A Crock of a Doctrine


My friend and former colleague Johan Norberg has just produced a devastating, 20-page debunking of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, a book he rightly calls "hopelessly flawed at virtually every level," with a thesis that rests on a "malevolent distortion" of Milton Friedman's views. The full report, released as a Cato Briefing Paper, is available here. A representative sample of Norberg busting Klein on bowdlerizing Friedman's writing:

When Klein talks about Friedman's suggestions to reduce inflation, she writes, "Friedman predicted that the speed, suddenness and scope of the economic shifts would provoke psychological reactions in the public that 'facilitate the adjustment.'"

Klein gives the impression that Friedman was brutal and wanted to inflict pain to disorient people and push his reforms through. The use of the words "psychological reactions" is also important, because Klein tries to associate liberal reforms with psychological torture and electrical shocks. But the quote in its entirety shows that Friedman had something very different in mind. He actually wrote that if a government chooses to attack inflation in this way: "I believe that it should be announced publicly in great detail . . . . The more fully the public is informed, the more will its reactions facilitate the adjustment."

In other words, if the people are not ignorant, and not disoriented, but fully informed of the reform steps, they would facilitate the adjustment by changing their behavior when it comes to negotiations, saving, consuming, and so on. Friedman's view was the complete opposite of what Klein pretends it is.

I wrote previously about Klein's book here and here. Matt Welch on "disaster capitalism" here.