Cowen Gives His Opinion of Shock Doctrine

I just came across Tyler Cowen's review of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine. I have been reading Klein's scathing critique of Chicago School economics over the last few months (since the birth of our son my reading skills have vanished) and it really was...shocking. I remember when I was younger and read in a Stephen King novel about CIA agents torturing people, and I scoffed at the wacko liberal King. The very idea that our government would do such horrible things! Well, if you think like I did back in grammar school, then don't pick up Klein's book because you will think she's making up a whole lot of documents and testimony about government-funded psychiatric programs in mind control.

Anyway, back to Cowen's review: You would think he would give us one concrete example of Klein's misuse of the facts. Nope. Instead he just assures us that she is making stuff up, and that the only thing she's got on Milton Friedman is an offhand remark in 1962. Right, there's that, and then also the complimentary letter (maybe letters, I can't remember right now) that Friedman wrote to Pinochet.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Cowen's review is far more biased than Klein's book. When she accuses Friemdan of enabling torture, she quotes him extensively and documents all of the Chicago-trained economists who worked for regimes while they were rounding up people and torturing them. In contrast, Cowen quotes Klein only...oh wait a second. I just switched to the other Firefox window to count up how many words from the book Cowen quoted, to let Klein speak for herself.

I do believe the answer is ZERO.

(Don't be thrown; there is a quote from her at the end, but that's from an interview she gave in reference to her earlier book. I'm pretty sure there are zero quotes from the book being reviewed.)


  1. Anonymous6:33 AM

    If what he says about it at the beginning of his article is true, she doesn't deserve that kind of refutation. She hasn't risen up to the required level of basic intellectual decency to be treated with any kind of respect.

    Again, if...

  2. Anonymous9:11 AM


    You would think he would give us one concrete example of Klein's misuse of the facts. Nope.

    Tyler provides a couple of concrete examples:

    "What the reader will find is a series of fabricated claims, such as the suggestion that Margaret Thatcher created the Falkland Islands crisis to crush the unions and foist unfettered capitalism upon an unwilling British public."

    "For instance, Hurricane Katrina (supposedly) led to the privatization of New Orleans and was (supposedly) welcomed for this reason."

    And he does write about the general content and thrust of the book, giving arguments against Klein's conclusions (as long as Cowen is not misrepresenting Klein's views, his critique seems sound to me).

    I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think Cowen's review is far more biased than Klein's book. When she accuses Friemdan of enabling torture, she quotes him extensively and documents all of the Chicago-trained economists who worked for regimes while they were rounding up people and torturing them. In contrast, Cowen quotes Klein only...oh wait a second.

    There is a non-sequitur here: that Cowen is more biased in his review because he doesn't quote Klein, while Klein does quote Friedman and others. But Klein can quote Friedman and others and still arrive at the wrong conclusion / be very biased. Cowen can be fair even if he doesn't quote her.

    As I see it, you are not giving us reasons to think Cowen is misrepresenting Klein or is wrong about her conclusions. You are simply assuring us that his review is unfair.

  3. Albert,

    I think the prime difference between my review and Cowen's, is that I link to his review for you to read for yourself. It's not as easy for the reader of Cowen's review to go click and read all of Klein's work on which Cowen is commenting.

    And for each of those "concrete examples" you cite: Cowen doesn't say exactly what Klein said. E.g. the Falkland Island crisis, Klein goes through and constructs her case with a chronology, Thatcher's popularity vis-a-vis the unions before and after she "got tough" abroad, etc.

    Cowen doesn't deal with any of this. He just tells us what her claim is, doesn't give any of her evidence, calls it a fabrication, and moves on. He treats it as self-evidently absurd, along the lines of, "Klein fabricates claims, such as her assertion that George Bush drinks blood every night."

    If even 1% of Klein's factual claims are correct, then free market apologists need to be very careful when discussing foreign policy and "successful" reforms in Chile and elsewhere. The fact that Cowen has read Klein's book, and talks favorably about the Chilean experience without even a nod to the people tortured to death, is a bit disturbing.

