Category Archives: Student Book Review 2014

Creating a World Without Poverty Book Review

Title of Book – Creating a World Without Poverty

Author – Muhammad Yunus

Publisher – PublicAffairs

Publishing Date – 2007

Want more info on Muhammad Yunus? Go here >

What is this book about? – In this novel Yunus focuses primarily on the multiple aspects of human nature, problems with capitalism, society’s point of view concerning the poor, definition of Microfinancing, definition of Social Business, challenges faced while opening the Grameen Bank, success of the Grameen Organizations. He also talks about his trips all around the world and how he hopes to someday lock away the past of poverty in museum, because it wont be existent.

Yunus argues that the traditional capitalism or current market-oriented economy exists for the sole mission of profit maximisation. While it cannot solve human misery, it may actually increase poverty, diseases, pollution and inequality. Therefore, he outlines his vision for a new business model-a social business model-which he believes will be an avenue to poverty alleviation. Yunus estimates that in the future these businesses will increase because human beings, he believes, are more than money making machines. They have many other drives and passions in life.

MY opinion? – honestly, the words in this book make complete sense. It is really hard for me to explain but I fully stand behind Yunus and his ideas.

Want more info still?

Hoodwinked Book Review

In Hoodwinked, Perkins lets us in on his life as an Economic Hit man.  The book consists of two parts. In part one; he speaks about the problems in our Economy. He tells us about the views of Keyes and Friedman. He also talks about how some big companies and big wigs are controlling the third world countries. Also some of the rich people in the U.S. are doing the same. But most of us are being “Hoodwinked” and can’t see these things happening. This is what he calls: “Corporatocracy”, which means when the economy and politics are controlled by corporations.


In the second half, he throws out some solutions on fixing the economy. He speaks about fixing the broken system we have to save the world. He believes we could learn a lot from China. The way their economy took off was crazy. He also poses the point of taking care of out planet, and being greener.

Perkins speaks about Capitalism. We went over that a few sections ago.

I had no idea these huge companies were taking advantage of pretty much the whole world. It is very selfish that they do not care who they are hurting.


John Perkins

ISBN 9780307589941

April 14, 2014

“The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy.”

For my second book review I read The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy written by Pietra Rivoli published by Wiley copyright of Reed Business Information.( Isbn 041648493).

Pietra Rivoli has a PhD in Finance and International Economics and a BS in Finance. The only website I found for her was

The author begins this book by purchasing a t-shirt from a bin at a Walgreens in Florida. She decides to trace where it comes from, referring to much more than just the “made in” tag. She begins by phoning a company overseas that produced the t-shirt but upon speaking to someone there found out that the actual cotton to make the shirt was from the Unites States-Texas specifically.

She researches and finds out that America is consistently among the top 2-3 producers and exporters of cotton and questions why this is so. How are cotton farmers in Texas able to out-produce cotton over so many other countries that may have cheaper labor? How have they been able to maintain this lead given the advancements in many other countries? She is able to track this success back to the farmers figuring out how to assume little to no risk for their crops. Government subsidies (on cotton they are 5-10 times higher on cotton than on soy beans, and many other crops) and guarantees on pricing and more have given these farmers ways to be successful and eliminate the many risks involved with this type of farming. The risks of labor prices and being able to find labor when the crops needed harvesting were alleviated with the Bracero program (allowing Mexican citizens to cross the borders for work.).  Developments in agriculture, equipment, fertilizers, and even GM seeds have increased output and eliminated the threats that once were very real for these types of farmers. Cotton farmers have also gained a lot of governmental sway or control which makes them even more secure and more monopolistic.

Next she followed the path of the cotton overseas to the factories where textiles, clothing and more are made. Seeing the types of conditions that the workers were subject to and their limited options for any sort of advancement made her see the freedoms that were being denied to generations of people who had little or no other options. Conditions were unsafe, the work was grueling and some people were forced to work 7 days a week.

Fast forward to some students at Georgetown hearing of these injustices and wanting to make a difference. They formed a committee and demanding that any University apparel must disclose where it was made and uphold societal standards. Once their goal was achieved she mentions that the meetings got boring-that once the change was made they needed to step forward and keep going.

The basic moral of the book, and view of the author is that we have control. Similar to the Hoodwinked book that I read for my first review the theme seems to be that small changes that we make are steps forward. As long as we keep stepping forward progress will happen.

If we think that cotton farmers shouldn’t receive such large subsidies and other perks we need to demand that it changes. American companies and consumers refusing to purchase goods from unethical companies and demanding regulations prohibiting child labor and unsafe working conditions will force others to follow suit. As much as it seems like these problems are out of our control it will be the small changes that individuals make that will be the change that the world needs.

The general consensus on the reviews that I have read for this book seem to agree with the author’s theme and thoughts on this matter. Some mentioned that she spent too much time on the subject and that the information is somewhat outdated even with her revisions. For the most part I agree with the author on her points, but agree that the book could be made shorter and the theme could have still been conveyed.

The biggest thing that I learned is how much the government really steps in, and was astounded by the amount of financial support that cotton farmers have available to them. It makes me wonder how many things like this we as consumers are unaware of.

