States In Shock

In 2004, Sri Lanka’s government barred thousands of fishermen from returning to their seaside homes after the Asian tsunami, citing safety concerns. Yet new upscale hotels on the same beaches were allowed to stay in business. Was the official concern for safety just cover for favors to big business? Naomi Klein thinks so. The author of “No Logo” bashes globalization again in her new book, “The Shock Doctrine,” in which she argues that elites exploit coups, wars and natural disasters to liberalize trade, privatize industries and cut social benefits. Klein claims that a cabal of right-wing politicians and free-market economists, led by famed Chicago professor Milton Friedman, “prays for crisis the way drought-struck farmers pray for rain.” Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup in Chile, Bolivia’s 1985 hyperinflation, and even Hurricane Katrina were used to roll back government intrusions in the economy. Her conspiracy-friendly mind-set is unconvincing, but “The Shock Doctrine” is a useful reminder that capitalist systems don’t always have democratic births.