Ahead of the release of the Third Edition of John Perkins’ seminal work, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (out February 28), the former economic hit man turned fiscal philosopher teamed up with fellow economic experts and authors Lynne Twist (Living a Committed Life), Nomi Prins (Permanent Distortion), and Greg Palast (The Best Democracy Money Can Buy) for an inspirational virtual launch event.
With 12 new chapters in this new edition, Perkins builds on the Economic Hit Man legacy and expands his focus to China, exposing corruption on an international scale. The book also offers extraordinary new insights on the deadliest chess game of the century: the US versus China.
But the true battle we face isn’t between nations. “We’ve created what I like to call, and other economists are calling, a death economy,” warns Perkins. “An economic system that’s depleting in the short term all the resources it needs for the long term. And it’s consuming and polluting itself into extinction. It’s killing itself and it’s killing life as we know it on the planet.”
As Palast puts it, “It’s the Chinese people, the American people, and the people of Ecuador against these corporate monsters.”
Since these problems traverse borders, so must the solutions, and this is where Perkins’ book offers hope. It doesn’t just explore and explain the existential crisis humanity now faces, it also offers a roadmap to transform our death economy to a life-sustaining one. As Perkins points out, “nobody survives on a dead planet,” so it’s in all our interests to reach across borders and socio-economic divides and become part of the solution. And, during this life-affirming discussion, which took place last Friday, February 17, Perkins and his fellow activist authors empower the viewers and the readers to make the change we need to shift humanity’s trajectory to one that promotes and sustains life for generations to come.
Lynne Twist: Welcome, welcome, welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us. My name is Lynne Twist and I’m a longtime friend and ally, and partner, and beloved collaborator with John Perkins. And it’ll be my honor to conduct this conversation. John and I have the same wonderful publisher, Berrett Koehler, and John’s new book is just a breakthrough piece of work as his work always is.
So, we share, not only a publisher, but we share the Pachamama Alliance, which we co-founded together with my husband, Bill Twist, And then my book is Living a Committed Life. John asked me to make sure to say that — that’s very kind of him to give me a platform for my book too, on this wonderful launch of his new book.
I want to also say we’re joined by two extraordinary colleagues and allies for the kind of message that John is going to be delivering. Greg Palast, known for his extraordinary investigative reporting for The Guardian, BBC, Democracy Now, Newsnight — all places where you can get the truth. His bestsellers include The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Like John… Greg’s an economist. Greg studied under the Dwarf Fascist .
Greg Palast: That’s me…I studied under the Dwarf Fascist, Milton Friedman.
Twist: And he first met John Perkins when he was an economic hit man, before he came in from the cold — that’s what Greg has said that he wants to say. And I just want to read this quote from the Chicago Tribune: Doggedly independent, undaunted by power. His stories bite. They’re so relevant they threaten to alter history.” That’s what the Chicago Tribune says about Greg, and that’s really the truth about John Perkins too.
We’ll get to him in a moment, but also we’ll be joined by Dr. Nomi Prins, a renowned investigative journalist, a geo-economic financial expert, bestselling author of six books, international speaker. Her new book is Permanent Distortion: How Financial Markets Abandoned the Real Economy Forever..
So, we’re so excited to have Greg and Nomi with us. But now let’s get to the real star of the show here, my dear, dear friend, in many ways, my brother from another mother, John Perkins, who has written books that have changed the lives of literally millions of people, especially his first book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. And this is the Third Edition of that incredible revelation that came to John out of the work he used to do and the work he now does…lifting up the covers, looking under the rocks, looking under the radar, seeing what’s really going on. So, John, would you begin this wonderful launch of your extraordinary new book — which we want everybody who’s listening and everybody who hears this recording to buy and read and act on — why this book? Why Confessions of an Economic Hit Man 3? Why Now? What kind of a difference can this book make in the timing of the extraordinary challenging world we’re living in right now? So, take it away..
John Perkins: Thanks Lynne. Thank you so much for being here and for our extraordinary relationship over the years, as you mentioned. So, the subtitles of this book are what are really the important ones, China’s Economic Hit Man Strategy and Ways to Stop the Global Takeover. And it’s not just the global takeover of China, which seems to be implied almost by the title, but it’s the global takeover of this economic hit man strategy.
