2006.07.01: July 1, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Ecuador: Writing - Ecuador: Development: Economics: Personnel Psychology: Gary B. Brumback reviews: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by Ecuador RPCV John Perkins

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Ecuador: Special Report: Ecuador RPCV and Author John Perkins: 2006.07.01: July 1, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Ecuador: Writing - Ecuador: Development: Economics: Personnel Psychology: Gary B. Brumback reviews: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by Ecuador RPCV John Perkins

By Admin1 (admin) (adsl-69-150-133-223.dsl.okcyok.swbell.net - on Friday, July 07, 2006 - 11:08 am: Edit Post

Gary B. Brumback reviews: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by Ecuador RPCV John Perkins

Gary B. Brumback reviews: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by Ecuador RPCV John Perkins

Perkins' interview with the supersecretive NSA was over 30 years ago, but I suppose its approach remains generally unchanged. He was surprised by the line of questioning and the fact that answers that he thought would reject him led instead to his being offered a job "to learn how to spy." His declared opposition to the Vietnam War (he was looking for a draft deferment), his rebellion from his parents, "an obsession with women," his materialistic ambition, and his having lied to the police about a loyal friend in trouble were, he said, "exactly the types of attributes they sought."

Gary B. Brumback reviews: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by Ecuador RPCV John Perkins

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Jul 1, 2006

Personnel Psychology

John Perkins. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2004, 250 pages, $24.95 hardcover.

Position description of an economic hit man: "EHMs are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign 'aid' Organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet's natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder."

Critical incident of an EHM failure: "The other type of hit men, the CIA-sanctioned jackals who were always right behind the EHMs and stepped in" when the latter failed (as was suspected in the case of the unusual deaths of two men Perkins knew personally, President Jaime Roldos of Ecuador and President Omar Torrijos of Panama).

Applicant interviews for EHM position: Applicant is wired to a polygraph while being interviewed. Scoring is upside down. An answer that would be disqualifying is valued because it shows the applicant is "seducible."

Position descriptions, critical incidents, and applicant interviews were my stock and trade years ago, but not once did I ever encounter the likes of the specific examples I just passed on to you from the book's author. I would dare say few if any others in my field ever encountered them either (come to think of it, though, a tight-lipped graduate school classmate was allegedly on leave from the National security Agency to do a classified dissertation).

Perkins' interview with the supersecretive NSA was over 30 years ago, but I suppose its approach remains generally unchanged. He was surprised by the line of questioning and the fact that answers that he thought would reject him led instead to his being offered a job "to learn how to spy." His declared opposition to the Vietnam War (he was looking for a draft deferment), his rebellion from his parents, "an obsession with women," his materialistic ambition, and his having lied to the police about a loyal friend in trouble were, he said, "exactly the types of attributes they sought."

He declined the offer and accepted a Peace Corps assignment, which got him deferred. Although on assignment in Ecuador he was approached by the vice president of MAIN, a secretive international consulting company of some 2,000 people that dealt with heads of state and other chief executives. The VP "sometimes acted as an NSA liaison," but the company's largest client was the World Bank. Perkins suspected that the man was sent by NSA to assess him in the field.

Perkins joined MAIN after his Peace Corps tour ended. He stayed with MAIN for 10 years, eventually becoming its chief economist and "heading major projects around the world" but all the while operating as an undercover EHM, the unofficial title that had been given to him by his on-the-job trainer.

His primary "tool" in persuading poor countries on his hit list to go heavily into debt to pay for engineering and construction projects was his inflated estimates of the economic growth and increased standard of living the borrowing countries would realize from the projects, although the hidden aim was to indenture the countries and to "ensure their loyalty." Moreover, except for the few elites along with corrupt government officials, the poor countries became even poorer and their environments were severely damaged.

The poor country of Ecuador, Perkins says, is a typical case. "Out of every $100 worth of oil torn from the Amazon, less than $3 goes to the people who need it the most, those whose lives have been so severely impacted by the dams, the drilling, and the pipelines, and who are dying from lack of edible food and potable water." Only recently, I clipped a news items about how "Chevron's lawyers are in Ecuador defending the company against charges it contributed to one of the worst environmental disasters on the planet" (Herbert, 2005).

