Review by Unity Ivongbe
Author: John Perkins
This 5 part, 47 chapter book is a classic. NY TIMES bestseller for 70 weeks & published in over 30 languages. In this book, “former economic hit man John Perkins shared new details about the ways he and others cheated countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. Then he reveals how the deadly EHM cancer he helped create has spread far more widely and deeply than ever in the US and everywhere else—to become the dominant system of business, government, and society today. Finally, he gives an insider view of what we each can do to change it”. Although highly opinionated, it was filled with startling revelations about the goings in our world today. And the people behind these happenings. It had documents and factual references to give fillip to some of the claims captured in the book. Reading through, I am reminded of the proverbial saying about, ‘the borrower being servant to the lender’ and this is so true, not just for individuals but also countries. Developing economies must understand now (more than ever before) that ‘favour is not free’…..and it doesn’t matter whether the favour is coming from America or China….someone is sure picking up the bills and they often don’t deal fairly when they make demands.
Some highlights, new learnings & takeaways are as below:
• “Today’s Economic Hitmen Men (EHMs) are executives and consultants at thousands of multinational corporations, consulting companies, investment funds, industry groups, and associations — as well as an army of lobbyists that represents all of these”. It is a world of corporotocrates who capitalize on the poor in the name of doing business — the very idea of Capitalism.
…. “….corporatocracy is about promoting US foreign policy and corporate interests”, and doing so at any cost. Cost to countries, people, planet etc.
• The actions of EHMs are as lethal and deleterious as the actions of soldiers and torturers of war; they put a country into debts (bind them in fear) and impose bribes and all forms of arm-twisting on her leaders;
• “Core tools used by EHMs: false economics that includes distorted financial analyses, inflated projections, and rigged accounting books; secrecy, deception, threats, bribes, and extortion; false promises that were never intended to be honored; enslavement through debt and fear…..and all of their variations”. And truly, it is about the story behind the story we see and hear. The motivations behind the interventions.
• Debt is the cheapest path to fall into the EHM system…and many developing countries including Nigeria is on the path of this mess;
• There is a very big conspiracy behind most of the interventions we see….with the goal to bankrupt the countries that receives these loans, so that they would be forever beholden to their creditors and would present as easy targets when they need favors, such as military bases, UN votes, or access to oil and other natural resources.
• A new war is on our doorpost , not the one that is driven by guns and tanks but deceptive econometric models/forecasts and voodoo statistics;
– You worry when you get to grapple how this play on numbers and terminologies and how they leave countries poor and despondent. People without healthcare, families with no food or roof over their head, children who cannot go to school.
– Reading the account of this author I am reminded of what a senior colleague told me long ago when I was interning for a multinational company in Nigeria….he said, ‘some of these expatriates you see are not really here to carry out their job specifications, they are ‘spies for their countries”. Things are hardly as they appear.
• The claims that loans from the World Bank, IMF (& some other multilateral institutions) are a panacea to the economic problems of developing countries are far from the truth. Debts upon debts = Subtle recolonialism.
• There is the talk about for every dollar Africa and other developing countries get as development aid, they give back 90 cents. “…for every $1 of aid that developing countries receive, they lose $24 in net outflows” (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jan/14/aid-in-reverse-how-poor-countries-develop-rich-countries). Startling revelations.
* “In 2012, the last year of recorded data, developing countries received a total of $1.3tn, including all aid, investment, and income from abroad. But that same year some $3.3tn flowed out of them. In other words, developing countries sent $2tn more to the rest of the world than they received”…a part of this being payment on debts…developing countries have forked out over $4.2tn in interest payments alone since 1980” (https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jan/14/aid-in-reverse-how-poor-countries-develop-rich-countries). These are very puzzling and should get any right any sensible leader thing.
• “Over the past three decades, sixty of the world’s poorest countries have paid $550 billion in principal and interest on loans of $540 billion, yet they still owe a whopping $523 billion on those same loans”,….is the World Bank truly freeing the world of poverty?
• Most of the econometric models & forecasts are skewed to tell a story of the paymasters…..and I think it is an abuse of the sacred privilege of being educated. And it reminds me of the quote by Mark Twain: ‘There are 3 types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”.
• ….what we see today is not just an imperialist arrangement as much as it is man’s inhumanity to man…it is the evil part of man that says, “Make all the money you can, as soon as you can, and screw everyone else.”….it is what makes a banker convince a customer to take a mortgage beyond what he can pay for with the thinking that it will be foreclosed in a short time. Sadly, that’s how the world runs….people make so much money by screwing others out of theirs. Banks are also complicit. It’s all corporate thievery.
• The present day world economy (or death economy) has been destabilized greatly, built & fraught on wars or the threat of war, debt, and abuse of the earth’s resources
• Beyond Fear & debt, another very important strategy used by these corporatocrates is the idea of divide and conquer; e.g. the Sunnis & Shiites of Iraq;
• Humans and nations (all over the world) must show more responsibility with their urge to possess more territory, more resources.
• There are too many steal-from-the-poor, give-to-the-rich programs around the world today. High levels of inequality that makes the world the worse for it. Just about 1% of the US own over 25% of the world’s resources. “Globally, eighty-five individuals own more resources than half of the world’s population”
– I am reminded of a statement I saw somewhere, paraphrased as: “The poor people of developing countries can’t actually wait for a war because they own or have no property….they have nothing to lose…..it is the rich that can’t sleep at night”
• The empire expansionism project of the US and now China takes the same posture: and the other empires of history, revolves around lending money to countries, plundering their resources, and paralyzing their leaders with fear in a bid to take advantage of them. It is almost a dog eat dog environment around the world. Everyone is scrambling for resources. They strike other smaller countries first with EHMs, and then they send Jackals who are more lethal in their approach and when they don’t achieve their missions, they come with war tanks (or influence proxy wars).
• Part of the solution: “It isn’t about changing the mechanics of economics. It is about changing the ideas, the dogmas that have driven economics for centuries: debt and fear, insufficiency, divide and conquer…. It is about a revolution. The transition from a death economy to a life economy. Which is truly about a change in consciousness — a consciousness revolution.”
What can you do?
Be aware of what is going on in the world around you. Inform others about these things. Not just what is captured on the headlines of newspapers and on cable TV…but the stories behind the stories. Dig deep into them. Refuse to join the people who do those things and do the little you can to help our world move forward. If you keep this posture, posterity will be kind to you.
One more thing: the truth is, the best actions of individuals & corporations often pales into utter insignificance when the underlying motives behind them are revealed! What are your motivations for doing the things you do?