Sunday, July 14, 2024

Review of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (01/25/2025)



Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“A more accurate term for a system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business is not liberal, conservative or capitalist but corporatist.  Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security.”– Naomi Klein, Chapter Introduction: Blank Is Beautiful, Page 18

“The principle was simple: countries in crisis desperately need emergency aid to stabilize their currencies.  When privatization and free-trade policies are packaged together with a financial bailout, countries have little choice but to accept the whole package.  The really clever part was that the economists themselves knew that free trade has nothing to do with ending a crisis, but that information was expertly “obfuscated.”” – Naomi Klein, Chapter 9: Crisis Works, Page 206

“That is pretty much the philosophy: stay in government just long enough to get an impressive title in a department handing out big contracts and to collect inside information on what will sell, then quit and sell access to your former colleagues.  Public service is reduced to little more than a reconnaissance mission for future work in the disaster capitalism complex.” – Naomi Klein, Chapter 15: A Corporatist State, Page 398


Review

Is This An Overview?

With disaster comes opportunity, a market opportunity.  Disasters are used to impose drastic changes on society, using shock therapy, rather than gradual changes.  Disasters are a shock to the system that enables policies to be accepted that would not have been acceptable otherwise.  To receive support or loans, sovereign states facing disaster are given conditions which generally include privatization, deregulation, and reduction in social spending. 

 

This has the effect of enacting policies that are favorable to markets, and gives access to foreign firms to buy resources and buyout domestic firms.  Resources and firms are sold relatively cheap, as the economy is facing disaster.  This is how disaster capitalism works.  Disaster makes sovereign states vulnerable to accept policies they would not otherwise accept, policies that are a form of colonialism.  The effect of shock therapy is to transfer public wealth to private individuals and groups, increase debt, and exacerbate inequality.  This situation is created by government and businesses working together.

 

The form of the disaster is not relevant.  Whether caused by nature or political conflict.  Although there had been many disasters available to which shock therapy was applied, there were disasters that were created.  When the democratic process chose means that were not favorable to those who were ready to take advantage of a disaster, methods were used to create a crisis such as the removal of democratically elected leaders and policies.  Replacing them with favorable leaders.  Undermining the democratic process, often with violent means.  Instituting and imposing authoritarian measures while claiming to that they are for liberty and the improvement of society.

 

Before disaster capitalism, societies wanted to avoid crises as that hurt the economy and the people.  Due to disaster capitalism, disaster has become profitable.  Rather than losing money due to a disaster, the economy benefits from a crisis.  Even when imposing a crisis on another economy.  Various firms profit from war activities, and then reconstruction efforts.  Firms are being rewarded with rebuilding what they enabled to destroy.  While war activity is compensated, the victims of disaster are not appropriately compensated.

 

Caveats?

The effects of shock therapy are considered from a variety of events from diverse sovereign states.  Many details are provided on the events, but there can be too many details or lack relevance which takes the focus away from a systematic account of the topic.  Even with the details provided, the reader would need to do more research to understand each event. 

 

This book challenges the myths of how effective economic policies have been.  The problem is that the author challenges the myths by providing myths.  This book is a form of destructive tribalism, in which the ideas and people who are the target of the book, are assumed to have an essence.  That anyone who engages with them shares all the same terrible ideas throughout time.  All the harm that is done, the author holds the target group responsible.  When a totalitarian sovereign state considers and changes their economy to be even a little more aligned with the target group, the target group is considered to be responsible for all the totalitarianism.  When the opponents of the target group have power and effect policies that are similar to what the target group wanted, the target group is considered responsible. 

 

Much like how the author criticizes the target group for wanting a pure market system without government, the author wants the targets to appear purely evil. The targets of the book are provided a one-sided narrative, and are given responsibility for every negative consequent.  The author references books written by the targets, but the content in those books that contradict the author’s claims are not referenced. 