I think we all would agree that we are at a crisis point in human history…Climate change, income inequality, species extinction, terrible environmental disruption. We’ve created what I like to call, and other economists are calling, a death economy — an economic system that’s depleting in the short term all the resources it needs for the long term. And it’s consuming and polluting itself into extinction. It’s killing itself and it’s killing life as we know it on the planet. And it has really been created by this economic hit man strategy, which I’ve written about in the two previous Confessions books of this trilogy…
I was a huge part of creating that system, and so now I’ve devoted the rest of my life, since I left that system in the early eighties, to trying to change it and to create what we can call a life economy. An economic system that’s based on instead of maximizing short-term profits, regardless of the social and environmental cost, which is the goal as Milton Friedman proclaimed. When he won the Nobel Prize of economics in 1976, probably his most important proclamation was that the only responsibility is to maximize profits, short-term profits, regardless of the social and environmental costs. That essentially gave CEOs the right, even the mandate, to do whatever it takes to maximize profits, including corrupting politicians, which in the United States is now done legally through campaign financing and offering lucrative jobs to politicians after they leave politics, et cetera, et cetera.
“The fact of the matter is that nobody survives on a dead planet and the death economy is producing a dead planet.” — John Perkins
Destroying the environment, destroying species, it’s a terrible, terrible goal. And so the life economy turns that around and says, instead of maximizing short-term profits, the goal should be to maximize long-term benefits for all life, for humans and for nature… We’re already well on the way to doing it. It involves paying people to come up with technologies, like solar and wind, that don’t use fossil fuels, to mine all the plastics in the ocean, and do other things to clean up pollution, and to regenerate destroyed coral reefs in the oceans and to do all the many other things that will regenerate destroyed environments.
There’s so much that can be done to create a life economy. And this is a time when we really, really need to understand that we must do that. This is that second subtitle, Ways to Stop the Global Takeover — the global takeover of an economic system that’s failing all of us — converting a death economy to a life economy. And this has really been propagated, to a large degree, in most of recent history by the United States. But in 2012, when Xi Jinping became the leader of China, China stepped into the scene. And now, as we all know, China’s competing strongly with us to dominate the death economy. It has got the same basic economic hit man strategy that we had, with some exceptions, and those exceptions are very important.
It defines itself as creating a global network of trade, called the New Silk Road. It says that when it gives money to countries, it will not try to influence their political systems. And the United States is infamous for trying to influence political systems. China also can hold out the PATH Act in that has brought over 700 million people out of poverty — more than the rest of the world combined. It had 10% economic growth for just about three decades. No one else has ever done that. And, in fact it can say that, Bloomberg recently reported that in the last seven years China has cleaned up, has gotten rid of more pollution than the United States has in the last 30 years. It’s leads the world in low carbon investment, more than half the global total. The US is second with a quarter of China’s investment in low carbon. And it has become the number one investor and trading partner in countries on every continent. And its loans to lower income countries totaled nearly as much as those of all the other governments, including the United States, combined.
So, the question is not, when will China take over? China has already, pretty much, taken over. And it holds out this attractive model to many what we call developing countries or lower income countries of extreme economic growth, bringing people out of poverty, not influencing their government. I go into a lot of detail in this book, but the fact of the matter is it is doing the same thing the United States is doing in terms of creating a death economy. Its goal is to dominate resources around the world and to exploit them. And it’s built some very bad projects.
In the country, Lynne, where you and I spend a lot of time, Ecuador, it’s built a horrible hydroelectric dam that’s totally failing. They built it on a fault line next to an active volcano, and now they’re building huge dams to retain waste from mining operations there. Dams that engineers tell us are bound to fail and terribly pollute the Amazon River and the Atlantic Ocean. So, it’s making a lot of mistakes.
And so, well, I’m rushing through this, but there’s a lot of detail in the book. But the fact of the matter is that nobody survives on a dead planet and the death economy is producing a dead planet. So, we can object to the Uyghur situation, the treatment of minorities in China. They can object to our treatment of the immigrants and people in our prisons. We can object to what they’re doing in Hong Kong and Taiwan. They can object to what we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on and on. We can have many disagreements, but let’s agree that no one survives on a dead planet. And combined, the United States and China produced almost 50% of the world’s economy and 50% of the world’s pollution. So, it’s imperative that these two countries stop and turn this thing around and take a leadership role in transforming the death economy to a life economy. And so, this book, really, really makes that point. And it outlines what each of us as individuals can do. Because there’s a role here for all of us to play. And I think that’s enough of a rapid summary. I’ll turn it back to you, Lynne. I think you may have some questions or whatever.
