Naomi Klein on The Shock Doctrine, California style


By Rebecca Bowe

Naomi Klein showed a portion of this film clip during her lecture at UC Berkeley last night. In it, Arnold talks about how Milton Friedman changed his life.

Speaking at the University of California at Berkeley yesterday evening, award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein lamented the sweeping budgetary cuts to education, women's shelters, and a host of critical social services that have rocked California in recent months.

“When these cuts are imposed, it’s constantly portrayed in the media as if it’s an unfortunate and painful necessity,” she said. On the contrary, she argued, the gutting of the public sector in California is no coincidence.

Klein pointed to an overarching conservative agenda that touts free-market capitalism and limited government, and resists raising revenues with tax increases. (We referenced Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in our cover story last week. So it’s also not a coincidence that our cover package, “The California Nightmare,” touched on many of the same themes.)

Klein showed a brief film clip that included footage of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praising the ideas of conservative free-market economist Milton Friedman. “What you always have to remember in this discussion is that your governor is a hardcore ideologue,” Klein said after showing a clip in which Schwarzenegger is seen gushing, “Dr. Friedman changed my life!”

“These pet Republican policies have been lying around,” Klein said. “These ideas are still incompatible with democracy, still deeply unpopular.” Nonetheless, they’re being rolled out in uncertain times and unstable places, according to Klein, while masquerading as emergency measures.

During the federal bank bailout last fall, there was a lot of talk about pending disaster and burning houses to justify saddling taxpayers with such an extraordinary sum, Klein noted. “You really know how houses were on fire in California -- but these were metaphorical houses.” She also mentioned that Goldman Sachs handed out $23 billion in bonuses this year. “That is the same size as California’s budget shortfall,” she pointed out.

“A private sector debt crisis was turned into a public sector debt crisis,” Klein said. “And the bills are coming due.”

Speaking directly to UC Berkeley students who will be affected by pending tuition increases, Klein characterized the impact on the public university system as “a physical embodiment of a great injustice that you are being asked to pay for.” She urged the students to fight it.

“Maybe there could be strategy where all of the people who are under attack can intermingle and converge,” Klein said, “so you actually become too big to fail.”