economic hit man

Editors' Note:  I wrote this in 2011 for a small business class I was teaching. The prediction I make a the end is more apparent today. The article is an (obvious) extrapolation from John Perkins'  Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Berrett-Koehler (2004), which I highly recommend along with Perkins' other books. Perkins narrates a 2-minute cartoon version of his work here.

Basically, the Global Corporate Elites (GCEs), in the form of the IMF or the WTO, send a privately contracted Economic Hit Man (EHM) into a country which is living just fine, thank you very much (TYVM), albeit living as it has lived for hundreds if not thousands of years.

"We can give you electricity!" whispers the EHM to a local Leader.  "We can build a dam over your river and create a power plant! You will have lights and power to run machines. You will be a hero and go down in history!"

 The Leader is usually, eventually, seduced.  The damn dam is built. Of course, the cost for the dam is extended through a loan, from the IMF, to the country itself, not the leader who sold out his country. The loan carries a hefty interest rate.  The people, who had always made their living from the land, suddenly are a) displaced (by the damn dam) and/or b) taxed to pay back the loan for the damn dam.  Either way, their "primitive", "subsistence", FREE and AUTONOMOUS lifestyle ENDS. Abruptly.  They must now work at a job. Probably at the damn dam. They may have to feed the people who work at the damn dam, or clean their houses, etc.  Suddenly, these formerly independent people are a "Third World Emerging Nation" receiving "aid" (HAH!!) from a "benevolent" "First World". 

Then, because the people cannot repay the loan with interest by cleaning toilets at the damn dam offices, the "benevolent" GCEs decide that this formerly independent doing-just-fine-thank-you-very-much country, which it has now "taken under its wing" would be a Very Good Place to grow coffee to sell to the "First World". Or a Very Good Place to mine uranium.  Or, a Very Good Place to raise a particular type of fish foreign to that environment (thus wiping out every other fish species and leaving families who've fished for centuries suddenly unable to feed themselves.)  Or a Very Good Place to grow bananas (Recognize Jamaica in this.), so they will hire a dark skinned person with beautiful teeth and a big smile to climb up a lone banana tree and bring down bananas – oh, and maybe share them with a cute little monkey (There are no monkeys in Jamaica.) and they will film this and use it – along with paid endorsements from medical professionals – to tell people in the "First World" that they will get much more energy for their cubicle job if their corporate packaged breakfast cereal includes a corporate plantation grown banana sliced over it and if they are good and savvy consumers, they will buy lots of bananas, which do not naturally grow any place any of their ancestors have ever lived. 

It all works together.

Actually, the GCE's had this in mind when they hired the EHM in the first place, because they can grow the bananas under conditions and with chemicals not smiled upon in the First World but much more profitable. And, suddenly, this "Emerging" country is a full fledged colony of the First World, growing a monocrop at cheap prices for dining tables in four-star First World restaurants or mining toxic metals for the First World's computer chips. Suddenly, this "Emerging" country is mired in debt. Its formerly self-sufficient residents who lived on the land in ecologically compatible and sustainable simple housing now live in IMF-financed (more Debt) squalid flats which their government cannot afford to keep up (and where the electricity -- for which they have given up so much -- often doesn't work).  They have little to eat and western rags to wear. (Formerly, they may not have seen the "need" for clothing.) Suddenly this "Emerging" country is a "Developing" country.

The "First World" corporate media then produces stories of the "plight" of this "Developing" nation, where people foolishly have too many children, children they cannot afford, and where those children live in squalid conditions.  Global corporate foundations, which the GCE's set up to influence public opinion, then encourage "First World" consumer-citizens to send money. (Are you following this?  They take over the land and reap huge profits, then get the "First World" consumers to pay them to help soften the suffering of the "Third World" people whose lives they've ruined. OK?  Just checking.) We are encouraged to aid them in coming to America or the UK for an education. We are encouraged to send doctors or dentists or teachers to "help them develop" so they can become a "democracy."  And, we dutifully send missionaries and our punishing god to teach them that the way to deal with the pain they go through for our breakfast cereal is to have faith that there's another life after this one and that it's better.

In other words, we finish the job. 

We compound the problem we have created by cementing these people into the System which caused it.  And, the end result?  We get cheap bananas, shipped thousands of miles to our breakfast cereal, which we eat while reading a newspaper which mentions nothing of what's actually going on.

And, occasionally, we hear of violence in this "Developing nation", where a healthier, more autonomous, more satisfying, more natural life has been ripped asunder and replaced with a life of "third place" status, where homes in the open on one's own land are replaced with hastily built slum rentals, where drugs and weapons are pushed to one's disenfranchised young men on payday.  "Tsk! Tsk!" we think.  "Those poor ignorant, primitive, backward people need to learn how to work together and stop their old savage ways." And, we click to a different channel, sipping our coffee or gulping our Red Bull and heading to the frig for a bite. So smug. And, so complicit.

Once in a while, back at the top of our story, the Leader may tell the EH Man "No, thank you."  That is a Good and Wise Leader, right?  That Leader cares for her or his nation and can resist flashy temptations in favor of true value and substance.  Yes, true, and that Leader can be easily replaced. If the privately contracted EHM cannot accomplish the job, he has other countries to visit. And, the First World has other Means.  In come the Provocateurs. Weapons are introduced to different groups, rumors spread, a coup begun. The Good and Wise Leader loses her head. Or, at least her job. Interestingly, the New Leader who is "Elected" is a Friend of the IMF and truly sees the Need for benevolent development.

And, now as our story is ending, as rape and pillage and massacre and genocide have been visited on pretty much the entire Earth by the Benevolent Global Corporate Elite in our names (They were Doing It All for Us, don't you know? To Spread Democracy and The American Way! To Honor the fallen heros -- our young men and women who were often sent, if all else failed, to help Convince the Leader of the developing nation to see their way to doing the Right Thing -- and to allow wealth to Trickle Down to all the earth's people!  That's why the GCE did it!  And, we should be Proud Americans for it!)  -- so now, as our story is ending, as all nations of the world are either already fully "Developed" (natural resources used up and the Workers turned into Consumers) or "Emerging"  the GCE must continue to Feed, you see.  You DO see that, don't you?  And, since they've eaten their way through all the world, all that's left is,…Home. 

So, now it's Europe's turn. And coming soon, American's turn.   You DO see why that's necessary, don't you?  You won't mind becoming a Third World nation, will you, if it means spreading Democracy to the entire world. 

Will you?



Read John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man and The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

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