“We’re the victims and the co-collaborators. Every one of us is a consumer. We participate on that level and that actually gives us a lot of power.” — John Perkins
Twist: Well, first of all, thank you so much John Perkins, for your life, really. It’s always very moving to me to think about what you got caught in and how you were in the very system you now are trying to dismantle. You were part of putting it together…And tremendous benefits came to you. You made money. You were this young, handsome guy with a girl in every port. You had a ball being an economic hit man, which is the term that you’re using on the cover of the book. So, people really know you know from the inside this system. You know from inside of your own heart, not just the inside your own participation in the system. So, in now exposing it the way you have been since you turned your life around. Do you remember when you were looking at the whole China situation for your next book, where did you start realizing this is what I’m gonna write about next? What is an insider fact or a piece of information that said, oh my God, I’ve got to awaken the whole world to this… Was there something? …A trigger?
Perkins: Yes. I was teaching at an MBA program in Shanghai at an MBA college that’s continually ranked among the Top 10 MBA programs in the world by the Financial Times. I was teaching there, and I was deeply impressed by two things. First, the students, they knew me as a Chief Economist at this company, but they also knew me as an economic hit man. And I very quickly understood that they wanted to learn from my successes and my failures. How did I bring presidents around to get their countries to be basically subservient to the United States? And second, what were the things I did wrong, that I failed at?
They wanted to pick my brain about this, but at the same time, over and over I heard from them, and I spent personal time with them drinking beers and having meals with them, and over and over I would hear from them, you know, we Chinese created a miracle. We had 10% economic growth for 30 years, and we brought 700 million people out of poverty. No one else has ever done that. It came at a terrible price, environmentally and socially. We’ve lived with horrible pollution. We’ve not been able to breathe the air in the major cities. We don’t want that for the future, and we’ve proven that we can create a miracle. So, now we, this new generation, we want to create an environmental and social miracle. They want to be the greenest country on the planet. It was actually shocking to me to hear them say this — and they meant it. Will they do it? I don’t know, but they meant it.
Right after that, I came back to the United States and I spoke at an event where there were over 2,000 MBA students, in the United States. It happened to be held at Cornell. And I told that to the students that were listening to me, and I said, don’t let that happen. Let’s have the United States be number one. Let’s have a World Cup every year, let’s see which country has done the most to become socially and environmentally responsible, to transform the death economy to a life economy. And, at that moment, I said to myself, well, gee, I need to play a role in this. That’s the third in the trilogy.
Steve Piersanti [the founder of the publishing company Berrett-Koehler, which publishes my book, and who is also my editor] and I had already been talking about doing another book after the second book, in what’s now the trilogy, came out. I said, this has gotta be it. It’s gotta be about China and the United States, and how we’re competing for hegemony around the world, how we’re competing to destroy the world. Let’s turn that around and say this is the time to compete. And I had this image of, if there were an alien fleet of UFOs hovering above us, threatening to attack us, what would we do? We’d come together — China, the United States, Brazil, India, everybody. And it struck me that we are the aliens. We’ve alienated ourselves from our planet. We’ve said, we believe in human supremacy, but we are a part of, not apart from, nature. And Lynne, you and I have spent a lot of time in the Amazon with indigenous people there who know that they are a part of nature. We come from over 200,000 years of ancestors who were a part of nature. It’s only been in a recent blink-of-an-eye that we’ve seen ourselves as apart from nature.
So, we need to return to that idea and that we are the aliens. It’s not human beings, it’s our philosophy. It’s our goal of maximizing short-term profits, of creating a death economy. So, I just had this image, and I saw these Chinese students and these American students as having the potential to come together to fight the aliens. It was an exciting moment, and at that moment I knew I had to write this book.
Twist: Wow. That’s wonderful. I love hearing what really transformed you. Because the book, I know, its purpose is to create an opportunity, or an ecosystem, or a clearing for people to transform the way they think about the world. And it always helps to find that moment that transformed your perception of the world.
I had someone in the chat say, “Maybe John could explain what it means to be an economic hit man.” Because that’s a familiar term for all of us who’ve read your books and know you, and they still exist, right? They’re still economic hit men, and probably economic hit women now too, operating throughout the world. Can you just give a little brief description of what that means for people who aren’t that familiar with it?
Perkins: Yes. Thank you. In my day job was to convince presidents of countries that had resources our corporations coveted — like oil, for example, or minerals like copper and gold and so forth — to convince those presidents to take huge loans from the World Bank and its sister organizations, what’s known as the Washington Consensus. But the loans would be used to hire our corporations, US corporations, to build big infrastructure projects in those countries. Power plants, industrial parks, highways, things that benefited a few wealthy families in those countries, the ones who owned the industries that benefited from this infrastructure. But, ultimately, and I didn’t know this when I first started doing it, but I came to see that they were hurting everyone else, because money was being diverted from education and healthcare and other social services to pay off the interest on the loans. And, in the end, the loans couldn’t be repaid. The country just couldn’t repay the loans. So we’d go back, the economic hit men, we’d go back and we’d say, hey, you can’t pay your loans so your collateral are the minerals or the oil in the ground, sell them real cheap to our corporations without environmental or social regulations.
