Naomi Klein defines “disaster capitalism” as “orchestrated raids on the public sphere” designed by corporations to exploit disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and wars in order to expand their markets and profit (Klein 6). While I was reading “Blank is Beautiful”, however, I was more intrigued by the consequences of disaster capitalism than the actual processes employed to exploit the disorientation because the shock doctrine is in itself easily identified and explained. It is the process through which corporations are able seize upon the “shocked” systems and implement reforms that expand the free market with little resistance because governments are desperate and citizens are still reeling in the aftermath of the disaster (Klein 7-8). The ethics behind the shock doctrine, however, are much harder to justify. In order to begin to understand how a system with seemingly immoral consequences exists, I am going to analyze how disaster capitalism relates to neoliberalism.
The neoliberal construction of our global economic system has allowed for the implementation of the the shock doctrine because its policies have “forged a new kind of state” (Bockman 14). Specifically, the new kind of state is one that becomes a pawn that the market uses to distribute wealth and services according to the capitalist definition of efficiency and profitability (Brockman 15). Such a state is what Klein would term a “corporatist” state (Klein 18). These corporatist states perpetuate and promote the use of the shock doctrine and disaster capitalism because the alliance between corporations and politicians have made their aspirations analogous, which leaves the vast majority of the state’s constituents disenfranchised and alienated. Specifically, common citizens are subjected to intrusive surveillance, mass incarceration, and the curtailment of civil freedoms (Klein 19). It is these consequences as well as the intentional destruction of previous societies, such as in the Iraq War, that make the use of the shock doctrine appear unjust.
The implications that disaster capitalism and the shock doctrine could be considered unjust and unethical lead me to consider how and why Milton Friedman and others advocate their use. It is Milton Friedman’s belief that any government intervention beyond security is considered “an unfair interference in the market” that answers such question (Klein 6). Friedman and many of his followers can then be considered what Michael Sandel in Justice: What is the Right Thing to Do? calls libertarians because the favor free markets and abhor government intervention in the “name of human freedom” (Sandel, 59). Therefore, they equate market freedom with individual freedom and believe that the consequences are insignificant as long as they arise out of “just” circumstances. The consequences of disaster capitalism, however, affect people who depend on the government for support as well as security. Consequently, by ignoring the consequences of disaster capitalism, Friedman and other advocates of the shock doctrine not only alienate people from their government, they reduces their inherent human worth to the amount of profit they contribute to society.