Full disclosure up front: I can't stand the politics of Naomi Klein or her ilk...I honestly believe that if their approach to economics and politics were followed faithfully, we would undergo the greatest amount of death, destruction, and suffering in the history of the planet.
Perhaps you have a different, or at least more moderated, view of her politics, and I can understand that. If this were just a matter of opposing ideas, I would welcome Klein's voice in the debate.
But it's not about ideas...Klein has chosen to join that non-partisan group of distorters and liars who exist in all areas of the political spectrum and who use inflammatory statements and outright smears to further their point of view. Whether it's Ann Coulter, Michael Moore, Bill O'Reilly, or Keith Olbermann, these are people who are all about effect and nothing about truth. I object strongly to these people, regardless of their political affiliation or whether they agree or disagree with me. I only want my arguments furthered on the strength of objective and testable facts, and where philosophy can't be tested, then at least on honest debate.
Regardless of what you think of Klein's worldview, I hope you agree with me that character assassination of a deceased person by outright lying about what they believed is not the proper way to advance the worldview.
That is what Klein does in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, her latest screed, by completely mis-representing the views of Milton Friedman in order to make her case for a mythical doctrine/conspiracy theory among those she disagrees with.
Johan Norberg does an excellent job of documenting this in his article, "Defaming Milton Friedman: Naomi Klein's disastrous yet popular polemic against the great free market economist". The article is short, and I encourage you to read it all. Or check out this excellent short video interview with Johan, which not only discusses the points in the article, but covers additional lies used by Klein to make her case:
Here in brief are a few of the points that destroy Klein's thesis and show her to be a knowing liar:
Exhibit A against Friedman is a quote from what Klein calls "one of his most influential essays": "Only a crisis-actual or perceived-produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable." This, says Klein, is "the shock doctrine." In a not-very-subtle short film based on the book, the quote appears over images of prisoners being tortured.
The quote is not, in fact, from one of Friedman's most influential essays; it's from a very brief introduction to a reprint of his book Capitalism and Freedom. And it is not a rationale for welcoming disasters; it's about the uncontroversial fact that people change their minds when the old ways seem to fail. Friedman provides a telling example, which Klein neglects to quote: Young Americans joined him in opposing the military draft after the Vietnam War forced them to risk their lives on another continent.
She also distorts other Friedman quotes to support her case. She pretends that Friedman's concept of "the tyranny of the status quo" refers the tyranny of voters, and that he believed crises were needed to bypass the democratic process. But for Friedman, the tyranny was something entirely different: an iron triangle of politicians, bureaucrats, and special interest groups (businesses, for example) that deceive voters.
Discussing Friedman's proposal to reduce inflation through sweeping market reforms, Klein writes, "Friedman predicted that the speed, suddenness and scope of the economic shifts would provoke psychological reactions in the public that ‘facilitate the adjustment.' " This gives the impression that Friedman wanted to disorient people through pain in order to push through his reforms. But the quote in its entirety shows that Friedman had something very different in mind. If a government chooses to attack inflation in this way, he wrote, "it should be announced publicly in great detail....The more fully the public is informed, the more will its reactions facilitate the adjustment." In other words, if voters are not ignorant and not disoriented, but fully informed of the reform steps, they will facilitate the adjustment by changing their saving, consuming, and bargaining behavior. Friedman's view was the opposite of what Klein claims.
The irony here is that in some key areas, Friedman would agree with Klein, yet she chooses to distort his true views and smear him for her own purposes. For example, she blames the Iraq war on him, saying it was an economic plot of his making, when in fact Friedman opposed the war, something she neglects to mention in her book. There are many similar cases of this, some of which are discussed in the video above.
I leave it for you to determine why she might take this approach. For me, it's a shame that an important thinker like Milton Friedman will, for the time being at least, be known and defined today by the words from a member of that worst of species, the Lying Liar.