And, incidentally, all these presidents knew that in the background were these guys, and girls as you’ve said, who we call jackals, and these are people that overthrow governments or assassinate their leaders. Unfortunately, the United States has a long history that we’ve admitted to with Allende in Chile, Árbenz in Guatemala and Mosaddegh in Iran, and most recently Zelaya in Honduras. [Zelaya, President of Honduras was overthrown with the help of Secretary of State Clinton. The country was then seized by narco terrorists, leading to the massive US border crisis. Biden, paying the price for Clinton’s mistake, recently allowed Zalaya’s wife to become president. — GP]
So, if you’re the president of the country, you’re being offered a carrot. You and your family are gonna get wealthy, and all your friends who own businesses are gonna do well because of this infrastructure. But, in this hand, there’s a gun. If you don’t go along with it, we’ll come after you. And that’s the system. And it’s gotten much worse since I did it, because, unlike then, now every major multinational corporation has their equivalent of an economic hit man who is just pushing the goals of that corporation, whether it’s Exxon or Nike or Monsanto or whoever it is. These people now are out there for every major multinational corporation. China’s doing the same thing, incidentally — very similar type of thing.
Twist: Before we invite Greg to weigh in, because I’m sure he has a lot to say about this, and also Nomi, about your work and how remarkable actually it is, and how remarkable this book is, I just want to say, for all of us that are listening to you, it’s not hard to realize, yes, he’s right. This is not healthy. It’s unethical, it’s terrible…I’m horrified. What can we do? What can I do? How can, as Buckminster Fuller used to say, the little individual make the kind of difference that’ll impact all humanity? Because we are all part of the death economy. We are driving it by the way we buy, the way we think, by the way we walk in this world. What can we do?
Perkins: Yes, we’re the victims and the co-collaborators. Every one of us is a consumer. We participate on that level and that actually gives us a lot of power. Social networking movements, where you write a letter to a corporation and you say, hey, I love your product, but I’m not gonna buy it anymore until you pay your workers a fair salary or clean up the pollution, or whatever it is. And, once you do, I’ll see to it that hundreds of thousands of people know you’re doing this and you’ll be a leader. That’s very, very powerful when you send that out to all your social networking circles and they send it out to theirs. There’s the detail, again, in the book about this. And there’s a lot of other specific things that each of us can do as, as consumers, and many of us are investors, or we’re employees, or even management in the corporations. There’s a lot we can do.
But, the thing that I really like best…again, there’s more detail in the book, with examples, but I think people should ask themselves some questions. The first one is, what do I most want to do for the rest of my life? What’ll bring us the greatest satisfaction? And I would answer, I want to write. I love to write. And the second question is, how do I do this in a way that facilitates the transformation from a death to a life economy? And for me, I’d say, I want to inspire people through my writing. I have a friend who’s a carpenter and kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum. He would answer the first question by saying, I want to work with my hands in wood. And the second question he’d say, I will use only sustainable materials. The third question is, what’s keeping you from doing it? Or, what’s holding you back from doing it, or doing it even more? As a writer, I might say, well, I know I need to write every day if I want to be successful, but I don’t have time. And my carpenter friend would say, my clients don’t want to pay the extra price for sustainable materials.
And the fourth question is, when you really confront that question…This was another book I wrote, Touching the Jaguar. When you touch that jaguar, when you confront the obstacle, that thing, how can you change your perception? And for me, I’d say, well, hey, I could turn off the television for an hour every night and write, that would give me seven hours a week. I can do a lot in seven hours. My carpenter friend would say, well, I can tell my clients that the extra price of sustainable materials is not a cost, it’s an investment in the future.
And the fifth question is, what actions do I immediately take? The writer has to start writing, and the carpenter starts building things, like this cabinet or a house with sustainable materials, and telling the people and spreading the word. You know, hey, I’m building all this. And tell the kids, you know, your parents have paid a little bit more for this by buying sustainable materials, but that’s as good as buying you an education. They’re investing in your future.
Again, I go into detail about how each one of us — it doesn’t matter whether you’re a carpenter or a writer, or a plumber or a parent, a teacher, whatever your occupation or if you’re retired — how can you move forward to do what you really want to do for the rest of your life, and do it in a way that’ll help make this transformation? It can be just convincing one other person, a child. Or it can be done on a global level, but we all can participate in this process, and enjoy doing it.
