Blogs > Liberty and Power > Total Takedown of Naomi Klein

May 20, 2008 10:45 am

Total Takedown of Naomi Klein

Back in October, I posed"Two Questions for Naomi Klein," in response to her then-new book Disaster Capitalism, which argues that"free market ideologues" have consciously created crises as opportunities to force their unpopular policies on unsuspecting populations, both in the US and elsewhere. Specifically, she sees Milton Friedman as the source of all of this evil.

My two questions were a drop in the bucket compared to the total and utter takedown of the book administered by Johan Norberg in a new Cato Policy Briefing entitled"The Klein Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Polemics."

I'm not going to snippet it as the whole thing deserves to be read as a masterful, well-footnoted, response to Klein and others like her. If you have friends who are talking about Klein's book, send them Norberg's piece.

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Bogdan Enache - 5/20/2008

Yes. Thatcher is simply a conservative, with no adjectives and in the classic sense of the word, which is inseparable from a dose of realistic militarism and "enlighten nationalism", as her categorical dismissal of total (in fact, almost total) nuclear disarmament, put on the table by Gorbachev at the Reykjavik summit in 1986, shows.

Mark Brady - 5/20/2008

Agreed. And Hogeye Bill makes a similar argument in his review.

Steven Horwitz - 5/20/2008

I have no doubt all that is true of Klein, but it doesn't change one of Norberg's main points, which is that Klein confuses corporatism and the views of Friedman and most libertarians. It's great that she attacks corporatism, but it's tragic that she can't tell the difference between that and free markets, nor where Friedman stood, despite mountains of evidence to against her interpretation.

Keith Halderman - 5/20/2008

I have a leftist friend who likes to send out articles and he was very excited about Klein's work. I sent this along to him. Lately, though, I not sure he is so leftist. Today he sent me pieces by Ron Paul on the war's effect on the economy and Pat Buchanan on the complete idiocy of Bush's appeasement argument.

Mark Brady - 5/20/2008

On a larger point, I question whether Johann Norberg is being entirely fair to Klein. Here, for example, Hogeye Bill argues that,

"The Shock Doctrine does have some strong areas. The inside stories behind government secret research and malfeasance are wonderful. I especially liked the information about torture research, where the US government contracted professors at McGill University in Canada to do sensory deprivation, psychotropic drug, and electric shock 'research' on students. Also I enjoyed getting the lowdown on various influence peddling schemes, conflicts of interest by government officials, and collusions between crony corporations and states. Naomi Klein, ace journalist, clearly excels at this type of thing.

"Klein's main theme in the book is the growing malevolence of corporatism – 'the merger of political and corporate elites in the name of security, with the state playing the role of chair of the business guild.' This main theme is right on the mark."

But that's the Mises Institute for you. The irony is that they're often fairer to the left than the Cato Institute. Which isn't, of course, altogether surprising when you think about their radical opposition to the state.

Mark Brady - 5/20/2008

As you might imagine, I was interested to read Johann Norberg's take on Naomi Klein's discussion of Mrs. Thatcher, the Falklands War of 1982, and her victory at the general election the next year.

Norberg makes two statements that caught my eye. First, he asserts that "it was a war she did not start." Well, yes and no. It is true, of course, that General Leopoldo Galtieri directed the Argentine takeover of the Falkland Islands (las Islas Malvinas), territory that had long been claimed by both Spain (and latterly Argentina) and the United Kingdom. But it also true that Thatcher refused to pursue diplomatic negotiations and ordered a British invasion of the Falklands.

Second, Norberg cites a 1987 study that "made the case that the Tories only gained three percentage points from the war, and the rest from improved economic prospects." However, he fails to mention that this study is contradicted by another analysis in 1990. (Harold D. Clarke, William Mishler and Paul Whiteley, "Recapturing the Falklands: Models of Conservative Popularity, 1979-83," British Journal of Political Science, 20, 1 [January 1990]: 63-81.) I think it's fair to say that there is good reason to believe that Mrs. Thatcher's victory in 1983 had more to do with winning the Falklands War than with the state of the economy.