Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

by John Perkins

Hardcover, 2004

Call number

332.04 P



Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2004), 250 pages


"The riveting third edition of this New York Times bestselling title expands its focus to China, exposes corruption on an international scale, and offers much-needed solutions. Extensively updated, this edition features fourteen new chapters, including a new introduction and conclusion. The book brings the story of economic hit men (EHMs) up-to-date and focuses on China's EHM strategy. EHMs are highly paid professionals who use development loans to cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars and force them to serve US interests. Former economic hit man John Perkins gives an insider view into this system. With a truly global perspective, this book offers powerful revelations on extremely timely elements, including the third economic hit man wave that is sweeping the world and the way China optimizes US EHM models to make them a more dominating force. China's strategy is even more dangerous since it's successful at enticing lower income nations. Perkins also reveals how we can transform what he calls a failing Death Economy into a Life Economy. He encourages China's leaders to apply the Confucian ideal of serving the family to the global community to end the EHM strategy. The book ultimately provides a source of hope and inspires readers to participate in a new era of global cooperation"--… (more)

Media reviews

Perkins' tale is a gripping one and the international and political intrigue involved gives the non-fiction book the feel of a suspense thriller. The narrative is very well written and fast-paced. I do highly recommend Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man. Whether you like Mr. Perkins or not, he has
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some very valuable information and insights to share. One cannot help but benefit.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member jcbrunner
An autobiography of an ignorant American acting as an LDC development economist and planner in the Seventies. Part John Grisham's devil's apprentice, part tourist memoir, the book tells the story of a poor upstart being instrumentalized by a consulting firm to further the interest of US companies
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in LDC's. These were the anything goes days of development economics. Under the idea that the only growth ingredient missing was capital (dams, highways, etc.), the Western firms supplied the big toys and left the poor countries with the bill when their theory failed.
Despite his travels to Ecuador,Panama, Columbia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Boston Public Library, his knowledge about the world remains extremely limited. I was continuously amazed what trivial things amazed him. Facts and theories being beyond his grasp, he reverts to wild conspiracy theories and simple but wrong ideas. The old canard that terrorism was caused by exploitation is unearthed again. If this were even remotely true, the US would be reeling from South American attacks. A quick look at terrorist biographies from Che to Osama reveals their privileged backgrounds.

Apart from a portrait of an incredibly vain and ignorant man, there is nothing shocking or revealing in this book.
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LibraryThing member raschneid
This was disturbing and a fairly good read, although Perkins' vantage point, while a scary insight into the history of globalization, is limited. He's a tool, a middle man, and doesn't have access to the conversations of those at the top or the bottom of the global pyramid. I'd have to read a lot
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more about this topic to have anything to say about the objectivity/subjectivity of this book.

Perkins knows he was a materialistic loser for most of his life, so I can't really complain that reading about him often wasn't pleasant. It did particularly bother me that he felt the need to describe the appearance of most women but few men. Use "I" statements, dude - "I found her attractive, I noticed her physical characteristics." Don't assume that I, the reader, want to share your male gaze. Such assumptions aren't appropriate in nonfiction of this sort, even if it does have a political thriller feel.
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LibraryThing member Clueless
So many pieces of the confusing puzzle are falling into place...and the picture is not pretty - notpretty at all
LibraryThing member jmcilree
Oy. Overwrought and possibly delusional account of one man's mid-life crisis.
LibraryThing member ashutosh.kumar
Reveals US attemps to expand its global empire by taking over resource-rich countries.PLAN:IMF/World-Book give “Aid”(Loans) to such countries so huge so that the receivers are unable to ever payback; now US starts arm-twisting the countries into mineral-rights/pro-US alignments on geo-political
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LibraryThing member KLmesoftly
Ultimately, this read more like a travel memoir than a startling expose. Perkins' near-constant claims of reluctance and remembered crises of conscience make him hard to take seriously as part of the system he claims to have so much knowledge of, and while i love an unreliable narrator (in fiction,
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anyway); a self-righteous one is more burden than pleasure, and there's not much of impact i took away here.
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LibraryThing member dkritz
This is like gangsta rap -- full of ridiculous fantastical bragging. Secondly it is full of self-serving grief about things bragged about that are hard to believe. "Then the jackals come." Come on. Is there something wrong with writing the truth? It might be more effective. A discredit to the
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If you find this reinforces your existing views, because it seems to agree with them: Stop looking for ways to feed your confirmation bias, and be a little more intellectually honest.