    Let me give you guys a concrete example. Cowen writes:

    Ms. Klein goes further and argues that a right-wing conspiracy deliberately courts or looks for disaster, so it can impose unpopular free market ideas on an unwilling populace. For instance, Hurricane Katrina (supposedly) led to the privatization of New Orleans and was (supposedly) welcomed for this reason. Yet there's not much evidence for active conspiracies, apart from a vague 1962 statement by Friedman: "Only a crisis produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around."

    Now that I've had a day to digest, as I reread the above... All I can say is that I hope Cowen didn't actually read much of Klein's book. Maybe he started it, and got disgusted by her ignorance of basic economics.

    But I've read about the first 150 pages or so, and it would be completely dishonest for me to write the above quote from Cowen. She documents US agents literally training the torture squads in other countries, who at the time are imposing Chicago School-blessed "free market shock therapy."

    Now if Cowen thinks Klein is lying about all that, fine. Maybe she is. But don't tell us there is "little evidence" except two sentences from Friedman.

    I'll write a review of Shock Doctrine myself in the next few months.

  4. Hey guys,

    Specifically on the Katrina thing. Cowen says there is "little evidence" of a conspiracy to privatize things, except for two sentences from Friedman in 1962. Well read this explanation from Klein. And the quotes from the guy who talks about God cleaning out the public school system were in the book, which Cowen ostensibly read.

    So you tell me? If you were writing a book review, would you at least let the reader understand what Klein had in mind? Or would you instead just call her a liar and move on?

    And incidentally, I'm sure some of you will say, "Oh, well when Klein objects to police tasering people who are protesting cutbacks in social programs, that's not what we mean by 'free market.' So she's stupid."

    Right, we all agree that her command of libertarian ethics leaves much to be desired. But if she believes in government programs to help the poor, she's not a liar for viewing "right wingers" as implementing their agenda and calling it the "free market." That's the terminology its advocates themselves use, after all.

    Finally, Klein does acknowledge in the beginning of her book that "corporatism" might be a better word, because what these "free market" people are doing isn't really a free market.

  5. Correction: The quote about God was cleaning up public housing, not public school system. Other people were talking about the ripe opportunity to get rid of the public schools.

    (And again, these are all things I support. But Klein isn't crazy for viewing right-wingers as seizing Katrina to push through their reform programs.)

  6. After reading Klein's piece, I think Cowen is engaged in what Kevin Carson calls 'vulgar libertarianism', i.e., being an apologist for the corporatist state. (I use i.e. and e.g. on the blog as much as possible now in honor of Sheldon.)

  7. Anonymous7:31 PM

    Here is a review by a writer under the alias Hogeye Bill. Perhaps it's a little better?

  8. Yes, I liked Hogeye's take much more, though I can't believe in such a long review, he managed to use one quotation of roughly 23 words from Klein.

    Just to make sure people get where I'm coming from: It tells a lot about the book to use a few big quotes. It gives you a sense of the tone, and also reassures you that the reviewer isn't misrepresenting the argument.

    David Gordon is vicious in his book reviews, but there is no doubt (in my mind) when he's being fair or unfair to an author in his crosshairs.

    In contrast, take Hogeye's discussion of Klein's blaming 9/11 on Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers. In short, I do not believe that Klein would say US foreign policy had nothing to do with it--after all, she abhors US foreign policy. I don't remember the passage in question; maybe it occurs after the point where I'm currently in the book.

    So for such an outrageous claim, I wish Hogeye had quoted her on it, for us to see the context.

    There are plenty of ways you can truthfully describe someone else's view on something, and yet misrepresent (perhaps unintentionally) what the person said.

  9. I reviewed Klein's book back in November. Leaving aside the very contentious issue of Friedman's specific role in Chile and China, Klein's factual description of the kinds of alleged "free market" policies that are really made under the Washington consensus is quite accurate. And her description of the authoritarian internal processes by which such policies are introduced live up to the old adage about how sausage is made.

