Book Review: Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins


I just finished the audiobook version of Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins.  The audiobook was read by Brian Emerson, who is one of my favorite readers.  (I believe even a bad book could sound interesting if Emerson was reading it.)

I can safely say that this book will change the way that you view politics and the economic situation in the world, if you choose to read it.  Confessions of an Economic Hitman is Perkin’s autobiography, his confession, about his involvement as an economic forecaster for a now-defunct company called Chas T. Main.  Chas T. Main was a large, U. S. engineering firm which specialized in designing infrastructure plans for utility industries around the world.  It was bought, and the name changed, in the late 80’s due to mismanagement.

Perkins explains that while his official job title may have been “chief economist for Main,” his real job was to act as an economic hitman.  An economic hitman, or EHM (as Perkin’s calls it), is an economist whose purpose is to produce inflated infrastructure predictions for third world countries.  These inflated forecasts are produced in order to justify the millions of dollars that foreign countries will have to borrow in order to hire American construction companies to build modern utility infrastructures within these third world countries.  Based on these predictions, the world bank grants loans that these countries will never be able to repay.  The country becomes mired in debt, and only a few, privileged people benefit.  In this way, the American “corporatocracy” continues to grow rich, and economic pressure due to debt keeps the governments of third world countries in-check politically.  At the end of the day, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, thousands of indigenous peoples are exploited, and America continues to build its global empire.  Economic hitmen, and the CEO’s of large corporations, work unofficially in conjunction with the NSA to control foreign nations.

Whether you buy all this or not (see the wikipedia entry about Perkins for the controversy surrounding the book), it’s great, thought-provoking, conscious-altering reading.  Much of what Perkins describes about the way in which the U. S. government uses the private sector, free-trade agreements, and economic pressure, seems (in my mind at least) to match real life.  Perkins’ insights into the administrations of several of our past presidents is eye-opening for sure, and he confirms a lot of my own suspicions about the reasons for the Iraq War and the Bush/Cheney regime.  I will say however, that any critique of the Clinton presidency is completely absent from this book, which may point towards some of Mr. Perkins’ political leanings (although I would be remiss to say that I find him a complete leftist).

Perkins ends the book with an epilogue of suggestions about how we, as Americans, can fight the global empire and leave a better world for our children.  As a Christian, I’m inclined to see “the way forward” a little differently than Perkins.  In my opinion, the main reason the global empire of America exists is greed.  Many of the ideals at the heart of democracy, capitalism, and a global economy are sound (not perfect, but sound), except that people are greedy.  The problem with capitalism is that companies nearly always act based on the bottom line.  They hardly ever consider the best interests of others.  They are greedy.  They run over the poor, especially the poor of other countries.  The rich get richer, and the poor are exploited.  Unregulatized capitalism would work perfectly if everyone had a changed heart, but we don’t, so it doesn’t.  Neither will the alternative to capitalism work (i.e. – socialism).  They are both faulted systems because of faulted people.

We need Jesus to do the masterful work of heart transformation.  On its own, this world will always tend towards depravity, and the American government and its capitalistic, self-serving policies, are most definitely included.  I’m not saying that we should do nothing.  We should try to fix the government.  We should try to put men into office that don’t simply support the wishes of a few rich men that help fund their campaign.  We should work hard, promote justice, and involve ourselves in charity.  But more than any of that, we should embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only true, transformational hope that our world has.

My advice:  Read this book.  Involve yourself in politics as a concerned citizen.  Think beyond party lines.  Act like a Christian.  Trust Jesus and the life change that He brings most of all.  And, spend the majority of your time focused on the Gospel because it is the real change-agent in the world.

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