Disaster capitalists are primed to swoop in and prey on the economic wreckage of Haiti, say proponents of Naomi Klein’s 2008 book, The Shock Doctrine. The left-wing activist-author’s theory states that governments and corporations exploit disaster-shocked populations by pushing through unpopular corporatist reforms.
A Facebook group entitled “No Shock Doctrine for Haiti” already has more than 32,000 members.
“Direct corporate interests are swarming to the honey of the reconstruction effort,” says Adam Ramsay, the group’s Edinburgh-based founder “[Corporations] are pushing for the privatization of Haiti where it hasn’t already been sold off.” Ramsay’s group wants all governmental aid to Haiti offered as grants, not loans; chief among its findings is a quote from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing Washington think tank. It issued a statement within 24 hours of the earthquake that said, “In addition to providing immediate humanitarian assistance, the U.S. response to the tragic earthquake in Haiti offers opportunities to reshape Haiti’s long-dysfunctional government and economy as well as to improve the public image of the United States in the region.” That was rewritten within hours, after it was posted on Klein’s website.
Ramsay and Klein have their opponents: Johan Norberg, author of In Defence of Global Capitalism and an outspoken critic of Klein’s shock doctrine theory, says, “[Klein] thinks that the reforms she offers would improve the economy and help people. It’s a terrible lack of imagination to think that her opponents do not share those intentions, ambitions and hopes.” But Klein and her Facebook army appear to be gaining traction. Last week, the International Monetary Fund approved a US$114-million no-interest, condition-free loan to Haiti, and said that it will work with donors to try to delete all Haitian debt. Klein called the move “unprecedented,” and attributed it to increasing public pressure.