Confessions of an Economic Hit Man By John Perkins (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 2004. 250 pages.)

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Jay Willoughby

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Abstract

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is the story of why the so-called
developing never seems to develop, as seen through the eyes of John
Perkins, who was involved in “developing” several oil-rich nations. The
opening chapters deal with his childhood, which was permeated with elitism
and ideas of how only the “right people” really mattered, his subsequent
rebellion by defying his parents’ plan for his life, his initial contacts
(through his wife) with government employment, and a 2-year Peace Corps
stint with an indigenous Indian tribe in Ecuador. While there, he was
recruited by the National Security Agency. After his time was up, he was
hired by Chas. T. Main, Inc. to devise a 25-year forecast of seriously inflated
electricity needs for Indonesia so that it would agree to take out an enormous
loan. He did so, albeit with some misgivings, and his career as an economic
hit man (EMH) was launched.
Claudine, his handler, made his task perfectly clear:
We’re a small, exclusive club,” she said. “We’re paid – well paid – to cheat
countries around the globe out of billions of dollars. Alarge part of your job
is to encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes
U.S. commercial interests. In the end, those leaders become ensnared
in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty. We can draw on them whenever
we desire – to satisfy our political, economic, or military needs. In turn,
these leaders bolster their political positions by bringing industrial parks,
power plants, and airports to their people. Meanwhile, the owners of U.S.
engineering and construction companies become very wealthy. (p. 17)
Praised for his success, he was given “the opportunity, something few
men ever receive, even at twice your age” (p. 57): to bring on board
Panama’s popular president, Omar Torrijos, who wanted all Panamanians,
instead of only the small elite, to benefit. Torrijos’ assertion that sovereign ...

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