Perkins never once mentions having to use the "tool of murder," but presumably he knew some EHMs who did (unless he was really referring to the "other type of hit men"). In one intriguing account he does mention having to rely on another "tool," that of sex, to pimp for a Saudi prince to secure his approval of a massive undertaking surreptitiously called the "Saudi Arabia money- laundering affair." Here is a wealthy, not a poor, country, so burdening it with debt would be out of the question. The objective instead was to provide a "cash cow" for U.S. contractors and to ensure the loyalty of the Saudi rulers.
They were persuaded to purchase U.S. securities with their petrodollars and use the interest to fund projects carried out by U.S. contractors to modernize and even build "entire cities throughout the Arabian Peninsula."

Perkins interweaves his insider story with insightful economic, political, and social commentary about the countries on his hit list and the role of the EHMs' employers and clientele who make up the "corporatocracy," his term for banks, corporations, and governments that "use their financial and political muscle to advance the global empire." The corporatocracy, he contends, is not driven by a conspiracy but by the fallacious belief that "all economic growth benefits humankind and that the greater the growth, the more widespread the benefits." I would argue that the belief is just a great rationalization to justify building an American empire on the backs of third-world countries.
I think Perkins would agree with me.

Partly as a way of showing beyond a public confession his self- redemption, Perkins summarizes his career after leaving MAIN 25 years ago. Before retiring at the age of 45, he founded a very successful energy company "committed to producing environmentally friendly electricity" and later sold it in a "lucrative deal." Since then he has become a "champion for indigenous rights and environmental movements," founded and served on the board of several leading nonprofit organizations, and wrote numerous books. He waited until a few years ago to write this book because he had been both "threatened and bribed" not to write it earlier.

This book has become a sensation, having appeared on more than 20 bestseller lists, and Perkins is in wide demand as a speaker. In addition, the publisher tells me that a production company has acquired the movie rights to the book and plans on having Harrison Ford star in it. This is good news because what Perkins has to say needs greater public awareness. However, movie goers should be told that the gist of the movie is not make believe. The publisher, noting that some readers were "so shocked and troubled that they questioned whether his accounts are true," took the unprecedented step of writing and disseminating a lengthy "veracity memorandum" to readers (Piersanti, 2005).
In it abundant evidence is cited, such as numerous books (e.g., Henry, 2003), some of which I had already read that corroborate Perkins' principal allegations, including his contention that there are far more EHMs today with "euphemistic titles" who operate in similar roles.

On that latter point, for example, Perkins argues that the military intervention in Iraq was due to a failure of EHMs to achieve the same ends. As he puts it, "when the jackals fail, young Americans are sent in to kill and to die." The current administration surely would disagree with him, but to the best of the publisher's knowledge, no government agency or corporation has taken a public stand on the book, and I have not been able to find any indication of it in my research preparing for the review. Of course, Perkins' allegations may be harder to ignore once the movie hits the theaters.

I have a few criticisms of the book. First, I must take issue with his view, also held by some other writers (e.g., Estes, 1996), that the corporatocracy is not a conspiracy. I believe it is exactly that and that Perkins contradicts himself by saying that the "members do endorse common values and goals," by alluding to a "colluding government," and by describing the extensive revolving door of corporate executives and top government policymakers exchanging positions. Moreover, foreign and military policy is more than a sufficient basis for unifying the parties' values, goals, and activities, especially when huge profits can be made while expanding the American empire.
Under such circumstances, agreements among parties hardly need to be explicitly made for there to be a conspiracy.

Second, Perkins cops out at the end by not suggesting any substantial remedies. His explanation is that the book is a confession not a "prescription." But he could have expanded his brief discussion of the role of the World Bank into a blistering critique of it and either suggested how it and other international financial institutions could be abolished or at least be radically changed. He could have made suggestions as how to slow the revolving door or slam it shut. In addition, he could have explored the controversial idea of returning the dollar to the gold standard, which would end the money sluice from international banks.
But he did not, I wonder if he had decided that being prescriptive would have lessened the book's entertainme\nt value.