Development as Freedom // Both as the ends and the means

Development as Freedom
by Amartya Sen; copyright 1999 by Amartya Sen
published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., ISBN: 0-375-40619-0

          The focal point of this book is a simple, yet revolutionary redefinition of economic development: “Development has to be more concerned with enhancing the lives we lead and the freedoms we enjoy.”  One might argue that improvement in people’s lives has always been the definition of development, but one must not forget that economic development has become synonymous with increasing GDP. As Joseph Stiglitz explained in the video we watched, not only is GDP an extremely crude measure of what life is actually like for the average citizen of a given nation, increasing GDP is an end goal which considers the social and environmental costs of its means of achievement as externalities. To remedy these present inadequacies of development analysis, Sen suggests that development be understood as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy, wherein expansion of freedom becomes both the primary end and the principal means of development. Having established his definition, he goes to work analyzing how it can be used to address a variety of problems including famines, unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, and population growth.

          Sen offers 5 basic types of instrumental freedoms which are important for economic development, all of which deeply interconnect and build off of each other. The most developed nation would be one which has maximized and optimized the following – “(1) political freedoms, (2) economic facilities, (3) social opportunities, (4) transparency guarantees, and (5) protective security.”  Political freedoms (1) are fairly well-known in America, including “opportunities to determine who should govern and on what principles, and also include the possibility to scrutinize and criticize authorities, to have freedom of political expression and an uncensored press, to enjoy the freedom to choose between political parties, and so on.” Economic facilities (2) include opportunities individuals have to utilize economic resources for consumption, production, or exchange. “The economic entitlements that a person has will depend on the resources owned or available for use, as well as on conditions of exchange such as relative prices and the working of the markets.” Social opportunities (3) refer to people’s abilities to receive quality education and health care. Transparency guarantees (4) refer to the extent people can trust that they will actually get what they are being offered, as well as mechanisms for recourse when this trust is broken. “Finally, no matter how well an economic system operates, some people can be typically on the verge of vulnerability and can actually succumb to great deprivation as a result of small material changes that adversely affect their lives. Protective security (5) is needed to provide a social safety net for preventing the affected population from being reduced to abject misery, starvation, or death.”

          Relating to our section on income inequality, in particular to the video of Richard Wilkinson’s TED talk, Sen shows how those getting the short end of the inequality stick are severely limited in their opportunities to survive, let alone thrive – “Relative deprivation in terms of incomes can yield absolute deprivation in terms of capabilities. Being relatively poor in a rich country can be a great capability handicap, even when one’s absolute income is high in terms of world standards. In a generally opulent country, more income is needed to buy enough commodities to achieve the same social functioning.”  To illustrate this concept Sen compares the survival rates of white American and the perennially poor black Americans with the poorer Chinese and much poorer still Indians of the state of Kerala:
Graph 1

          As a result of our outdated, simplistic notion of development a dominant school of thought among policy makers has been that human development (education, health care) is really only a luxury that rich countries can afford. Sen points out that many East Asian economies have disproved this, by greatly expanded education and later health care before breaking the poverty barrier. He explains that because these fields are so labor intensive that the relative cost is much lower in an undeveloped nation, so expanding social opportunities can be a great engine of economic growth, not the other way around like hard-nosed policy makers argue. To exemplify this Sen compares China and India, demonstrating how pre-reform China’s emphasis on education better prepared the nation to take full advantage of the market mechanism when it was later introduced, unlike India where illiteracy flourishes and growth has been mediocre.

          Sen’s thoughts on the market mechanism are interesting, and particularly relevant to us, and modern America: “The role that markets play must depend not only on what they can do but also on what they are allowed to do. There are many people whose interests are well served by the smooth functioning of markets, but there are also groups whose established Interests may be hurt by such functioning. If the latter groups are politically more powerful and influential, then they can try to see that markets are not given adequate room in the economy. This can be a particularly serious problem when monopolistic production units flourish–despite inefficiency and various types of ineptitude–thanks to insulation from competition, domestic or foreign. The high product-prices or the low product-qualities that are involved in such artificially propped-up productions may impose significant sacrifice on the population at large, but an organized and politically influential group of “industrialists” can make sure that their profits are well protected.”  Sen goes on to quote Adam Smith, showing how the father of market economics understood this problem and how it fueled his belief in the virtues of competition.

          Modern America has turned away from competition in many industries, the “latter groups” have indeed taken power as Sen has warned, insulating themselves from the negative effects of competition primarily via the ironically named ‘free market’ deregulations. (Proof that ‘economic elites’ have excessive control of policy decisions: ) Perhaps the most obvious example of this abuse is America’s food industry; Monsanto has a 90-95% complete monopoly on the domestic market for many crops including corn, cotton, soybeans, and sugar beets. The quality and safety of Monsanto’s products is highly questionable, but there is no official mechanism for scrutiny because Monsanto is deeply involved in writing the laws which regulate it and the organizations which test it for safety, manipulating both through kickbacks and the revolving door of big-business and politics.

          One thing Sen’s unique perspective does not seem to be able to handle, a subject he does not even broach, is the possibility that some people may choose not to choose. Total freedom of choice can feel quite overwhelming; Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard describes anxiety as the dizziness of freedom; [Anxiety] is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite, whereas anxiety is freedom’s actuality as the possibility of [infinite] possibility.” Avoiding the overwhelming feeling which accompanies having an unfathomable amount of choices to make and hundreds, thousands, or millions of options to choose from is a powerful driver in human psychology. Indeed, humanity has a history of willfully giving our choices away to others and biasing ourselves so as to limit our options down to a manageable handful. What would Sen say to someone who eagerly gave away their political freedom?

