Sunday, April 22, 2012

Coming Soon: Ongoing Exploitation of Past Disasters

In her best-selling book Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein argues that economists from the University of Chicago (a Rockefeller-funded university) have created a model of capitalism that fully exploits natural and man-made disasters.

Large corporations have no real incentive to prevent bad things from happening to other people. 

In fact large corporations may profit enormously, both economically and politically, when bad things happen, because disasters create "inelastic demand curves."  During a disaster, like the sinking of the Titanic, people panic and they are willing to pay almost any price to get news, information, food, clothing, shelter, weapons, military protection or medical care.

Rather than solve the "life boat ethics" problem presented on the Titanic, which carried too few lifeboats to serve everyone on board, U.S. corporations have maintained a policy of under-service and deliberate neglect that exactly parallels the failure of the owners of Titanic to provide an adequate number of lifeboats.

Corporations do so for two reasons: First, they save money by not splurging on safety (they take short cuts, just as the Titanic owners did).  Second, if an unforeseen accident does happen, they can still bank on phony "just for show"investigations, a phalanx of lawyers stubbornly denying responsibility on a legal technicality, and creative blame assignment that is heavily sold to the press.

If anything, corporate control of the press has increased, and the art of public relations or creatively distracting the public from issues of corporate negligence have been substantially approved during the past 100 years. Corporations have really learned how to "Wag the Dog."

The result is a long-standing culture of corporate negligence.  To make matters worse, we now have a commercialized field of "disaster response" contractors who make their money by swooping into "red zones" during emergencies and feeding off desperate people.  They pretend to be helping, but in fact they fully exploit the misery and suffering of people in a panic for personal profit.

It has become very obvious, after Hurricane Katrina and similar disasters, that some of the wealthiest sectors of society have ceased entirely to provide any charitable service to people who suffer disasters. Quite to the contrary, they have begun to respond to disasters in the most exploitative manner possible.

Klein argues that this is the natural outgrowth of a competitive, non-cooperative business model that refuses to recognize any real obligation on the part of the state to serve the public, even during disasters.  When private corporations take over traditional state roles of public service, they turn state agencies into "hollow corporations."  That is, a few well-paid people at the top supply minimal staffing (staff who are underpaid, under-trained and under-equipped) and then they apply business models based on cost minimization and self-serving profit maximization.  The result can be shockingly poor service or no service at all to people who are in desperate need.

In some cases one even finds outrageous examples of corrupt modern-day governments back-stabbing victims of hurricanes and tsunamis by offering to sell the "vacant" beaches where the victims once lived to luxury hotel owners, completely ignoring prior ownership and usage rights.

Under these new economic conditions, we see no real improvement on the scanty help and service that was given to Titanic survivors one hundred years ago.   Those who are rescued from disasters are often given little or no help.

To confirm this, one only need watch Spike Lee's documentary "When the Levees Broke" or Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko" in which he begs staff at Guantanamo Bay prison to provide as much free health care to "911 heroes" (New Yorkers who suffered lung damage while voluntarily clearing 911 building wreckage) as the U.S. military have provided to their al Qaeda prisoners.

When Moore and the 911 wreckage workers are turned away by the U.S. government, they go down the street to a nearby clinic in Cuba where medicare is socialized and provided for free. The 911 heroes are quickly and generously offered lung medications that are painfully expensive and difficult to obtain in the U.S.
Moore's point:  If the U.S. government denies veterans or 911 heroes the right to free public or state-sponsored medical care, then it is treating terrorist prisoners better than it is treating 911 heroes, and it has done a good job of  making medical care in Cuba look better than medical care in the U.S.  The communists in Cuba actually do a kinder and better job of looking after victims of disaster!

It's a shame, but it is true.  When asked to help 911 heroes and veterans, no one in the U.S. steps forward or volunteers.  Because there is no profit in it.

Apparently the age of Robber Barons who ruthlessly exploit "other people" and "other people's money" has not ended -- not at all.


Wikipedia "Disaster Film"


Airplane Accidents

Airport (1970)
The Hindenburg (1975)

Meteor (1976)
Deep Impact (1998)
Armaggedon: The Perfect Storm (2000)

A Night to Remember (1958)
Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Titanic (1997)

San Francisco (1936)
Earthquake (1974)

In Old Chicago (1937)
Towering Inferno (1974)

Nuclear Accidents and Wars
On The Beach
The Day After
Doctor Strangelove
Red Dawn

Solar Flares
Knowing (2009)

Tidal Waves
Deluge (1933)

Volcanic Eruptions
The Last Days of Pompeii (1936)
Volcano (1997)
Dante's Peak (1997)

End of the World