Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Greenspan and the Myth of the True Believer
by Naomi Klein
September 27, 2007

The tall graduate student, visiting the United States from Sweden, would not be satisfied with a quip. He wanted answers.

"They cannot only be driven by greed and power. They must be driven by something higher. What?"

Don't knock power and greed, I tried to suggest--they have built empires. But he wanted more.

"What about a belief that they are building a better world?"

Since I began touring with my book The Shock Doctrine, I have had a number of exchanges like this, revolving around the same basic question: When hard-right political leaders and their advisers apply brutal economic shock therapy, do they honestly believe the trickle-down effects will build equitable societies--or are they just deliberately creating the conditions for yet another corporate feeding frenzy? Put bluntly, Has the world been transformed over the past three decades by lofty ideology or by lowly greed?

A definitive answer would require reading the minds of men like Dick Cheney and Paul Bremer, so I tend to dodge. The ideology in question holds that self-interest is the engine that drives society to its greatest heights. Isn't pursuing their own self-interest (and that of their campaign donors) compatible with that philosophy? That's the beauty: They don't have to choose. Unfortunately, this rarely satisfies graduate students looking for deeper meaning. Thankfully I now have a new escape hatch: quoting Alan Greenspan.

His autobiography, The Age of Turbulence, has been marketed as a mystery solved: The man who bit his tongue for eighteen years as head of the Federal Reserve was finally going to tell the world what he really believed. And Greenspan has delivered, using his book and the surrounding publicity as a platform for his "libertarian Republican" ideology, chiding George W. Bush for abandoning the crusade for small government and revealing that he became a policy-maker because he thought he could advance his radical ideology more effectively "as an insider, rather than as a critical pamphleteer" on the margins. Yet what is most interesting about Greenspan's story is what it reveals about the ambiguous role of ideas in the free-market crusade. Given that Greenspan is perhaps the world's most powerful living free-market ideologue, it is significant that his commitment to ideology seems rather thin and perfunctory--less zealous belief, more convenient cover story.

Much of the debate around Greenspan's legacy has revolved around the matter of hypocrisy, of a man preaching laissez-faire who repeatedly intervened in the market to save the wealthiest players. The economy that is Greenspan's legacy hardly fits the definition of a libertarian market but looks very much like another phenomenon described in his book: "When a government's leaders routinely seek out private-sector individuals or businesses and, in exchange for political support, bestow favors on them, the society is said to be in the grip of "crony capitalism." He was talking about Indonesia under Suharto, but my mind went straight to Iraq under Halliburton. Greenspan is currently warning the world about a dangerous looming backlash against capitalism. Apparently, this has nothing at all to do with the policies of negligent deregulation that were his trademark. Nothing to do with stagnant wages due to free trade and weakened unions, nor with pensions lost to Enron or the dot-com crash, or homes seized in the subprime mortgage crisis. According to Greenspan, rampant inequality is caused by lousy high schools (which also has nothing to do with his ideology's war on the public sphere). I debated Greenspan on Democracy Now! recently and was stunned that this man who preaches the doctrine of personal responsibility refuses to take any at all.

Yet ideological contradictions are only relevant if Greenspan really is a true believer. I'm not convinced. Greenspan writes that as a student he had no interest in big ideas. Unlike his classmates who were in the thrall of Keynesianism with its promise of building a better world, Greenspan was simply good at math. He started doing research for powerful corporations; it was profitable, but Greenspan made no claims to a higher social contribution.

Then he discovered Ayn Rand. "What she did...was to make me think why capitalism is not only efficient and practical, but also moral," he said in 1974.

Rand's ideas about the "utopia of greed" allowed Greenspan to keep doing what he was doing but infused his corporate service with a powerful new sense of mission: Making money wasn't just good for him; it was good for society as a whole. Of course, the flip side of this is the cruel disregard for those left behind. "Undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment," Greenspan wrote as a zealous new convert. "Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should." Was it this mindset that served him well as he supported shock therapy in Russia (72 million impoverished) and in East Asia after the 1997 economic crisis (24 million pushed into unemployment)?

