By Ben Cohen
Youtube is a wonderful place. Having spent a pleasant evening searching for interesting political debates, I stumbled across a video claiming to 'expose' the lies of Canadian Journalist Naomi Klein. For those of you who are unaware of Klein, she is perhaps the finest investigative journalist alive today. Her brilliant book 'The Shock Doctrine-The Rise of Disaster Capitalism' is a brilliant expose of the history and devastating impact of neo liberal economics.
The video is a silly attempt to denigrate Klein's integrity, devoid of any real substance. Here is the part I watched:
Unable to contain myself, I wrote the author of the video, and editor of the website 'Copious Dissent.com' an email. A ferocious back and forth debate ensued, pitting Left vs Right, Liberal vs Neo Liberal, and Blog vs Blog.
Here is the transcript of the debate via email:
From The Daily Banter:
Just saw your video response to Naomi Klein's book. I have to say, it
is the most disingenuous piece of nonsense I have ever seen.
Klein is not saying Friedman directly advocates violence. She is saying
Friedman supported the use of the police and military to clamp down on
dissent. What is false about this? All Klein is saying is that Friedman
was very quiet about the atrocities committed throughout Latin America
in the name of 'capitalism'.
Please find me one statement where Klein actually falsifies something
Friedman said. In the mean time, you should stop calling her a liar.
From Copious Dissent:
Friedman objectively throughout his entire life objected to the use of
the police and the military to clamp down on dissent. Pick up just
about any of his books and he flatly comes out and says it. In fact, he
gave an speech in Chile before Pinochet explaining the dangers of a
centralized military government.
She is objectively a liar because she said he advocated a private
military in her films and in her book, but then tells Charlie Rose the
Klein is objectively false about the use of interrogation techniques to
bring about capitalism.
Klein is objectively false about the economic conditions of Chile. She
said there was a crash in 1982, when the entire world went though a
debt crisis and in fact, Chile was the first to come out of the crisis,
and now has the most thriving economy in South America with a large
middle-class, and a Country that now supports freedom of economics.
She cites no sources in her book to justify her argument that the "New
Left" were the ones protesting in China in 1989: They were people who
thought Deng's economic freedom would also bring them political freedom
and speech freedom.
Her arguments are flawed, and by all objective standards, most of them
are false: I read her whole book.
In fact, the statement that she says about Friedman: Only a crisis
actual or perceived produces real change was mostly referring to his
opposition to the Military Draft. (Naomi Klein's Father was a draft
dodger, which is why I think she left this part out because she
actually agreed with Friedman.
Your problem my friend is that you have been only given one side's
argument throughout your whole academic career, and the disservice done
to you is that you have never learned how to combat anyone from which
you disagree. It is too bad you had to suffer the rude awakening when
someone actually cites specific facts to address your concerns without
using blanket statements by fiat.
From The Daily Banter:
Thank you for your response.
Firstly, you are making blanket assumptions about my academic career. I
was formerly in favor of 'free trade' and 'market capitalism' until I
discovered that the slogans bear no resemblance to reality.
This is something Klein rigorously exposes in her book. If you had read
'The Shock Doctrine' more carefully, you would have noticed that Klein
attributed Chile's recovery to the re-nationalization of key industries
after the disaster of privatization. This contradicts the notion that
the free market was the reason for economic prosperity in Chile.
Central planning and the nationalization and protection of industry has
been the key to economic success throughout history, and there is not
one single example of a country flourishing under the 'free market'. If
you can name one, I will gladly concede the point, but every major
industrial nation achieved economic success through major public
investment in various industries (The United States is a perfect
example of this).
Secondly, Milton Friedman did advocate the privatization of the
military. Here is a direct quote: "We all justly complain about the
waste, fraud and inefficiency of the military. Why? Because it is a
socialist activity -- one that there seems no feasible way to
privatize. But why should we be any better at running socialist
enterprises than the Russians or Chinese?"
So Klein is not the liar you make her out to be.
Also, I do not follow your argument about the 'New Left' in China.
Klein's rigorous use of sources and quotes is almost unparalleled in
journalism today, so I find your accusations of dishonesty to be
somewhat fanciful. Klein used actual interviews of dissidents, so I'm
not sure what you are talking about.