Third, Perkins does not adequately address the question of whether the American empire will eventually fall. He does acknowledge the obvious that no empire lasts forever and that if "another currency should come along to replace the dollar the U.S. would suddenly find itself in a most precarious situation," but he does not expand on that point nor does he explore the related possibility that sometime this century the United States could be on the hit list of the new giants on the world scene, China and India, or the possibility that a growing social movement within the Uniterd States could rise up to turn back the current "corporate regime" (e.g., Derber, 2004).

For some journals, a review of this book would be far beyond the fringe. For this journal, I realize that the book is far a field, but I believe our field is too narrowly defined. Moreover, because we I-O psychologists tout the importance of context as a factor influencing performance, I think we need to become more knowledgeable about the corporatocracy as a contextual factor. I thus recommend the book for your reading. I found it hard to put down once I started reading it.


Derber C. (2004). Regime change begins at home: Freeing America from corporate rule. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Estes R. (1996). Tyranny of the bottom line: Why corporations make good people do bad things. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Henry JS. (2003). The blood bankers: Tales from the global underground economy. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.

Herbert B. (2005, October 22). A rain forest Jekyll and Hyde by environmental champions? The Daytona Beach-News Journal, 4A.

Piersanti S. (2005, March 7). Is John Perkinsfor real? Retrieved April 14, 2006 from http://www.economichitman.com/pages/ veracity.html.

Reviewed by Gary B. Brumback, Palm Coast, FL

Copyright Personnel Psychology, Inc. Summer 2006

When this story was posted in July 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Jody Olsen is acting Peace Corps Director Date: June 30 2006 No: 920 Jody Olsen is acting Peace Corps Director
The Senate confirmed Gaddi Vasquez to head the FAO on June 30. Jody Olsen will be acting Director until the President makes a permanent appointment. Olsen has been Deputy Director of the Peace Corps since 2002. She has previously served as Chief of Staff for two directors, as regional director for North Africa, Near East, and Asia and the Pacific, and as country director in Togo. She served in Tunisia as a PCV.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

The Peace Corps Library Date: February 24 2006 No: 798 The Peace Corps Library
The Peace Corps Library is now available online with over 40,000 index entries in 500 categories. Looking for a Returned Volunteer? Check our RPCV Directory. New: Sign up to receive PCOL Magazine, our free Monthly Magazine by email. Like to keep up with Peace Corps news as it happens? Sign up to recieve a daily summary of Peace Corps stories from around the world.

Changing the Face of Hunger Date: June 28 2006 No: 915 Changing the Face of Hunger
In his new book, Former Congressman Tony Hall (RPCV Thailand) says humanitarian aid is the most potent weapon the United States can deploy against terrorism. An evangelical Christian, he is a big believer in faith-based organizations in the fight against hunger. Members of Congress have recently recommended that Hall be appointed special envoy to Sudan to focus on ending the genocide in Darfur.

PC will not return to East Timor in 2006 Date: June 8 2006 No: 913 PC will not return to East Timor in 2006
Volunteers serving in East Timor have safely left the country as a result of the recent civil unrest and government instability. Latest: The Peace Corps has informed us that at this time, the Peace Corps has no plans to re-enter the country in 2006. The Peace Corps recently sent a letter offering eligible volunteers the opportunity to reinstate their service in another country.

Chris Dodd considers run for the White House Date: June 3 2006 No: 903 Chris Dodd considers run for the White House
Senator Chris Dodd plans to spend the next six to eight months raising money and reaching out to Democrats around the country to gauge his viability as a candidate. Just how far Dodd can go depends largely on his ability to reach Democrats looking for an alternative to Hillary Clinton. PCOL Comment: Dodd served as a Volunteer in the Dominican Republic and has been one of the strongest supporters of the Peace Corps in Congress.

The RPCV who wrote about Ben Hogan Date: June 6 2006 No: 912 The RPCV who wrote about Ben Hogan
Probably no RPCV has done more to further the Third Goal of the Peace Corps than John Coyne with the Peace Corps Writers web site and newsletter that he and Marian Haley Beil have produced since 1989. Now John returns to writing about his first love - golf in "The Caddie who knew Ben Hogan." Read an excerpt from his novel, an interview with the author and a schedule of his book readings in Maryland and DC this week.