Rand has played this role of greed-enabler for countless disciples. According to the New York Times, Atlas Shrugged, her novel that ends with the hero tracing a dollar sign in the air like a benediction, stands as "one of the most influential business books ever written." Since Rand is simply pulped-up Adam Smith, her influence on men like Greenspan suggests an interesting possibility. Perhaps the true purpose of the entire literature of trickle-down theory is to liberate entrepreneurs to pursue their narrowest advantage while claiming global altruistic motives--not so much an economic philosophy as an elaborate, retroactive rationale.

What Greenspan teaches us is that trickle-down isn't really an ideology after all. It's more like the friend we call after some embarrassing excess so that they will tell us, "Don't beat yourself up: You deserve it."

The Shock Doctrine

Figured everyone else is on the Backwater bandwagon so I would post something different.

Funny how the money whores can justify their behavior through various twisted means.
Much the same as killers justify to themselves why they ended someones life.

Not much more than common criminals, people like Greenspam take all they can while others go without. The Fed is the largest legal money robbing scheme to be foisted upon America, succeeding in taking us off the gold standard then promptly hauling it off tho their own vaults all the while America slept, at the switch.

Greenspam is not American, the Fed is not American, but greed is, oh you bet it is.



DEN said...

Big party bash Friday!

DEN said...

Almost forgot to mention the other day I was within spitting distance to romney when he visited an IHOP here in Sacramento last week.

Story here

Two blocks away from where I work, and I was standing out front when a stretch limo lead by an armored truck and followed by a Suburban rode by. At the time I did not realize who it was but if I knew it was him I definitely would have flipped him off.

º¿carol said...

Crap, better post this here so Micki sees it. I posted it on the old thread.

carol said...

Wow! I can't believe the connections Blackwater has. Jeb Bush's wife and Letourneau?

Prince's brother-in-law almost became governor of Michigan! Dick DeVos would have had his own army.

10/03/2007 9:26 AM

º¿carol said...

Spitting distance. What would have happened if you got to spit on his limo?

I heard some Michigan pundits who went to Mackinac Island to schmooze with the repug candidates say that Romney has a slight problem. He doesn't like to make eye-contact when he talks to someone. Goody. Hope that turns people off. I know it would turn ME off. (gotta take comfort in any little thing anyone can get on a repug)

Oh, they ALSO said that Fred Thompson was weird. Any question they asked him he blew it off and laughed while the other candidates answered those questions.

•¿•arol said...

Select a Candidate Quiz

The program selects the candidate who's position on the issues is most like your own.

Dammit! The link won't work. No matter how many times I do it over it goes to a wrong page. You'll have to copy/paste this into your browser:

This is how I came out:

Dennis Kucinich - Score: 57


Stem-Cell Research
Health Care
Social Security
Death Penalty

Line-Item Veto

Alan said...

Nice link Carol. I'm a sucker for quizzes, especially when they are relevant. My score was similiar to yours, with D/K at the top but with a smaller number.

Alan said...

My email from John Edwards about the veto of SCHIP said that bush made a presidential proclamation two days ago for "Child Health Day".
You can't make up this kind of hypocrisy.

DEN said...

Cool quizzzz, Kucinich, 68!

Dodd, 61 close second.

Funny, thats who I would have chosen.

Gerald said...

It is truly amazing how deep and widespread is the interconnection of evil. Birds of a feather flock together. This person is married to that person and this person is someone's sister, etc. How can we overcome evil in our country when there is so much interpersonal relationships of evil? Soon we will be choking on the crap that is doled to us.

carey said...

Uhmmm, my mountain is collapsing.

Not kidding. One whole side is sliding as we speak. Very serious shit going on. Copters everywhere with loudspeakers evacuating.

