Monday, August 11, 2008

Iraq: capitalism gone wild?

To respond to Naomi Klein's thesis about Iraq being a playground for neocons' free market fantasies (which she links, however implausibly, to no-bid government contracts), the NYT has an article about the rising levels of statism and anti-market policies within Iraq. Since 2005 the number of Iraqis on the government's payroll has almost doubled to 2.3 million. The percentage of working Iraqis "in the public sector" has risen from 31 to 35% in the same period, with 40% being the number in Saddam's day. I'm not sure if the difference comes from an expanding "labor force," or if "public sector" is a broader category than "government employees" – the article isn't clear.

Though the article blames the lack of free market investment in the lack of infrastructure, it seems more plausible that violence and a poor strategy of privatization (such as woefully imperfect privatization like that used with highways, which moves the situation ever so slightly but doesn't involve more fundamental economic and political reforms) are the cause of the low rates of investment.

More on my hate-hate affair (because I'm sure that she's aware of my existence, so popular as I am) with Naomi Klein here.


sustainibertarian said...

Naomi Klein is just a left wing conspiracy theorist. At least that is my impression, I have yet to read either of her books. Her painting of Friedman as some evil force in a capitalist conspiracy is too simple minded. She is a beaken for the more "radical" of the left who think that the alternative to capitalism is a happy go lucky dream world happy bliss and loving cooperative living where life is easy and everything is in abundance. I myself am very dubious as to capitalisms staying power in light of ecological issues such as peak oil or the destruction of ecosystems. Nevertheless, I dont see socialism as providing any happing go lucky world.

As per Iraq, it was stupid going in there in such a poorly "planned" -ahem - manner. It was stupid to go into Iraq period, but it was so poorly handled from the get go that the US was just asking for trouble.

Stephen Smith said...

I think you're right in that capitalism is going to suffer damage at the hands of environmentalists, but I think that's a damn shame since most/all of the damage that "capitalism" supposedly does to the environment isn't at all the result of capitalism, but rather statism.

One of my first posts was taking libertarians to task for never explaining well enough (probably because they themselves don't understand) how environmental damage that seems like it comes from capitalism really comes from state planning – you can find it here. Here's my entire archive of environmentalism-related posts, a few of which deal with the same issue.