Updated on 07.30.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Shock Doctrine Edition

Trent Hamm

Over the weekend, I finished an utterly fascinating book that’s (largely) unrelated to The Simple Dollar but still worth mentioning: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

The book is basically an alternative look at world history over the last thirty years, particularly in terms of the collapse of various governments and replacement by new regimes (Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Poland, Russia, South Africa, and Iraq, among others). Klein’s book points out a ton of common threads among these seemingly very different governmental shifts – mostly, that as these nations are going through the “shock” of a radical change in their government and way of living, the new government would push through some very radical economic reforms that usually resulted in much of the wealth of the nation as a whole winding up in the hands of a small number of people, leaving many of the rest in a state of poverty.

It’s a really fascinating, complex book that casts a different light on much of what I “knew” about recent world history. Very, very thought provoking and well worth checking out from the library. But be warned – it’s a pretty dense book. I found myself regularly turning to Wikipedia and other sources to find out more about certain people and events that Klein would discuss for just a page or two.

What Percentage of Income Should Be Saved to Be Financially Responsible? I don’t think there is a set percentage, because I think it varies quite a bit depending on your life situation. How secure is your job? Do you have any other dependents? There are lots of questions in the mix here. (@ consumerism commentary)

How to Be Frugal Without Being Miserable I can’t tell you how strongly I agree with the advice in this post. It pretty much sums up how I feel about frugality. Frugality is about being mindful of the real value in your life – and that doesn’t always mean spending as little as possible. (@ dumb little man)

Ask the Readers: How to Save Money on Books? In my opinion, PaperBackSwap is the greatest thing since sliced bread for saving money on books. It’s reached the point where it beats the library for me, since I can send out and request a book from home and don’t have to worry about late fees or anything like that. (@ get rich slowly)

Ramit’s Inbox: An email from a very confused guy who can’t find a job I like this quote (except for the use of the word “rich” – I think the more appropriate term is “financially sensible”) – “Rich people plan for things before they need them, while others are caught treading water when something bad happens.” (@ i will teach you to be rich)

Take the Time to Play I often feel like there is too much to do. Reminders like this help keep me mentally in line. (@ productivity 501)

Reverse Engineer the Best Time of Your Life Another great article from the always thought-provoking Philip Brewer. I find that when I do such a “reverse engineering,” I always find that the core of the moment was free – and that essence is something I can find again in my own life today. (@ wise bread)

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  1. Ramit’s post was as usual a personal finance spark. I don’t always agree with him, but I do love reading what he writes.

  2. MLR says:

    The Brewer article, as you stated, was very thought-provoking.

    To take it one step further, the core of my moments were not only free but they involved family and/or friends. You could probably agree!

  3. Aakkosti says:

    When dealing with controversial issues such as the Shock Doctrine it is necessary to look at the other side of the issue. Here’s a rebuttal to the Shock Doctrine by Johan Norberg:

  4. some good articles you are sharing…thanks!

  5. intellisense says:

    Our currency has nowhere to go but down in the long run. That is what inflationary/growth systems provide. Grandiose banking sectors that rely on lending out 9x the capital of individual depositors and promoting debt in the way that they do makes me ill. Banks say “see how much you can save when you spend” I learned in 3rd grade grammar a statement like that is called an oxymoron……for good reason. Has anyone in the last 25 years saw an ad from a bank for equity financing?

  6. Joe says:

    I also read “The Shock Doctrine” about a month ago and agree that it is a worldview-changer. It completely shook my faith in unfettered free markets and privatization.

  7. Tamara says:

    I haven’t yet read the Shock Doctrine, but I did hear Naomi Klein speak a few months ago, and she was absolutely fascinating. I am glad you so enjoyed her book.

  8. Eric Mesa says:

    Of course, if more and more people start using the kindle you won’t be able to swap paperbacks.

  9. Pat says:

    Klein’s writing style is engaging but her opinions completely miss the mark and devolve into populist progressive rhetoric. She clearly does not understand libertarianism as she associates it with conservatives and corporatism which is absurd.

    A good critique of Klein’s biases and intellectual mistakes can be found here: http://www.strike-the-root.com/81/bill/bill1.html

  10. Alonso says:

    An excelent rebuttal to Klein´s science fiction book by Johan Norberg. Worth reading after you read her book.


  11. John at PlainCents.com says:

    Loved the post on how not to be miserable while being frugal. We all need things to keep us entertained and enjoying life. The real value of life truly needs to be our focus. Thanks for posting the link Trent!

  12. Michael says:

    What have you read that has been merely fascinating?

  13. Thanks for the kind words!

  14. Bill in Houston says:

    Dude, Wikipedia is not an accurate source for information. It is really only for amusement. It is way too easy to change entries in there.

