Naomi Klein: 'The Wall Street Bailout Is the Greatest Heist in Monetary History'
By Joan Juliet Buck RSS
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Naomi Klein © Ed Kashi
Editor’s Note: Naomi Klein is the award-winning author of the international bestsellers The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. She writes a regular column for The Nation magazine and The Guardian newspaper that is syndicated internationally by The New York Times Syndicate. Her articles have appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Globe and Mail and The New York Times. She wrote and co-produced “The Take,” an award-winning feature documentary about Argentina’s occupied factory movement.
As all the pieces of all the world’s economy started crashing around our heads, I realized that the person I most wanted to ask about it all was Naomi Klein, whom I had met briefly last year when Laurie Anderson put together a protest evening at St. Anne’s. Naomi Klein’s books, No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, examined the roots of what is happening now. Here’s what she had to say about the present crisis. -JJB
JOAN JULIET BUCK: You must be having some very intense reactions to everything that’s happening right now.
NAOMI KLEIN: It’s an adventure reading the paper every morning.
JOAN: Where does that leave the end of history?
NAOMI: So many of the debates that we were told are over are reemerging. That’s the good part of what’s going on right now. There were so many attempts to arbitrarily claim that ideas about social justice, about economic justice, were finished, and there’s only one model. In The Shock Doctrine I quote Larry Summers, from back in 1991 when he was a honcho at the World Bank. He was talking about the World Bank policies that used to be called The Washington Consensus. And he said, “Spread the truth — the laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. One set of laws works everywhere.” It was all about deregulation, privatization, the market is always best, the market’s always supreme. And there was the feeling of certainty — that we had figured everything out. Summers even said a couple of years later that there are many basic economic ideas that are “passé” — no longer worthy of debate. One of the issues that he listed as over was the idea that government could invest in programs to stimulate the economy. And here he is … right!
JOAN: What does the present moment mean?
NAOMI: It’s created space; there’s new oxygen to propose alternatives. One of the things that I try to show in my book is that these debates were not won on their own merits. They were often won using violence, by actually eliminating the left, in countries in Latin America, and then declaring ideological victory.
JOAN: In The New Yorker, you’re quoted as saying, “This is a progressive moment. It’s ours to lose.” What did you mean?
NAOMI: Capitalism is on trial. And you have an organic, grassroots, sort of spontaneous revolt against the elite – which is actually what we’re hearing with this rage at CEOs, and bonuses and government collusion with the elites. Rage is an opportunity. The rage is there, and the country is seething, the world is seething with rage. The question is, where is it going to be directed? I feel there’s a moral responsibility for the Left and for progressives to provide an alternative in this moment that is moral, that is principled, that is just, that is hopeful, because if we don’t, then that anger is so easily directed at “those damn Mexican immigrants,” at “the first African American president.” So I feel a tremendous sense of urgency. It’s not just, “Hey, our time has come.” It’s, “We’d better get our act together because this anger is going somewhere.”
JOAN: Now, who would the leaders of this Left be?
NAOMI: That is a very complicated question in the United States right now. Pretty much everywhere else in the world, besides maybe North Korea, there’s a really healthy distrust of those in power. You know, people are in the streets in this moment, as well they should be – whether it’s in France or whether it’s in Britain or Iceland. They may have a left-leaning government, like the government of Gordon Brown. But that doesn’t mean they’re giving him a pass. In Britain the choice is very clear. The anger is either going to be directed at the banks or it’s going to be directed at immigrants. I’m not afraid of it being directed at the banks. I’m appalled at news that there’s a 17-year-old girl who is facing jail time for having a few beers and breaking a window at the RBS Bank during the G-20 protests, when not a single banker is going to jail for burning down the global economy. What kind of a system is that? I think we should rally to this young woman’s defense. What you see again and again in Europe is that, in this critical moment, there is an opposition that is organizing with this healthy distrust of power. In the U.S., Obama mania complicates this.
JOAN: You said, talking about the Obama video "Yes We Can," "Now, finally, a politician is making ads that are as good as Nike."