More Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man: "This Time, They’re Coming For Your Democracy"

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Sarah van Gelder via,

Twelve years ago, John Perkins published his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and it rapidly rose up The New York Times’ best-seller list. In it, Perkins describes his career convincing heads of state to adopt economic policies that impoverished their countries and undermined democratic institutions. These policies helped to enrich tiny, local elite groups while padding the pockets of U.S.-based transnational corporations.

Perkins was recruited, he says, by the National Security Agency (NSA), but he worked for a private consulting company. His job as an undertrained, overpaid economist was to generate reports that justified lucrative contracts for U.S. corporations, while plunging vulnerable nations into debt. Countries that didn’t cooperate saw the screws tightened on their economies. In Chile, for example, President Richard Nixon famously called on the CIA to “make the economy scream” to undermine the prospects of the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.

If economic pressure and threats didn’t work, Perkins says, the jackals were called to either overthrow or assassinate the noncompliant heads of state. That is, indeed, what happened to Allende, with the backing of the CIA.

Perkins’ book has been controversial, and some have disputed some of his claims, including, for example, that the NSA was involved in activities beyond code making and breaking.

Perkins has just reissued his book with major updates. The basic premise of the book remains the same, but the update shows how the economic hit man approach has evolved in the last 12 years. Among other things, U.S. cities are now on the target list. The combination of debt, enforced austerity, underinvestment, privatization, and the undermining of democratically elected governments is now happening here.

I couldn’t help but think about Flint, Michigan, under emergency management as I read The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

I interviewed Perkins at his home in the Seattle area. In addition to being a recovering economic hit man, he is a grandfather and a founder and board member of Dream Change and The Pachamama Alliance, organizations that work for “a world that future generations will want to inherit.”

Sarah van Gelder: What’s changed in our world since you wrote the first Confessions of an Economic Hit Man?

John Perkins: Things have just gotten so much worse in the last 12 years since the first Confessions was written. Economic hit men and jackals have expanded tremendously, including the United States and Europe.

Back in my day we were pretty much limited to what we called the third world, or economically developing countries, but now it’s everywhere.

And in fact, the cancer of the corporate empire has metastasized into what I would call a failed global death economy. This is an economy that’s based on destroying the very resources upon which it depends, and upon the military. It’s become totally global, and it’s a failure.

van Gelder: So how has this switched from us being the beneficiaries of this hit-man economy, perhaps in the past, to us now being more of the victims of it?

Perkins: It’s been interesting because, in the past, the economic hit man economy was being propagated in order to make America wealthier and presumably to make people here better off, but as this whole process has expanded in the U.S. and Europe, what we’ve seen is a tremendous growth in the very wealthy at the expense of everybody else.

On a global basis we now know that 62 individuals have as many assets as half the world’s population.

We of course in the U.S. have seen how our government is frozen, it’s just not working. It’s controlled by the big corporations and they’ve really taken over. They’ve understood that the new market, the new resource, is the U.S. and Europe, and the incredibly awful things that have happened to Greece and Ireland and Iceland, are now happening here in the U.S.

We’re seeing this situation where we can have what statistically shows economic growth, and at the same time increased foreclosures on homes and unemployment.

van Gelder: Is this the same kind of dynamic about debt that leads to emergency managers who then turn over the reins of the economy to private enterprises? The same thing that you are seeing in third-world countries?

Perkins: Yes, when I was an economic hit man, one of the things that we did, we raised these huge loans for these countries, but the money never actually went to the countries, it went to our own corporations to build infrastructure in those countries. And when the countries could not pay off their debt, we insisted that they privatize their water systems, their sewage systems, their electric systems.

Now we’re seeing that same thing happen in the United States. Flint, Michigan, is a very good example of that. This is not a U.S. empire, it’s a corporate empire protected and supported by the U.S. military and the CIA. But it is not an American empire, it’s not helping Americans. It’s exploiting us in the same way that we used to exploit all these other countries around the world.

van Gelder: So it seems like Americans are starting to get this. What is your sense about where the American public is in terms of readiness to do something?

