Recently I got the chance to sit down with John Perkins, the author of The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, and find out what motivated him to update this new edition of his startling tell-all about what really goes on in the shadows of statesmanship and diplomacy.
What prompted you to update your book?
Readers of the 2004 edition of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man had sent me thousands of emails asking how its publication impacted my life. They wanted to know what I am doing to redeem myself and change the Economic Hit Man (EHM) system, and what actions they can take to turn things around. Then in 2014, I saw my 7-year-old grandson, Grant, flipping through that edition, and he asked me when I’d written it. I explained that I had finished writing it three years before he was born. He wanted to know what has happened since.
The fact is, things have gotten much worse. Back when I was an EHM, I was part of a relatively small group. People who play similar roles are much more abundant now, and the world needs to know about the changes.
You’ve talked about the corruption happening in the U.S. government. How does it compare to the activities you were involved in back in the 1970s?
In the 1970s, economic hit men were executives and consultants at a few multinational corporations and consulting companies. Today’s EHMs are different. They, and the jackal assassins who then step in, have not only radically expanded their ranks, they have also have adopted new disguises and tools. They have euphemistic titles; they walk the corridors of Fortune 500 companies like Exxon, Walmart, General Motors, and Monsanto. They use the EHM system to promote their private interests. They’re executives and consultants at multinational corporations, consulting companies, investment funds, industry groups, and associations — and an army of lobbyists that represents all of these.
The corruption you see now is happening at the highest levels of U.S. government. We’re on the edge of disaster — economic, political, social, and environmental. And we in the U.S. — as well as in the rest of the world — have been hit.
So now the system is in the U.S. as well?
In my EHM days, we dealt with underdeveloped nations, and those countries were looked upon as nests of corruption. People like me plied our trade quietly, but just about everyone assumed that Latin American, African, and Asian government officials thrived on bribes. The image of the banana republic politician accepting an envelope stuffed with dollars in exchange for favors granted was ingrained both in the press and in Hollywood. The United States, on the other hand, was considered to be—and for the most part was—above such massive corruption.
That has totally changed. Activities that would have been viewed as immoral, unacceptable, and illegal in the U.S. back in my day are now considered standard practice. They may be covered in a patina of oblique rhetoric, but underneath are the same old tools — threats, bribes, falsified reports, extortion, sex, and sometimes violence — applied at the highest levels of business and government. And corruption at the top has become legitimized because corporate EHMs draft the laws and finance the politicians who pass them.
Many politicians, Senators and Congresspeople, along with thousands of other men and women who pass through the “revolving door,” don’t call themselves lobbyists. They work for law firms and go by euphemistic titles such as “counselor,” “consultant,” or “adviser in government affairs”— just as I, officially, was “chief economist” for a highly regarded consulting firm. But they’re EHMs. Their real job, much as mine was, is to con governments and the public into submitting to policies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer; to support and expand the corporatocracy and the death economy. They hide in the shadows, yet their influence is immeasurable.
In my day, the “jackals” as I call them were usually assigned to foreign lands, but that’s changed as well. In the aftermath of 9/11, fear drove Americans to agree to sacrifice privacy and freedom and give the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, and other agencies unprecedented powers. Tools perfected overseas, including drones and surveillance aircraft, are now used to spy on us in at home.
Define the “corporatocracy” — how has it it evolved since your days as an EHM?
This is the world’s first truly global empire, created by everyone I’ve mentioned, and yes, it has greatly expanded and evolved. But even they realize that the system cannot continue as it is. Even they know that we all live on a fragile space station that has no shuttles. If it crashes, everyone goes down, including them.
If we don’t stop this system, what are the consequences for the American people in the near term, and in the coming decades?
These strategies have created a “death economy”— one based on wars or the threat of war, debt, and the pillage of the earth’s resources. It is an unsustainable economy that depletes, at ever-increasing rates, the very resources upon which it depends. It poisons the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat. Ultimately, it is self-destructive.
Yet I am still filled with optimism. I know that when enough of us perceive the true workings of this EHM system, we will take the individual and collective actions necessary to control the cancer and restore our health. That’s why I had to update The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. It reveals how the system works today, and what we can all do to take action and change it. It provides strategies for transforming the death economy into a sustainable and regenerative life economy. In this, the awakening of all of us, lies our hope.