Cato Institute
Briefing Paper
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One of Klein's
tions. She also never mentions that he con-
Chilean (and Russian, and Yugoslav) econo-
sidered ending the draft his biggest political
my collapse under the weight of the old poli-
cies. He didn't, because he thought that it
methods to make
was better for people's well-being and their
This misrepresentation is hardly unique.
Friedman the
countries' freedom in the long run that they
Klein also blames Friedman and Chicago eco-
had functioning economies. Friedman's
nomics for the actions of the International
villain is to take
actual views thus amounted to an anti-shock
Monetary Fund during the Asian financial cri-
quotes out of
doctrine. The Chilean example shows the
sis and the Sri Lankan government's confisca-
opposite of what Klein thinks it does.
tion of the land of fishing families to build
luxury hotels after the tsunami. Yet the fact is
that Friedman thought that the IMF should-
Cut and Paste
n't be involved in Asia, and he held that gov-
ernments should be forbidden from expropri-
As seen above, one of Klein's preferred
ating property to give it to private developers.
methods to make Friedman the villain is to
Of course, Klein could argue that Friedman
take quotes out of context. But sometimes his
was in some sense a source of inspiration for
words are too far from what Klein claims
those policies, even though he was opposed to
about him, and then she just stays silent about
them. But she doesn't do that. She pretends
Friedman's real views. The most obvious
that he agreed with them, and that that is
example is that she holds Milton Friedman
what he and other Chicago economists want-
responsible for the Iraq War, to which she
ed all along.
devotes the longest part of her work.
One wonders if Klein has missed what
She claims that Friedman was a "neocon-
Friedman thought about these things. That
servative"23 and thus in favor of an aggressive
seems unlikely, however, because she actually
American foreign policy, and she argues that
quotes from interviews where he opposes the
Iraq was invaded so that Chicago-style policies
Iraq War and the IMF's actions in Asia, but then
could be implemented there. Klein even goes
pretends that those specific sentences aren't
so far as to suggest that Bush administration
there. So perhaps she is trying to deceive the
officials disbanded the Iraqi army and de-
reader. Or perhaps someone is deceiving her?
Baathified the government because they are
Here is a hypothesis: This book was never
neoliberals who dislike the public sector,24 but
really about Friedman. It started as a book on
nowhere does she mention Friedman's actual
the Iraq War, but Klein soon realized that it
views about the war. Friedman himself said: "I
could be expanded into a book on crisis and
was opposed to going into Iraq from the
capitalism generally. But even in her first arti-
cle on "disaster capitalism" in The Nation in
beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the
May 2005 there is no mention of Friedman,28
simple reason that I do not believe the United
and her work never reveals any sort of famil-
States of America ought to be involved in
aggression."25 And this was not just one war
iarity with him or his work--she seems to
that he happened to oppose. In 1995, he
think that the neoclassical Chicago school
described his foreign policy position as "anti-
and the Austrian school of economics are
basically the same thing,29 and as previously
interventionist." Speaking of the Gulf War, he
said it was "more nearly justified than other
noted, she thinks that Milton Friedman is a
recent foreign interventions," but concluded
neoconservative. But sometime during her
that the arguments for it were "fallacious."26
research, perhaps when Friedman died and
In other words, the person whom Klein
every paper and magazine wrote stories
accuses of welcoming wars and coups could
about him, she realized that she could get the
not even bring himself to support a war to
world's free-market guru into her story.
stop the direct aggression of Iraq against
According to Klein's credits, and if we
Kuwait, much less other American interven-
exclude all the field researchers she used, 12