Perkins: As I travel around the U.S., as I travel around the world, I see that people are really waking up. We’re getting it. We’re understanding that we live on a very fragile space station, and it’s got no shuttles; we can’t get off. We’ve got to fix it, we’ve got to take care of it, and we’re in the process of destroying it. The big corporations are destroying it, but the big corporations are just run by people, and they’re vulnerable to us. If we really consider it, the market place is a democracy, if we just use it as such.

van Gelder: I want to push back on that one a little bit because so many corporations don’t sell to ordinary consumers, they sell to other companies or to governments, and so many corporations have such an entrenched reward system where if one person doesn’t perform by exploiting the earth they’ll simply get replaced with somebody else who does.

Perkins: I’ve recently been speaking at a number of corporate conferences. I hear time after time after time that many of them want to leave a green legacy. They’ve got children, they’ve got grandchildren, they understand we can’t go on like this.

So what they say is, “Go out there, start consumer movements. What I want is to receive a hundred thousand emails from my customers saying, ’Hey, I love your product but I’m not going to buy it anymore until you pay your workers a fair wage in Indonesia, or wherever, or clean up the environment, or do something.’ And then I can take that to my board of directors and my big stockholders, to the people who really control whether I get hired or fired.”

van Gelder: I agree, and those campaigns, as you know, have been going on for decades now, and sometimes they have little incremental changes around the edge. But then we look back on it later and we see that there’s enormous resistance because of the profits to be made in continuing the system.

Perkins: I think we’ve seen tremendous changes, though. Just in the last few years, we’ve seen organic foods become very big. Twenty years ago they couldn’t make a go of it. We’ve seen women having bigger positions in corporations, and minorities, and we need to get better at this.

We’ve seen the labeling of many foods. GMOs aren’t included yet, but nutrition and calories and so forth are. And what we really need to do is convince corporations that they’ve got to have a new goal.

We’ve got to let corporations know what their job is: It’s to serve a public interest, and make a decent rate of return for investors. We need investors, but beyond that, every corporation should serve a public interest, should serve the earth, should serve future generations.

van Gelder: I want to ask you about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and other trade deals. Is there any way that we can beat these things back so they don’t continue supercharging the corporate sphere at the expense of local democracies?

Perkins: They’re devastating; they give sovereignty to corporations over governments. It’s ridiculous.

We’re seeing terrible desperation from people in Central America trying to get away from a system that’s broken, primarily because our trade agreements and our policies toward Latin America have broken them. And we’re seeing, of course, those similar things in the Middle East and in Africa, these waves of immigrants that are swarming into Europe from the Middle East. These terrible problems that have been created because of the greed of big corporations.

I was just in Central America and what we talk about in the U.S. as being an immigration problem is really a trade agreement problem.

They’re not allowed to impose tariffs under the trade agreements—NAFTA and CAFTA—but the U.S. is allowed to subsidize its farmers. Those governments can’t afford to subsidize their farmers. So our farmers can undercut theirs, and that’s destroyed the economies, and a number of other things, and that’s why we’ve got immigration problems.

van Gelder: Can you talk about the violence that people are fleeing in Central America, and how that links back to the role the U.S. has had there?

Perkins: Three or four years ago the CIA orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected president of Honduras, President Zelaya, because he stood up to Dole and Chiquita and some other big, global, basically U.S.-based corporations.

He wanted to raise the minimum wage to a reasonable level, and he wanted some land reform that would make sure that his own people were able to make money off their own land, rather than having big international corporations do it.

The big corporations couldn’t stand for this. He wasn’t assassinated but he was overthrown in a coup and sent to another country, and replaced by a terribly brutal dictator, and today Honduras is one of the most violent, homicidal countries in the hemisphere.