Your commitment to the ideology laid out by Friedman borders on
fanaticism, despite the obvious evidence that it has, and never will
work. You would do well to take your own advice and listen to people
you disagree with. You may even have a rude awakening of your own.
Thanks again for the correspondence.
From Copious Dissent:
The United States has never benefited from Nationalizing Industry. Hong
Kong, Singapore, and Japan are other examples where a lack of
nationalization works. The problem with Nationalized industry is that
it always takes more resources to produce the same comparable goods
when Nationalized vs. non-nationalized. This is basic economics, and it
why the command economy never worked in the Soviet Union.
Nationalization was also an abject disaster; it likely could have
avoided the stagnation had it not gone down that path. Nevertheless, it
succeed because of its free market capitalism, which is why it is the
greatest south American economy today.
The 'New Left' section of
the Shock Doctrine is almost devoid of citations, go check it out. She
goes numerous pages without citing anything. It is just nonsense. The
T. Square massacre was one of the most documented events in history; we
know what happened. The fact that Naomi Klein thinks she knows what
really happened, and that there is a new story to tell is absurd on its
face. The people wanted political and civil freedom because they
thought the Country was leading to that with the economic reforms; they
though they could get the whole bunch together. They were sadly wrong.
Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom," where Klein gets most of her
quotes from Friedman, he writes an entire chapter of why Government
needs to control the military. Wherever you got your quote from, I have
no doubt the context never diverged from the premise that Government
MUST control the military. But, that doesn't change the fact that the
Military has the negative externalities of a socialize industry.
is just amazing that you think Central planning has ever worked
anywhere in the entire work. Wherever it is tried, there is starvation
and famine. Look at Venezuela: They are already running out of Milk and
eggs despite the Government oozing in oil
From The Daily Banter:
I'm afraid you are merely reciting neo-liberal rhetoric my friend, not fact. Claiming it does not make it so.
United States has been one of the most protectionist countries in
history, and it owes much of it's development to central planning and
the nationalization of industry. Here is an excellent article by
Cambridge Professor Ha-joon Chang outlining the development of the U.S
(and Singapore, a country that has also benefited from massive state
point about the Soviet Union borders on the ridiculous. Russia
experienced incredible economic growth under state planning, turning a
backwards, third world peasant society into a technologically advanced
super power in a matter of decades. I am in no way defending the Soviet
Union, as the human death toll was beyond barbaric, but its growth was
Russians are now poorer under the 'free market' than they were under communism, so you point is nonsensical.
has also been a highly protectionist nation, and it's success is based
on the nationalization of key industries (like automobiles). Here is
Chang on the specifics of Japanese protectionism.
because you keep repeating the line that Chile's Nationalization was a
disaster does not make it so either. Klein outlines in detail the
history of Chile's economy, proving the exact opposite of your claim.
You cite no facts whereas she cites many. The CIA were responsible for
much of the turmoil under Allende, and Pinochet's economic policies
were so disastrous they led to riots on the streets until he re
nationalized the copper industry and the banks. To put it in
perspective, in 1970, 20% of the population lived in poverty. After
almost two decades of rule under Pinochet, it doubled to 40% in 1990.
response to your point about Friedman and the privatization of the
military, he did advocate it, as the quote would indicate (taken from
the New York Times in December 31, 1989). Whether Friedman changed his
mind is neither here not there. The fact is, Klein was not lying.
has also experienced the highest economic growth in Latin America in
milk and eggs does not constitute the failure of socialism. Poor
Venezuelans are vastly better of under Chavez than they were before his
election in 1998 any way you choose to look at it.
contrast, after 30 years of neo liberal control in Washington, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that in 2006, 35.5 million
people lived in households considered to be food insecure.
don't mean to denigrate your opinion, but it is not based in reality.
The myth of the free market is apparent just by driving through a poor
area of the United States. Trade agreements like NAFTA has ruined the
lives of working people in the U.S, almost beyond repair, and yet
people like you still spout the same nonsense about 'the market'.
Protectionism is key to sustained economic growth, and there is no
example in history of a nation developing successfully otherwise.
