January 31, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Writing - Ecuador: Development: Economics: Palm Beach Post: In his recent book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, RPCV John Perkins recounts his James Bond-in-a-green-eyeshade experiences in Indonesia, Ecuador, Panama and Saudi Arabia during the 1970s

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Special Report: Ecuador RPCV and Author John Perkins: January 31, 2005: Headlines: COS - Ecuador: Writing - Ecuador: Development: Economics: Palm Beach Post: In his recent book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, RPCV John Perkins recounts his James Bond-in-a-green-eyeshade experiences in Indonesia, Ecuador, Panama and Saudi Arabia during the 1970s

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In his recent book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, RPCV John Perkins recounts his James Bond-in-a-green-eyeshade experiences in Indonesia, Ecuador, Panama and Saudi Arabia during the 1970s

In his recent book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, RPCV John Perkins recounts his James Bond-in-a-green-eyeshade experiences in Indonesia, Ecuador, Panama and Saudi Arabia during the 1970s

In his recent book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, RPCV John Perkins recounts his James Bond-in-a-green-eyeshade experiences in Indonesia, Ecuador, Panama and Saudi Arabia during the 1970s

Reverse Robin Hood looted poor countries

By Jeff Ostrowski

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Monday, January 31, 2005

PALM BEACH GARDENS As John Perkins tells it, he rose to stardom in the world of international finance by persuading Third World countries to take on more debt than they could afford to build projects designed to enrich U.S. corporations.

In his recent book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Perkins recounts his James Bond-in-a-green-eyeshade experiences in Indonesia, Ecuador, Panama and Saudi Arabia during the 1970s.

His memoir, which has ranked as high as No. 9 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, reads as a mea culpa. After a decade of deal-making, Perkins had an epiphany: The ultimate goal of his job, he decided, was not to ease the world's suffering but to make the rich richer.

"The list of places where I had worked and which were worse off afterward was astounding," Perkins writes.

So in the early '80s Perkins gave up his fat salary as a self-described economic hit man and moved to Palm Beach Gardens. For a time, he ran a utility company that produced ecologically sustainable energy, then sold the utility and now focuses on writing and activism.

His book has made Perkins a darling of anti-globalization types and has raised eyebrows at the institutions he criticizes.

World Bank spokesman David Theis calls Perkins' portrait "wildly outdated." As proof of the good the bank has performed, Theis points to poor nations' falling rates of poverty and infant mortality in the past two decades, and rising literacy and life expectancy.

"It's just not a current view of the World Bank," Theis says. "We are seen as the premier poverty-ending organization in the world."

Theis acknowledges that he hasn't read Perkins' book, but he did peruse a transcript of a radio interview with Perkins on the progressive Democracy Now! network. In the interview, Perkins recounted his assertion that the National Security Agency recruited him to his job in international consulting.

"He sounds a little wild-eyed," Theis says.

In person, though, Perkins doesn't come across as the sort of tree-hugging activist who'd firebomb an SUV or take a rubber bullet at a protest march. The soft-spoken 60-year-old drives a late-model Mercedes-Benz. During a recent lunch at the decidedly upscale Waterway Cafe (his choice), Perkins orders a steak sandwich.

Perkins says he's not a revolutionary. He simply wants the global economy to take a kinder, gentler bent, one that attempts to balance corporate profits and human needs.

He points to the billions U.S. taxpayers are spending to wage war in Iraq, an endeavor he doubts will make Americans any safer from terrorism. Americans would be better served spending some of that money to eliminate poverty, he argues.

And he questions whether the progress cited by the World Bank really exists. Consider the subsistence farmer in China who leaves the countryside to make shoes or toys or lamps for Americans. Pro-globalization types argue that the worker is better off, but Perkins wonders whether the worker truly is happier and healthier in a factory.

"We are promulgating slavery," he says over the steak sandwich. "We don't use physical chains, we use economic chains these days."

U.S. empire based on debt

Perkins was born and raised in New Hampshire. After a stint in the Peace Corps in Ecuador in the late '60s, he joined the now-defunct international consulting firm Chas. T. Main.

As a young researcher on his first assignment, Perkins says he eagerly inflated economic forecasts to justify the building of a power plant in Indonesia. As a reward for his malleable moral compass, Perkins writes in the book, the consultancy quickly promoted him to the lofty position of chief economist.

Perkins says he gradually realized the perfidy of what he labels the corporatocracy the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the conglomerates that build power plants and drill for oil in the Third World.

Their goal, he argues, was to leave poor nations so indebted that they had little choice but to acquiesce to the United States' political goals.

"We truly created the world's first global empire," Perkins says. "We did a lot of good for wealthy people."

Many of the details of Perkins' book are impossible to verify. He recounts conversations with long-dead figures such as Panamanian President Omar Torrijos and author Graham Greene. His fellow economic hit men, he writes, swore oaths of lifelong secrecy. And he never learned the true identity of the alleged NSA agent who first recruited him.

But it's easy to find experts who agree with Perkins' general assertions about the corporatocracy and the dark side of globalization.

"It's a creditors' cartel," says Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington. "They're able to enforce a whole set of economic policies."

Former World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz likewise sharply criticized the profit-driven direction of globalization in his 2003 book, Globalization and Its Discontents. Echoing Perkins' gripes, the Nobel Prize winner wrote that globalization has enriched wealthy nations while pushing poor nations further into poverty.

Paid to not pen book

Perkins quit his job as an economic hit man in 1980. So why did it take 24 years for him to put his tale into print?

Perkins says the corporatocracy didn't want his book published. In 1987, he writes, an engineering firm that worked closely with his former employer offered him a $500,000 consulting contract. His only duty: Not writing a tell-all book. Perkins accepted.

After the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Perkins decided he couldn't keep quiet any longer. He felt a degree of responsibility for creating anti-American sentiment.

"There is such strong resentment about us around the world," Perkins says.

He says an editor at one large publishing house he won't name the company loved his manuscript but called it too explosive to publish. Perkins' confessions were printed by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, a small publisher of business books based in San Francisco.

Aside from writing, Perkins' pursuits include Dream Change Inc., a nonprofit that leads tours to the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador, where local tribes hope to block oil drilling.

Perkins takes no salary from the group, according to IRS filings, backing his claim he's no longer motivated by money.

His real aim, he says, is to make Americans think about their role in the global economy and the future of a world with a huge chasm between the rich and the poor.

"We all need," Perkins says, "to question more."

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Palm Beach Post

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