Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Shock Doctrine 7: Saved By A War

(Previous posts here, Matt's posts here, Trend's "How to Overthrow a Government" here.)

Ohhh, Maggie Thatcher. For feminists like me, Thatcher is a conundrum. On the one hand, she's a success story--a leader of a country, a pioneer for women in power, and one that no one ever doubted was tough enough for the job. And yet everything she did makes me cringe and want to deny her any sort of association with women.

This weekend at WAM we started talking about Palin and the new conservative feminism, and I wonder why none of us thought to bring up Thatcher. The question we were asking was whether one has to be prochoice to be feminist, because that's the question the Palin-types have been asking. But Thatcher? Well...

Klein notes that Thatcher and Pinochet became close friends, but that Thatcher knew she couldn't enact Shock Doctrine-style reforms in England without immediately being tossed out on her ass.

Apparently, Friedman and his acolytes had already been disappointed once before, by none other than Richard Nixon. (Interestingly, our buddy Donald "War Crimes" Rumsfeld was named adviser to Nixon through his connections to Friedman). Nixon's "We are all Keynesians now" proclamation stabbed Friedman in his little shriveled heart.

Friedman paid it back with a crack about Nixon being "socialist," which would make me laugh if it wasn't such a common one in this country. I joked yesterday, after being aggravated by people on NPR calling Obama a socialist, that anyone who calls someone else a socialist should have to explain why that's a bad thing. But honestly, I'm tired of the misuse of the word, though I do wonder if overusing it constantly will actually take the scare power out of it--I wrote about this months ago.

Klein notes:

"The University of Chicago professor had built a movement on the equation of capitalism and freedom, yet free people just didn't seem to vote for politicians who followed his advice."

But the turning point for Thatcher was one we should be able to guess: war. War with Argentina (yes, the dictatorship) over the Falklands/Malvinas. Militarized conflict without allowed Thatcher to militarize conflict within Britain, unleashing riot police on striking coal miners--and plenty of domestic surveillance as well. Sound familiar? Like riot police and "protest pens" and warrantless wiretapping? Good. It should.

Thatcher's strike-busting, along with Reagan's, paved the way for radical capitalist reforms. Thatcher's code-name for the Falklands war was even Operation Corporate, whether out of humor or simple honesty.

Allan Meltzer, a colleague of Friedman's, noted "Ideas are alternatives waiting on a crisis to serve as the catalyst of change."

Klein notes that Friedman and his pals weren't looking for military crisis, but economic crisis.

"However, if an economic crisis hits and is severe enough--a currency meltdown, a market crash, a major recession--it blows everything else out of the water, and leaders are liberated to do whatever is necessary (or said to be necessary) in the name of responding to a national emergency.

If this is true, then right now what we have is an excellent opportunity for change. The Republicans are clearly out of ideas--this WSJ article was summed up on Twitter as:

FakeHowardDeanRT @kaiserbrown GOP Plan for Budget. CUT RICH PEPLZ TAXEZ, DIGZ US FOR OIL, ???, PROFIT!$!$!$

Americans aren't about to fall for that right now. Instead, we're seeing anger at the rich along with steady approval ratings for President Obama (I still kind of love typing that) and Paul Krugman's rock star status as he attempts to pull Obama's economic team further left only growing. It's time for ideas again, and this time it's us on the left who have them. Bernie Sanders has introduced a real single-payer health care plan in the Senate, and Sherrod Brown is having hearings discussing the New Deal. We can be the ones with the ideas this time around.