A couple of years ago Naomi Klein wrote a fascinating – and scary – book called ‘Shock Doctrine’ in which she presented the thesis that what we now call ‘free market capitalism’ – that form of capitalism that started with the activities of the Chicago School of Economists in the late 60s and 70s – came to it’s successful position in our world by a combination of military and political interventions that were almost acts of war. She posited that various regimes – starting with the Pinochet regime in Chile in the 1970s – used the dislocations in society caused by coups, war and even natural disasters to bring in to being a form of free market economy that exploits the vast majority of people and gives certain companies and individuals vast wealth on the back of Government policies.
Recent examples have included the way in which beaches areas were sold off for tourist hotels after the Asian Tsunami wiped out fishing villages, the way in which New Orleans was totally socially re-engineered after Hurricane Katrina and the way in which companies like Blackwater and Haliburton have made vast profits form the war-created crises in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised, despite the removal of President Bush, to see companies moving in to Haiti to exploit and socially engineer the country after the recent earthquake. It’s a good situation for the purveyors of ‘disaster capitalism’- a sort of peacetime ‘shock and awe’ – which can make use of natural disasters that dislocate normal society. The Haiti earthquake’s magnitude, combined with the nature of the country, gave a fertile ground for these people to operate in. Let’s just take a look at the situation there.
- People are still without proper shelter; nothing like forcing people to live in squalor to break their will.
- Just a 100 miles north of the devastated capital city, cruise ships are docking at privately run resorts.
- The Heritage Foundation – an advocate group for disaster capitalism – pulled the following quote shortly after the ‘quake: “In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti earthquake offers opportunities to re-shape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.” Even their existing material tries to play up the ‘communist threat’ angle – pretty pathetic.
- The first loan given to Haiti by the IMF after the quake allegedly came with various strings attached – increasing prices of power, etc. – that is typical of the approach that the IMF have previously taken when they wanted to bring about neoliberal political change in a country as a condition for getting financial help.
In other words, despite the attention being paid to Haiti at the moment, and the demise of the Bush Government, there is still potential for disaster capitalism to be used to radically restructure Haiti in all the wrong ways. And it’s worth remembering that some of the larger companies who typically profiteer from these situations will only start showing up when rebuilding starts – i.e. when there’s money to be made.
Hopefully if they realise the rest of the world is keeping an eye on things they’ll be put off – a bit like lobbing rocks at a dog grubbing around your dustbin. If you want to find out more, take a look at the following:
Say ‘No’ to Disaster Capitalism – you never know where it might show up next. Time to stop the bastards in their tracks.