 

The focus of the book is when the target group uses disasters for policy opportunities, even though there were a few references to non-target groups using disasters for policy opportunities.  By focusing only on a single target group and making them responsible for everything, has the effect of hiding and empowering other groups who use disasters for their benefit.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is disaster capitalism? 
•What is shock therapy? 
•What was the outcome of Hurricane Katrina? 
•What are demands of International Monetary Fund policies? 
•How is the democratic process treated for states undergoing shock therapy? 
•How does shock therapy effect inequality?
•What does it mean to be corporatists?
•How does torture (a.k.a. coercive interrogation) work?
•Can a person be repatterned? 
•How is a state tortured? 
•What happened to the U.S. domestic and foreign policy after 9/11?
•How is Friedman involved in shock therapy?
•What is the source for problems with the economy according to Friedman? 
•How are Keynesians involved in shock therapy? 
•What happened to the communist versus capitalist struggle after the collapse of the Soviet Union? 
•What does it mean to have a mixed economy? 
•What defines an enemy combatant?
•Why use an academic to create policy rather than a firm? 
•What kind of bailout package do states in a crisis receive? 
•Who benefits from shock therapy?
•Who loses from shock therapy?
•What kind of statistics did the International Monetary Fund provide? 
•What language is used to make shock therapy appear necessary? 
•How does shock therapy effect the culture of the state its applied to? 
•How do companies get their contracts? 
•How do government employees think of their government? 
•How did shock therapy effect Argentina?
•How did shock therapy effect Asian Tigers?
•How did shock therapy effect Bolivia?
•How did shock therapy effect Chile?
•How did shock therapy effect China?
•How did shock therapy effect Iraq?
•How did shock therapy effect Israel?
•How did shock therapy effect Poland?
•How did shock therapy effect Russia?
•How did shock therapy effect South Africa?
•How did shock therapy effect Sri Lanka?
•How did shock therapy effect United Kingdom?
•How did shock therapy effect United States of America?


Book Details
Publisher:               Picador [Henry Holt and Company]
Edition ISBN:         9780312427993
Pages to read:          587
Publication:             2007
1st Edition:              2007
Format:                    Paperback 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall          3






Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Review of A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Philosophy
Book Club Event = Book List (11/30/2024)



Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“As a result of the adaptation process, people find themselves on a satisfaction treadmill.  They are unhappy when they detect an unfulfilled desire within them.  They work hard to fulfill this desire, in the belief that on fulfilling it, they will gain satisfaction.  The problem, though, is that once they fulfill a desire for something, they adapt to its presence in their life and as a result stop desiring it - or at any rate, don’t find it as desirable as they once did.  They end up just as dissatisfied as they were before fulfilling the desire.” – William B. Irvine, Chapter Four: Negative Visualization, Page 75

“Stoics value their freedom, and they are therefore reluctant to do anything that will give others power over them.  But if we seek social status, we give other people power over us: We have to do things calculated to make them admire us, and we have to refrain from doing things that will trigger their disfavor.  Epictetus therefore advises us not to seek social status, since if we make it our goal to please others, we will no longer be free to please ourselves.  We will, he says, have enslaved ourselves.” – William B. Irvine, Chapter, Page 174

“Stoicism, understood properly, is a cure for a disease.  The disease in question is the anxiety, grief, fear, and various other negative emotions that plague humans and prevent them from experiencing a joyful existence.  By practicing Stoic techniques, we can cure the disease and thereby gain tranquility.  What I am suggesting is that although the ancient Stoics found a “cure” for negative emotions, they were mistaken about why the cure works.” – William B. Irvine, Chapter Twenty-One: Stoicism Reconsidered, Page 244


Review

Is This An Overview?

Having a philosophy of life can prevent an individual from mis-living life.  To not waste the chance one has at living.  By having a philosophy of life, an individual can find effective strategies to attain life goals, and adjust behavior to increase the likelihood of attaining the goals.  The goal of the Stoics was to live a virtuous life, a life of tranquility.  Tranquility found through a lack of negative emotions.  The Stoics did not want to remove all emotions, just to limit the effect of negative emotions.  Stoics practiced preventing and overcoming negative emotions, rather than repressing emotions.  Stoicism is a cure for negative emotions that prevent a joyful existence.  Stoic methods can help an individual handle social relations, insults, grief, anger, fame, luxury, and various other aspects of life.