If you find this reinforces your existing views, because it fails to impress you and you disagree with his view of the world: You're still wrong, find a better book about the same subject and you might learn something.
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LibraryThing member espref
This really opened my eyes to what happened and is condoned by our country. Very scary and realistic.
LibraryThing member aliciamalia
I hated this book. Finishing it was painful. Perkins clearly has a point to make: if you miss it the first time, don't worry, he'll say it again. And again. And then 10 times more in the next chapter. Basically it goes like this: "What I and other economic hit men do is terrible. We're awful
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people. We fly to exotic lands first class and hang out with world leaders. Because of our jobs we exploit the people of third world countries. Did I mention that I spent time with world leaders? Let me tell you how cool it was the time I hung out with Fidel Castro." And repeat.
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
Some interesting ideas obscured by obnoxious narrator, exaggerations of facts, hyperbole and demonization present throughout. Unreliable.
LibraryThing member JeremyPreacher
This was a fascinating read. I had a general idea that these kind of shenanigans were going on, but the in-depth look at the mechanism was well worth it. That being said, I have the strong suspicion that the author played up his moral discomfort to a very large degree to make himself a more
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sympathetic character, and that leaves me less trusting of his overall account than I might have been had he seemed more genuine.
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LibraryThing member wonderperson
John Perkins takes his life into his hands and writes this book to expose the work of EHM's a new form of corporate activity and how by it Countries are forced into debt and with it put into the United States Power.
A must read if you care about 1) high stakes whistleblowers possibly paying with
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their lives for disclosing the facts behind Media Generated Fiction 2) If you wish to account for National Debt Problems that are causing Financial crises causing unwanted Austerity Measures used by Power Elites to force Shock mass populaces into accepting untrammelled unregulated Free Market Ideologies. 3)If you wish to add further empirical reasons NOT to take on trust what the Media tells you. 4) another reason to protest, go green,#occupy etc.
An eye opener. I hope guys such as him do well for themselves as they face formidable Enemies and democratically elected Latin American Presidents were assassinated by the underlings of the CIA.
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LibraryThing member Coyote111
Everyone needs to read this book to understand that the nations governments do not run the world!
LibraryThing member Sean191
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man - what can I say? I think it's a good book for mainstream culture to read. Not that the writing is great, but the message is a good one to hear.

John Perkins comes across as making himself sound like he's really tough without really backing up that posturing with
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stories that support. Obviously, there's a difference between a "traditional" hit man and an economic one. Yet, Perkins seems to feel he's just as tough. Beyond that, his sacrifices to push aside all the money he was making doesn't seem that severe when he was likely walking away with more money than the average citizen sees in their lifetimes. When you consider the state of the people he writes about, it's more than likely that whole towns don't see that type of money during a generation.

Anyway, even though the writing is a little rough and I thought his personality was a little grating, it could be worth a read to those not already aware of many of the atrocities are country perpetrates on others.