I'm not in immediate danger (a two minute walk) but real estate prices are. This is so fucking big.

It appears as a huge ongoing sink hole and has affected, last heard, seven houses or more and one of San Diego's major residential northern/coastal artery roads over one side of the mountain. Still sliding. It is gargantuan triple times.

It will undoubtedly go national. This is a rich area. Just not me. It will be in your news. Ay, ay, ay.

David B. Benson said...

Coal prices have surged to all-time high prices, world-wide. Supplies are so short that purchasers are willing to pay "almost anything" the producer asks.

Wheat prices locally have reached an all-time dollar high of over $10 per bushel. (Taking inflation into account, prices were higher for a very brief period in the 1970s). The main reason is that Australia (and elsewhere) have experienced very bad crop yields.

The world's wheat stocks are at an extremely low level, helping to explain the extraordinary prices.

David B. Benson said...

Carey --- Watch it! It may grow your way.

But I sincerely hope not...

DEN said...

Carey, you can always move to Auburn!

View the sinkhole disaster here

carey said...

David, they think not. However, this all goes back to shoddy engineering, city planning and stupidy. My father fought against it in the magazine.

Roads everywhere closed. Copters screaming at the traffic which is horrendous. It's been routed one street up from mej--totally residential. Lots of screeching brakes.

Again, uhmmm, icky and scary for my neigbors. Very. No more house for some people. What will they all do?

Guys, the whole damn mountain is shaky. It's over Rose Canyon fault. And yes, Micki, Winke (my sister) lives directly on that fault, where I was thinking of moving to.

Gerald said...

Greensspam is a hypocrite.

Hitler Bush nixes child health care. The Nazi Party is a band of hypocrites. They say that they are into family values. While I remain on that thought, I need to stop and fulfill my daily puke when it comes to the Nazi Party and to Hitler Bush.

micki said...

Holy smackers, Carey! What next?

Sometimes it takes decades for these things to occur when homes are built where they shouldn't have been built, or built to bad specs.

I hope this doesn't derail your plans.

I'm very interested in this story -- keep us posted, please.

micki said...

For the amount that is spent in just one week in Iraq, we could insure 800,000 kids for an entire year. 800,000!!

Fuckin' bush. Call your rep and insist that they join to smash bush's veto into smithereens!

Theoretically, the Senate already has the 67 votes to roll back the jerk's veto.

The House needs 25 more votes!

micki said...

Earlier today in La Jolla

This is probably already outdated as to escalation of the problem...

micki said...

Carol, they are everywhere!

Now, I wonder if Mary Kay Letourneau (well, her pevious husband) is of the same Letourneau family who had connections to the BUSH DYNASTY in the oil bidness -- R. G. Letourneau who founded a christian technical school in Longview, Texas, back in the 40s (now Letourneau University) bought the land and the first buildings for ONE DOLLAR from the government. R.G. LeTourneau supplied equipment, etc. to Zapata Energy (whatever it was named) for the bush family.

Man oh man.

micki said...

Carol, check this out -- see what I mean about the connections?

micki said...

As a young lad, Bill worked at a radio station in Longview that had been owned by R. G. Letourneau. R.G. sold it and the station became a "pop" music and news station -- when R.G. operated it, it was a fundie station.

Bill would get phone calls from irate "good" christians, bitching to high heaven about the godless new format of sinful music!

Bill didn't stay in Longview long -- he took the job only because he had taken out a loan on his car to go to Europe and needed some dough to pay the bills until he got a "real" job. ;-))

micki said...

Just FYI, Carol...Bill had this to say about Letourneau Technical Institute:

Students worked on a plan by which one-half attended classes three days each week while the other half worked at the Letourneau plant. This work met the laboratory requirements of the industrial courses, and gave the old man a bottomless pit of slave labor.

Gerald said...

The shit never ends regarding how evil is intertwined. Do you have the feeling that some days will be better than other days but in Nazi America the days never get better they only get worse.

