John Perkins, author of the New York Times bestseller, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” says that all Americans need to do to face the uncertain future is simply change their mindset.
Perkins, who also wrote “The Secret History of the American Empire,” and most recently, “Hoodwinked,” was invited by the students of Model United Nations to speak to the Boulder community Feb. 16 in the Glenn Miller Ballroom.
He addressed topics such as the perceptions of America, its popularity overseas and the labels we give ourselves.
Parts of his talk centered on the unsustainable direction America is headed today, the geopolitical future of our increasingly interconnected and diminishing world, and the steps Americans can take during revolutionary times.
Laura Kellogg, a 21-year-old senior international affairs major and the speaker coordinator for Model U.N., said one of the reasons she chose to invite Perkins to Boulder was because he served as a break in the traditional speakers they’ve brought in.
Traditionally, speakers for Model U.N. had a military and more conservative background.
“He was controversial enough we could create a dialogue and provide a different perspective to what we hear in the main media outlets,” Kellogg said. “It’s nice to get a bigger picture of what’s going on in the world.”
Perkins addressed this controversy when he told the audience: “We’re in the midst of a revolution. And the economic crisis we’re having is no fluke. And we don’t want to go back to normal. We’ve created this monumental, massive failure.”
Part of this failure stems from the global empire Americans have created for themselves, Perkins said. And they have truly created the world’s first global empire with their customary brand of predatory capitalism.
His discernment of predatory capitalism comes his time as an “economic hit man” where developing nations were essentially coerced into paying off massive debts to the United States by selling oil or other natural resources at cheap prices.
“In this way we have created a global empire,” Perkins said. “The world is in a dangerous position.”
The hazards come from the use of a particularly selfish, greedy form of capitalism, Perkins said, that stems from the economics of Milton Friedman.
According to Perkins’ synopsis of Friedman economics, there are three main provisions to this type of fiscal management. One: The sole responsibility of businesses is to maximize profits. Two: Businesses should not be regulated. And three: Everything should be run by private businesses.
“It’s especially predatory,” Perkins said, noting this form of capitalism’s targeting of Third World countries. “But a change in mindset could change everything.”
Perkins stressed how the current global phenomenon of interconnectedness and communication is the first of its kind in history.
“For the first time in history, we’re living in a very small, highly integrated, highly dependent planet,” Perkins said. “For the first time in history we’re all communicating with each other. This is monumental. And we’re all recognizing we’re really in this together.”
Currently, Perkins said, it’s the big corporations calling the shots. Before, one could look to the structure of geopolitics of to gauge the center of world power.
“The marketplace is essentially democratic,” Perkins said.
And the importance of a democratic marketplace is that power falls to the consumers, should they be passionate enough in their values, ideals and talents to utilize it.
Perkins used the example of Nike using slave labor in sweatshops to manufacture their merchandise. He reiterated the power of consumers in changing the way they think and see corporations and their behavior.
“We’re not going to buy from any company that isn’t committed to creating a just and peaceful world,” Perkins said. “We have sent the wrong message, you and I: ‘If it’s made by slaves, I’ll look the other way.’”
So, with every revolution comes the chance to create better openings and prospects for the future.
“There’s an opportunity to create a whole new economy. We need to move to this higher level of consciousness,” Perkins said. “And more than anything, you need to follow your passions and talents. Go for the passion. Don’t follow the money. Follow the passion.”
In an interview with the CU Independent, Perkins talked about the impact his talks have had past audiences.
“I get a lot of e-mails from people forming competitive, responsible organizations,” Perkins said. “There was one about a young woman who started a company that hires women in India to collect plastic bags, and then turns them into purses and boots.”
A similar impact was made on Vladimir Dubovskiy, a 23-year-old senior majoring in applied mathematics. He said he had read Perkins’ book “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” prior to the talk.
“His book was the first I’ve ever read that made me angry. It made me genuinely angry,” Dubovskiy said.
Dubovskiy said he felt compelled to do something about the gloomy reality of corptocracy, Perkins’ term for corporations running politics. It was a big influence in his starting Greenlighted, a Web site that ranks companies on their social and environmental performances.
“It gives power back to the consumers,” Dubovskiy said. “Consumers now have appropriate information to vote with their dollar.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sheila V Kumar at Sheila.email@example.com.