Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time.
What was holding me back? I had the feeling that this book would make me very angry. What little I knew about it could be summarized as: corporations and corrupt government doing bad things in secret.
It is the kind of book that will make you into a pessimist (if you aren’t already one).
I read the version that was published in 2004. I hear there is a newer one out now. I’ve no idea how the two compare.
The book is written by John Perkins, who was an economic hit man. In short, he was one of the people who went to foreign countries and mucked about with their resources – for the financial benefit of corporations (and, sometimes, the United States government).
His job was to convince foreign governments that he was offering something that would not only increase that government’s economy, but also to improve the lives of their people. But, that’s not how things went.
One of the goals of the economic hit men is to trick foreign governments to accepting financial and infrastructural help from them. The country would then have things built such as dams or utilities.
The foreign governments were convinced this was a good idea because people like John Perkins fed them misinformation. They fudged the numbers and made projects look affordable. What was really happening, though, was the country was being put into debt that they were entirely unaware of.
It is a very complex situation, and I’m simplifying it in this book review. What I learned from this book is that there were (and probably still are) a group of rich, selfish, powerful people who have absolutely no conscience and who think it’s perfectly fine to cheat and lie to get what they want.
Somewhere in the book, there is an example of greed resulting in great harm to people who are the least able to defend themselves against it. There’s a group of indigenous people who live in a forest/jungle area. Their land is being forcibly taken from them. The people get murdered when they try and defend their land, and the press spins it into a story where the indigenous people are at fault.
Meanwhile, the rich get richer.
Early on in the book, John Perkins shares moments where he questioned himself. Maybe, just maybe… he wasn’t the “good guy” after all. But, then he would go ahead and do his job anyway.
There is an example where he spent time with a group of local people, who were nice to him and whom he liked. Perkins knew full well that what he was doing was going to cause economic havoc in their country. He had drinks with these people, who treated him like a friend – and didn’t even warn them about what was to come.
Economic hit men are assholes. But, there are worse people. John Perkins mentions that when the economic hit men fail to convince a government to do their bidding, the “jackals” come in. The leader of the stubborn country winds up dead.
Eventually, toward the end of the book, John Perkins has an epiphany. By this point, he had what he thought could be a romance with a co-worker abruptly end. He’d gotten divorced and lost contact with his child. He was no longer convinced that what he was doing was right.
But he’d gotten rich from his work, so he continued doing it.
A woman he met was able to open his eyes to the damage he’d been doing to people. Perkins started to see who he had become. This change inspired him to quit his job, and start writing this book. Of course, by then, the damage he helped to cause had been done. Nothing could fix it.
I’ve left a whole lot of detail out of this book review because there’s just too much to adequately cover. It is a non-fiction book that will destroy whatever optimism you had in corporations and governments. It have no idea if this sort of thing is still going on today… but sometimes, I wonder.
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.
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