Still, Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn do a better job of writing and educating. If you sincerely want to open your eyes, pick up something by one of them (I like Zinn better personally).
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LibraryThing member toasterhead
A grippingly-written tale of U.S. involvement in Ecuador, iran, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and much much more. For those who ask "why do other countries hate us," this book provides a detailed answer. A must-read for anyone involved with or studying international development and foreign affairs.
LibraryThing member Bluetrust
Fascinating - machinations of US foreign policy in a number of third world countries
LibraryThing member kaulsu
Nice blend of total fiction and egomaniacal delusions of grandeur mixed with the more factual history of CIA involvement in the affairs of developing countries. Required reading for a class in graduate school. Probably the worst book I've ever had to read for a class.
LibraryThing member NativeRoses
International consultant bribes and blackmails foreign powers into debt, then uses leverage to further corporate, intelligence, & military interests. Written as a memoir, but probably mostly fiction. Abysmally poor writing skills, but still interesting to consider that this might be happening to
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some extent.
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LibraryThing member reannon
Most of the book is quite depressing, telling stories of government and corporate atrocities. But the last section is quite uplifting in offering hope for change, specific actions we can take to promote change, and lists of organizations working for change.
LibraryThing member mbowen
I'm trying to figure out what the appropriate subtitle for this book should be and I can't decide among the following:

* Travels Through Guilt with the World's 33rd Richest Hippie
* The Mind of an Empty Suit
* A Self-Important Revisionist History
* How I Learned to Hate Myself and Love the Third
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* Memoirs of a Cold War Paperpusher

Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins is an exclamation point riddled history of a few financial manipulations of the Cold War by a man who had no stake in his own ambition.

The first thing you notice about this account is that it is written by a man who thinks he was sitting on top of the world, when in fact he was just a cog in the energy industry. If you are credulous enough to believe that the debts and revenues associated with the energy business is indeed the core principle of the global economy, then the moral outrage of this book makes sense. But there's a whole lot to swallow.

On the plus side, it's a fast and somewhat entertaining read. Otherwise it is a exercise in the slow revelations of a kind of self-loathing that takes about 20 years to surface.

One of the things that I've had in mind as I was reading this screed was the sense of geography as destiny. As I look at the 20th Century, I think of most of it focused on the economics of . Perkins was one of the people who made the truth a narrative of economic exploitation. He falls in love with Socialist charismatics in Latin America, rues the lives of poor peasants, and bemoans the basic nature of corporate capitalism without ever acknowledging or even understanding the basic nature of socialism.

Perkins is a perfect example of a cultural relativist. a perceptive reader can see how much he hates his hometown and parents and idolizes romantic ideals associated with revolutionary rhetoric. But you can't imagine that he even had the temerity to read Marx, Weber, Engles, Friere or anyone. Back when I was a bit more blackified, I referred to such people as culture vultures. If it's indigenous, it's good. But you'll never see him once talk about infant mortality statistics, literacy rates, crime rates or even inflation.

I discovered a bit too late that this book would teach me nothing about the business of foreign direct investment or the workings of the World Bank except that he saw it as evil. Technically, you'll get a great deal more insight reading Wikipedia. Basically, Perkins assumes that his game was the only game on the planet, his company was smack dab in the middle of it and that it was all being subtley directed by the CIA and NSA and that this is, was and always will be the American way. You really get a foggy view of the Evil Empire of America from Perkins, who resembles nobody quite so much as a cynical wanker who is too soulless to quit the game. It's a confession all right.

By the time I got 2/3rds of the way through, reading the book began to become annoying. The incredible vacuity of this man was staggering. There are no personal relationships in the book worth speaking of. He found loyalty only to his bosses worth mentioning. It is a stunning revelation about his character that he never once had a kind word to say or any personal quality worth mentioning about his staff that stands out in memory. We learn that he took one of his charges (female) on a yacht cruise to some isle in the Caribbean, but that when he got there, he was so sickened by his guilty conscience that he banged his head against the coconut trees.

If you want to understand something about the life of an economist and high finance, the best book I've read is My Life as a Quant. If you want to understand something about the life of a reluctant spy, the best book to read is Larry Kolb's Overworld. If you want to get well-written account of a man who was too spoiled to find himself while being a toady in the economic hardball of the Cold War era, then this is your book. But it's nowhere near as good as, say The Quiet American.

