Naomi Klein: The present and future of American capitalism
“Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produced real change,” is a well-known Milton Friedman quote. This is how Naomi Klein, renowned author and journalist, framed her book “The Shock Doctrine” and also her lecture at the Assembly Series on Wednesday, “The Present and Future of American Capitalism.”
Klein was scheduled to speak at the University last year, but canceled due to weather.
Her talk focused mostly on the bank collapse and her belief that American capitalism is hurting the people who need the most help.
Klein criticized the culture of the banks as “an orgy of greed” that led to their eventual collapse.
She said that the bank collapse was the catalyst that Friedman was talking about. With the collapse of the banks, private companies supported by what Klein calls “crony capitalism” were able to come in and take over jobs that were previously part of the public sector.
She also called for more regulation of the banks, condemning Obama’s bailouts. “The risky behavior that precipitated this crisis has not been banned,” Klein said.
Klein said the banks now know that they can get away with the same behavior that was condoned in the past.
Instead, Klein would have liked to see the people own parts of the banks because it was their tax dollars that bailed the banks out. The banks could then finance projects that the president endorses.
For example, instead of closing factories that are failing, Klein suggested that the factories be converted into green factories that produce materials needed for infrastructure or environmentally friendly products.
Instead, the bailout “didn’t solve the crisis; [rather] it moved the crisis,” she said. With the bailout, the debt of the private banks was moved to the public’s shoulders.
This can be seen in a myriad of places, including the University of California tuition increase of 32 percent and the cutting of programs serving the underprivileged across the country.
Klein called for an increased criticism of Obama. She recognized his ability to calm the left and infuriate the right, making the left more defensive of him. Though this was tempting, she said, the left must continue to criticize him.
She also called Obama a centrist and charged the audience with moving the center farther left.
“The times we live in do not call for tentative citizens, but for determined and enraged citizens,” Klein said.
Klein’s visit was widely anticipated by many of the students, as her writings have been read for several courses, such as Crossing Borders in some semesters and the Text and Tradition writing course.
“I was really excited to hear that she was coming on campus,” sophomore Mariana Oliver said. “I think this is something everyone here should listen to.”
Some students, like freshman Mickey Bradford, discovered Klein on their own.
“I had only read her first book, ‘No Logo,’ which was more of an analysis of corporate abuse and wrongdoing,” Bradford said. “In comparison, her talk about her second book was much more partisan and speculative in nature. Overall though, there was still much valuable insight that I picked up from seeing her speak.”
Oliver thought that Klein was the perfect sort of speaker to bring to campus.
“The message was perfectly targeted at college students, because if anyone’s going to mobilize, it would be college students, and hopefully it’s a message that will inspire students to get motivated,” Oliver said.
Klein also praised the work of Washington University’s activists, complimenting their work in trying to change the name of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization.
“Politics hates a vacuum,” Klein said. “If we don’t fill that vacuum with hope, some will fill it with hate, and it’s already happening.”