Whether on the streets or on social media, no one can miss the fried mental status of Americans. Some of us have carried on with normal lives during covid lockdowns or the scare, but we see millions living lives of fear and hysteria. It does seem overblown. Using a framework from a pre-financial crisis pop economic book, it is easy to see America is going through an oligarchical imposed episode of shock doctrine. A tool used so effectively in the empire has now been turned inward.
Shock Doctrine is a great title to label the multiple instances where the machinery of big business, the US foreign policy apparatus, and academia could install economic policies known as the Washington Consensus. In short, create a crisis, install a new government, while everyone is reeling this team installs the new economic policies and if there is failure and chaos, keep instituting more and more free trade, free floating prices and wages, and austerity. It is a banker’s delight. Capital can move freely and speculate for quick gains while the masses get burned by the economic shock.
It is not economic shock though, not on its own. Shocks are usually political but can be disaster or war related. Everyone is confused. As the economic changes create chaos, people clamor for the new regime to do anything to ease the pain. Klein uses very clear examples of political disruption (Chile, Poland, Russia, etc) creating an opening for the neoliberal economic agenda and wholesale pillaging of national assets. Post-Asian Flu economic reforms were forced on nations and transformed the entire region. It was always for the same suite of policies: the Washington Consensus. At the end, there is always this stance of changes being set in stone because the IMF & World Bank are there to enforce the rules. No reforms, no loans. No loans if you go back on your reforms. Klein is a standard issue Canadian liberal, but the subject matter and narrative read much clearer today. It was alien and foreign then.
Shock Doctrine was published in 2007, and the 2008 global financial crisis and consequences look straight out of shock doctrine’s neoliberal playbook. Municipal assets have been auctioned off to crony insiders to pay bankers whole. Bailouts made hedge funds and Wall Street bondholders whole while impoverishing Greeks, Italians, etc. The West even saw an austerity wave in the EU to settle the ship after trillions in bailouts and liquidity injections to keep banking institutions alive. We bound our nations to keep a specific piece of the system whole rather than the reverse.
Looking at this book in 2020, you see it all around you. Covid hit. Major state governments took the most aggressive lockdown stance across the US. The political class stabbed its citizenry and then the aid it provided was a one time check and some unemployment bonus. Evictions were paused. Student debt payments were paused under certain conditions. The major winners in the CARES Act were big business interests. The 2021 Democrat covid bill used family checks as a shield for public relations to bail out blue states horrible finances and pension problems.
How many people cared? This is why the shocks have been steady and the hysteria has been so long going despite the truth that 99.9% of people under 65 survive covid. All those states could have taken a different approach. Big business sectors like travel might have suffered or might have had an all Millenial and Zoomer clientele. The lockdowns were the shock to justify aid. The never ending hysteria drove people to want some help due to the deadly virus, forgetting it was their governments that choose the lockdown forever path.
Never let a crisis go to waste. Fits here. The year long hysteria is creating shell shocked people who won’t bother to object to the silly hold up of relief checks because the rest of the bill needs to be hammered out. Too large a mass of people are in a daze or has had their brains fried by the hysteria to not demand a one page up and down vote for cash. They can’t even protest that ridiculous hold up of $1400 checks for all Americans, but first we need to send a trillion to states and businesses. Protesting would be bad in this deadly plague.
Klein documented how the success in getting Chile and Argentina emboldened the neoliberal academics to repeat the process at every opportunity, even helping make opportunities. The dark but probable prediction for America is that shock doctrine has come home to stay. They don’t need to bring the banking system to a near fail anymore. They don’t even need a real plague. They just need to create a climate of fear on a steady enough basis for just enough of the population to wither in until legislation is signed.