          The other important topic Sen does not discuss is the internet. It makes sense, this book is 15 years old; back in 1999 the internet was a like bumbling toddler. Now-a-days it is more grown-up, more expansive, incorporating all sorts of advanced utilities; people are using the rapidly evolving communication network to systematically enhance Sen’s freedom locally and globally. A great example of this is a D.C.-based ‘civic hacker’ who created a smartphone app called Capitol Bells designed for congresspeople and their staffers to track congressional proceedings in a simple format. They also receive real-time voting alarms so they can get their butts in the seats and never accidentally miss a vote. Over 250 members of the House already rely on the app, including all of the freshmen. The next step of his plan was to build, a platform for public discussion of present congressional bills, with an extremely user friendly format. The website is very new, so sample size is small, but it is designed so that users can view their overall voting record and compare it to their representative at the click of a button; also one would see how the representative’s voting pattern compares to the views of all of the participants in your district as a whole. Finally, voters themselves will be able to offer up themselves as ‘virtual candidates’ to open their voting record to the public to compare with the representative. The idea is that in districts that are particularly poorly represented, vocal virtual candidates whom strongly represent their district can ramp up electoral pressure without the current requisite of millions of dollars of campaign finance necessary to be heard.

          The big kicker of this anecdote is that he has now just begun working on integrating the website with the mobile app, using the real-estate he saved by not putting ads in his app to livestream the constituencies opinions in to the hand of the representative while they are voting. If this platform takes off the American public will have an unprecedentedly powerful tool for political expression, substantially empowering both political freedoms (1) and transparency guarantees (4). This platform is a great idea, but getting congress to lovingly incorporate the technology in to their daily life before adding in the accountability aspect is an absolutely genius approach, and we do not get such fantastic opportunities to improve the political system directly very often. It is in that spirit that I ask you, please, check the site out, see what you think, and share it with your community. If any political district reaches a critical mass of users, they can swing the next election and change the game forever. In particular the site currently needs a stronger conservative presence; as it is quite a progressive thing it is not surprising liberals first. But it is designed to be a bipartisan forum, a place for everyone to make their argument. Know anything about current affairs? Go try writing a motion!

          Overall, I find Sen’s definition of development as freedom thoroughly satisfying, though his erudite writing style is a bit strenuous to read. But I edge on that sentence style sometimes so who am I to talk… 

All quotes from Development as Freedom except for the Kierkegaard quote, found here:

Elephant and the Dragon.

The Elephant and the Dragon (2008)

-Robyn Meredith

This book was one that I liked reading and didn’t like reading. It had ideas and explanations that were new to me and also, sections that seemed lengthy and redundant. I would really get in to a chapter and find 4 pages later that she was describing the same thing in with different props and characters.

The book is a dichotomy between India and China. It’s a compare and contrast piece that gives the reader a much expanded look in to the history, cultures and workings of these countries. It is generally transitioned chapter to chapter with alternating main topics and the respective country being talked about.

The history of China and the oppressive reign of Mao basically collapsed all point of life in China. Freedoms completely eroded, properties divided by communal collectives, and separation from the outside world. The people were starved, ruined, children unschooled. They became animals of agrarian labor, which had to give up most if not all of their bounty to the govt.. all in the name of keeping Mao happy and alluding to a successful empire. Since all people die, change came gradually after his death, but the people were so brainwashed and numb, they had no spirit left. By chance a village had decided against the ways of ‘The Man’ and started a slow revolution. Eventually their leader Xiaoping decided to investigate neighboring countries and basically copied what they had done to prosper with his own well meditated twist. Make the people think and fear Communist China, while economically sell out to the Corporatocracy. He enticed, attracted and basically begged big business to come in to China.

Freedom still did not exist. Thousands of people kicked out of their villages in order to lay down infrastructure and let factories come in. he was smart by throwing the people of China a bone here and there. Little by little the people got more money, but barely enough. He knew that there was a line that would be just enough to keep revolution chances minimal. When revolts sprung up, China became Communist again and killed them. People are ‘better off’ there now, but barely. To his credit, he did insist that companies coming in share their production and technology secrets. So in a nutshell, China gets trade secrets and doesn’t have to worry about their own R&D. Kind of scary.

India has more freedoms, but still has a culture of not trusting globalization or big business thanks to the UK. Generations are fed Ghandi’s teachings and that’s jus the way it is. Slowly, the country realizes they can’t go on like this forever and starts to open it’s doors to the world. The problem?  India doesn’t quite have the heartless authoritarian way of beating it’s people down. They do it to themselves in a lot of ways through their customs and culture of misogyny and other oppressive traditions. This is not to mention their accepted system of bribery and ridiculous licenses (Much like the video we watched) When they finally decide to get serious, they run in to the hurdle of infrastructure. It doesn’t exist. Until massive amounts of money are spent to build roads, sewage, water sanitation, etc….they just can’t reach potential.