It’s frightening what we’ve done. And when that happens to a president, it sends a message to every other president throughout the hemisphere, and in fact throughout the world: Don’t mess with us. Don’t mess with the big corporations. Either cooperate and get rich in the process, and have all your friends and family get rich in the process, or go get overthrown or assassinated. It’s a very strong message.

van Gelder: I wanted to ask about your time spent in Ecuador with indigenous people. I’m wondering if you could talk about how that experience has changed you?

Perkins: Many years ago when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Amazon with the Shuar indigenous people there, I was dying. I got very ill, and my life was saved in one night by a shaman. I’d come out of business school this is 1968, ’69, and I had no idea what a shaman was, but it changed my life by helping me understand that what was killing me was a mindset—what they would call the dream.

I spent many years studying all this, and working with many different indigenous groups, and what I saw was the power of the mindset.

The shamans teach us—the indigenous people teach us—once you change the mindset, then it’s pretty easy to have the objective reality change around it. So, instead of the kind of economy we have now, a death economy, if we can change the mindset we can very quickly move into a life economy.

van Gelder: So what are the mechanisms by which a change in consciousness actually shifts things on the ground?

Perkins: Well, in my opinion the biggest catalyst that needs to go forward to change this is we’ve got to change the corporations. We’ve got to move from that goal that was stated by Milton Friedman in the 1970s, that the only responsibility of corporations is to maximize profits regardless of social and environmental costs.

We change the big corporations by telling them we’re not going to buy from you anymore unless you change your goal. No longer should your goal be to maximize profits regardless of social and environmental costs. Make a decent rate of return for your investors, but serve us, we the people, or we’re not buying from you.

van Gelder : You quote Tom Paine in your book: “If there must be trouble let it be in my day that my child may have peace.” Why did you decide to use that quote?

Perkins : Well, I think Tom Paine was brilliant in that statement. He understood how that would impact people. And he wrote that statement in December 1776.

Washington had lost just about every battle he ever fought; he wasn’t getting any support from the Continental Congress; they weren’t giving his men guns or ammunition or even blankets and shoes, and he was bogged down at Valley Forge. Paine realizes that he’s got to somehow write something that will rally people, and there’s nothing that rallies people more than to think about their children

That to me is where we’re at right now. I’ve got a daughter and I’ve got an 8-year-old grandson. Bring on the trouble for me, OK, but let’s create a world they’re going to want to live in. And let’s understand that my 8-year-old grandson cannot have an environmentally sustainable and regenerative, socially just, fulfilling world unless every child on the planet has that.

And this is new. It used to be all we had to worry about was our local community, maybe our country. But we didn’t have to worry about the world. But what we know now is that we can’t have peace anywhere in the world, we can’t have peace in the U.S., unless everybody has peace.


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ParkAveFlasher's picture

woops I clicked in by accident, I thought this was about Gary Busey.

CapnJackDaniel's picture

Busey / Walken 2016. It's the only sensible option.

bamawatson's picture

we will have to pass them to find out what is in them

Perimetr's picture

 The global economy is run by people

It's them or us, take your choice

Escrava Isaura's picture

The problem with Perkins is that he forgot the exponential function. And he calls himself an economist, go figure.


"A central ingredient in smart growth' is regional planning; but, regional planning encourages more population growth, and population growth is unsustainable." We hear a lot today about "smart growth," as though "smart growth" was the magic key to the achievement of sustainability. A central ingredient in "smart growth" is regional planning; but, regional planning encourages more population growth, and population growth is unsustainable.” – Professor Albert Bartlett 1994.


Never One Roach's picture

This guys book is one of the best I have ever read describing how this entire system works. It all makes perfect sense.

lance-a-lot's picture
lance-a-lot (not verified) espirit Oct 3, 2016 11:10 PM

"They're coming for your democracy."

Who's they?

MagicHandPuppet's picture

I'll gladly give you my democracy on Tuesday if I could have all of my liberty back today.