Vasquez testifies before Senate Committee Date: June 3 2006 No: 905 Vasquez testifies before Senate Committee
Director Vasquez testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination as the new Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture replacing Tony Hall. He has been the third longest serving Peace Corps Director after Loret Ruppe Miller and Sargent Shriver. PCOL Comment: Read our thanks to Director Vasquez for his service to the Peace Corps.

First Amendment Watch Date: May 4 2006 No: 883 First Amendment Watch
Maine Web Report hit with Federal Lawsuit
Website wins trademark suit against Jerry Falwell

Interview with a Hit Man Date: April 25 2006 No: 880 Interview with a Hit Man
RPCV John Perkins says that for many years he was an "economic hit man" in the world of international finance whose primary job was to convince less developed countries to accept multibillion dollar loans for infrastructure projects that left the recipient countries wallowing in debt and highly vulnerable to outside political and commercial interests. In this exclusive interview for "Peace Corps Online," Colombia RPCV Joanne Roll, author of Remember with Honor, talks to Perkins about his Peace Corps service, his relation with the NSA, "colonization" in Ecuador, the consequences of his work, why he decided to speak out, and what his hopes are for change.

PC Program in Chad temporarily suspended Date: April 14 2006 No: 872 PC Program in Chad temporarily suspended
Director Vasquez announced the temporary suspension of the Peace Corps program in Chad on April 14 and that all 29 Peace Corps volunteers have left the country. With a program dating back forty years (See Page 4 of the April 1966 "Peace Corps Volunteer"), RPCVs hope that volunteers can return to Chad as soon as the situation has stabilized. Congratulations to the Peace Corps for handling the suspension quickly and professionally.

Peace Corps stonewalls on FOIA request Date: April 12 2006 No: 869 Peace Corps stonewalls on FOIA request
The Ashland Daily Tidings reports that Peace Corps has blocked their request for information on the Volkart case. "After the Tidings requested information pertaining to why Volkart was denied the position on March 2 the newspaper received a letter from the Peace Corps FOIA officer stating the requested information was protected under an exemption of the act." The Dayton Daily News had similar problems with FOIA requests for their award winning series on Volunteer Safety and Security.

PCOL readership increases 100% Date: April 3 2006 No: 853 PCOL readership increases 100%
Monthly readership on "Peace Corps Online" has increased in the past twelve months to 350,000 visitors - over eleven thousand every day - a 100% increase since this time last year. Thanks again, RPCVs and Friends of the Peace Corps, for making PCOL your source of information for the Peace Corps community. And thanks for supporting the Peace Corps Library and History of the Peace Corps. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come.

History of the Peace Corps Date: March 18 2006 No: 834 History of the Peace Corps
PCOL is proud to announce that Phase One of the "History of the Peace Corps" is now available online. This installment includes over 5,000 pages of primary source documents from the archives of the Peace Corps including every issue of "Peace Corps News," "Peace Corps Times," "Peace Corps Volunteer," "Action Update," and every annual report of the Peace Corps to Congress since 1961. "Ask Not" is an ongoing project. Read how you can help.

RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps Date: February 3 2006 No: 780 RPCV admits to abuse while in Peace Corps
Timothy Ronald Obert has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a minor in Costa Rica while serving there as a Peace Corps volunteer. "The Peace Corps has a zero tolerance policy for misconduct that violates the law or standards of conduct established by the Peace Corps," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez. Could inadequate screening have been partly to blame? Mr. Obert's resume, which he had submitted to the Peace Corps in support of his application to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, showed that he had repeatedly sought and obtained positions working with underprivileged children. Read what RPCVs have to say about this case.

Military Option sparks concerns Date: January 3 2006 No: 773 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read our poll results. Latest: Congress passed a bill on December 22 including language to remove Peace Corps from the National Call to Service (NCS) military recruitment program

Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: October 22 2005 No: 738 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Personnel Psychology

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Ecuador; Writing - Ecuador; Development; Economics


Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.