    Virtually every single example of "privatization" carried out under neoliberalism, from Pinochet to Jeffrey Sachs, was the kind of crony capitalist looting rightly denounced by Joseph Stromberg and Gene Callahan (BTW, thanks, Gene). The so-called "free market reforms" of the Washington concensus also involve rubber-stamping international intellectual property [sic] accords.

    And if you adhere to a Rothbardian or Lockean line on land titles, then Allende and Chavez are actually closer to the correct stance than Pinochet and other neoliberals. Pinochet reversed land reforms, taking land back from its rightful peasant owners and restoring it to landed oligarchs and latifundistas based on artificial "property" titles of an essentially feudal nature.

    And the vulgar libertarians who try to distinguish Pinochet's "political authoritarianism" from his "economic libertarianism" are especially despicable. They claim to believe that labor is a co-equal factor of production, so workers in a free market (as owners of labor-power) ought to have rights regarded as equally sacrosanct to those of capitalists and landlords. Yet Pinochet systematically terrorized Chilean workers, arrested and tortured and disappeared union organizers (he sent troops into the factories and asked managers to point out the troublemakers), all in order to reduce their bargaining power as much as humanly possible and make them happy to accept whatever terms employers were willing to offer. Do you think the Catoids would take such a blithe attitude if the same terror Pinochet applied to owners of labor-power were applied to the owners of capital? When the owners of one of the allegedly co-equal "factors of production" are found in ditches with their faces hacked off, that's not just POLITICAL authoritarianism.

    My main critcism of Klein is not factual, but rather her theoretical confusion. She repeatedly refers to the neoliberal agenda and Washington consensus as "free market fundamentalism" or "laissez-faire." I wouldn't mind so much if she did so consistently. It would be quite understandable. After all, the kind of shit Pinochet and Yeltsin did is what's constantly referred to as "free market reform" and "free trade" by neoliberal politicians and journalists. If I thought "free market" really meant what I see associated with that term in the pages of the Wall Street Journal or NYT or The Economist, by God I'd hate it myself, and question the humanity of anyone who didn't.

    But elsewhere, Klein displays a pretty nuanced understanding that the neoliberal agenda the Chicago Boys and Jeffrey Sachs have been carrying out these thirty years wasn't really "free market" or "laissez-faire" at all. She herself sometimes describes it as crony capitalism or corporatism or economic fascism.

    Yet she makes the two lines of argument, in different places, without seeming to fully grasp just how much they contradict each other.

  10. Anonymous9:33 AM

    Maybe she does, and she's just dishonest. Maybe she doesn't, and she's just as much a twit as Galbraith.

  11. Anonymous7:26 AM

    Klein uses 'free market' the way most self-described free-market advocates use it. So I'm not sure she can be described as dishonest for using the word as it is used in ordinary language even if she's aware of totally irrelevant fringe-intellectuals (like mutualists or Rothbardians) who use it very differently.

  12. Anonymous7:15 AM

    What is far more interesting is to unpack Klein's intellectual and personal motivations and objectives. Judging from her own statements in articles, she admires the policies of Hugo Chavez, wishes the state extend its authority even further, and believes the world is run by a coordinated, right-wing conspiracy.

    Her personal motivations are even more suspect: she seems to be a cany exploiter of events for personal wealth (which is fine if you are a free-market capitalist, but when you claim to be fighting for the poor and exploited, suspect). In the end, she is nothing but a slickly marketed media product.

  13. Anonymous3:10 AM

    全球降息中国三策齐发空前大救市升降平台 铝合金升降机 液压机械 升降台 数据恢复阿赫蒂萨里获和平奖引争议 升降机 RAID数据恢复 北京心理咨询 故宫推出网上虚拟三维紫禁城 服务器数据恢复 液压升降机 无缝钢管 火箭拔刺姚明回勇 博客 升降机 Google排名 网站优化日本出现首家破产金融机构 心理咨询 升降机 升降平台 高空作业平台 升降机 升降平台 无缝管 冰岛人均欠债20万美元升降平台 弹簧 升降机 升降平台 登车桥 升降机升降机 中国首富十年变迁
    同声翻译 同声传译 会议设备租赁 同声翻译设备 文件柜 论文发表 同声传译设备租赁 同声传译 表决器租赁 更衣柜 论文发表 会议设备租赁