GreatUncle's picture

Fuck the word democracry ... they are coming to take you voice and make you a slave AKA BREXIT.

Your Liberty comes from your voice and is not given its a right to object and if enough of you object in any form of governance and those with power ignore it YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO REVOLT.

They take your voice, you have no liberty and as they penalise you more and more you have nowhere to go.

Hence my argument ... kill all my fucking treasonous UK lawmakers, the rest of the sheep will catch up soon enough.

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Serve the Earth!   

This guy has gone off the rails.  While you can hope corporations would "serve for more than profit" it is completely naive to think they serve anything but profit.

I have been in agreement with this guy until this latest thing.  Now it's as if he was just making all that other shit up just to sell books.  

NeedtoSecede's picture

Exactly! Take the democracy and just let me have back my Constitutional Republic.

ONEwarrior's picture

Throughout history the only way to create change in governments or Corporate MINDSETS is a good old fashion REVOLUTION.

So whatever you do in the USA, don't give up your guns. Because boycotts and e-mails will not do a thing to change GREED.

One thing is certain the economy is going down and the only hope and change will be in the fight.



11b40's picture

I would settle for The Constitutional Republic we once had.

MalteseFalcon's picture

"Three or four years ago the CIA orchestrated a coup against the democratically elected president of Honduras, President Zelaya, because he stood up to Dole and Chiquita and some other big, global, basically U.S.-based corporations."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

MissCellany's picture

It explains a helluva lot about the frantic way the so-called powers-that-be are trying so hard to force Hillary on the country, too.

a Smudge by any other name's picture

Great business model too!

1. Make money selling out America.

2. Retire, have an epiphany.

3. Make more money telling people how you sold out America.

It's not a weakness it's a strength! It's not a bug it's a feature! He's not a former criminal, he's a presently spiritually enlightened dude!

SixIsNinE's picture

he married into the Bechtel Group family.  He could've shut up and lived on the Millions ^ Millions.  BUT - he got TURNED on ayahuasca, the DMT psychedelic brew and wants a better world.  

Good work John, but time to upgrade your "space station" analogy.


Delving Eye's picture

I recently watched "Elizabeth," starring Cate Blanchette as QEI, and was appalled by the outright murder, chicanery, wars and torture inflicted by those at the highest levels of government, and of a feudal system that left the masses in poverty. Then I realized that nothing has changed.

keep the bastards honest's picture

Indeed, and Eliz 1 made lots of money out of her slavers running down Irish men women and children and shipping  them off to sell to americans north  south and islands for a variety of purposes, as well they were literate whereas most americans were not.

Blanchett herself notably stood up for explcit photographs  of a naked girl child to be displayed in galleries as "artists" were beyond the rules of common men. She is disgusting  too and feel she was right for that role superior to all.



Escrava Isaura's picture

Not commenting of his previous books that he got it right by such comment as this:

we raised these huge loans for these countries, but the money never actually went to the countries, it went to our own corporations to build infrastructure in those countries. And when the countries could not pay off their debt, we insisted that they privatize their water systems, their sewage systems, their electric systems.


I am commenting about statements such as this:

As I travel around the U.S., as I travel around the world, I see that people are really waking up. We’re getting it. We’re understanding that we live on a very fragile space station, and it’s got no shuttles; we can’t get off. We’ve got to fix it.


Perkins as well as most of humans, I am talking about people that have being exposed to “finite Planet” such as in oil and energy depletion, and that we’re total dependent on those. So, once those are gone, unlikely that we will be able to feed one tenth of the current population, especially on the western world.

Perkins cannot grasp that it’s too late, because, for westerns especially, most of humanity won’t give up the endless financial and demographic growth myth perpetrated on and by them.

As long as we keep the “Middleclass lifestyle” mentality, we’re doomed.

The alternative would be something like the way the Amish live.

But, it ain’t gonna happen.