Ms. Meredith (U of M grad) compares the types of work between the two. China is more blue collar uneducated type of work where as India is the typical ‘call center’ or ‘back office’ work. She very thoroughly describes the difference in the boom time of America vs. India and China’s. Where Henry Ford had set up an ‘Assembly Line’ where multiple different workers each had a different specialized part of the process housed in one factory, the way globalization works now is like a ‘disassembly line’ or ‘SUPPLY CHAIN’ where a product travels to many different countries based on the cheapest place to assemble a specific part. This SUPPLY CHAIN drives down costs and speeds up time to get product to market.

The author also attempts to compare the rise of these economies to the US, but it always seems to fall back on a few main points. The US may havelost jobs, but hope is not gone (this is over and over through the book). At the end it culminates to the fact that the US needs to invent new jobs and most of our problems stem from our public education and the fact that we overspend. Basically she thinks if our public education had more money, we’d be okay and if people would stop filling their garages with junk and buying big houses that we could live more modestly and not think we have the right to make as much money as we do. I found this odd since she explains how in India, people that make 40k a year live like kings, with housekeepers and private drivers.I thought sending work overseas was supposed to make things cheaper for us? She explained how Indians only spend 5 dollars a month on cell phones. 5 dollars!!! It sounds like we are the ones be exploited.

It was nice that the author brought up how devastating the rise in economies in these countries are to the environment. Corporations get to go in for almost nothing, set up shop and use up natural resources like it’s going out of style, exploit and use the people for the corporations bidding and then pollute the hell out of the environment to boot. SUSTAINABLE?

All in all, it was readable and had great anecdotes and history blurbs. It was a nice soft read, but it left me wanting more, especially with solutions for us in the US.


John Perkins. The Secret of the American Empire

The Secret History of the American Empire: The truth about economic Hit Men, Jackals, and how to change the world. Separated into 65 chapters and 5 different sections, covering different countries, the author, John Perkins, takes readers through an unusual memoir. A memoir of foreign and domestic corruption amongst ruling elite and their government. (Read the book and you’ll understand why I say “their”.)

I had a bit of a hard time in the beginning taking this book seriously. The idea that someone could be an “economic hit man”, aiding companies in the bribing and scheming of money and politics to take advantage of third world countries, was a little too far out…Especially upon reading the word “Corpratocracy”, a word I never knew existed, but learned from Perkins’ book was basically everything undermining democracy. In a nut shell, companies control everything. Watch out.

During my experience reading this book I wasn’t surprised to learn of the corporal corruption raping third world countries but I was surprised by the level of espionage involved. Usually spies are saved for conversations of the military or stories and depictions on the big screen. Not often do I learn of modern examples, it’s almost making me consider a career change. I found very interesting Perkins recollection of a beautiful and seductive Colombian spy named Beatrice posed as a journalist and nearly lured Perkins into a situation that might have ended badly…potentially fatally.

What left me stirred about the whole idea of Corpratocracy was the power and weigh held within large companies, their ability to control and manipulate those in office, to get what they want. At one point in Perkins experience a CIA agent made the suggestion to Perkins that President Clinton’s near impeachment due to the scandal of Monica Lewinsky was a set up into which Clinton fell.

What’s scary is if government officials with some influence are undermining Corpratocracy, there a probably plans in action to take those officials down. Plans of rich white men. Rich, greedy, power hungry men. Men with little regard for the millions of lives that are being negatively affected and controlled by the imperialistic wants and desires of wealthy foreigners. Foreigners looking to take advantage of the third world for profit and power gains. It’s no wonder these third world countries can’t rise from poverty, their being swindled 24/7 by men with a lot of money and a lot of power. It’s frighting and enraging. I had never taken into consideration Imperialism still exists. But there are no known countries attached, just greed fueled businessmen.

To perfectly sum up this book “Perkins exposes practices that are the equivalent of a psychopath who tempts a child with candy in order to lure the child into his car, except that instead of one child at a time, these psychopaths rape and ravage whole nations of people; millions suffer because of a greedy few”.

The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals and the Truth About Global Corruption is written by John Perkins and Published by Penguin Group, New York, New York. Copyright 2007.

Quote Source:

Zero, Seven. “Customer Reviews The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World.” Customer Reviews: The Secret History of the American Empire: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.

Deep Economy

In the book Deep Economy the author Bill McKibben tries to get us, the reader, to think about happiness and how we as americans go about achieving that. I found the book to very factual, at times a little too much so. The author used facts and statistics and side stories to make his point which were sometimes lost in all the different subject changes. With the one negative side of this book already noted it was a very informational and an easy read. This book relates to our studies by the way it talks about happiness and how people as a whole are becoming less happy but getting richer. The average income per person and household has risen since the fifties but people have not gotten happier since then we’ve begun to get less happy. This book talks about eating only from where you live and naturally grown products. And while doing so the author enlightens us about the evils of corporate agriculture. Did you know there is diameter restriction on your average tomato? It must be between 53 and 63 millimeters. And there are five companies that control 75% of the global seed market.

Book Review #2: 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

In this video, Ha-Joon Chang talks about the concepts featured in his book.

Book: 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

Author: Ha-Joon Chang

Publisher: Bloomsbury Press

ISBN: 1608193381

More Info:
Chang’s personal info referenced from:


Ha-Joon Chang was born in South Korea in 1963. He has a Ph.D from the University of Cambridge where he is currently teaching, and has contributed to the Cambridge Journal of Economics. In addition to working with UN agencies such as FAO and ILO, Chang has worked as a consultant for numerous governments including the Canadian and Japanese governments. Publishing nine edited books and twelve authored books, Chang writes on a diverse selection of topics including East Asian economies, globalization, and trade policies.

