Naomi Klein on Capitalism as Usual

Naomi Klein has been pretty hard on ol’ capitalism. She argues that capitalists lie in wait for opportunities to deregulate markets and privatize infrastructure. All those capitalists need is a crisis to give people a shock so that otherwise abhorrent laissez-faire Friedmanite policies can be adopted before the public returns to its senses.

Of course, she argues, it’s bad to cram these reforms down the throats of people when their reasoning minds are gripped by shell shock. It’s just downright impolite. She may be right on the politeness issue.

(For the sake of her narrative, we should ignore that George W. Bush failed utterly in his two most overt attempts at freeing capital and labor from the chains of government strictures: Social Security and immigration reforms. Also, please ignore that he dramatically expanded government with the help of a GOP-led Congress.)

So imagine my surprise when reading The Progressive that Klein herself is positively gung ho about the possibility of cramming a few progressive policies down the throats of Americans stunned by the housing meltdown, financial crisis and recession:

Do we want to save the pre-crisis system, get it back to where it was last September? Or do we want to use this crisis, and the electoral mandate for change delivered by the last election, to radically transform that system? We need to get clear on our answer now because we haven’t had the potent combination of a serious crisis and a clear progressive democratic mandate for change since the 1930s. We use this opportunity or we lose it.

As Rahm Emanuel would (did) say, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

But if we take Klein’s comments seriously, does she mean to suggest in her writings that only capitalists should apologize when they want to make changes to the size and scope of government in the face of upheaval? Or is it that when capitalists make those changes, that’s when it’s a vile conspiracy?