Twist: Great. Thank you. We’ll make sure to leave people with some more clues about how to become economic hit women and men for the future we want… I often say the job of today’s awake human is to hospice the death of the old structures and systems that no longer serve us and have them die a natural death, since they’re hopefully dying. Hospice that, and midwife the birth of the new ones.
But let’s hear from Greg, who’s an extraordinary investigative journal and a wonderful muckraker, always revealing that which is unseen, unknown, and unsaid. In saying it, he’s so brave in making sure we have access to the information that will make us effective human beings and effective players in a world that’s brainwashing us to do something else. I want to ask you, Greg, to talk about John’s work and how it’s informed your work and what you have to say about his new book…So, Greg, take it away.
Palast: Okay, I want to kind of hit on a couple things here. One is, as you see, the horns behind me, I want to talk about the death and life culture. I want to talk about China and the US from John’s book. I want to mention, when you said John’s writings have affected me, affected my writings, John’s writings have affected my life. And I think you have to look at his oeuvre, his whole, because I’ve read Touching the Jaguar and other books by him and Economic Hit Man.
First of all, I want to tell everyone right now, get the damn book. Go buy it. And I know if you have Edition One or Edition Two, don’t think of this as the Third Edition of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, think of this as Volume Three. But you really have to have the original material to see his own journey, to see what he’s done, to understand. So, this is really a tremendous gift. So, even if you already have a prior edition, think of this as Volume Three. You’ve gotta get this. It’s very important. And I want people to do that. Go on Amazon…or your local book seller, local bookstore, make that order. I’m serious. It’s very important.
And I’m gonna tell you something else. It’s very important that we put him back on the bestseller lists. Because that gets the books into the airports…It gets him into the media, so he can reach out to people that normally would not get this information. That’s what’s so important. His reach is tremendous and international, and we have to participate in getting his word out. Very, very important… Sorry for the sales pitch. I don’t get paid for this, but I think it’s so damn important that you get the book, buy the book, and if you have three copies, buy three more. You have at least two for your best friends and one for your worst enemy, because they need it more than anyone. So that’s the end of my commercial.
As to China…What John has brought in, there’s a shorthand, it’s the US versus China, but I want to make something very clear. When you read the book, and in my own investigations, and I’ve been to China…It’s not really, per se, US versus China. Because when I was, for example, investigating Walmart, it’s an American corporation for its sales, but it’s a Chinese corporation for its manufacturing. Last time I looked, which was about 20 years ago, they had 700 factories in China, none in the USA. So, what is happening, and this is very important, is that American corporations, as we create new rules to try to reduce pollution and pain and suffering, et cetera, minimum standards for workers and democracy, et cetera, we export pollution.
China adds as many coal power plants in one year, as we have operating now in the entire United States — this is burning the planet to death. But who’s doing that? When we say China, it’s powering Walmart, it’s powering Apple, it’s powering Target, it’s powering US corporations…My earphones, this computer, it’s all China. But it’s US corporations who figured out this is their escape route. And, of course, as China wises up, as John’s pointed out, where the young people in China say, we’re not gonna suck your soot anymore, so they move it to Vietnam, they’ll move it to India. When does this game stop?
We actually export dictatorships, okay, so we can be proud, we’re the great democracy. But, as one of the heads of Entergy, one of a big power corporations that moved into Peru and Ecuador said, we love those nations because they’re benevolent dictatorships. Well they’re benevolent to the corporations. So, it’s not really US versus China, it’s the Chinese people, the American people, and the people of Ecuador against these corporate monsters. We call them corporate monsters, but now they’ve taken many forms, so we have to understand what we’re talking about…
We simplify it as superpower competition, but it’s still an old story of us versus them. The takers, the destroyers… it’s the movers and shakers versus the moved and shaken. That hasn’t changed. That’s very important to understand. And what John’s book does is he gives, what I love here, we’re talking at a high level in generalities, ‘cause we have to, we only have a few minutes, but it gives the details and the details of the core and heart, here’s exactly how they do it. How does Walmart basically seize a nation? How does Oxidental Petroleum seize Ecuador? Or Chevron? Right now, as we speak, one of our good friends, one of the great human rights lawyers in this world, Steve Donziger, literally went to prison to expose Chevron’s destruction of the indigenous lands and people of Ecuador and Peru. So, this is what we’re talking about here.
So, I want you to get the book. ‘Cause you need to get the real details. You don’t just need to know that there was a meal, you need to know their recipe so you can bust it and you’re not poisoned by it. And the only other point, and given where I am, you see the horns behind me… I’ve, not as much as John, but I’ve worked and lived with indigenous people, the Cofan in Ecuador, that John knows. I was with the Chugach natives of Alaska, the Eskimo of the North, and other indigenous people I’ve worked with in my investigations, before I was an investigative reporter. And yes, when I was working under Milton Friedman, I was the only American in the Chicago boys group selling this crap to these nations, selling these “infrastructure projects”. They’re gallows for the planet. And, in fact, I first met John when he was selling one of these radioactive monsters in New Hampshire…and I was fighting on the other side.
