Cato Institute
Briefing Paper
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Klein frequently
U.S. politicians used Hurricane Katrina to
a comparison shows that Argentina lagged
introduce "a fundamentalist version of capi-
behind the gains in freedom made by nonvio-
exaggerates the
talism" in New Orleans.46 This is her descrip-
lent Sweden, which went from 5.62 to 6.63
between 1975 and 1985. Sweden is a country
tion of the introduction of more charter
elements in
Klein praises for practicing "democratic social-
schools--publicly funded and controlled
ism."40 Or consider Malaysia, which went from
schools run most often by nonprofit groups,
anything that she
6.43 to 7.13 and is another one of the "mixed,
which Klein confuses with Friedman's pro-
can associate
managed economies" Klein prefers.41 But
posal to introduce a school voucher system.
with a crisis.
Argentina tortured, so in Klein's world, it has
She exaggerates not just the nature of the
to be on the fast track to liberalism.
change, but also its extent. She writes that the
According to Klein, Latin America's South-
school board used to run 123 public schools,
ern cone was "the first place where the con-
but after the hurricane it only ran 4, whereas
temporary religion of unfettered free markets
the number of charter schools increased from
escaped from the basement workshops of the
7 to 31. She doesn't mention that this was
University of Chicago and was applied in the
right after the hurricane and the result of the
real world."42 In fact, after the military dicta-
school board's being much slower in reopen-
torship supposedly applied those ideas with
ing its schools. As of September 2007, the
religious zeal, Argentina's economy was less
board ran 47 schools and there were 44 char-
ter schools.47
free than all Eastern European communist
In another instance she misrepresents the
economies tracked by EFW, including Poland,
Hungary, and Romania.43
ideas of the economist John Williamson, who
How does Klein manage to turn an econo-
coined the term "Washington Consensus," by
my that was less liberal than the planned
inserting an "all" before his recommendation
economies of Eastern Europe in 1985 into a
that "state enterprises should be privatized."
Chicago laboratory? Once again, she relies on
In fact, however, Williamson has opposed
imaginative metaphors. For example, some
general privatization. Instead, he has recom-
Argentinean prisoners were dehumanized by
mended that governments hold on to enter-
being forced to choose between more torture
prises when it is difficult to create competi-
for themselves and more torture for a fellow
tion (he mentions public transport) or when
prisoner. Because Klein thinks that the free
there are externalities (for example, water sup-
market is a zero-sum game, she interprets this
But it is important for Klein to portray
abuse as a way of forcing the prisoners into
Williamson as a radical for two reasons. The
becoming individualists. According to Klein,
first reason is that this helps to make the
"they had succumbed to the cutthroat ethos at
the heart of laissez-faire capitalism."44
institutions of the Washington Consensus
And on the next page, she presents a graph-
(the U.S. government, the IMF, the World
ic connection: A posh shopping mall in
Bank) seem like radical Friedmanite organi-
Buenos Aires has been built where there was
zations and part of a global Chicago crusade.
once a torture center. Klein's conclusion: "The
The second reason is that Williamson is the
Chicago School Project in Latin America was
only economist from whom she has actually
quite literally built on the secret torture
found a quote asking whether it might be
camps."45 So if they had built a Social Security
good to provoke a smaller crisis (inflation) to
office there instead, would it have been a
get acceptance for reforms. Granted, it was
graphic proof of the close connection between
just a question at a conference in 1993 to pro-
the welfare state and torture?
voke a discussion, but that alone was enough
It doesn't often get as far-fetched as this,
for Klein to write on the next page that this
but Klein frequently exaggerates the free-mar-
was now "part of a global strategy" and
ket elements in anything that she can associ-
through the rest of the book write as if it was
what all liberal economists now believed.49
ate with a crisis. For example, she writes that