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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shock Doctrined Through Think Tanks

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada
I've been reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, and what I find interesting, is that American Imperialism over the past half century or so, has followed a pattern.

One laid out by the Chicago school and Milton Friedman. And it was done under the guise of fighting Socialism/Communism, but was really about taking over the economics of other nations, for corporate interests.

Chile provides an excellent example of how the system works.

In an attempt to combat the socialist principles of leading Latin American economist Raul Prebisch, the Chicago School offered free market courses at a Chilean university.

This was the brainchild of Albion Patterson, director of the U.S. International Cooperation Administration in Chile, and Theodore W. Schultz, chairman of the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago, who called on Friedman to work his magic.
The two men came up with a plan that would eventually turn Santiago, a hotbed of state-centred economics, into its opposite—a laboratory for cutting-edge free-market experiments, giving Milton Friedman what he had longed for: a country in which to test his cherished theories. The original plan was simple: the U.S. government would pay to send Chilean students to study economics at what pretty much everyone recognized was the most rabidly anti-"pink" school in the world—the University of Chicago. Schultz and his colleagues at the university would also be paid to travel to Santiago to conduct research into the Chilean economy and to train students and professors in Chicago School fundamentals. (1)
Friedman and his gang would also bring the media on board, and not surprisingly, the president of their largest newspaper, El Mercurio, would become Augustus Pinochet's economic minister after the U.S. led coup.

However, another important step in trying to turn the Southern Cone , and indeed the rest of the free world, to the right, came from another faculty member at the Chicago School, Friedrich von Hayek.

Hayek had come up with the notion of the corporate funded free market think tank, that he suggested should "present themselves as civil society". They churn out report after report, poll after poll, all to promote corporate interests.

And Chile was no exception. The most prominent are Libertad y Desarrollo (now the Latin American institute) and Centro de Estudios Públicos , both heralded as the saviour of Chile (next to Milton Friedman, bombs, guns and assassins).

Alejandro Chafuen wrote a piece in April of 2010: Think Tanks and the Transformation of the Chilean Economy

In it he not only praises Libertad y Desarrollo and Centro de Estudios Públicos , but also Canada's own Fraser Institute.
... the Fraser Institute in Canada, ranked today as the best market oriented institute outside the United States. Fraser has a huge influence in a Canada which is overcoming the US in economic freedoms, transparency, and several other areas.
But who is this Alejandro Chafuen?

He is the past President of the Atlas Foundation and a Senior Fellow at the Acton Institute. In fact the Acton Institute was started with funds provided by the Atlas Foundation, and is an extension of the Religious Right.
Atlas was, and is, a major sponsor of the Acton Institute run by former faith healer, evangelical, gay community organizer, and now Catholic priest, Bob Sirico. Sirico ran fundamentalist faith healing meetings until he came out as gay. Then he moved on to the Metropolitan Community Churches and started running the Gay Community Center in Hollywood ... Acton officials got heavily involved in the debate on gay marriage. With Sirico back in the closet (though some conservatives don’t think so) the position they have been taking has been to pander to bigots on the Religious Right.
The Atlas Foundation also helps to finance the Canadian Constitution Foundation, which was started in 2002, by Conservative MP John Weston. The CCF has ties to the Harper government and Canada's Neoconservative movement.

They were also behind attack ads run in the U.S. to oppose Obama's healthcare plan.

Donald Gutstein wrote an excellent book: Not a Conspiracy Theory, in which he exposes the myriad of think tanks and foundations propping up the Harper government. Gutstein tells us to follow the money, and the few connections I provided above, are only a tip of the iceberg.

If we are going to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, it's important to know what we're up against. The media is constantly quoting polls and reports from these groups, to defend or explain this government's policies.

We have to do what Gutstein suggests and follow the money. Google the name of the group or the person quoted. It won't take long to find they belong to some corporate funded think tank or "advocacy" group, many with planted MPs.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (Jason Kenney)
The Fraser Institute (Jason Kenney, Rob Anders)
The Montreal Institute (Maxime Bernier)
The Civitas Society (Jason Kenney)
The National Citizens Coalition (Stephen Harper and Rob Anders)

The list is endless.

Once you trace the origin, email the columnist or own the comments section. Our best weapon is education, including the education of the media. Maybe if we become enough of a pain, they may start providing some balance.

Brigette DePape started something here, putting her job on the line to make a statement. But its not enough to simply "stop" Stephen Harper. We must fight against the entire movement, before it destroys us.


1. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, By Naomi Klein, Vintage Canada, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-676-97801-8

1 comment:

  1. If we don't like this death by "think" tank then need to present a coherent alternative.
    This includes an proper understanding of money, known as Modern Monetary Theory and a rebirth of classical economics.
    With the proper theory we could present a policy alternative that could be accepted by business and labour.
    Imagine a policy that takes taxes off both business and labour by placing them on economic rent (land, resources, etc, the unearned increment))
    But you need a theory to explain how these things are possible.
    Personally, I think the work of Michael Hudson is a good place to start.