He’d beat the shit outta me, by the way, in New Hampshire. And they built that plant, bankrupted the state of New Hampshire, bankrupted the utility company. But, his companies made…How many billions did your companies make off that scam? But see, Americans wised up, so then they just took the destruction somewhere else…It’s just like when people talk about clean nuclear power, those are people who’ve never been to the uranium mines on the indigenous lands in New Mexico. They’ve never been to Niger, you know. So, we just export the pain, the suffering, the torture, the killings, so we can have our nice clean life.
Now, I have, right now where I’m sitting, it’s late here. I’m high up in the Alps. I had luck. I married into an indigenous family. Not one we tend to think of as indigenous, but I married into Alpinos, best know as Swiss Hillbillies. My family that I married into, has been here, from my reckoning, at least 1,300 years. We were married in a chapel that the family built 900 years ago. And it’s as beautiful and perfect and maintained as it was centuries ago. And that’s important….
They’re known as archipelago peoples. That is, with the seasons, they move up and down the mountains. In their high village, there’s no electricity, except they’ve just got some solar panels, no running water, really. They live off the chamois and ibex that they catch and butcher, et cetera, and it’s a pleistocene life. I’m down right now for the internet, in their lower village, where of course they keep their Teslas — they are Swiss. And so they move up and down into these lives. But it’s important that they understand, and they understand very well, everything here is preserved. That 900 year old chapel, this 300 year old house, they’re perfect, because they don’t understand this culture where you destroy things and replace, and you create a mess and you move on to another place. ‘Cause they know that 22 generations from now, they’ll be still in this same place, they can’t poison it, they can’t destroy it. They can’t bring in the latest plastic. There’s not a candy wrapper that you can find anywhere because it’s not theirs, they’re just the current keepers of this wonderful place. And that’s the difference between the death and the life culture.
And it’s very interesting, they’re shocked by America. In fact, because it was so poor until recently, that a big part of this area moved to Salinas, California, and then they moved back because they were so horrified. One of them from the area stayed, John Steinbeck, who was so horrified he wanted to warn people, so he wrote books, Grapes of Wrath, Tobacco Road. Because, as a Swiss Alpino, he was horrified that this is how we were creating America, and he wanted to warn people. He wanted to warn the Swiss, and obviously he warned the Americans, and he wanted to change them. So, you know, John Perkins is our new John Steinbeck…The guy who’s telling us what he sees in the most direct manner.
And it’s extraordinary, because he came in out of the cold, as you will hear from Nomi Prins who is, by the way, what was your title? You were Senior Vice President of Goldman Sachs?
Nomi Prins: The Managing Director.
Palast: Yeah, Managing Director. She was the honcho, one of the honchos of Goldman Sachs and gave up I can’t tell you how many millions, to leave and tell the truth on them.
When I was working under Milton Friedman, got my degree in economics, I was actually working undercover for the Communist Party in Chicago. So, I was always undercover, and that’s where I learned how to do that work. So, I watched what they were doing, the Chicago Boys. I was the only American in the Chicago Boys group selling John Perkins’ junk to these nations and creating a fake free market theory that won my professor — I was with him in ’76 when he won the Nobel Prize… Selling what John correctly calls death culture. And so, I’m grateful that John and Nomi have come in out of the cold, told the truth on these guys, and are warning us what we can do.
And John’s other books are also important, because he was just telling you about how he, personally, has to take responsibility. Now, I’m not one of these people that thinks that you can completely save the world by recycling your plastics or just by living right. We have to go beyond that. And so I’m very, very grateful for John’s work, and that’s why I want people to get the books, all the books, but especially Economic Hit Man, what I call Volume Three, what you call Edition Three.
“All of us here today have a mission to help transform this death economy to a life economy, to make the world a place that future generations will thank us for and will want to inherit.” — John Perkins
Twist: Thank you, Greg. Wow. Beautiful. Wow. Okay. Well, let’s turn to Nomi, because the former Managing Director of Goldman Sachs, she also was an Economic Hit Woman, probably, I don’t know, and she came in from the cold. I’m just gonna say, Nomi’s bio is just staggering. I’ve said two sentences, but she’s from the banking world. She knows from the inside out about the whole money system and how the whole thing has been corrupted and taken over. And I’m gonna ask you, Nomi, if you’d talk now, given your role in the financial and banking world, how can this book, John’s message, John’s book, shake up the institutions you work with, and help you and others change the trajectory in the way we move from this death economy to a life economy? How can we shake loose? And how can this book help with the work that you’re so dedicated to now and the life you’re leading?