So, prepare for war as we desperately try to keep it “Middleclass Lifestyle” going.



roddcarlson's picture

Remove the tax and legal incentives for group think (corporations) and all the other unfair advantages. I think a consumer naturally wants a real person/family to be the creator of the items they purchase. It's a sense of pride for both the customer and suppliers when a true family name goes with that product. The government has made the corporation and all their mini-me characteristics the beasts they truly have become. Proprietorship should be the at least a good 7/8 of profit making because nothing works better than real capital from real families that make real products that want to be in business and preserve the name and their reputations.

Truthfully I think the guy has some points like corporations are dung on average. But the idea that corporations don't serve what people really want is a bunch of bull. People want to be fat on their twinkies. Just like people that want to drink or smoke are going to do it anyway. The problem is that nobody wants to be accountable for what they do to themselves or anyone else. That's something not addressed by pretending that we can demand corporations to change their ways, when a good bulk of us like it the way it already is... easy (no personal accountability). So it is true it starts with the consumer first, but that isn't something that a Shaman can teach it's called growing up to say man if this boat sinks I'm going down with it and the capatain can't or won't save me in the end. In short a good percentage of people are short term thinkers, the idea that they think about anything other then themselves in the present mode and tense is a bit stretching reality. They want what they want now (to feel good) and hedonist they are they don't plan for tomorrow. Corporations provide the supply for that just as well as any other black market, but if you ever worked for a Corporation then you know the true irony of "group actualization".

I used to hate corporations because I had to work for them. One day I decided I didn't need to work for them, and then corporations stopped being a problem for me as an individual. I don't eat the poisons they create and read all the crap they are doing and I avoid it. Pretty simple really. Government on the other hand is unavoidable.

Lastly he said Nafta is why we have an immigration problem. Seriously I can't agree with that. We have an immigration problem because we are short termed thinkers, we own the reserve currency (Triffin dilemma), and we are hedonist. Generally speaking if a nation has continous trade deficits it means the country can't support itself. That in itself spells that a no vacancy sign should be put up at the nations borders. Illegals...legals...we don't need no more people we are full thanks! But hey when you print more funny money when you are short why not let in all the low lifes so they can hedge your bushes real crappy while you go to your banker job. Financialization and reserve currency continues to make people stream in here when for the most part a negative trade indicates you don't make enough to support yourself already. Cut the stinkin immigration both legal and illegal.

I'm not totally against the guy but it seems a bit watermelon for my liking. Though to be honest I didn't hear that the government should be the answer either so who knows.

roddcarlson's picture

It also helps to be accountable to that thing that is behind all the mysterious knowledge like math and physics which show a intricate self awareness and intelligence outside of our little pea brains. Many people call it the "universe" but God will do for me. Once a person accepts that we are pretty small in the cosmic scale but there is also an natural order, and intelligence of this creation and that we are to be wise to it and others then the rest of the stuff kind of falls hand and hand. Still I differ in many respects from Shamans and many preachers that I think it would be wise to know how the natural order of things works here and to align oneself (be accountable and knowledgable) to it's order and natural laws. One can say that the world is causal and I agree. Many Shamans and priests miss these kinds of things, the practical aspect of God and his accountablility. Love is a great thing but without wisdom it doesn't work here outside of my little brain (context of intelligence of the outside world). Likewise Wisdom without love is a waste of time. I guess there is a reason we are given two brains (left and right) and asked to use both of them simultaneously. Most people want someone else to do the thinking (left handed stuff) because it hurts their head too much to try it themselves. Be wise as a serpent (left brain)...but gentle as a dove (right brain). Works for me and the fact that if I do stupid crap to myself and others that I'm tempting the eternal God that there are no rules of how things work. Corporations are really just the same echo...people resign over their individual left hand brain of accountability to the group. In this case the mob of accountability and group think is called a corporation. Thanks Government for another crappy distortion of reality and accountability and true capital and ownership and responsibility. In the end teach people accountability to this larger thing outside of themselves and make them question everything and the rest will solve itself.

