Confessions Of An Economic Hitman Summary

John Perkins

Confessions Of An Economic Hitman

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Confessions Of An Economic Hitman Summary

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The New York Times bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hitman(2004) by John Perkins is a confession of his time at a private US consulting group that deliberately raised the debt of third world countries. Translated into thirty-two languages, the book is similar to author Michael Lewis’s insider exposés on Wall Street, though many of Perkins’s statements have been questioned, and some critics consider him a conspiracy theorist for not providing enough evidence.

The book is considered autobiographical, though because many sources question the validity of some of his conclusions and observations, some consider it autobiographical-fiction. The book is based on a nine-year period in the 1970s when Perkins worked as an economist for Boston-based consulting group Chas. T. Main Inc., which went under in 1985. The themes include systematic injustice, strategic inhumanity, and individual redemption through confession.

The autobiography establishes Perkins as a young man with a good conscience. He is born to a middle class family in New Hampshire. Though poor in comparison to people in his affluent boarding school, his parents encourage a sort of snobbery in him with regard to professional positions and higher education. Perkins is offered a full athletic scholarship to Brown, but rejects it for another school, Middlebury, which he soon drops out of. Not prone to violence, he joins the Peace Corps, hoping to dodge the draft for the Vietnam War.

In Boston, Perkins is recruited by Chas. T. Main, Inc. (referred to as MAIN for most of the book), an elite consultant group specializing in large scale engineering projects. Claudine Martin, a mysterious, attractive woman tells him about work at MAIN over cocaine and red wine. She also flirts with him, hoping he will join MAIN.

Later, Perkins reveals that he believes she had a strong relationship with the National Security Administration (NSA); Perkins believes this is just one small example of the US government practicing immoral acts through the use of private companies. Several newspapers and scholars have debated this contention, noting the NSA focus on cryptology, not economics.

Though he has no training in economic forecast models, Perkins successfully bluffs his way through, appeasing his bosses and convincing representatives of poor countries to accept large loans they are unlikely to pay back.

Perkins travels to Kuwait and is trained by a woman to be, what he calls, an Economic Hit Man (EHM). He learns that his job as an economist will be to convince foreign governments to accept large, unfair loans for various construction projects. The sites include dams, power plants, airports, and highways. Once countries inevitably default on the loans, they come under the control of The World Bank or The International Monetary Fund. The creditors have substantial US ties, and when the US wants favorable treatment in certain areas, it can have its representatives deal (some would say exhort) favorable outcomes from these poor countries. According to Perkins, some of these past favors included a favorable UN vote, access to oil extraction, or an agreement to build a military base within the country’s borders. Along with a diplomatic advantage, the US gains an economic advantage because these less developed countries (LDC in the book) become beholden to US companies like Bechtel, Halliburton, and Boeing.

Perkins learns more about Indonesia as a successful example of these policies. The US purportedly wanted to fight communism. But Perkins learns the US wanted to secure oil and political leverage in the region; helping the country’s population was a distant concern. Countering this statement, critics have noted that Indonesia’s infant mortality rate and literacy rate increased by 60 percent through taking these loans.

Perkins travels to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, for work. He is amazed by the gap between poor and rich and sees beautiful, well-dressed women walking down the same streets as beggars their own age. He learns that the policies he presents helps the local elite, but are not designed to help the poor at all.

He repeats the process he completed in Indonesia through dozens of other less developed countries, including Iran, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, and Panama.

Perkins comments on how often corporations and upper management relied on people with his temperament — kind and optimistic — to exploit for their more strategic, often nefarious goals.

To get through his participation in an unjust system, Perkins tells himself that he is very good at what he does, and he is not actually coercing these countries to accept these shady deals.

Perkins experiences a wide array of amoral and shocking things. He is encouraged to ask a friend to be a prostitute and hears Panamanian President Omar Torrijos’s fear of assassination first hand (a fear that would be realized).

Eventually, Perkins starts to feel more like a hit man against these poorer countries. Though employed by a private company, he feels that his true employer is the US government. In 1980, he quits.

Perkins founds an alternative energy company and works as an interpreter. He also writes books about dream traveling and self-help books based on Latin American shamanistic rituals. He concludes the book with a call to readers to end the systematic extraction of wealth from poorer countries.