I will tell how they will get even worse.

I looked up and spotted a robin and he looked down and spotted me.

Me no worry, me no cry, me glad that Nazi GOP elephants don't fly.

It's only a matter of time until these Nazi GOP elephants fly.

Gerald said...

God will be the final judge. It is only a matter of time before judgment day is upon us.

God has said many are called but few are chosen.

I know that it is difficult going through this period in time with all the evil that surrounds us but the prize will be well worth it for people who persevere for justice and peace for all of God's children. NEVER GIVE UP!!!

Gerald said...

Do you feel this way everyday???

for some reason I cannot link this message.

Gerald said...

the link should have elephant%20shit.jpg

Gerald said...

My links are not operating.

carey said...

You can't make up this kind of hypocrisy.

But they sure can. How do they go to bed at night and sleep?

Verrrry interesting on the Letourneau connections.

We continue to remain sad here as we know in our hearts, even though we're being kept in the dark, that our beloved local Air America station is going bye-bye. This is very hard on me and my family guys.


The news is that these millionaires or at least upper middle class people are out completely. There is no insurance for a massive landslide like this.

Oh my God. I have to sell too. Running out if you know what I mean.

carey said...


I scored similarly to you.

Hey Micki,

I believe you revealed your birthday earlier this year. Would you do it again? In December, right?

DEN said...

Gerald, Elephant Shit

º¿carol said...

Interesting shit, Micki. It's amazing the links between the evil ones that you found.

Carey, you're not close enough to the sliding hill that you'll lose your house, right? Man, get that for sale sign out there already!

Alan, yeah, I'm a quiz lover, too. I was thrilled when that one rolled in this morning.

Gerald said...

Den, it finally linked, I hope

Gerald said...

Carey, will you be moving to Auburn, California?

Gerald said...

Micki, from your link on R.G. LeTourneau!

He created a colony in Liberia to bring Christianity to "savages" (his words).

I love it when Christians talk about Christianity, especially from the LeTorneau family.


micki said...

Yeah, Gerald, I noticed that -- He created a colony in Liberia to bring Christianity to "savages" (his words).


David B. Benson said...

Our Little Monster

Political cartoon on TruthDig.

micki said...

bush's misrepresentations about SCHIP

One thing that scares me about bush's SCHIP veto is that by wielding the hammer on this, he seems to be saying FU to the Republicans who *need* to get reelected in the coming elections. Now why would he do that? What is going on here? It can't be that he's trying to look fiscally responsible. Does he really NOT care about the next election for Repugs -- just as he does not care, of course, about Dems? Americans are in the mood to choose butter ovr guns, and bush is saying FU to the American citizenry, too. (But, that's nothing new for him...)

Cue Gerald! I think he may have the answer.

micki said...

On Carol's quiz: I lined up most with Chris Dodd, with a 53. Followed with the exact same scores for Kucinich, Clinton, Obama and Edwards.

I think this quiz has some flaws. :-)

carey said...

No Gerald. I'm heading towards Micki's area only a little further north. Better healthcare if they'll take me. And we'll avoid the upcoming draft as a side benefit.

I won't loose my home to a cliff like those people, but we're built on part landfill too. Only the backyard though. I'll tell you all the whole story sometime. It's about developers being their usual naughty selves.

I am just a hop and a skip from these poor people. Just a little more on top of the mountain. This is as you're starting down the east side.

These people are devastated. No insurance. These are okay in the money department people!!!!!


Yes. Bush/Cheney don't give a hoot AT ALL about the future of the Repug party. They're on a mission.

That's why they'll go ahead with random bombing in Iran. As we all know they have no definitive targets. We're just gonna spray a little.

micki said...

Canadian Immigration Lawyers

Carey, brush up on your French! Parlez-vous français ?

micki said...

Carey -- there's lots of good info at the site I just linked -- Q&As, etc.

micki said...

Big party bash Friday!


DEN said...