You can imagine that Perkins, who is a great admirer of Graham Greene, might have had aspirations to be such a character as Greene might pen. He is earnest to tell such a story that would portray himself thus, but he is to honest to consider himself heroic, and I suspect that he'll be working off his guilt for the rest of his life. In that regard, 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman' is (now prefaced and extended in the paperback edition) a blueprint for American liberal guilt. If there was ever someone who truly believed that global warming and a host of other blowbacks are destined to doom America to a well-deserved kharmic smackdown, it is John Perkins. He has always been a citizen of the world pretending to be a patriotic American, down to the repetitions of his undying faith in the words of Thomas Paine. You'd think, being a pseudo-economist, that he'd have some room in his heart for Alexander Hamilton. Ahh but that would mean that he'd have to admire courage.

I didn't want to be a harsh judge of Perkins. I thought I might learn of an extraordinary life, one of conviction and then epiphany. Instead I learned of a small yapping dog who was always on a leash he lacked the spirit to gnaw through. Someone who would tell us in the end that we should use less oil and that 'corporatocray' is evil. This book has been a disappointment in many ways. I may well be very happy to read Thomas Friedman after this.

Good parts?

Yeah there are a few. He speaks about a few South American presidents who might have been contenders. He gives a few details about Saudi Aramco. But compared to Larry Kolb's fascinating and detailed portraits of Daniel Ortega and Adnan Khashoggi, this is Romper Room. If Perkins thought he was an agent... don't make me laugh.
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LibraryThing member Zare
This is a very interesting and rather disturbing book. Events and behavior described in it can surprise only those folks that never (and I mean never) took time to see what is going in the world – again, not through the eyes of the current politicians and/or [current] public opinion but through
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some sort of independent research on their own (reading history is always good way to start).
As I said it is nothing new, as long as there is lust for power and more fortune there will always be people subjugating other people – technology and technique are only things that change.

Fortunately information age is here and modern (wo)man can access wide variety of topics and issues by simply browsing the web – this brought what author calls “leaking of the truth” and connect-the-dots effect (again using those dots at the disposal : ) – by no means insufficient amount of data). This differs greatly from time when it took months (if not years) for news to arrive from one place to another or time when people were mostly illiterate and depended upon others for interpretation.
How we move from here is now entirely up to us (as a society). Hopefully we will move in the right direction.

Great book, narrative reminds me of Paul Erdman’s “Crash of ’79” (both were financial experts and I think both knew very well what is going on in the world – one choose fiction and other one chose biography to describe what is going on).
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LibraryThing member John99999999
I read this book just before With Malice And Forethought. I knew things like this happened in the world so for me it didn't really provide any new insights. I wish that Perkins had of actually provided real names, but I guess there are legal issues involved and the protagonists in his book would
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have probably seen their real names in a harsh and unkind light. Apart from no real names, the book is an exploratory examination of the career of someone who has been groomed into becoming a master manipulator. Of course that is what big corporate America and European interests want. The flow of money is highly interesting in that Corp A offers Country A infrastructure at some price plus interest rate. All the money goes back to Corp A through itself and its subs. Once the interest can't be paid on the loan, then Corp A lever Country A for natural resources, reductions in pricing, etc. to take a market advantage. Meanwhile, Country A starves itself into submission and the only winner is Corp A, because poor people can't buy cars to use on the roads or appliances to use electricity. We live in a pretty ugly world and this book explains some of its workings.
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LibraryThing member stephenmakin
I read this for our book group. Jade suggested it, she's an accountant. I have to admit I found it really easy to read, and not at all dry at all. I just didn't really believe the guy. I"m not sure why. But for some reason I just didn't believe his story.

Yes I believed that people did all this,
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but I'm not sure that it was recruited by the government. Still maybe it was.
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LibraryThing member xenchu
This is the story of Global Imperialism, financial subjugation of third world peoples and how it is done by international corporations. For this task, the corporations use men and women called by Perkins Economic Hit Men.