As soon as I spotted this book in the book list, I knew I had to read it. This isn’t the first book I’ve read by Chang; I had the pleasure of reading Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism a few years back. Perhaps the most memorable part of that text was his view on how South Korea developed. Many free-market economists assert that todays developed economies developed because of state-supported free trade. Chang, living in South Korea during stages of rapid development, offered a firsthand account of the aggressive protectionist state programs that arguably shaped South Korea into the developed economy that they are today.

This text has 23 “chapters.” Each chapter is dedicated to refuting a commonly held misconception that pro free-market economists have. Chang offers some back story and evidence supporting his statements. The topics of these 23 chapters are as follows:

–          A free market has never existed nor can exist. Every market has boundaries.

–          It is bad for society when companies operate in the interest of their owners.

–          Individuals in rich countries have artificially high salaries.

–          The washing machine has had a greater impact on the world than the internet has (this one should sound familiar to us).

–          Humans are not entirely self-interested beings

–          More macroeconomic stability (through more stable currencies) has not made the world’s economy more stable.

–          Free markets have failed at making many poor countries rich.

–          “Capital has a Nationality” In this chapter, Chang explains the myth that are multinational corporations, saying that they are national corporations that outsource some tasks to other countries. Thus, the nation where these corporations originate benefits the most from these corporations.

–          Industry still plays a large part in the economy

–          There are many countries with a better standard of living than the United States.

–          Africa’s poor geography and climate does not necessarily mean that it must remain undeveloped.

–          The government can sometimes choose winners better than market signals can.

–          Increasing the wealth of the wealthy doesn’t necessarily help out a nation’s poorest individuals.

–          Managers’ salaries in the U.S. are too high.

–          Citizens in poor countries are more business-minded than those in rich countries.

–          Individuals are not intelligent enough to leave things to the market.

–          Increased education is better at allowing individuals to lead independent lives than it is at increasing economic development.

–          What helps business doesn’t always help society.

–          Capitalist economies have significant central planning.

–          Equal opportunities can still have unfair outcomes because people compete under different conditions.

–          Government programs, such as welfare, encourage risk taking and make people more open to change (This is a familiar concept that Jim mentioned in one of his lectures about how Canadians might be more willing to start a business because if it fails, they have their single-payer healthcare to fall back on.)

–          Today’s financial markets are too efficient.

–          Effective economic policy doesn’t require good economists. The best economic years in Japan and South Korea had economic policies written by lawyers, while China and Taiwan has engineers write their economic policies.

The previous 23 facts work to support a few main points of the text. Chang mentions in the book’s conclusion that this text was not a criticism of capitalism, but a criticism of free-market capitalism. He believes that capitalism is the least bad economic system, but it requires proper regulation to run properly. Another central point Chang makes is that a free market system does not and never has existed. Any time there were markets in history, there were constraints against those markets.

Much of what Chang discussed in this text was relevant to our class discussions. Chang offered a particularly interesting view on the U.S.’s standard of living compared to other countries. The commonly held misconception is that the U.S. has the highest standard of living in the world. While this assertion holds true when looking at the U.S.’s total wealth, this belief fails to consider the high levels of inequality present in the United States. The poor health and high crime in the United States is a symptom of this inequality. In addition, Americans work far more hours per person each year than Europeans do.

Unit 6 of our course focuses on the issue of inequality. Chang dispels the myth that inequality is good as it allows the rich to grow the economy, which will trickle down to the nation’s poorest individuals. These beliefs fail to consider that the economy has not experienced large growth in three decades of policies supporting the rich, and that trickle-down does happen, but only in small amounts when it is left to the market.

A few facts stood out to me while I was reading this text. Perhaps the most surprising was Chang’s belief that there is no such thing as a true free market. Most of us have been told that the U.S. is a “free-market” economy, so why is Chang saying that there is no such thing as a free market? The truth is that every market, including the U.S., has set rules and boundaries that businesses within an economy must follow. For there to be a true “free-market” requires an entire separation of economy and state, which is not present anywhere in the world. This fact fits in with the rest of the text because it refutes the belief that a certain country is successful because of “free-markets.”

Chang claims in this text that free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich. If you can recall Chile’s transformation from a military dictatorship to a market economy with low inflation, it seems like Chile’s economy would have comparable success to most western democracies if free-market rhetoric were true. While Chile has had economic growth due to liberalization, it wasn’t enough to make Chile rich.

Chang only mentions healthcare briefly a few times throughout the text. One of these times, he says that the U.S. healthcare system is inefficient. This leads me to believe that Chang favors a single-payer healthcare system over a private, insurance-based system which the U.S. resembles. It would have benefitted this text for Chang to expand on the shortcomings and inefficiencies present in the U.S. healthcare system. In fact, he could have used this comparison to demonstrate a shortcoming of capitalism.

When explaining the thought process of free-marketers, Chang states that they think the following:

“This is why other countries seek to emulate the US, illustrating the superiority of the free-market system, which the US most closely (if not perfectly) represents.”

