Confessions of an Economic Hitman

This was a book that I listened to as one of my first purchases from audible.  It was recommended multiple times on the TWIT (This week in tech) network as well as Cranky Geeks.  For me, it followed right on the heels of the abridged version of "A people’s history of the United States of America" by Howard Zinn and was set in a very similar mold.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman is the story of the author John Perkins; this story describes his part in, and observations of, a series of events which take place over the last several decades leading to the impoverishment of various countries through the use of corporate policies including underhanded manipulation, bribery, improper statistics, etc to undermine those countries economies to such an extent that they would be beholden to their creditors and various corporations. 

The general formula would be to take a country which is rich in some resource that the U.S. deems to be valuable, but which has not been modernized and has little infrastructure, and conduct research into how much money would be loaned to these countries based on an economic forecast conducted by companies with a vested interest in the result.  This research would always lean in a direction such that the country would receive a vast amount of money more than they could afford in loans which would be used to build out infrastructure in the country.  Of course, the infrastructure would be built, maintained and designed by the U.S. companies which were in league with the economic forecasters and banks.  In turn, the loans would be so large that the countries, after the initial investment of the loaned money used to build out the new infrastructure, would not be able to pay them off.  The countries which received the loans would instead be pressured into giving out resource rights, favors, political asylum, etc.

Throughout the account, the author at once tries to describe his feelings of remorse for taking part in these actions as well as describing how he, again and again continued to proliferate the agendas set before him.  It is described how wars were deemed to be outdated during and after the cold war, so, instead of going to "war" we would instead conduct a sort of economic war on the countries whose resources would help determine the course of the future.

I must say that my reaction to this book is not exactly what I would have thought.  The author’s "confessions" seem a bit misplaced for someone who has spent the majority of his life as part of his own story of greed and corruption.  It seems a bit to, I don’t know, "to little to late" maybe?  You can’t spend the majority of a book telling me how evil you and your cohorts were, about how you had pangs of guilt for years on end, how you grew to hate yourself, and then try to convince me that you are really a good guy now.  I am glad that, at least according to his own tale, John Perkins appears to have turned over a new leaf;  That he now spends most of his time with non-profits trying to right some of the wrongs which he helped to create.  But I still can’t help but feel that this too (the book) is being used to help him profit off of a career which, in the very best of lights, should be despised. 

One thing that I must say is that this book helps to get the creative juices flowing, thinking about class struggles, corruption, corporate greed, and sanctity of culture.  For that, I must certainly recommend it.  But, before giving that recommendation, unless if Mr. Perkins and his publishers, distributors, etc are giving the proceeds to a good charity I don’t know that I can honestly recommend anyone else to buy this book for fear that it is just another way to make money for a man who seems to have been driven by nothing more throughout a long career.

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