Monday, July 04, 2005

Book review: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

I once had the rule never to read New York Times bestsellers. I did not when I read John Perkins' book however I should have sticked to that rule. Confessions of an Economic Hitman is an autobiography which contains more information that the reader cares to read. In the preface we are already confronted with the author' sexual frustration and his anger towards his parents -which is mentioned because that is one of the main reasons why he ended up being an economic hit man (EHM). An EHM tries to get money from an international institution for a developing nation and then slush it through to his employer.

The book thus definately has an antiglobalist core to it. It is also not just an autobiography but mostly a tool to show that the US is greedy and together with multinational companies the source of all evil. In the preface, the author utters the classic leftist idea that terrorism is caused by poverty -which plenty of researchers have proved false but the author is not bothered by any evidence. Next he disputes "the idea that all economic growth benefits humankind and the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits". Let us all move to Myanmar, North Korea or Cuba because these countries are at least not part of the 'global empire', as Perkins describes it. Another example "in many cases helping an economy grow only makes those few people who sit atop the pyramid even richer, while it does nothing for those at the bottom except to push them even lower". Marx is alive and kicking. Need more? "They (his capitalist colleagues) were convinced that communism and terrorism were evil forces" writes Perkins, "rather than the predictable reactions to decisions they and their predecessors had made". Hmmm, Perkins do we need to reappricate communism (with more than 100 million casualties) and terrorism?

Let us assume for now that the author was indeed an EHM, and what he factually describes is true. What do we learn from this? To be even more sceptical of development aid. I dont know if John Perkins realizes this but his book is again a story against empowering governments and political bodies in giving aid.

I am reminded of the fact that those countries that receive aid and money are the least capable of handling the aid. They do not have the institutions therefore aid and development as conceived by Bono, Geldof and others is dangerously naive. It only serves one purpose to make the organizers and those who attend to feel better. Countries are stimulated this way to be corrupt, and moreover they are being rewarded for being corrupt. When emotions guide decision-making, we are all worse off.


Anonymous Will said...

I recently read this book (he gave it to me as a gift). I think your points are right on.

I mostly wanted to say thanks for your tempered comments. I don't believe in going to extremes in critizing another's ideas. I think your skepticism is balanced and fair.

But I will add one comment. I think Perkins streches the truth a bit in some places, don't you think? My best example is the puppet show in Indonesia. I mean come, on. :-) No way that happened just like that.

1:00 PM  

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