Omen IV's picture

I don't believe it's about cheap labor

The inputs beyond labor in th USA are always going to be more expensive than elsewhere further if a company is taxed here on what they produce and sell - it can always be zero profit in the US if produced elsewhere and therefore zero taxes

So the refugees and illegals is to break the back of control by the white citizens

They want white people below 42% of the population

Then they can spend 100% on military and economic mercenaries to take over the world with no blow back

Wake up

jmack's picture

i thought Wiener/Holder was the only sensible option.

SixIsNinE's picture

Nick Nolte SecDef, of course


Sam Elliott Joint Chief of Staff

sgt_doom's picture

Ya know, this Perkins dood is such a lightweight jackhole.

Pretty much everyone who comments on this site, and many of whom don't agree with me on many subjects, would probably agree that if there ever was any Real Democracy in America, it went away with the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, and the subsequent loss of the government to actively control money creation (exception:  President John F. Kennedy and Executive Order 11110).


GracchusBrothers's picture

When it comes to "intelligence"...he who talks, doesn't know and he who knows, doesn't talk...or he is a dead man.

mofreedom's picture

Imagine if Dylan sang about having "to serve some earth."


SMG's picture

They're coming for your democracy. SO... WILL YOU LET THEM HAVE IT!?!?!?!?

Ralph Spoilsport's picture

I think there's a lot of folks who want to "let them have it", but not in the way they're thinking of.

Ol Man's picture

Take my democracy!  Please!  It is anti-freedom!

greenskeeper carl's picture

 I agree. The idea that 50% +1 of the morons in this country can decide what laws to ram down my throat is frankly repulsive. And while I can certainly appreciate a lot of what this guy has to say, its a little too lefty for my personal tastes. I can't stand the talk of 'austerity' when it comes to places like Flint, Michigan. Years of hemmoraging jobs while operating under idiotic fiscal policies means they ran out of money. Eventually they couldn't even borrow any more. A black democrat run city running out of white people's money to tax and spend hardly counts as 'austerity'. Decades of socialist policies make forced 'austerity' an inevitable reality. Eventually you run out of other people's money. If they had tried a little bit of self restraint-related austerity, they may not have gotten themselves into this.

KickIce's picture

It's better the the 100% puppets / psychopaths that make our laws in the House and Senate.

runswithscissors's picture

FUCK democracy! Give me back the Republic!!!

jmack's picture

they can have the democracy.... I might defend the republic though.

Longarm's picture

Yeah, vote with your wallet.

boattrash's picture

OK, I guess I'll be buying this book finally.

HomeBrewPrepper's picture

The problem is the stupid dumb average citizen pays no attention and just doesn't care. They vote they way they were brought up, same as trying to talk to someone about religion. There mind is already made up, and no matter how much sense you try to give them, Nothing... And I mean nothing will get through to them until it affects them personally, and by then it's too late.
That's why I just ignore everyone and plan and prepare on my own.

King Tut's picture
King Tut (not verified) HomeBrewPrepper Oct 3, 2016 9:48 PM

They are too busy wrapped up in the narcissism of Facebook and Instagram

G-R-U-N-T's picture

Sorry, but there are 2 things that effect change in the naive and ignorant: War and Economic Pain, not necessarily in that order!

King Tut's picture
King Tut (not verified) Oct 3, 2016 9:32 PM

Death throes of the petrodollar- it is only going to get worse 

blue51's picture

Question is, is it on purpose .

Maxter's picture

Good question.

I currently think some people are engeneering a slow collapse of the West. And nobody is trying to stop them, least of all the people.

Ralph Spoilsport's picture

Some people = the Communist Party that got kicked out of Russia. Defectors from the old USSR have described how they do it, people like Yuri Bezmenov.

Who runs and supports the Cultural Marxists has been well covered here at ZH.