Since the time of the ancient Chinese, Persian, and Roman empires, a basic strategy has served those who seek to dominate others — both inside and outside their borders.
Despite all the cultural and technological changes over the centuries, that strategy has focused on the same goal: exploiting resources to satisfy short-term materialistic consumption and increasing the riches and power of a few elites. During my time as chief economist at a major U.S. consulting firm, I helped take what has become known as the economic hit man (EHM) strategy to new levels.
“The goal of domination is cloaked in a critical factor: the perception that those being dominated are receiving benefits.”
The goal of domination is cloaked in a critical factor: the perception that those being dominated are receiving benefits. Marketing executives, psychotherapists, and politicians know that perception molds reality. Countries, cultures, religions, and corporations don’t exist until enough people accept a perception that drives them to take reality-altering actions. Nation’s intent on dominating others understands that the key to their strategy is perception.
Perceptions like: “To attain eternal salvation, the savages must be civilized;” “The red tide of Communism needs to be stopped before it inundates the world;” and “Success is measured by short-term profits, stock prices, and trade balances” has been ingrained in our national psyches.
They’re taught in schools, inspire lofty political rhetoric, influence the media, motivate soldiers to go to war, and are the foundation of a nation’s biases around race and culture. They justify EHM strategies. And, for the most part, they’re lies.
Confession of an economic hit man
Since the beginning of the 1970s and my EHM days, the U.S. strategy has promoted a perception that may be summarized as: “If you want your country to prosper, then accept loans from the Washington Consensus, hire our companies to build infrastructure projects, and submit to our neoliberal policies.”
The Washington Consensus refers to the World Bank, IMF, US Treasury Department, and related institutions — organizations that provide loans and enforce “neoliberalism.” Neoliberal policies include austerity programs, cutting taxes for the rich and wages and social services for everyone else, reducing government regulations, privatizing public-sector businesses, and selling them to US investors, and promoting the perception that money will “trickle down” from the corporations and elites to the rest of the population. In truth, these policies almost always cause greater inequality.
For many years, I believed the promoted perception and thought I was doing the right thing. My staff and I compiled impressive statistics and created sophisticated econometric models to “prove” that our strategy resulted in greater prosperity, equality, and democracy. Eventually, I realized I was being deceived and that I was deceiving the leaders of countries where the EHM strategy was funneling resources to U.S. corporations at the expense of most people in those countries.
Now China has entered the scene. Its record of economic growth — averaging nearly 10 percent a year for three decades — and the fact that it pulled more than 700 million people out of extreme poverty has impressed countries fed up with the Washington Consensus and neoliberalism.
Beijing understands the importance of that critical factor, perception. Its highly effective EHMs have learned from our successes and failures. They maintain that China doesn’t demand influence over other countries’ governmental policies.
Their EHM strategy has replaced our stance of “If you want your country to prosper, then accept Washington Consensus loans, hire our companies to build infrastructure projects, and submit to neoliberal policies” with “If you want your country to prosper, accept China as a partner in global trade that won’t interfere in your government, and use Chinese loans to hire our companies to build the infrastructure.” Substituting neoliberal conditionalities with promises of non-interference appeals to leaders of countries accustomed to U.S. demands — despite China’s pattern of breaking those promises.
China’s New Silk Road program (formally the Belt and Road Initiative) has made it the largest trading partner with countries on every continent. It has beaten out the U.S. in energy, transportation, communications, and other infrastructure development across the globe.
Our leaders are lying to us
As we experience climate change, growing income inequality, environmental devastation, and species extinctions, it’s essential to recognize that our leaders — whether they reside in Washington, Beijing, Moscow, or any other capital city — are lying to us.
They follow the mandate of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Freidman which can be summarized as: “The only responsibility of business is to maximize short-term profits, regardless of the social and environmental costs.” That has turned out to be the biggest lie of all. The maximization of short-term profits and the materialistic consumption that follows are killing us.
“The maximization of short-term profits and the materialistic consumption that follows are killing us.”
We’ve reached a moment in history when we need to stop being deceived and deceiving ourselves and others. It’s time to stand against leaders who traffic in lies. The EHM strategy must end. We must understand that the U.S. and China — all of us around the world — can disagree on many things but let us agree to spread the truth that no one prospers, and no one survives, on a dead planet. Let us agree that the goal isn’t maximizing short-term profits but maximizing long-term benefits for people and nature.
Here are some actions everyone can take:
Promote thoughtful discussions.
Recognize that many people have long histories and family ties that make it difficult for them to recognize the falsehoods. Rather than confronting or arguing with them, ask gentle but probing questions that will inspire them to look deeper into these matters.
Adopt a ‘life economy’ lifestyle.
Instead of feeding into the Death Economy, choose to promote a Life Economy. Shop, invest in and work for companies that are committed to doing their best to end climate change and the other crises facing us.
Inspire others in the cause.
Spread the word that our most dangerous enemy is not the “other” but rather our materialistic compulsion to consume more and more of the things that are taking us to the precipice of self-destruction. Write articles, blogs, and emails and send them to personal contacts or post on social media to help family and community members, along with local and national politicians, understand that we must end the idea that maximization of short-term profits is an acceptable goal.
John Perkins is a former chief economist who advised the World Bank, the United Nations, Fortune 500 corporations, and governments around the world. Now as a sought-after speaker and author of 11 books that have been on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 70 weeks, sold over 2 million copies, and are translated into more than 35 languages, he exposes the world of international intrigue and corruption and the EHM strategy that creates global empires. His latest book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 3rd Edition – China’s EHM Strategy; Ways to Stop the Global Takeover, continues his revelations, describes China’s highly effective and dangerous modifications to the EHM strategy and offers a plan for transforming a failing Death Economy into a regenerative, successful Life Economy. Learn more at johnperkins.org/economichitmanbook.
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