Friday, April 07, 2006

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

I found this book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins, in the New York Times Bestseller list and browsed through the first few pages in amazon. It sure caught my fascination... So I drive to the library and borrow it, to read over a weekend.

The book was on 18 other bestseller lists too including Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Washinton Post. You would think that as an impressive achievement but I beg to differ.

The book is about USA's hegemony over other nations by using economic tools. The loans that US extends to developing nations (for example Indonesia) through world bank, USAID and other such organizations are marketed by arguing that their long-term benefits far outweigh the interests paid by these nations. The prick is in the calculation of the long-term benefits for these countries, which is where economic hitmen (they are basically consultants) come into the picture. By cleverly manipulating numbers, extending unrefusable benefits to the ruling families and more such insidous means, they force the acceptance of their loan terms and guarantees. Inevitably, those numbers are wrong or hide sinister details about the final cost-benefit analysis. Thus, the countries default on the loans 10-15 years after they receive them. Once defaulted, the country is held hostage by the US for UN votes and are forced to serve as pawns in their foreign policies.

We all knew this at one-level or another. It is the reconformation provided in the form of a first person account that makes this book interesting. It actually makes a not-so-bad read but I had problems with the fact that the author confuses his emotions with cold logic. He would suddenly write about how he cried about all the non-sense that goes on in the world one day and the very next page, he would proudly describe how he conned some royal family into accepting a multi-billion dollar loan for the "benefit of their country". This is ok, except for the fact that it diverts attention from the message he is trying to convey and becomes a pathetic attempt to justify what he has done all his life.

He also tries hard to portray himself as a nice guy who is tormented by thoughts of right and wrong, but when he had the opportunity to quit, he did not and continued to be an economic hit man for another 2-3 decades. This hypocrisy makes the book very annoying to read at times.

The very many contradictions (probably the result of editors modifying his book to make it more juicy) and the confusion of facts with emotions make this book painful at times. But mostly, it is a stunning exposition of how a degenerate capitalistic economy is ruining this world. And this analysis of a fundamental system we swear by everyday is what makes this book worth reading. The realization that the votes I cast are not what run this world, but its the oil that I pump into my car that does it (through the tedious machine of corporatocracy), is alone worth sitting through some painful lectures. If you are not well aware of politics (like me), you would be surprised about how much of South American politics is influenced by the US. And then, you would start understanding the dirty details in the recent skirmishes between Hugo Chavez and some oil companies in Venezuela. And this wisdom alone makes this book a worthy but painful read (in more than one way).


Blogger Rohan Kumar said...

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9:59 PM  
Blogger IdeaSmith said...

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2:57 AM  

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