    That being said, I may look into Shock Doctrine. While I do like to keep track what the far left is thinking, I spend too much time trying to keep steam from issuing forth from my ears. I’ve read No Logo and came to the conclusion that she didn’t know what she was talking about.

    Interesting article about regular writing. I agree with the article and with your comment. I’ve been a writer (technical, mostly) for 21 years.

  15. Ali Hale says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for linking to my “How to be frugal without being miserable” post on Dumb Little Man. Your blogging here on The Simple Dollar was a large part of the inspiration for it! I feel that frugality is about getting *more* from life, not less — spending wisely to maximise the amount of fun and usefulness you get from your money!

  16. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “Dude, Wikipedia is not an accurate source for information”

    Dude! Wikipedia is more accurate than Encyclopedia Brittanica! http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4530930.stm


  17. Bill in Houston says:

    Actually, it said, “The free online resource Wikipedia is about as accurate on science as the Encyclopedia Britannica, a study shows.”

    That doesn’t say much. I prefer a lot more source material than something any schmedrick can edit.


  18. ted says:

    Guys, come on. Shock Doctrine? That book was the most ridiculous piece of tripe I have ever read in my life. I guess if a belief in free markets = corporatism then you may have a point. However, lets be honest here, her treatment of Milton Friedman in that book is nothing short of mendacious and most of her ‘facts’ are taken wildly out of context.

  19. Johanna says:

    Dude, if you were to read all the way to the end of that BBC article, you would know that that study found *more* errors in Wikipedia than in the Encyclopedia Britannica. How that translates into Wikipedia being the more accurate of the two sources, I don’t know, dude. (Also, dude, if you were to look into the details of how the study was actually carried out, you would find a lot of really sketchy stuff that very likely skewed the results in Wikipedia’s favor. And they still didn’t even come out ahead.)

    That said, Wikipedia’s reliability depends on how you use it. For obscure information or very controversial subjects, you shouldn’t put too much trust in it (or in any other single source). But for basic information about well-established subjects, it’s fine. I use it all the time for work-related stuff.

  20. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    Johanna, minimal additional research shows the fallacy of that statement. If you look at a true comparison of the two, including article length as a factor, Brittanica has an error rate of 0.0054106 per word, while Wikipedia has an error rate of 0.0035798 per word.

    Wikipedia has more raw errors because Wikipedia’s articles are significantly longer and more detailed than Brittanica’s. Per word, per fact, Wikipedia is more accurate.

    Here’s the full data: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:External_peer_review#Errors_per_word_comparison

  21. Johanna says:

    Maybe you should be doing more than minimal additional research, then. :)

    1. That table you link to was compiled by Wikipedians. It was not part of the original study.

    2. In the discussion that follows, the Wikipedians admit that they really have no idea what versions of the articles were actually used in the study, or how long they were. The article lengths included in the table are merely guesses.

    3. Some of those guesses cannot possibly be right, because in the supplementary information for the study, it states: “We chose fifty entries from the websites of Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica on subjects that represented a broad range of scientific disciplines. Only entries that were approximately the same length in both encyclopaedias were selected. In a small number of cases some material, such as reference lists, was removed to bring the length of the entries closer together.” Note the “approximately the same length” part.

    4. The errors identified in the study include errors of omission – which are probably more prevalent in shorter articles than in longer ones – so the number of errors per word is not necessarily a good measure of overall accuracy.

    5. Britannica, not Brittanica.

  22. Carlos says:

    In reference to Shock Doctrine, Johan Norberg makes a good argument against the facts presented in the book by Naomi Klein. It appears that Naomi Klein played fast and loose with historical facts in order to prop up her argument. When one looks at the history of nations during a times a crisis, one sees a transfer of power from individuals and corporations to the the government, not from the goverment and individuals to the coporations. Can anyone truly say that GM, Chrysler, and investment banks have more power and influence now than before the recent economic crisis.



  23. Mats says:


    It’s sad to find you have been taken in by Klein’s intellectually deceptive, intellectually dishonest 500-page Shoc Doctrine.

    Have you made no googling at all of the book and its absurd claims?

    For a starter I recommend you read Johan Norberg’s excellent piece “Defaming Milton Friedman” in the october issue of Reason Magazine.

    Secondly, go to the sources. Read Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Friedman and make up your own mind.

    Best regards,


  24. Mats says:

    Sorry, it should say: Read Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom and make up your own mind.

  25. George says:

    What took so long for you to find the Klein? Before you watch John Cusak’s WAR,INC, screened initially at last year’s Tribeca Film Fest, you might even take a look at the Cusak-Wolf discussion on YouTube. (His film was influenced by her study.)

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