The New Road To Serfdom
I’ve got review up over at In These Times of Naomi Klein’s much-discussed new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
Here’s an excerpt:
In the early ’80s, as Margaret Thatcher attempted to hack away at England’s substantial public sector, she found a frustrating degree of public resistance. The closer she got to the bone, the more the patient wriggled and withdrew. Thatcher doggedly persisted, yet her pace wasn’t fast enough for right-wing Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek, her idol and ideological mentor. You see, in 1981, Hayek had traveled to Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s Chile, where, under the barbed restraints of dictatorship and with the guidance of University of Chicago-trained economists, Pinochet had gouged out nearly every vestige of the public sector, privatizing everything from utilities to the Chilean state pension program. Hayek returned gushing, and wrote Thatcher, urging her to follow Chile’s aggressive model more faithfully.
In her reply, Thatcher explained tersely that “in Britain, with our democratic institutions and the need for a higher degree of consent, some of the measures adopted in Chile are quite unacceptable. Our reform must be in line with our traditions and our Constitution. At times, the process may seem painfully slow.”
The Hayek/Thatcher exchange is one of many revealing historical nuggets unearthed in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein’s ambitious history of neoliberalism. Hayek isn’t the star of The Shock Doctrine—that dubious honor goes to his protegé and fellow Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman. But Klein’s totemic, capacious and brilliant alternate history of the last three decades of global political economy can best be understood as a latter-day response to Hayek’s classic right-wing manifesto, The Road to Serfdom.