From Copious Dissent:
I just read a rant on defending the economic policies of the Soviet
Union, Venezuela, and Nationalization of just about any kind. At this
point our conversation is bordering on ridiculous. You are welcome to
believe whatever you believe, but North Korea is the end result of your
Moreover, shortages and famine are always the result
of socialism or nationalization of industry. In fact, it happens every
time it is tried. Shortages of milk and eggs matters; I'm sorry.
There is simply no way to convince anyone of anything when he lives in an alternative reality.
From The Daily Banter:
1. I did not defend the policies of the Soviet Union. I simply said
that it experienced massive economic growth due to protectionism and
2. I do defend Hugo Chavez as he has been
democratically elected three times and made serious attempts to
redistribute wealth to Venezuela's poorest citizens. To compare
Venezuela to the Soviet Union is just intellectually lazy. It has
experienced the greatest economic growth in Latin America and Chavez
has shown a greater reverence for democracy than George Bush has.
Nationalization and protectionism is not 'my ideology'. I am merely
stating facts about the success of protectionism in creating economic
growth. Again, you provide no meaningful facts to back up your
assertion that I am advocating a North Korean style dictatorship. You
are merely ranting.
4. Shortages and famine are more often the
result of neo liberalism as history has shown. Russia, much of Latin
America and Africa have gone under IMF and World Bank 'structural
adjustment', and have all been devastated as a result.
now clear that you don't really understand economics, and are content
to repeat right wing catch phrases to cover it up. I would suggest you
take down your silly videos 'exposing' Naomi Klein and focus your
attention on something you actually understand.
From Copious Dissent:
1) The Soviet Union had one of the greatest famines in history and
failed not because of its politics, but because command economies
(central planning) never works and always lead to famine and death
(Every Country where is is tried experiences such). Individuals do not
have the capacity to plan the rational distribution of scarce resources
with alternative uses; only a free market capitalist society can do
that. I know exactly what you wrote;
2) The redistribution of
wealth is nothing but stealing and when people start to starve to
death, you'll find a way to blame America. I can easily compare it to
the soviet union. A command economy is a planned economy. The soviet
union did not fail because of the brutal leaders, but because of
3) Protectionism has always lead to severe
economic disasters. The "Smoot-Hawley" tariff for example prolonged the
great depression for years. The reason why people in North Korea have
to eat grass is not because of a Dictatorship, it is because of the
4) Not a single famine in the history of the
world has ever occurred in a free market capitalist economy (Famine is
defined as a lack of food supply to feed the population). (China, North
Korea, the Soviet Union, Cuba, India, and the Commons in Europe before
private property was established all has famines). If you understood
basic economics, you would know why that is. Capitalism is the only way
to give people enough incentive to produce more food than they can use
for themselves. This is why America is the fattest Country in the world
and still exports its food. Russia only had a famine under socialism.
Africa has famine because there is no rule of law and people cannot
produce food without concern that someone, including the government,
will steal it from them.;
You state I do not understand
economics yet you do not even understand why property rights are
necessary to feed a population. In fact, Williams Bradford of the
pilgrims realized this hundreds of years ago. He tried common ownership
of land and stopped when people starved to death. He realize that only
by protecting private property rights was he able to feed his
citizenry, and eventually led to the ability to support more people
from Europe to come to America.
From The Daily Banter:
It's amazing you keep repeating the same nonsense without responding to what I am saying:
U.S and every other industrialized nation on the planet achieved
economic success through state planning. There is an astonishing amount
of evidence for this, something you apparently will not concede.
You cannot just repeat the statement that the U.S has succeeded because of free market capitalism without any evidence!
is a text book example of famine caused by neo liberal economic
adjustment. Malawi was devastated by the recommendations of the World
Bank, and only began to recover once the government began to subsidize
of wealth is not stealing. It is simply raising the value of labor
through organization. Wages have been driven down by corporate America
by breaking up unions and imposing trade agreements like NAFTA that
shift jobs abroad. If people vote and organize to institute a higher
minimum wage, they are exercising their democratic rights.
radically anti democratic allegiance to corporate control of society is
not 'dissent' as your website would infer. It is in fact a Leninist
approach to controlling the population by a managerial class. A
democratically elected Government represents the will of the people
whereas a corporation is a top down, soviet style command economy with
no room for dissent.
Please, read something other than free
market ideology to expand your horizons. I am not an ideologue, and am
only interested in the truth. And that means I require evidence, not