The book details who did the dirty work and how the work was done. Perkins was
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very successful at the work and was well paid for it until his conscience forced him to quit.

The writing is in in an easy, readable style with not too many acronyms. It is a fairly short book but is well detailed.
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LibraryThing member bookcover
Review of “Confessions of an economic Hit Man (EHM)”I don’t exactly remember which of my friends and/or acquaintances told me to read this book in the first place, and like always I added this book to my “to be read” list and decided to wait whenever it’s turn comes up in the my
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Initially I had reservations reading this book. For a guy like me who had none whatsoever background of accounting & economics, words like Economic Hit Man were totally intimidating. My first reaction to the title was of fear. It appeared daunting and a bit of too subjective to read. It is not clear to me, what made me read this book – my internal ability to push myself to do new (read weird) things and keep myself open (read vulnerable) to everything or my ability to torture myself with most awkward things in life just because I want to see myself as strong (read Mighty STRONG) or just random curiosity. But whatever it was, I can’t thank it enough for making me read this book and completing it till the very end.
John Perkins writes very candidly about his life, his geographically widespread professional entourage, turbulent personal accidents and of all the stories which his experience brought to him. The book started with a confused and a not clear note, which is acceptable given the fact that the reader should be able to put things in “his perspective” rather than putting things in “author’s perspective”.
At first I guessed that this book would be a fable of some economic blunders made in the US economy and some of its “free trade partners” in this global economy, but to my surprise this book contained that and much more.
The way John passes through countries through countries and explains tirelessly about what MAIN Corporation stands for and how MAIN reaped him in, intertwined with the notion of personal life as well is nothing short of indescribable. Earlier just professional and later his personal experiences started to revolve around MAIN’ strategy to expand the global empire and meeting to my realms of understanding, this thirst of oil continues to evade US supported MAIN from one continent to another. Horrifying examples of Ecuador, Panama, Indonesia, and Canal country are meant to open the eyes of the readers and the masses (by a long shot though) to the corporate bureaucracy. The author coined a new term out of it, which is interesting too. The book clearly shows that the oldest democracy in the world has outlawed all the international laws (the experience stories about Vietnam and Iraq war), nullified all the popular democracy movements in the targeted countries (for e.g. Canal), CIA assassinations imprints (for example, murder of Roduge) all over the books, colossal amount of national debts incurred to these countries in lieu of providing foreign aid for building infrastructure ( such as highways, dams, power plants, oil plants and many more), loss of national freedom, and many similar activities. Why this book & its controversial experiences seem to me as different is a good question that I am asking myself, way before even I thought I would write a review about it.
Big fish still eats the small fish. A mightier country today dictates the smaller country by means money (read foreign aid), technology transfer (read lobbying for concessions and army base) and sometimes war (read US supported army coup). Oil thirst seems to overtake everything else in the world and on this planet. NOTHING stands in front it. The fact that first EHMs are sent to a country to investigate and prepare the ground to a new country and if that fails, the jackals are sent shows the pinch of might these bigger conglomerates have over you and my daily affairs.
Each one of us likes to think that I am free and I am equal as guaranteed by the constitution (this is usually true for most of the countries, irrespective of where you belong to and from where you are reading this), but in the bigger picture, these big money earning and oil thirsty juggernauts will destroy the very fundamental of freedom by enslaving everyone of us with their products, services and money.
To our greatest fear, even today the imperialism prevails. It really doesn’t matter that which nation you are reading this entry from, but it matters what history you nation has and most importantly what it is going through now. Imperialism as we knew it, ended ages ago. Now you don’t see geographically spread colonies and rampant human slavery, but you see huge national debts of countries once rich with natural resources, now we don’t see blacks and browns tortured because of their skin color (partly thanks to the system and partly to education that let’s everyone to be seen as equals), but we see good people like John Perkins working as EHM and helping to create global empires for the countries like this one on the expense of so many others.
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Independent Publisher Book Awards (Finalist — Current Events — 2005)




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