Prins: Thank you. I’m honored, first of all, to just be here today and to be able to, just on a personal note, start by saying that, when I actually was called an Economic Hit Woman, when I left, when my first book came out, which was when Confessions of an Economic Hit Man came out, and I could not have been…of all the things that were said about me, for coming out and talking about what Goldman was doing and what Wall Street was doing and how they were impacting the wealth in-distribution in the world, how they were impacting sort of the debt on death of the economies that John was basically working against in his Economic Hit Man life, that I was very appreciative of being referred to as that, because it echoed all of John’s work that basically had just come out.
That was of course, almost, I guess, two decades ago, when the first Confessions of an Economic Hit Man came out. And, it really was interesting because, I don’t know if you know this, and I don’t know if people here know this, but it actually became not just a New York Times bestseller, it became a kind of Bible for people within Wall Street who knew that what we were doing, what Wall Street banks and international mega banks were doing to basically aid the destruction, to aid the pushing forward of the death economy at that time, and as it has evolved since. There were people on the inside that knew it was wrong, that subsequently left, and you actually inspired a lot of that change from those people — many people coming out throughout the years, literally because of your book. It was sort of an underbelly Bible to the rebels within Wall Street. And I think it continues to be that.
And the association with respect to just all of the work that you have done and the fact that you left the world that you left, which, I am sure had its immense amount of comfortabilities, of flying all over, of the money, of the women in every port.…But whatever it was that you actually, not just had the courage to leave it and to write about your role in it, but that you have done it again and again and again, that you have spent every minute, every hour, every word dedicated to that. And I cannot express the appreciation I have that you have done that, and continue to do that. And also that people here not only have to buy all three volumes, but that they really have to talk about your overall message…To quote Greg, the people that actually you don’t like, that don’t necessarily agree with you on some of this stuff, but actually to help change the world, and to continue to change the world from the inside on out and into the foundational economy.
I spent a lot of time in China, I was there in 2015 and 2016, and there’s a quote that you have in your book on page 241 that I just want to emphasize here, because it underscores what you were saying, but I think it’s really key, which is that you say, “Beijing took advantage of the situation. It’s EHMs fanned out across the globe. They replaced Washington’s.” And I love this quote, “If you want your country to prosper, accept loans from the Washington Consensus, 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 will not interfere in your government, and use Chinese loans to hire our companies to build the infrastructure that makes this possible.’ It was a watershed moment that marked the beginning of a third EHM wave.”
As you talked about here, and throughout the rest of that component of your book, the reality is China used the model of also the Federal reserve of our country, and how Wall Street and the Federal Reserve worked together to monetize this financial destruction of the economy through the corporations that they are partnered with as they go about sort of dominating world resources and dominating world financial systems. And China basically began to do the same thing, but on steroids, because they utilized their People’s Bank of China kind of backdrop money in order to make these life-for-death loans to all of the nations that you talked about throughout the world that are now associated in major trade partners and major givers of their natural resources to China.
Our Federal Reserve didn’t necessarily do that. Wall Street did it with companies. There, China’s doing it with their Central Bank, with companies, and with our companies. And so I think that the message that we actually can change the language, and you said it here as well, but to change the idea that there’s a cost to basically creating opportunities that sustain the environment and help people throughout the world, particularly in developing countries and in poor nations and in poor components of richer nations, and that is an investment and not a cost.
And so to get back to the question, how can we use the language of them against them? How can we use the language of Wall Street, the language of corporations to basically say, look, we don’t believe that you are investing in a better economy. Yes, you’re investing in yourself. Yes, you’re investing in your shareholders. Yes, you’re investing in your CEO bonuses. Yes, you’re investing in the fees that you pay Wall Street to help you do that. But, changing that language — and your books do a magnificent service in terms of laying out, not just what you experienced, what you did, how it’s evolved over all the years that you’ve been following it, and writing about it as well, but also just that that major point, the major point that to change not just our behavior, but the language… That cost is actually investment in our clean economy, in our life economy, and to flip it all on its head. I think that’s the thing that I get most out of your books. I think in particular this book, that comparison between what China has been doing more rapidly with more countries than even the United States had been doing in the decades up to I’ll say the last decade is really critical.