However, Chang fails to state who considers the U.S. to most closely represent a free-market system. Most think tanks who offer a ranking of economic freedom, such as the Frasier Institute or the Cato Institute, rarely rank the U.S. in the top ten freest economies. Chang’s argument would have been more convincing and powerful if he would have substantiated by what standards the U.S. most closely represents a free-market system.

This text offered me new insights to topics, including the topic of Africa’s development. Like many people, I accepted the theory of environmental determinism, and believed Africa will remain undeveloped due to geography. However, Chang countered my misinformed view by offering examples of economic growth in Africa and explaining that many other countries have developed in the face of unfavorable environmental conditions. In addition, Chang refuted my commonly held misconception that increased education makes a country richer by comparing the levels of education of rapidly developing economies to stagnant economies. In many instances, economies with lower levels of education are capable of developing faster than those with higher levels of education.

The Secret History of an American Empire

The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hitmen, Jackals, and the Truth About Global Corruption, opens with the author, John Perkins, need to confess. He briefly discusses that this is a sequel to his first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Throughout the book he discusses his experiences as an Economic Hit Man (or EHM for short). From what I gathered from reading the book is EHMs travel all over the world to find new places for big businesses to take advantage of. Perkins divides the book into five main parts, four of the parts being parts of the world he traveled and the last part about how the world can be changed.

Two of the surprising experiences that Perkins had occurred in Indonesia. First he discusses the use of geishas. He had met two women while in Indonesia that said they work for businessmen to get information from other businessmen. One of the girls say “it doesn’t matter how we get them, as long as we are getting results.” They mention that they mostly deal with men in the oil business, this makes sense because this is one of the largest global businesses to be in. Another surprising fact that is found in this book is the idea of disaster profiteering. Perkins compares the tsunami of 2004 to a war in a sense that both are profitable to big business. US troops were sent in because most leaders and power suppliers were wiped out. They were pretty much pushed towards a treaty with the people most benefiting were from the US government.

I felt that the book read more like a spy novel rather than something that I want to use to gain insight on economics. The way the author states that he is doing a huge favor to the world by revealing what big business and government are doing behind the scenes is annoying. He also talks about many big businesses trying to bribe millions of dollars to not publish his book, if that were the case I think he would have taken the money. What is beneficial though is that he says he experienced all these thing which in my opinion is better than reading something by someone who has the outside perspective. In my opinion I would read this book more for entertainment rather than educational purposes.

The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals and the Truth About Global Corruption is written by John Perkins and Published by Penguin Group, New York, New York. Copyright 2007.




“The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” In Review

The Book- The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

The Author- Naomi Klein

Two ISBN numbers were given:

ISBN-10- 0312427999

ISBN-13: 978-0312427993

Copyright– 2007 (by the author Naomi Klein)

Publisher- Picador

Publisher’s website-


How the book, and by extension this review, is organized.


The book is separated into eight sections (seven main sections and a conclusion), and twenty-one chapters. I am going to break the overview down in a similar matter so it is easy to follow. The eight sections that we will be looking into are; Two Doctor Shocks: Research and Development, The First Test: Birth Pangs, Surviving Democracy: Bombs Made of Laws, Lost in Transition: While We Wept, While We Trembled, While We Danced, Shocking Times: The Rise of the Disaster Capitalism Complex, Iraq, Full Circle: Overshock, The Moveable Green Zone: Buffer Zones and Blast Walls, and the Conclusion.


Section One- Two Doctor Shocks: Research and Development

What you need to know from Chapter One– The book starts with an examination of physical shock treatment, and its long-term and short-term affects on patients. Shock therapy is looked into from multiple fronts: how it is used as torture, how it is used in war, and how it is used as a treatment for mental illness. The chapter focuses on the work of Ewen Cameron, a doctor who thought he could use shock therapy to strip away bad behaviors and traits, and replace them with good behaviors and traits. We are introduced to one of his patients; Gail, who underwent so much therapy she has to write her experiences and thoughts down so she doesn’t forget they happened. Cameron could wipe things clean, but he couldn’t install new things. The book tries to connect the experiences of physical shock therapy to Economic shock therapy.

What you need to know from Chapter Two– The second chapter focuses on concepts we have already encountered within the course: Milton Friedman, and his theories and support of free market systems. It also discusses the creation of an American economic connection with Chile through the Chicago Boys. It’s in this chapter that we are introduced to the themes of the series Commanding Heights, but with a different anti-free market twist. It is a chapter on our government’s intervention within Latin America, and its want to try out shock therapy there.


Section Two- The First Test: Birth Pangs

What you need to know from Chapter Three– This chapter begins with the military take over of Chile by General Augusto Pinochet. It examines Chile in the context of forced economic policy, and links this forced policy to the Chicago school. The book makes its stance that shock therapy, and the Chicago Boys, were a failure. It is stated that what caught the economy of Chile, and kept it from falling, was not shock therapy: it was the fact that Chili hadn’t privatized all of its businesses some were still nationally owned. Other parts of Latin America were discussed, in relation to the Chicago School, and the Chicago Boys including; Argentina and Brazil. The main points behind the chapter were, that violence was used to install bad policies that caused poverty and unemployment to rise.

