Summary of Disaster Capitalism

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Guardian columnist and documentary filmmaker Antony Loewenstein reports on people who make a profit from disaster in the form of private security guards in Afghanistan, for-profit prison administrators in the United States and suppliers of relief efforts in Haiti. Loewenstein describes these and more examples of opportunists making money from catastrophes as manifestations of a “Mad Max economy” that enriches the fortunate few. World – and especially US – leaders have bought into the bogus argument that the private sector knows best, and that for-profit companies are better than governments at cleaning up after natural disasters, waging war, holding prisoners and creating jobs. The truth, Loewenstein argues, is that disaster capitalists aren’t successful at any of those tasks. They mistreat those in their care and overcharge their government clients. A self-described “activist,” Loewenstein doesn’t claim objectivity. Yet, he raises valid points and illuminates issues of concern to readers of all political stripes. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends Loewenstein’s report to investors and policy makers seeking an outsider’s view of the economics of crime and calamity.

About the Author

Independent journalist and documentary filmmaker Antony Loewenstein writes a column for The Guardian and has written three books, including Profits of Doom.



Predatory Capitalism

In recent decades, a “Mad Max economy” has arisen, featuring an increasing concentration of wealth and profit-motivated plundering of the poor and weak. The world’s wealthiest 1% own nearly half of the globe’s assets, while 14% of Americans struggle to afford food. Privatization has become an overarching mission of the public and private sectors. Proponents say the private sector can operate roads, schools, prisons and libraries more efficiently and effectively than government. Corporate-owned media aren’t keen to raise questions. Just six multinational businesses – including News Corporation, Comcast and Viacom – are responsible for delivering media coverage to 90% of Americans. Most journalists opt to function quietly inside the system.

In 2007, Canadian journalist Naomi Klein created the phrase “disaster capitalism” to describe the hard-nosed policies of privatization, deregulation and the removal of social programs that provide a safety net. Efforts to broaden these policies often intensify after a calamity, such as the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. That assault enabled then-president George W. Bush’s administration to shift significant...

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