I just finished reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. It’s his personal account of working as an economic forecaster for an international infrastructure engineering and consulting company called Chas. T. Main during the 1970s (it’s since been purchased by Pasadena’s very own Parsons). If I remember correctly, I got this book from Arjun.
It was widely criticized when it came out as being the rantings of a conspiracy theorist, and I think that by the end of the book, it definitely takes on that tone. This is unfortunate, because a lot of the problems that Perkins points out really do exist, and it actually doesn’t matter much whether they’re the result of a shadowy global conspiracy, or a structural problem with our international economic and development system. But most good conspiracy theories contain a grain of truth, and at the very least they can provide a useful lens into how the same situation and facts can be interpreted differently by people in different positions, with different experiences, and different incentives. In that light, the book is asking the reader to consider what debt-based foreign development aid looks like from the point of view of the poor people living in the countries receiving the aid. This is actually a really interesting thing to think about right now, because our current financial and economic crisis has been described by some as similar in many ways to the kinds of crises which the IMF and World Bank have historically been called on to deal with in “developing” economies.