Open John Perkins' "New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," and you'd think you were reading a pulpy thriller from the airport bookstand. Stories include dark alleys, secret missions and CIA operatives dispatched to assassinate democratically-elected officials.
But according to Perkins, it's true. His role in this matter was as a staid-but-impressive-sounding Chief Economist for a privately-owned consulting firm. His job, as he describes it, was to produce inflated economic growth projections and encourage heads of state to take out big loans from the World Bank to finance these infrastructure projects.
Perkins' firm and others would take contracts to build the infrastructure: roads, electric grids, oil pipelines, etc. and get paid whether or not the projected economic growth materialized. If it didn't, all the better: The country would be vulnerable to developed countries' whims as it struggled to pay back the loans it approved under duress. For example, in one of his first projects in Indonesia in the '60s:
Perkins' boss Charlie intones while puffing on a cigar: "Speaking of oil, we all know how dependent our country is on oil. Indonesia can be a powerful ally to us in that regard. So, as you develop this master plan, please do everything you can to make sure that the oil industry and all the others that serve it -- ports, pipelines, construction companies -- get whatever they are likely to need in the way of electricity for the duration of the twenty-five year plan."
Unfortunately, in the intervening decades, the intersections between big corporations and government have only gotten more insidious. TriplePundit spoke to Perkins to find out more.
As Perkins described in our interview, the corporatocracy is: "a vast network of people who run global corporations, collaborating governments and the extremely wealthy who are deeply tied in to this system." The system includes a revolving door between plum consulting gigs and government office.
Perkins is quick to point out that this isn't a global conspiracy: "They don't get together in secret meetings and plot to do evil." Rather, each group is individually driven by the same goal: to maximize profits regardless of the social and environmental costs. This is the system Perkins calls the death economy.
"We've really created a global empire; it's a corporate empire; it's controlled by big corporations; the government is controlled by big corporations. It's based on ravaging the earth and warfare, and it's a terrible failure -- it's not working."
The death economy engages "General Dynamics and Raytheon to make missiles and tanks and armored plating for people's bodies," after creating a fear of terrorism, Perkins explained. Fear of the spread of communism used to drive Perkins' work in the '60s. Now, "it's insurgents, immigrants, terrorists, muslims, muslim terrorists."
But Perkins urges us not to take the bait. "The fact of the matter is that the real enemy is the system. There's no such thing as global terrorism -- it doesn't exist. There are global acts of terror." But there is no single, principal that unites al Queda, Somali pirates and FARC in Colombia. The only thing that unites the members of these groups is enough desperation follow a fanatic.
"If you want to deal with terrorism and what gets called 'the immigration problem,' we need to do away with the situation that creates a scenario in which people want to or have to flee their countries in order to survive. If we want to do away with terrorism, we need to do away with the circumstances in which people will turn to fanatics. Let's try to change their situation. In all these cases, the answer is to create a global economy that works."
"Everyone can pick a corporation and go after them. Scratch that, let's say everyone can pick a corporation and help them survive in a new reality, the reality of the life economy. We want to help these corporations to be successful at creating a world that our children will thank us for inheriting."
To learn more check out the New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man or attend a book signing to talk with John Perkins in person.
Image credits: Book jacket, Google Screenshot
Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California.
When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.