Over at Alternet, former New York Press editor Alexander Zaitchik complains that reason hasn't afforded Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine—a "devastating critique of the idea that libertarian economics are synonymous with, or even compatible with, free societies"—the review it richly deserves. He explains:
The only mentions of Klein's book on the Reason site are a couple of easy dismissals by blogger Michael C. Moynihan. The first of these, posted September 19, calls Klein's intensively researched and tightly argued book a "screed," and says that anyone who still believes the old Friedman-Pinochet "chestnut" should read a year-old article by Reason's Brian Doherty on the subject of Friedman's "hardly-knew-the-guy" relationship with Pinochet and his brutal dictatorship.
But Klein has the goods on this old "chestnut." As she shows, Friedman and his Chicago Boys were not all that bothered by Pinochet's bloody rule. Quite the opposite, they recognized that their free market wet dream could never be realized in a functioning democracy and welcomed the opportunities opened up by the Chicago Boys-tutored dictatorships in Latin America's southern cone in the 1970s. In some cases Friedmantes (sic) worked with the coup plotters before they even came to power.
So Klein "has the goods" on the Friedman-Pinochet collaboration? Hitherto undisclosed demo tapes of Augusto and Milton at Big Pink? Photos of the two scoundrels playing racquetball in the torture chambers of Santiago stadium? Seeing as Zaitchik doesn't reference any of Klein's "goods" on Friedman, I consulted the book and—surprise—she pretty much agrees with Doherty's chronology and explication of the Friedman-Pinochet "relationship," though she's coy about it, eliding some of the important details (like the subject of Friedman's speech at the Catholic University of Chile). Nor does Zaitchik raise any specific objections to Doherty's piece, though he does grumble that it's a "year old."
So here are the "goods" on Friedman, regarding Chile, as presented in The Shock Doctrine: Klein says that proposals in the newly installed regime's economic plan "bore a striking resemblance to those found in Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom." Klein acknowledges that, throughout Pinochet's reign, Friedman spent only a few days in the country as a guest of a private organization, not the government, though he met once with Pinochet. Klein refers generically to the "Chicago Boys" and Friedman's "former students," from whom he accepted the burden of collusion with dicatorships (I should note that, as the former student of an editor at Nation Books, I assure him that he won't be held accountable for my positive view of Milton Friedman.)
Zaitchik too has such a hard time with this phantom connection that he performs a rather obvious slight of hand, effortlessly switching between Friedman and the more generic "Friedmantes" (sic); those associated with the regime from the coup's beginnings. Zaitchik—again effortlessly switching between the man and his disciples— concludes by citing approvingly a reason commenter who calls Milton Friedman, the three-foot tall Nobel Prize-winner, a "bloodthirsty scoundrel" (seriously). Amusingly, Zaitchik's previous contribution to Alternet begins with this sentence: "Admire him or despise him, it's tempting to think Fidel Castro…" Apparently there still exists a compelling debate on whether Castro is a good guy or a bad guy, but that Milton Friedman burns in the fires of hell. It's worth noting that Ms. Klein's moral outrage too is one-sided: a check of the index of The Shock Doctrine, Fences and Windows, and No Logo, and a quick search of Nexis and Google, find nary a word denouncing the almost 50 year dictatorship that has suffocated the people of Cuba.
Anyhow, if it is a critical review of Klein that he is after, I am happy to point Mr. Zaitchik in the right direction. For instance, George Mason economist Tyler Cowen says that Klein's methodology makes the book "a true economics disaster," branding her rhetoric "ridiculous." When interviewed by the New York Times, Anders Aslund, a Russia expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, called The Shock Doctrine's section on Russia "complete nonsense." Jeffrey Sachs, who says he broadly agrees with Klein, nevertheless told the Times that "she didn't really understand" what he was up to in the 1990s. This is a common theme with reviewers. The Financial Times Martin Wolf, reviewing one of her previous broadsides against globalization complained that "Klein's concept of democracy is as immature as her view of the economy." These, I suspect, are enough to keep the crew at Alternet occupied for a bit.
One final point: From our supposed lack of attentiveness to The Shock Doctrine, Zaitchik deduces that reason is "afraid" of Klein's book. If this was a question, rather than an accusation, I would assure him that this is not the case. On the other hand, after a quick perusal of the Alternet archives, I see no review of Bryan Caplan's hugely successful and widely reviewed book The Myth of the Rational Voter, excerpted in reason here. That Caplan so deftly and convincingly argues that voter's anti-market biases are, well, bad for democracy, and seeing as Alternet has yet to debunk Caplan's book, I suspect that Alex won't mind if I interpret his employers deafening silence as a damning concession.