What you need to know from Chapter Four– Chapter Four had a good deal to do with the “human factor” in Latin American countries. The first portion focused on Orlando Letelier, who was from Chile, and was murdered when he spoke out against what was going on economically and politically in his country. It also discussed the consequences of the military actions that occurred in the area; including charges that were up against leaders like Pinochet. It was a chapter about reveals and cover-ups that focused on who took responsibility for the violence that occurred. It also talked about the type of violence; torture, and psychological abuse that was used. The point of the chapter was to show how far people would go to push their ideals; it seemed to also implicate the Friedman and the Chicago School as standby promoters of the violence.

What you need to know from Chapter Five– Chapter five was rather brief. Its point was to illustrate that Friedman, and promoters of his economic system, acknowledged the violence that occurred in Latin America, but did not find it to be related to the economic policy that they were promoting.


Section Three- Surviving Democracy: Bombs Made of Laws

What you need to know from Chapter Six– This is another chapter with a “counter to Commanding Heights” feel. In brings up Friedrich Hayek and Margaret Thatcher. It discusses Thatcher, and her attempts to free up the market in Britain that really hurt her image. It painted the Falkland War as a positive image adjustment for Thatcher, which it was. The point of these references seemed to be, to ease us into discussions about how crisis is used to manipulate public emotion.

What you need to know from Chapter Seven– This chapter is about Bolivia. It is another example of a country adopting Friedman policies. One of the consistent themes throughout the book is that free market policies, and shock therapy, cannot be put across in a manner that stays in line with democracy. Bolivia provided an example of a country that didn’t fall into violence, but still made choices about its economic system in a manner of backdoor deals and political pushing that would not be supported by democracy. The book also didn’t attribute any existing success to the economic program, instead establishing cocoa and cocaine as what prevented a complete disaster.

What you need to know from Chapter Eight– Chapter Eight is about being sneaky. It discusses getting countries like Argentina to accept programs that they might not under normal circumstances, because they are desperate for money and assistance. This portion of the book seems to be preparing us for future discussions about using desperation as a tool to get economic policies passed, by combining them with some other deal.


Section Four- Lost in Transition: While We Wept, While We Trembled, While We Danced

What you need to know from Chapter Nine– Poland and communism are the main topics of this chapter. It is about communism’s progression to capitalism in countries like China and Poland: with the main focus being Poland, and Poland’s union Solidarity. The main point of the chapter is to illustrate the negative feelings of people who were forced into accepting capitalism after, or during, communism through questionable means.

What you need to know from Chapter Ten– Here we will focus South Africa, and Nelson Mandela. This chapter was about the end of Apartheid, and how the people got power of their government, but lost power over their economy. When the African National Congress was in talks with the National Party (leaders during Apartheid) they felt the most important power to achieve was political power, because political power would give them the ability to change anything they gave up to the other side later. The sad reality is they got trapped in contracts and lost power over their economic system, and with that the ability to really make positive change in their country.

What you need to know from Chapter Eleven– Corruption within Russia was the main focus of Chapter Eleven. It was about the sell-off of companies within Russia that led to the creation of a few elite wealthy, and a larger group of poor. Its purpose was to showcase the failure of shock therapy in a country that was in transition from Communism to Capitalism.

What you need to know from Chapter Twelve– Chapter twelve begins with the Author visiting Jeffery Sachs to discuss his failure to help Russia. Sachs seems to believe that the failure was because the people he usually received financial help from, for countries, had become lazy. The author is setting us up for a theory that she has on markets and market competition in this chapter. The chapter also discusses techniques used in other countries, by people who support free market systems, that look a lot like cutting the countries down so the can be rebuilt to the free markets liking.

What you need to know from Chapter Thirteen– This chapter is particularly interesting. In it the author suggests that Capitalism lost its only rival with the death of Communism. Because it no longer had anything to compete with the Capitalist system lost its good policies, and its will to help other countries; like Russia, and the Asian countries that were struggling at the time. It seemed to suggest that the United States didn’t give money to Russia when they were in need because it was Russia’s fall that allowed Capitalism to rise up as the superior system.


Section Five- Shocking Times: The Rise of the Disaster Capitalism Complex

What you need to know from Chapter Fourteen– Chapter fourteen is very much about privatization, in its various forms, throughout the government. It talks about Donald Rumsfeld and his actions towards privatization of government run organizations. It also discusses how the American military is becoming more privatized: with doctors and security companies subcontracted. The main focus is privatization and the push for it by the government (Rumsfeld, the Bush Administration, etc.) within the government (the military, welfare systems, etc.) Patents and companies holding patents on things like medication were also referenced.

What you need to know from Chapter Fifteen– This chapter is a continuation of points from the previous one. It contains conversations about political leaders, like Dick Cheney, gaining money from investments in companies that profit from the governments actions, like Halliburton. One of the main discussion points was the amount of profits that were being made on things like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Profits made by companies that hold patents that give them a monopoly on a field were referenced as well.


Section Six- Iraq, Full Circle: Overshock

What you need to know about Chapter Sixteen– Chapter Sixteen is about Iraq, and the people of Iraq. The author traveled to the region in order to talk to people about the privatization that was going to occur in Iraq, and their feelings about it. The first chapter on Iraq is about the existence of the war as an aspect of shock therapy. It talked about the shock that the people experienced that separated them from awareness about their political and economic system.

