Wednesday, April 18, 2012

More Shock Doctrine Criticism

To rebut Naomi Klein Johan Norberg at uses data provided by the Fraser Institute as a source. Klein is claiming that neoliberalism proceeds via a subversion of demcracy. But according to the Fraser Institutes rankings of economic freedom (presumably a measure of neoliberalism) free states are democracies. Klein has it backwards.

I'm reading Klein last night and discover another fascinating section related to this criticism. There was a period in Canada where heads of ratings agencies were being pressured to downgrade the Canadian fiscal situation. When they resisted they met stiff corporate opposition. A full fledged crisis mentality was cooked up in the media, and this was used to ram through some tough neoliberal policies. Mostly slashing services to the poor. Canadians would subsequently discover that the crisis mentality was foisted on the population based on falsehoods perpetuated by non other than the Fraser Institute. I think Klein claimed that they basically cooked the books. They have a long history of fraud, whether pro-tobacco junk science or global warming science denial. Just a straight corporate front group pushing profit over truth wedded tightly to Milton Friedman, the primary object of Klein's criticisms.

I've been writing for a while about how these freedom rankings from these corporate backed organizations are bogus. See here and here for example. If a person wants to disagree with my arguments, fine. But if we were to argue about economic freedom in foreign countries and you were try and rebut me by pulling out the Heritage rankings of economic freedom, would that make sense? Would it make sense to do that without even acknowledging my criticisms of this ranking system? When you argue with someone you have to start from shared premises. I don't argue with a Christian and say "Since we know the Bible is full of errors, let's talk about what that means." They don't accept that the Bible is full of errors, so for me to say that is to waste my own time and demonstrate that I don't even know what I'm doing when it comes to argumentation.

Klein has forcefully called into question the Fraser Institute's credibility. And yet Norberg just trots out the Fraser Institute in rebuttal. You can reasonably do that on one condition. Address Klein's criticism of the credibility. If you don't do that you demonstrate that you are either incompetent or dishonest.

Klein's argument (that neoliberalism proceeds via crisis, not democratic change) is not just a thesis she invents. She quotes prominent economists that make the identical claim. One such economist is Dani Rodrik. Klein quotes him to the effect that none of the structural changes preferred by the Chicago School ocurred without a crisis. For Rodrik this is a good thing. Norberg's problem is with Rodrik, not Klein.

Dani Rodrik apparently also is unhappy with Klein's book. He says the book is "really bad." What he doesn't do is let anybody know that he's got a vested interest in that conclusion in light of Klein's fully documented and dispassionate criticisms. He can call the book really bad if he likes. But why doesn't he let his readers know about his own personal interest in that conclusion?

These criticisms just leave readers in the dark.


HispanicPundit said...

Your criticism of the Fraser institutes ranking doesnt account for the strong correlation between ALL the various rankings, including the Heritage, and the IMF/World Bank.

The latter being an organization that publishes to large audiences and is under extreme scrutiny.

Jon said...

I think you're right and I misspoke. IMF is not actually measuring neoliberalism, as argued in the comments section of my link.

But if you think the IMF is so great, look into this Davison Budhoo, who wrote an open letter in resignation of the IMF in which he copiously documents how the IMF cooks the books to destroy poor people. His own personal shame is obvious and he describes himself as drenched in the blood of the poor, which can never be washed away but he must do this in order to expose their fraud and theft.

The IMF has been stacked with Chicago Boys to further this agenda. It's the same people at Heritage. This is all documented by Klein, who had a team of lawyers and research assistance so as to ensure that every claim could be justified in light of the expected hostility she would generate. Every potentially libelous claim had to be justified with documentation to her lawyers before it could pass. This explains the meticulous nature of the book and the fact that I don't see her factual claims being disputed. Rodrik doesn't deny what she says. He just tries to talk about something else.

HispanicPundit said...

Kleins book isn't taken seriously by economists. So of course,  you don't expect a point by point rebuttal.

But just to see what was out there, I did a quick google search (again) and found this.  Looks like it is more thorough than the previous one. Also this. Hardly the "lawyer proof" standard you make her book out to be. Though I can see why you would wish it so. For interested readers, Brad DeLong, a true economic historian and longtime Paul Krugman supporter posts quotes from Doug Henwood (this is the same left wing Doug that writes for the Nation), and of course, one of my favorite is Cowen's criticism.

Jon said...

You remember how we talked about tone and how it turns sour. I'm trying to do better on my end. The "yawn" and "You wish it were so" stuff. You think that brings value to the discussion? Make an effort and I think we'll both benefit if we spend more time arguing and less sniping at each other.

Will check your criticisms. Glad to have them.