or its’ intended ones.

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