Free market under fire in topical new documentary

Mon Feb 9, 2009 11:57am EST
 
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - New film "The Shock Doctrine," based on Naomi Klein's bestseller of the same name, argues that governments the world over exploit natural disasters, economic crises and wars to push through radical free market policies.

The result, the film concludes, is often catastrophic for ordinary people and hugely beneficial to big corporations, and leaders have turned to brutality and repression in order to sustain agendas of privatization, deregulation and tax cuts.

Although economists have debated Klein's findings since the book was published in 2007, Shock Doctrine has struck a chord at the Berlin film festival at a time when economies are in crisis and governments and big businesses are taking much of the blame.

The documentary updates the book to include an analysis of how the financial world got into the trouble it is in. Throughout it challenges the assumption that free market principles are right and go hand in hand with democracy.

"For the last 30 years the dominant idea is that free markets can't be challenged at all, so at least people are talking about it," said British director Michael Winterbottom.

"When you see bankers being given hundreds of billions of dollars (in bailouts) who have been taking billions of dollars themselves for all these years it makes people very angry," he told reporters in Berlin after a press screening on Monday.

"I think that is the only positive thing -- that people around the world are so angry about what's been going on. Perhaps that will change what happens in the future."

Winterbottom and co-director Mat Whitecross use archive footage of coups, strikes, war and civil unrest to trace the rise of free market economics to American Milton Friedman and his acolytes at the University of Chicago.   Continued...