 

The Stoics use various practices to find tranquility such as negative visualization.  Thinking of a potential loss can create behaviors to prevent the loss, and find appreciation of what the individual has.  Negative visualization overcomes hedonic adaptation.  Stoics practice voluntary discomfort, voluntary self-denial of what they have or can have.  Voluntary self-denial prepares the individual for situations in which they are not voluntarily deprived, provides an appreciation for the comforts they do have, and builds willpower that develops self-control to enable freedom to choose one’s behavior.  Stoics create an appreciation of each day when reflecting on mortality.  But they do not worry about what they cannot control, such as mortality, as that would be futile.  Stoics focus on what they can control, such as the state of mind.  Finding contentment by changing oneself.

 

How To Explain Stoic Philosophy?

A Stoic practice of negative visualization, thinking about a potential loss, can change behavior to prevent the problem.  If the problem was inevitable, then the person can be emotionally prepared to handle the problem.  People are insatiable, for when what is wanted is obtained, the happiness derived is adapted to.  Adapting to happiness reduces the effect of happiness, causing the individual to want more.  Through negative visualization, people can think of losing what they do have, which makes them understand the value of what they have. 

 

Stoics reflect on mortality, the finite time they have available, to bring about an appreciation of each day.  To make the day fulfilling and productive, rather than waste the time they have available to them.  Reflecting on mortality changes the state of mind when carrying out activities, to not take their experiences for granted.  Stoics think about what they have control over, as that can lead to a change in a future situation.  They avoid thinking about things they cannot control, as that would be a waste of time.

 

Caveats?

The author uses and updates Stoic claims, which are given a complex understanding.  The Stoic claims can still be misunderstood, and the application of some methods can harm rather than improve a situation.  The claims made provide a foundation, but need to be adjusted and improved upon using local, tacit experiences and cultural values.

 

Claims provided on the effect of Stoic values and why people avoid Stoicism, have stereotypical reactions.  Stereotypical reactions based on age and other social features.  Stereotypical reactions are popular in the media, but are not representative of people’s diverse views. 

 

The explanation for why a philosophy of life is needed, can be effective, but makes life appear static.  As if a chosen goal, one chosen earlier, cannot change.  That all of life needs to be about strategies for accomplishing the goal. 

 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is your philosophy of life?
•How have the Stoics, and the philosophy of Stoicism been misunderstood?  
•What is a general goal of Stoics?
•How were Stoics treated in Rome?
•Why did Stoicism decline?
•What is virtue?
•What is tranquility? 
•What is a sage to the Stoics?
•What are the similarities and differences between Stoicism and Buddhism? 
•What is the difference between Stoicism and Roman Stoicism? 
•Is asceticism required of Stoicism?
•How do Stoics treat wealth?
•How should Stoics treat public affairs? 
•Who were the Stoics? 
•What is negative visualization?
•What is hedonic adaptation? 
•How does negative visualization effect mortality? 
•What to control? 
•What is up to the individual? 
•Are Stoics fatalistic? 
•Why practice self-denial?  Why experience voluntary discomfort?
•How to develop self-control? 
•How to become a Stoic? 
•What do Stoics think of other people? 
•How should a Stoic handle other people?
•How to handle an insult? 
•How have political correctness effected people’s ability to handle an insult?
•How to handle grief? 
•What is angle to the Stoics?
•How to handle anger?
•How does fame effect the person who becomes famous? 
•How to handle the effects of luxury? 
•How to handle aging? 
•How to handle death?
•How to handle emotions? 
•Is there need for a deity in Stoicism?
•How would a Stoic consider taking drugs? 


