Naomi Klein is so smart that listening to her is like making love. Everything she says is a revelation and delivered in person like this, feels as intimate as a kiss. Plus she has the same haircut that Barbara Streisand had in the '60s when she was rising to fame so I think of her as a superstar of the Bigger Brain set. Charismatic without being affected, she still speaks with lots of "uhm"s and running together of her words as if talking to peers at a dinner party. We learned that both her parents went to Stanford, but as far as I can make out from Wickipedia, she dropped out of college, returning later for some un-named degree. No enclosure of the mind here.
Given that Stanford is a setting of intellectual rigor coupled with conservative sentiment, I thought this talk would be a good contrast to her appearance at the lefty revivalist meeting atmosphere of Bioneers that we will be attending on Sunday. Plus it was free and Dave wanted to go too and we also met up with Bart from the Energy Bulletin. Naomi joked that the economists probably stayed away in droves. Still it was standing room only.
Here interviewing Naomi is Teri Karl, a Stanford professor knowledgeable in oil politics, who started the evening with a question her colleagues wanted answered which was why did she connect torture with disaster capitalism? This is the part that critics ripped her apart for. She stood by her thesis with even greater confidence for having had the book embraced by those in Latin America who understood the part that torture played in making sure that their socialist leaders did not dare to oppose the unpopular policies of deregulated market capitalism that were being forced on them.
And speaking of deregulated market capitalism, Naomi said that the recent market crash is equivalent to the Berlin wall coming down on Milton Friedman's school of free market capitalism. She also said that there was no way that Alan Greenspan could not have foreseen the bubble bursting on the suprime mortgages. That's why they call them bubbles, duh. Greenspan says he didn't count on the dishonesty of bankers. Hello Greed. She did not mention that he might have done it on purpose though I don't think she would put it past those in power. What she did say was that "deregulated capitalism is a crisis producing machine". And that power will exploit the crisis to put through unpopular policies like privatizing social security and healthcare.
She commended people for opposing the bailout and attributed this to historical memory of the Patriot Act being shoved down our throats. (I also attributed it to people having read Shock Doctrine). She said that the bailout was planned six months in advance of Lehman going down. But because it was only 2 1/2 pages long congress people actually read it and tried to get a better deal. Then it was loaded up with tax cuts in the senate and was passed.
This crash, she said, is the Republicans insurance against an Obama presidency because anytime a vote about social services comes up they can say we don't have any money; we have to let the economy recover with more deregulation. She expressed confidence that Obama was going to win. She pointed out that he had properly named this crisis by blaming the ideology of deregulation and every time he did that his numbers went up. But he was also admitting that he was taking his advice from ...and here I didn't get their names, but they are Wall St. people. This was a wink to Wall St. that nothing was going to change despite his attack on deregulation and he was just saying that part about deregulation for the campaign. She said we should make sure to hold him to that attack on the ideology because that is how we will resist it. We must insist that he stop taking advice from the people who created this mess and push him so that he has no choice because "the people" insist. And we could insist that the new treasurer of secretary not be from Wall St.
We know what to expect, she said. There is no conspiracy here on the part of the opposition. Their privatization agenda is there for all to see. The question is do we have the courage to resist. They will propose cutting social spending, protecting the military and more tax cuts for the rich. She held up Argentina as an example of resistance since they have had the most experience with the privatization model and had been held up by the IMF as a world model. They protested en mass in 2002 and went through three presidents in 5 days in their journey to re-democratize Argentina. She speaks from the passion of having lived there witnessing this.
What we must do, she said, is insist that another revenue stream be found, ie taxing windfall profits for instance and hedge funds or better yet, making deals with the banks that are being bailed out that will give taxpayers back a revenue stream. We must not be intimidated by the Republicans saying that there is no money. The real legacy of Milton Friedman, she said, is his having created a crisis of confidence by making economics into this complex, scientific, computer modeled thing that no one can understand. By doing this, Freidman removed economics from political debate and left it in the hands of "experts". It is our job to question these experts.
Funding the green energy movement with venture capitalism, she said, was a disaster in the making because venture capitalism is a boom time model. We must use public money. She mentioned that the infrastructure would be the next bubble, but didn't elaborate.
This crisis is an opportunity as much for us as for them. Even the experts admit that they are in over their heads. We should not wait for things to get worse. Things are bad enough already, she said. We have this opening to make this crisis into a moment of social justice.
It's nice to be talked to like an adult and I was excited to have a response to the "but we must do something" crowd and then said crowd won't talk about how Wall St. is running away with our money while we ask so little in return. Naomi Klein has done so much already to help me understand how the world works. It was a bonus to also be offered the key to changing it for the better. Revolution anyone?
Naomi Klein at Stanford
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