And to flip the script, as well as the activity, is really critical. And what you do in your books and with your words, you give us a new script that we can use to fight against the countries, the companies, the banks that are fighting against the life economy and creating a death economy, and to go back to persevering and moving forward. So, again, I’m just thrilled that you exist, that you decided to leave this world that you were basically embedded in, and that you’ve come out, and you’re staying out, and you’re providing that roadmap. And I love all your books. I pre-ordered the Third Volume, the China Chapters, and I look forward to receiving it and to reading that as well and adding it to my own experience of the work that you’ve done. And I hope that everybody else does that right now and shares. Buy a few copies, give them to your friends. Books are great presents. They last, the words last, the messages mean something. And they do change the world.
Twist: Thank you, Nomi. Wow. Well, we have, 10 more minutes in the scheduled book launch event we’re in right now. And I just want to give John the floor for a few minutes here at the end. But I know that just hearing all of this, again, in technicolor surround sound, from the expertise that Nomi you have, that Greg has, and most of all that John is just living, I wanted to say, everybody who’s listening today and anyone who’s listening to this recording, know that it’s not an accident you’re listening to this. It’s not like, oh, you happened on this. You’re here because you have a role to play in getting this book and this message and this truth out in the world. We’re all responsible, we’re all guilty, and none of us are to blame. You know what I mean? We’re all part of this monster that we’re kind of inside of, and we can’t turn the tide, we can.
That’s really what’s up on earth right now, or books like this would not be showing up. And John’s book in particular, and this book in particular is one that I hope everybody buys, buys for other people, reads again and again and again, and starts speaking about it so that it becomes a new narrative in the culture in which we live. It’s buying the book and making the book available to others, and then living in this narrative, which changes the story, and changes the action…I’d love for you to just say, how can the people listening today, number one, do that? But, besides that, really make a difference in shifting the direction which we’re headed as a human society.
Perkins: Thank you, Lynne. Thank you so much. And thank you Greg, and Nomi. Also, I want to say that Greg, although you say I won, and we were on the witness stand representing the opposite ends of the spectrum. I was defending a big nuclear power plant in New Hampshire. You were opposed to it. You were one of the people that turned me around though. I quit that job because I had to go to the president of the Public Service Company of New Hampshire and say, you don’t want to put me on the stand anymore, because I don’t believe what I’m saying anymore. I did believe it, but now that I’ve heard Greg, and I’ve done some more research, you know, that helped turn me around. And, Nomi, your example of leaving Goldman Sachs and writing about this has had a huge influence on my life also. And of course, Lynne, you know, you’ve had a huge influence on my life.
And that leads me to say that every one of you out there, has a huge influence on a lot of people’s lives, more than you realize. And when we take a stand in any direction, as Lynn’s book about leading a committed life…When we take a stand, we have a huge impact. So I just want to reiterate that I think we should all feel very, very blessed that we’re alive right now, because we’re alive at a moment of transition, of transformation. Every major indigenous culture that I know has a prophecy that we have entered a porthole. It’s the eagle and the condor of Latin America, the Mayan prophecy of 2012 of Central America, the Himalayan prophecy of the 14th Dalai Lama, you can go on and on. Every major culture says that we’ve entered a time for the potential for transformation, but we the people have to make it happen. And it’s necessary because we’ve come to the precipice. We’ve just come right to the precipice. We’re ready to fall off. But we’re also ready to enter a new consciousness of what it means to be humans on this planet, successful humans, a new consciousness. And every one of you who’s listening, and all of your friends and neighbors, we’re all part of this, and we’re so blessed to be alive at this time.
So, I just want to encourage all of you to realize that you have tremendous power, more than you realize. You influence people all the time, all around you. And you influence yourself. And so, use this time to recognize, as our indigenous friends say, almost every culture has this tradition that says you were born into this particular body, to the particular parents, and situation that you were raised in, because you have a mission in life. And all of us here today have a mission to help transform this death economy to a life economy, to make the world a place that future generations will thank us for and will want to inherit. And again, in the book I go into detail about how each of you, personally, can do that.
But, at this point, I just want to say thank you for being here, and knowing that everyone who’s participating in the show right now will do that. I know you will, and I know you are. Many of you are already doing it. And great gratitude to all of you. We are moving into a new era. There’s no question about it. There’s a consciousness revolution. Whenever there’s a revolution, there’s a pushback. We also experience the pushback. We take energy from the pushback ‘cause the pushback means that they, the status quo who think they’ve got it all made and are pushing back, they know that we’re taking over, that we’re winning. Take energy from that. Thank all of you so much for being here.
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man: 3rd Edition
— out February 28, 2023 —
Pre-order it NOW!
Writer, editor, photographer, videographer, social media consultant, and tactivist (tactical activist), Nicole Powers uses art and technology to share ideas that make the world a better place.