Book Details
Publisher:               Oxford University Press
Edition ISBN:         9780199792627
Pages to read:          274
Publication:             2008
1st Edition:              2008
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          4
Overall          4






Saturday, July 6, 2024

Review of A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell

This book review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (12/07/2024)



Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“The only thing that could make men forsake their own freedom and still believe they were free was self-rule.  A government of the people, John Adams argued, would make the people discipled, stern, hard working, and joyless – the qualities he most admired.” – Thaddeus Russell, Chapter 1: Drunkards, Laggards, Prostitutes, Pirates, And Other Heroes Of The American Revoluation, Page 39

“By then many Americans had subscribed to the philosophies of the Founding Fathers and had devoted themselves to the rigors of democratic life.  But despite the best efforts of the nation’s founders to train the people for self-governance, “decadence” and “vice” did not disappear in the early years of the republic.  Drinking increased.  The cities, with their saloons and prostitutes and illicit couplings, grew exponentially.  New, mass-produced goods introduced luxuries to common people.  Poor folk, even slaves, began to dress ostentatiously.  And many of the newly rich resembled the aristocracies of Europe.  Facilitating all of this vice was a new economic order that Adams, Jefferson, and most of the Founding Fathers feared.” – Thaddeus Russell, Chapter 1: Drunkards, Laggards, Prostitutes, Pirates, And Other Heroes Of The American Revoluation, Page 54

“Partly out of necessity, partly for independence, and partly from their devotion to the Protestant work ethic, the first American colonists eliminated many forms of leisure enjoyed by those who remained in England, including various folk dances, singing festivals, communal feasts and games, and scores of holidays.  Work only grew more intense in the eighteenth century, when patterns of labor moved from seasonal to continuous schedules in every part of the colonial economy.  By the start of the nineteenth century, most households had added manufacturing to their grueling agricultural production.” – Thaddeus Russell, Chapter 2: The Freedom Of Slavery, Page 63


Review

Is This An Overview?

American political and moral elite have not thought kindly of the way everyone else behaved.  Too many vices, too much leisure, too irresponsible, too free.  External controls seemed to be too totalitarian, therefore the reformers such as the Founding Fathers wanted to replace them with internal controls.  Self-rule was meant to make people responsible.  As through democracy, would people have an interest in their own future, and therefore change their behavior. 

 

This is a history of America’s struggle for personal liberties, a moral clash in society.  As there were those trying to make people responsible, there were also those who wanted the freedom to do what they wanted.  These are the renegades.  Activist who changed culture by behaving the way they wanted to.  During a time of repression, renegades fought for various freedoms and made socially acceptable the behaviors that seemed repulsive.  They fought for: diverse entertainment in arts, dance, music, and movies; time away from work and the pursuit of leisure; racial and ethnic integration of establishments; sexual liberty to be with whom they wanted to be with no matter the race, ethnicity, or sex of the partner.  The renegades came from diverse backgrounds and diverse cultures, such as slaves, prostitutes, gangsters, African Americans, Jews, Irish, and Italian.  Renegades who were often mistreated by society, but changed the American culture. 

 

Caveats?

This book shares a host of socially sensitive topics.  Topics that could have been handled a bit more sensitively.  This book shares a diverse set of values that has changed American culture, but explanations of the events are sometimes given a too simple and one-sided narrative, without caveats.  For a book on renegades and diversity, there seems to be too much homogeneity in how the different sides treated others and were treated themselves.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Who are the renegades?  
•How did drinking behavior change?
•How did marriage and sexual relations change?
•What occupations were women able to have? 
•How did women’s behavior change?
•What did the Founding Founders want of behavior? 
•Was there more freedom under monarchies or democracy?
•How to control people’s behavior?
•How did music of freedom develop?
•What kind of leisure did people want?
•How were slaves treated and how did the slaves respond to how they were treated?
•What was the problem with slavery?
•How did the treatment of children change?
•What did the Reconstruction era want of people’s behavior?
•Why did women become prostitutes? 
•How were the Puritans expected to behave? 
•How did the treatment of the Irish change? 
•How did the treatment of the Jews change?
•How did the treatment of the Italians change?
•How did the treatment of the African Americans change?
•What did the KKK want? 
•How were consumer markets developed? 
•Who were the heroes and enemies of the Prohibition era, 1919-1933?
•How did Las Vegas come to be?
•How did the movie industry change? 
•How much control did government have during the New Deal?
•How much of social life was control by the government during the Depression era?
•Did Americans want to participate in WW2?
•Who were the style hunters?


Book Details
Publisher:               Free Press [Simon & Schuster]
Edition ISBN:         9781416571094
Pages to read:          351
Publication:             2024
1st Edition:              2010
Format:                    eBook 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall          5