Book Review: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004)

The inside story of Pax Americana foreign policy
by John Perkins

ConfessionsIt’s been more than 10 years now since Confessions of an Economic Hit Man was published. And still the mainstream media is effective in blocking common understanding of how the Western banking cartel leverages Wall Street, the national security wonks, and the US military empire—in the guise of ‘economic development’—to transfer wealth from other countries into its clutches… with payoffs in the hundreds of $billions throughout its gorged network of corporate baronies.

John Perkins was a premier agent for these ‘developers.’ Boots on the ground, negotiating with statesmen and kings, skillfully articulating the contractual intentions of his Mob leaders to often reluctant representatives of the target countries.

Basically: “Here’s the deal, we’re offering you a pittance, a fraction of what we’ll gain in natural resource extraction and operations revenue. Plus, we’ll destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands of your people, either through dispossession, pollution, or outright murder and confiscation of their property. BUT, if YOU play ball, YOU and your insiders will live like kings.” With the unstated yet clear message that if the representatives and leaders don’t play ball, they will likely suffer great personal harm. The US imperial Mafia. [Though, JP himself was more a field man, out in communities to obtain acquiescence down the line.]

From the book jacket:

“Economic hit men,” John Perkins writes, “are  highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder. They play a game as old as Empire but one that has taken on terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.”

John Perkins should know—as an economic hit man for an international consulting firm, he convinced developing countries to accept enormous loans and to funnel that money to US corporations. The American government and international agencies then requested their ‘pound of flesh,’ including access to natural resources, military cooperation, and political support.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is the story of one man’s experiences inside the intrigue, greed, corruption, and little-known government and corporate activities that America has been involved in since World War II, and which have dire consequences for the future of democracy and the world.

Perkins grew up in New England, into an academic family with prestige and connections, though not great wealth. As he was finishing college in the late 1960s, not really having any firm goals (and facing the prospect of being drafted into Vietnam), he interviewed with the National Security Agency (NSA). They offered him a position upon graduation. Instead he joined the Peace Corps and spent his tour in Ecuador, which gave him a feel for how real people in real countries face their struggles of life.

John returned home to Boston area still without firm plans, when he had discussions with his ‘Uncle Frank,’ a man with big connections inside the global state security and foreign aid development gangs. Brimming with American exceptionalism, the good uncle set him up with an ostensibly private firm that acted as an agency for the World Bank and other major corporatocracy loaning entities. Perkins’ role was mainly to liaison with local community leaders, encourage them to cooperate with their own country’s top officials in accepting ‘generous’ loans. The essence of what Perkins did and came to feel remorse for is expressed in the following passage:

“Is anyone in the US innocent? Although those at the very pinnacle of the economic pyramid gain the most, millions of us depend—either directly or indirectly—on the exploitation of the LDCs (less-developed countries) for our livelihoods.

“The resources and cheap labor that feed nearly all our businesses come from places like Indonesia, and very little ever makes its way back. The [usually unrepayable] loans of foreign aid ensure that today’s children and their grandchildren of the target country will be held hostage. They will have to allow our corporations to ravage their natural resources and will have to forego education, health, and other social services merely to pay us back.

“The fact that our own companies already received most of this money to build the power plants, airports, and industrial parks does not factor into this formula. Does the excuse that most Americans are unaware of this constitute innocence? Uninformed and intentionally misinformed, yes—but innocent?”

Confessions is a well-written, authentic, and fabulous literary ride.

To make a long story short, Perkins eventually has his epiphany, after 20-some years of being paid handsomely (with many perks and prestige) to lube the peoples of those countries for taking it up the ol’ wazoo from Uncle Sam and Friends. Better late than never, but with the kinds of disclosures he makes, you know that assassination or silencing is a real possibility. Fortunately, he seems to have avoided being disappeared by the Global Junta.

He’s continuing in his unique humanitarian vein with other writings and lectures on how we may all thrive as we put the corporatocracy in the planet’s rear view mirror. To give you an idea of where he’s leading: Here’s an imminent lecture (May 5-9, 2015) he’ll be delivering in Zurich, Switzerland: Mindful Leadership Symposium: “The Age of Enoughism.” Information here:

Highly recommended, nothing’s changed… well actually, it’s gotten worse.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004)

  1. I had read the Original “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” 9 or 10 years ago, and have since read a number of John Perkin’s other books. At present I am reading the 2016 version “The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”. It has 5 new chapters and contains some solutions. I highly recommend it

  2. What John Perkins illustrates is what George Clooney was trying desperately to show the American people in his movie Syriana, how the world really works and just what our government has to do with it all (Syriana is a 2005 geopolitical thriller film written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, and executive produced by George Clooney, who also stars in the film.).

  3. I had always considered George Soros, and his stock broker Victor Niderhoffer to both be unconscienced economic hit men. George Soros earned large profits from investments and currency speculation. According to Forbes, George Soros is ranked 35th on the list of the world’s richest people, …

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