What you need to know about Chapter Seventeen– This chapter was about the “disaster capitalism” aspect of Iraq. It was about exactly how Iraq was being privatized, with 200 companies that were once owned within the country being sold off. `The chapter also focused on the people of Iraq, and their anger and confusion as to what was going on in their country. It also talked about what the people turned to when their country was in shambles: religion, and the affect that it had on the interactions within the country.

What you need to know about Chapter Eighteen– A good portion of this chapter involved the topic of democracy, and democracy in Iraq. One of the declared reasons for the war in Iraq had been to bring a democracy to the country. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be a reality of the situation. Elections in the country were stalled and manipulated, according to the book, by people who wanted Iraq to be a country that supported the free market system, but knew it wouldn’t currently be embraced by the people who were voted in to positions of power.


Section Seven- The Movable Green Zone: Buffer Zones and Blast Walls

What you need to know about Chapter Nineteen– Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries affected by the tsunami were referenced in this chapter. The main focus was on Sri Lanka and the fishing communities the natives had on the beaches, that the hotels want displaced for their own purposes. When the tsunami came the fishing communities were knocked out, and officials made sure they didn’t get back on the beach. Privatization was also referenced, as it existed before and after the tsunami. Before the tsunami the privatization was being fought, but after it was pushed through.

What you need to know about Chapter Twenty– This was another focus on “disaster capitalism”, this time the location was New Orleans. The focus here also seems to be on shifts from public ownership to private ownership. It seems to suggest a trend between having to rebuild, and rebuilding via privatization. The term “disaster bubble” was used to convey the idea that the private companies that profit from disasters are building up a market that will crash when they don’t have disasters to gain money from.

What you need to know about Chapter Twenty-One– The last chapter covered the nature of aggression. One of the topics was; whether or not every seemingly man-made disaster was set up for moneymaking processes. The general consensus from the book is mankind makes disasters naturally, not intentionally. Religious fighting and fighting over the commanding heights of the economy were both referenced.


Section Eight- The Conclusion

What you need to know about themes in the conclusion– The conclusion is the only chapter of this book that makes you feel hopeful. It references the “people factor”. We are provided with another story from the tsunami of 2004, a story that is very different from the sadness and destruction of the tale of Sri Lanka. People of Thailand got their land back after a similar “land grab” that occurred after the tsunami. People rebuilding their homes by themselves in New Orleans were also highlighted as a glimmer of hope that disaster capitalism won’t always be successful.


About the Author (Naomi Klein)

What do we learn about the author from the book? Naomi Klein seems to get a good deal of her information from investigative journalism. We are introduced to this in the beginning of the book when she interviews the victim of shock therapy (Gail.) She seems to be the most comfortable when she is asking the questions; she also seems to feel free in the manner that she interprets the answers. It was an interesting contrast from the first book I read for the book review, because within that book the author (John Perkins) was speaking from direct experience.


If you want information about author Naomi Klein outside of the book- Click Here


What the Author REALLY wants you to know-

Naomi Klein does not support Friedman’s economic model. Her book seems to be a narration of why you should also not support such a system. If you took away anything at all from the book she would want you to know that the poor, and native people, suffer in developing countries that attempt to put forth free market systems. She supports countries utilizing their own resources, and feels that is a more stable than selling off companies/resources for profit. She seems to want people to re-evaluate the systems that they promote/are a part of.


How it is relevant to this class-

Income inequality is one of the main focuses of the book. In discussion about countries like Russia the separation between the wealthy elite and the poor was discussed in detail. We were also made aware that when “shock therapy” and free market systems were introduced to an area the income gap increased and more people fell into poverty. It also looked into income equality in Asia, African, and in some context our own country (when discussing New Orleans and hurricane Katrina.) It additionally discussed standard of living, especially when talking about the people of the fishing villages in Sri Lanka that were damaged in the tsunami in 2004. This discussion was particularly powerful because it made connections to the real people who were suffering because of the loss of their land: including a mother who was displaced and now struggles to care for her children in what easily would be described as slums.


What was missing-

The wording left a lot to be desired if you are looking for an unbiased wealth of information. A lot of the negative wording was unnecessary, and made the authors writings seem full of agenda. Some of it is accusable, because she is writing with a side in mind, but some of it is over the top. I would have like more focus on places like Sri Lanka, because I feel it was a good illustration of “disaster capitalism”. The portion on Sri Lanka was emotion inspiring, and it was one of the sections that felt the least biased. I feel like less focus on calling out politicians, and more stories about the actual situations and people affected would have benefitted the book.


What I learned and how it has changed me-

I remain still open to the free market system. Klein presented an argument against it that had some strength, but it focused a lot on personal attacks and linking concepts together weakly. It wasn’t enough to shut the door on free market systems in my mind. I learned quite a bit. A lot of the information on terms and economic theory I have learned from the course and my other book review already. I learned a lot I didn’t know previously from the section of South Africa and Apartheid; an example being, I wasn’t previously aware that when the power switch occurred economic power wasn’t handed over with political power. I hadn’t even considered that a government would have political power, but not economic power. I also learned that after the tsunami in 2004 donations that were meant for the people got absorbed into companies and the people only got a fraction of aid.


Would I recommend the book to friends?

I probably wouldn’t recommend the book to my friends. It wasn’t strong enough to be a “need-to-read”.


Outside of the book, where did information from this report come from?

All of the links to articles came from Wikipedia. All of the information came from the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein.