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Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 3rd Edition

by (author) John Perkins

Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Initial publish date
Feb 2023
Business, Government & Business, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2023
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Los Angeles Times Bestseller
How do we stop the unrelenting evolution of the economic hit man strategy and China’s takeover?
The riveting third edition of this New York Times bestseller blows the whistle on China’s economic hit man (EHM) strategy, exposes corruption on an international scale, and offers much-needed solutions for curing the degenerative Death Economy.

In this shocking exposé, former EHM John Perkins gives an insider view into the corrupt system that cheats and strong-arms countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars and ultimately causes staggering income inequality and ecological devastation.

EHMs are highly paid professionals who use development loans to saddle countries with huge debts and force them to serve US interests. Now, a new EHM wave is infecting the world, and at the peak of the devastation sits China, a newly dominant economic power, with its own insidious version of the US EHM blueprint. Twelve explosive new chapters detail the allure, exploitation, and wreckage of China’s EHM strategy in Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

If allowed to continue its rampage, the EHM strategy—whether executed by the United States or China—will destroy life as we know it. However, all is not lost. Perkins offers a plan for transforming this system that places profits above all into a Life Economy that restores the earth. He inspires readers to take actions toward a new era of global cooperation that will end the United States’s and China’s EHM strategies for good.

About the author

Excerpt: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 3rd Edition (by (author) John Perkins)

A Defiant President

President Rafael Correa stood alone on the balcony of Ecuador’s Government Palace and smiled down at the cluster of people beginning to gather below him in Quito’s Independence Plaza. They were waving and pointing their cell phone cameras at him. In less than a year he would complete his second term as president and, as required under Ecuadorian law, retire from office in 2017. He would leave knowing that he had scored a major victory. He had met with China’s President Xi Jinping and signed the deal of the century. He had beaten the American economic hit men at their own game.

US policies had impacted Correa all his life. It began when he was five years old and his father disappeared behind the walls of a US prison, convicted as a narco-trafficker who fed America’s appetite for drugs in order to feed his family. Shortly after Rafael turned eleven, a CIA-supported coup resulted in the death of one of his heroes, the democratically elected Chilean president Salvador Allende. While he was still in his teens, he was greatly influenced by two of my EHM clients, Ecuador’s president Jaime Roldós and Panama’s Omar Torrijos. He admired the way both men stood up to the fraternity of US corporate, governmental, and banking heads who wanted to exploit their countries’ resources. He was especially impressed by Roldós’s commitment to ending the abuses of Big Oil and Torrijos’s determination to gain Panamanian ownership of the canal that bisected his country. Both men resisted my personal attempts to bribe them and refused to buckle to death threats by the jackals who stepped in when I and other EHMs failed to corrupt them. Both were hated by Ronald Reagan and powerful US CEOs. The year when Correa turned eighteen and Reagan entered the White House, Roldós and Torrijos died in plane crashes that had all the markings of assassinations, as detailed in upcoming chapters.

Correa’s father’s trial and conviction, the shadow of the CIA that hung over the deaths of three heroic leaders, the Vietnam War, and race and social discord in the US drove the young man to learn about a system that seemed biased in favor of rich white Americans and their corporations. He studied hard and earned scholarships to an Ecuadorian college, then a master’s degree from a Belgian university, and finally a PhD in economics from the University of Illinois. He’d experienced humiliation, degradation, and exploitation firsthand. It had motivated him to become an expert in a global system that was promoted by EHMs and called itself capitalism.

“I learned,” President Correa would later tell me, “that your economic hit man game is about enslaving countries with debt. Then you own us.” He understood the US’s EHM strategy. He also wanted to find a way to make his country part of a more just and egalitarian global economic movement. After reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, he wrote to me, “I want to thank you for a significant contribution to the new universal way of searching for innovative and better approaches to coexistence.” Under his leadership, Ecuador enacted a new constitution, the first in the world to legalize the inalienable rights of nature, and he established the Ministry of Buen Vivir (Good Living) to bring social-economic-environmental balance to all aspects of Ecuadorian life.

Buen Vivir Secretary of State Freddy Ehlers summed it up for me one day while we walked through Quito’s beautiful El Ejido Park. “This president understands what’s happening to the world,” Freddy said. “He also knows that we are all in trouble, the current system needs fixing. Rafael wants to benefit his country and its environment and, in the process, make Ecuador a model for others to follow.”

Correa raised his arms to the crowd rapidly growing below him. His popularity seemed to increase every day as people recognized that American domination was ending. To make the break from that domination, he had felt he had no choice but to turn to China.

One of the first things Correa had done after being elected president in the 2006 democratic election was to investigate the EHM strategy I had helped implement. He appointed a commission to examine World Bank loans that had been made to unelected military dictators. Correa’s economics education had taught him that the US EHM strategy for domination was grounded in debt. The commission asked: Were the Ecuadorian people obligated to pay interest and principal on debt they had not agreed to and that benefited dictators but not them? Following the commission’s conclusions, Correa declared that much of Ecuador’s $10 billion debt was illegitimate.1 The Minister of Energy and Mines, Alberto Acosta, explained this to me as we sat in his office shortly after Correa’s decision. “Banks that grant loans to unelected dictators,” he said, “knowing they will finance projects that benefit the rich minorities and hurt the poor majorities, have to accept the blame for much of what is wrong here in Ecuador—and so many other places. After true democratic elections are held, elective officials must stand up for the majority.” Acosta had a degree in economics from the University of Cologne, Germany; like Correa, he understood the importance of escaping from the trap of the EHM strategy.

In retaliation for Correa’s actions, Standard and Poor’s Rating Services and Fitch Ratings slashed Ecuador’s credit score. They were determined to send a signal that any country that refused to honor World Bank and other US debt claims, that did not buy into the EHM strategy, would be punished. Ecuador had to be brought to its knees.

But Correa was not about to give in. He recognized that modern capitalism was based on using the EHM strategy to beat the competition and attain monopolistic power. He saw, sooner than most, that the position of the United States as top competitor was being seriously challenged. The American monopoly, the empire, was showing signs of collapse. The “Chinese dragon” had woken up and it did not give a damn about rating services.

China came to Ecuador’s rescue with a $1 billion loan, followed quickly by another billion. Ecuador’s credit ratings immediately rose. Correa had rejected neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus; he had successfully turned to Chinese bankers and their promises to expand trade throughout Latin America and with the rest of the world. To benefit from this New Silk Road, the country had to build up its electrical systems, highways, ports, and airports. All of this, along with the new schools and hospitals, would seal Correa’s legacy as the leader who had used the sea of oil buried beneath Ecuador’s rain forest as collateral to bring the nation out of poverty and set an example that offered hope to other countries.

Correa leaned against the railing and studied the crowd of onlookers that continued to gather below him; they were waving at him, smiling and shouting greetings, and continuing to snap photographs. He had done a good job. In addition to the new constitution and the Ministry of Buen Vivir, he had brought unprecedented political stability to a country that had experienced seven presidents during the ten years before him and suffered from a long history of coups and military dictators. He had followed in the footsteps of his hero, President Roldós, during his first term by reining in foreign oil companies. In his second term, he had built the infrastructure and developed the social services he thought were critical to the well-being of his people. Ecuador had experienced continual economic growth, even during the 2008–2009 international financial crisis. The country’s minimum wage had more than doubled and become one of the highest in Latin America. More than a million people had been lifted out of poverty. All this under his leadership. He raised a hand and gave a thumbs-up to the people in the plaza. The Sino-Ecuador partnership had paid off.

But questions hounded Correa. Reporters kept asking, “Do you think the Chinese will be less exploitative than the Americans?” The reporters brought up the violence against the minority Uyghurs, Hong Kong and Tibet, the extension of Beijing’s imperialistic activities in the South China Sea and toward Hong Kong and Taiwan, and its dismal record around freedom of speech, gender, and other human rights issues. And it wasn’t just the reporters who asked those questions. Opposition politicians asked them. Correa’s own advisors asked them. He himself asked them. And yet, he wanted to believe in China’s stated commitment to spreading global trade. The New Silk Road idea contrasted sharply with Washington’s focus on bilateral US–Ecuador projects and trade. In addition, China’s President Xi had assured him that he would not use debt to impose Beijing’s will on Ecuador. Besides, there was no backtracking. Correa had committed himself to reversing the excessively pro-American policies of his predecessors.

By the end of 2015, Correa had accepted nearly $6 billion from China, around 30 percent of Ecuador’s external debt. And it kept growing. The New York Times reported:

Chinese banks are in talks to lend $7 billion for the construction of an oil refinery, which could make Ecuador a global player in gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products.
Across the country in villages and towns, Chinese money is going to build roads, highways, bridges, hospitals, even a network of surveillance cameras stretching to the Galápagos Islands. State-owned Chinese banks have already put nearly $11 billion into the country, and the Ecuadorean government is asking for more.
Ecuador, with just 16 million people, has little presence on the global stage. But China’s rapidly expanding footprint here speaks volumes about the changing world order, as Beijing surges forward and Washington gradually loses ground.

One of China’s loans was used to pay the Chinese Sinohydro Corporation to construct a massive hydroelectric dam that promised to generate more than a third of Ecuador’s electricity, stimulate business and industry, produce hundreds of thousands of jobs, and expand international trade. Correa knew that electricity was the key to Ecuador’s future development. This particular deal seemed like frosting on the president’s cake.

But the costs mounted. China bailed Ecuador out with more funds. Again and again. Debt piled on debt.

Then everything went terribly wrong—all at once.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for John Perkins’s books:

“John Perkins’s books have helped me better understand something that has been puzzling me for a long time: Why have so many resource-rich countries in the developing world remained steadfastly poor? The answers he gives are both complex and uncomfortable, and none of us in the first world can abrogate responsibility easily.”

“In this brilliantly informative third edition of Confessions, John Perkins draws on his extraordinary personal experience to reveal how China has used lessons from the US economic hit man assault on people and Earth to best the United States in what ultimately will be a mutually fatal competition to be the last global superpower on a dead Earth. Let us heed his call to the people and leaders of both countries to put that past behind us and join with people everywhere to create an ecological civilization free of superpower competition and dedicated to the well-being of Earth and all its people.”
—David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning

“This eloquent book inspires us to create a new reality of what it means to be human in this magnificent planet.”
Deepak Chopra, author of Perfect Health, You Are the Universe, and other bestsellers

“A highly readable—and shocking—book. It's difficult to accept that United States and corporate policies can be so brutal and greedy, but knowing John Perkins personally, I have come to understand the importance of disclosing this uncomfortable truth. Only by confronting the truth can we eventually create a world that works for all of us. John Perkins inspires us to get up and take action to create a more just and equitable world.”
Jack Canfield, co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series

“A sweeping, bold assault on the tyranny of corporate globalization, full of drama and adventure, with devastating stories of greed run wild. But Perkins is undaunted, and offers imaginative ideas for a different world.”
Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

“Like finding the key that unlocks a mystery. It simultaneously confirms your suspicions and inspires you to hope. I wouldn't say it's good news, but it's important news.... about where America's gone wrong, and what it will take for us to make things right.
—Marianne Williamson, author of A Year of Miracles, A Politics of Love, and other bestsellers

“A significant contribution to the new universal way of searching for innovative and better approaches to coexistence.”
—Dr. Rafael Correa Delgado, President of Ecuador (2007-2017)

“Resonates with my experiences of the brutish methods and gross economic irrationality guiding powerful institutions in their bid to undermine democratic control over economic power. Perkins has, once again, made a substantial contribution to a world that needs whistle-blowers to open its eyes to the true sources of political, social, and economic power.”
—Yanis Varoufakis, former Minister of Finance, Greece

“An eye-opening exposé of global corruption and a fascinating story of adventure and intrigue. This devastating indictment of current economic policies also offers hope by showing the power of the growing movement toward a caring economics worldwide.”
–Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations
“Offers deep insights into the nefarious ways economic hit men and jackals have expanded their powers. It shows how they came home to roost in the United States—as well as the rest of the world. It is a brilliant and bold book that illuminates the crises we now face and offers a road map to stop them.”
—John Gray, PhD, author of Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

“John Perkins’s engaging narrative draws us into a brilliant analysis of capitalism’s shadow side and points us to a hopeful path to a better future… a must read for anyone who cares about our economic welfare, social justice, and collective well-being.”
—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Ecological Intelligence
“John Perkins probed the dark depths of global oligarchy and emerged into the light of hope. This true story that reads like a page-turning novel is great for all of us who want the better world that we know is possible for ourselves, future generations, and the planet.”
—Marci Shimoff, author of Happy for No Reason and Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul

“Here are the real-life details—nasty, manipulative, plain evil—of international corporate skullduggery spun into a tail rivaling the darkest espionage thriller.”
–Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
“Perkins provides a profound analysis of two forces vying to define the future. One is intent on preserving systems that serve the few at the expense of the many, while the other promotes a new consciousness of what it means to be human on this beautiful, fragile planet. This powerful book inspires and empowers actions that manifest an awakening to our collective ecosystem and the rebirth of humanity—an ECOrenaissance.”
—Marci Zaroff, founder of ECOfashion brands Under the Canopy and Metawear
“Tells the rest of that story—the terrible things that have happened . . .and what we all can do to turn a death economy into a life economy.”
—Yoko Ono

“Stunning and groundbreaking. . . A must read for anyone who cares about the world.”
—Lynne Twist, global activist and author of The Soul of Money and Living a Committed Life
“An amazing guide to co-creating a human presence on our planet that honors all life as sacred. It exposes our past mistakes; offers a vision for a compassionate, sustainable future; and provides practical approaches for making the transition between the two. A must-read for anyone who loves our beautiful home, Earth.”
—Barbara Marx Hubbard, bestselling author and President, Foundation for Conscious Evolution
“As one who has helped thousands of people grow their businesses, I’ve learned firsthand the importance of facing the crises old economic models created and acting positively to develop new approaches. Perkins’s experiences, his exposé of the failures, his clear vision of what needs to be done, his call to action, and the sense of joy he feels for being part of this consciousness revolution are deeply inspiring.”
—Sage Lavine, CEO, Conscious Women Entrepreneurs; and founder of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy
"Mr. Perkins's core message is that American corporations and government agencies employ two types of operatives: 'economic hit men,' who bribe emerging economies, and ‘jackals,' who may be used to overthrow or even murder heads of state in Latin America and the Middle East to serve the greater cause of American empire. . . . [This] book seems to have tapped into a larger vein of discontent and mistrust that Americans feel toward the ties that bind together corporations, large lending institutions and the government — a nexus that Mr. Perkins and others call the ‘corporatocracy.’”
The New York Times
“This riveting look at a world of intrigue reads like a spy novel . . . Highly recommended.”
Library Journal

“Imagine the conceptual love child of James Bond and Milton Friedman.”
Boston Herald

"Conspiracy buffs are most likely to enjoy this updated version of a memoir that was a surprise bestseller in 2004…This revised version, he states, was written to answer the thousands of emails he received from readers interested in what they could do to resist.”
Publishers Weekly
“Ultimately, Confessions is a parable for all Americans who try to deny the heartbreaking fact that our society’s affluence often comes at the wider world’s expense.”
Utne Reader
“[A] gripping tell-all book . . . Perkins reveals how the US machine works behind closed doors and how America has exploited others for its own needs.”
Rocky Mountain News

“Perkins claims may seem unthinkable to most Americans. But the evidence, looking at the world economy, is damning . . . the citizens of this country need to be willing to examine the actions of our political and corporate leaders and demand that they stop the destruction that is making the world an increasingly dangerous place to live.”
Charlotte Observer
“An intriguing, vivid account of Perkins’s ‘living on the edge’ experiences, this fascinating read is of the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction variety.”
Library Journal (Lucy Heckman, St. John’s University Lib., Queens, NY)

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