    谢霆锋张柏芝牵手逛街要喂记者吃奶粉Gas Alarm,Gas Detector,Breathalyser,Breathalyzer,Alcohol Tester,Co Alarm.Breathalyzer Alcohol TesterGas Alarm Breathalyser Co Alarm Gas Detector Co Detector Alcohol Tester

    Cheap WoW Gold, World Of Warcraft Gold,the best WoW PowerLeveling and other MMORPG Power Levelingwow gold wow gold wow gold 陈国坤形似之后求神似

  14. Anonymous7:55 PM

    Welcome to wow gold our wow Gold and wow power leveling store. We wow gold are specilized, wow power leveling professional and reliable wow power leveling website for wow power leveling selling and wow gold service. By the World of Warcraft gold same token,we offer wow power leveling the best WoW service wow power leveling for our long-term and wow powerleveling loyal customers. wow powerleveling You will find wow powerleveling the benefits and value powerleveling we created powerleveling different from other sites. As to most people, power leveling they are unwilling to power leveling spend most of wow power leveling the time wow gold grinding money Rolex for mounts or rolex replica repair when replica rolex they can purchase Watches Rolex what they Rolex Watches are badly need. The Watch Rolex only way is to look Rolex Watch for the best place rs gold to buy cheap WOW gold. Yes! You find it here! Our WoW Gold supplying service has already accumulated a high reputation and credibility. We have plenty of Gold suppliers, which will guarantee our delivery instant. Actually, we have been getting Runescape Gold tons of postive feedbacks from our loyal RuneScape Money customers who really appreciate our service.

  15. Anonymous2:54 AM

    We offer WoW power leveling,World of Warcraft power leveling,Warhammer Online Power Leveling & Warhammer Power Leveling & Warhammer Online Gold,if you want buy cheap wow power leveling & honor power leveling,please come here to choose. you could find any kinds of powerleveling you want. Please remember,we are your online game helper. Please remember,we are your online game helper.please come here to choose. you could find anything you power leveling,wow power leveling,wow power leveling,wow power leveling,wow power leveling,wow powerleveling,wow powerleveling,wow powerleveling,wow powerleveling,wow powerleveling,Warhammer Online Power Leveling,war leveling,Warhammer leveling,Warhammer Power Leveling,Warhammer Online Gold,Warhammer Gold,WAR Power leveling,WAR Gold,world of warcraft power leveling,world of warcraft power leveling,world of warcraft power leveling,world of warcraft power leveling,world of warcraft power leveling,world of warcraft powerleveling,world of warcraft powerleveling,world of warcraft powerleveling,world of warcraft powerleveling,world of warcraft powerleveling,wow gold,wow gold,wow gold,wow gold,wow gold,world of warcraft gold,world of warcraft gold,world of warcraft gold,world of warcraft gold,world of warcraft gold,AOC Power Leveling,AGE OF CONAN Power Leveling,Warhammer Online Power Leveling,Warhammer Power Leveling,Warhammer Online Gold,Warhammer Gold,2 Moons Dil,MapleStory Mesos,Maple Story Mesos,MS Mesos,WARHAMMER ONLINE GOLD,Cheap WARHAMMER ONLINE GOLD,RuneScape Gold,RS Gold,RuneScape Money,RS Money,SilkRoad Gold,SilkRoad Online Gold,SRO Gold,EVE ISK,EVE Online ISK,Gaia Gold,2 Moons Dil,WOTLK power leveling,AOC Gold,AGE OF CONAN Gold,LOTRO Gold,Lord of the Rings Online Gold

  16. Anonymous12:20 AM

    As far as I am concerned, Anarchy credits is good for you to have fun. If you like music, this is also a good choice for you to buy AO credits. I know someone likes music very much, then you can choose Anarchy Online credits. What I know is that this is a good way for you to enjoy Anarchy online gold. Nothing is important than Anarchy gold, when you feel down, I think.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Central Planning Works!

Fiat Currency