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article imageReview: 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man'

By Ken Hanly     Dec 21, 2013 in World
Washington - "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" written by John Perkins was published back in 2004. Perkins writes of his career with consulting firm Chas. Main.
Perkins claims that there are links between consulting firms such as the one he worked for and the CIA and NSA. He believes that an interview with the NSA led to his being hired by Chas. Main. According to his book, Perkin's job as an economic hit man (EHM) was to convince authorities in underdeveloped countries to accept large loans that they could not pay. Being indebted they were forced to accept provisions that aided the US, while the aid money went to the benefit of a few members of the elite in the host country and to US corporations who received the funds for projects in the country. Perkins describes the role of an EHM: Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign "aid" organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.
Perkins has his own website where there is a tribute to Nelson Mandela. There is no mention of his neo-liberal legacy nor the continuing plight of blacks in South Africa. In an epilogue to the 2006 edition of the book Jenkins notes the negative aspects of moves then to forgive Third World debt. He claims that the conditions for forgiveness involve privatizing, health, education, electric, water, and other public services. Also, they would be required to discontinue subsidies, trade restrictions supporting local business, but at the same time certain G8 businesses would remain subsidized.
While many critics complain that Jenkins is a conspiracy theorist, Jenkins himself claims that the system is a form of corporate rule or corporatocracy and denies there is a conspiracy. The term"corporatocracy" is not original with Perkins but has been used by others such as the economist Jeffrey Sachs. The sociologist C. Wright Mills elaborated a similar concept of the Power Elite. It is employed not only by leftists but by some libertarian oriented analysts.
In the Washington Post Sebastian Mallaby seems to froth a bit at the mouth himself over Jenkin's book: "This man is a frothing conspiracy theorist, a vainglorious peddler of nonsense, and yet his book, "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," is a runaway bestseller." Mallaby points out that borrowing by underdeveloped countries can have beneficial effects on the population in general. In the case of Indonesia he claims that after their leaders were convinced to borrow money in 1970 its infant mortality rates and illiteracy rates were reduced by two-thirds.
Mallaby has a point in that in many cases borrowing money for development no doubt has had general benefits but this may be a collateral good in a system that is designed primarily to benefit elites and the corporations that are hired to develop the infrastructure. Within the system the borrowed money will certainly usually go to line the pockets of elites and of US corporations but this does not mean that there are not quite useful projects provided with the aid money.
Reviews of Perkins' book range from the very positive to very much dismissive. A huge collection of reviews can be found at this site.
There is an interesting article by investigative journalist Greg Palast on his website about his relations with John Perkins. His first meeting was while Perkins was a consultant: I remember John Perkins. He was a real jerk. A gold-plated, super-slick lying little butthole shill for corporate gangsters; a snake-oil salesman with a movie-star grin, shiny loafers, a crooked calculator and a tooled leather briefcase full of ...high-blown bullshit
However, Palast claims that in "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" Perkins manages to retrieve his soul from Satan only slightly tarnished: Today, Perkins is my confrere and colleague. He wears his hair longish and I wear mine . . . well, I've stopped wearing hair altogether.
And in his writings today, Perkins heart goes out to the Third World targets of this new empire ruled by shock troops and spread sheets. His empathy extends to those in the occupied territory known as the USA. Because, says Perkins, when the wretchedly ripped-off of the Earth rise in rebellion, the lash of the backlash is felt by the children of the lobstermen of New Hampshire, shivering under Humvees in Falluja, and never the EHM's clients' fortunate sons, frolicking in their Ferraris.
Jenkins' view of the corporatocracy is no doubt very much oversimplified. He may even have invented some of his stories in order to sell his conversion and his book but there is a great deal of rock bottom truth to much of what he has to say. It is unfortunate though that many leftists these days have a very much black and white view of the effects of capitalism ignoring the huge leap forward it represents from earlier modes of production: It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades. The problem is not what capitalism produces but what it keeps us from producing because the means of production are put into motion only if they are expected to produce profit. Amid plenty, people starve, and with ample means to satisfy the basic needs of everyone, this does not happen. Marx also clearly saw that capitalism would involve globalization but saw this not as an evil but as a positive development as in this passage from the Communist Manifesto correctly predicting what is happening before our eyes: The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations.
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