Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

by John Perkins


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Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins

In this riveting personal story, John Perkins tells of his own inner journey from willing servant of empire to impassioned advocate for the rights of oppressed people. Covertly recruited by the United States National Security Agency and on the payroll of an international consulting firm, he traveled the world-to Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other strategically important countries. His job was to implement policies that promoted the interests of the U.S. corporatocracy (a coalition of government, banks, and corporations) while professing to alleviate poverty-policies that alienated many nations and ultimately led to September 11 and growing anti-Americanism.

Perkins' story illuminates just how far he and his colleagues-self-described as economic hit men-were willing to go. He explains, for instance, how he helped to implement a secret scheme that funneled billions of Saudi Arabian petrodollars back into the U.S. economy, and that further cemented the intimate relationship between the Islamic fundamentalist House of Saud and a succession of American administrations. Perkins reveals the hidden mechanics of imperial control behind some of the most dramatic events in recent history, such as the fall of the Shah of Iran, the death of Panamanian president Omar Torrijos, and the U.S. invasions of Panama and Iraq.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, which many people warned Perkins not to write, exposes the little known inner workings of a system that fosters globalization and leads to the impoverishment of millions of people across the planet. It is a compelling story that also offers hope and a vision for realizing the American dream of a just and compassionate world that will bring us greater security.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452287082
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/27/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 1160L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John Perkins currently writes and teaches about achieving peace and prosperity by expanding our personal awareness and transforming our institutions. He founded an alternative energy company that successfully changed the U.S. utility industry. From 1971 to 1981 he worked for the international consulting firm of Chas. T. Main, where he held the titles of Chief Economist and Manager of Economics and Regional Planning but in reality was an economic hit man. He continued to play out his EHM role until the events of 9/11 convinced him to expose this shadowy and secret side of his life.

Read an Excerpt

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

By John Perkins

Berrett-Koehler Publishers

Copyright © 2006 John Perkins
All right reserved.


Quito, Ecuador's capital, stretches across a volcanic valley high in the Andes, at an altitude of nine thousand feet. Residents of this city, which was founded long before Columbus arrived in the Americas, are accustomed to seeing snow on the surrounding peaks, despite the fact that they live just a few miles south of the equator. The city of Shell, a frontier outpost and military base hacked out of Ecuador's Amazon jungle to service the oil company whose name it bears, is nearly eight thousand feet lower than Quito. A steaming city, it is inhabited mostly by soldiers, oil workers, and the indigenous people from the Shuar and Kichwa tribes who work for them as prostitutes and laborers.

To journey from one city to the other, you must travel a road that is both tortuous and breathtaking. Local people will tell you that during the trip you experience all four seasons in a single day. Although I have driven this road many times, I never tire of the spectacular scenery. Sheer cliffs, punctuated by cascading waterfalls and brilliant bromeliads, rise up one side. On the other side, the earth drops abruptly into a deep abyss where the Pastaza River, a headwater of the Amazon, snakes its way down the Andes. The Pastaza carries water from the glaciers of Cotopaxi, one of the world's highest active volcanoes and a deity in the time of the Incas, to the Atlantic Ocean over three thousand miles away.

In 2003, I departed Quito in a Subaru Outback and headed for Shell on a mission that was like no other I had ever accepted. I was hoping to end a war I had helped create. As is the case with so many things we EHMs must take responsibility for, it is a war that is virtually unknown anywhere outside the country where it is fought. I was on my way to meet with the Shuars, the Kichwas, and their neighbors the Achuars, the Zaparos, and the Shiwiars-tribes determined to prevent our oil companies from destroying their homes, families, and lands, even if it means they must die in the process. For them, this is a war about the survival of their children and cultures, while for us it is about power, money, and natural resources. It is one part of the struggle for world domination and the dream of a few greedy men, global empire.

That is what we EHMs do best: we build a global empire. We are an elite group of men and women who utilize international financial organizations to foment conditions that make other nations subservient to the corporatocracy running our biggest corporations, our government, and our banks. Like our counterparts in the Mafia, EHMs provide favors. These take the form of loans to develop infrastructure -electric generating plants, highways, ports, airports, or industrial parks. A condition of such loans is that engineering and construction companies from our own country must build all these projects. In essence, most of the money never leaves the United States; it is simply transferred from banking offices in Washington to engineering offices in New York, Houston, or San Francisco.

Despite the fact that the money is returned almost immediately to corporations that are members of the corporatocracy (the creditor), the recipient country is required to pay it all back, principal plus interest. If an EHM is completely successful, the loans are so large that the debtor is forced to default on its payments after a few years. When this happens, then like the Mafia we demand our pound of flesh. This often includes one or more of the following: control over United Nations votes, the installation of military bases, or access to precious resources such as oil or the Panama Canal. Of course, the debtor still owes us the money-and another country is added to our global empire.

Driving from Quito toward Shell on this sunny day in 2003, I thought back thirty-five years to the first time I arrived in this part of the world. I had read that although Ecuador is only about the size of Nevada, it has more than thirty active volcanoes, over 15 percent of the world's bird species, and thousands of as-yet-unclassified plants, and that it is a land of diverse cultures where nearly as many people speak ancient indigenous languages as speak Spanish. I found it fascinating and certainly exotic; yet, the words that kept coming to mind back then were pure, untouched, and innocent. Much has changed in thirty-five years.

At the time of my first visit in 1968, Texaco had only just discovered petroleum in Ecuador's Amazon region. Today, oil accounts for nearly half the country's exports. A trans-Andean pipeline built shortly after my first visit has since leaked over a half million barrels of oil into the fragile rain forest-more than twice the amount spilled by the Exxon Valdez. Today, a new $1.3 billion, three hundred-mile pipeline constructed by an EHM-organized consortium promises to make Ecuador one of the world's top ten suppliers of oil to the United States. Vast areas of rain forest have fallen, macaws and jaguars have all but vanished, three Ecuadorian indigenous cultures have been driven to the verge of collapse, and pristine rivers have been transformed into flaming cesspools.

During this same period, the indigenous cultures began fighting back. For instance, on May 7, 2003, a group of American lawyers representing more than thirty thousand indigenous Ecuadorian people filed a $1 billion lawsuit against ChevronTexaco Corp. The suit asserts that between 1971 and 1992 the oil giant dumped into open holes and rivers over four million gallons per day of toxic wastewater contaminated with oil, heavy metals, and carcinogens, and that the company left behind nearly 350 uncovered waste pits that continue to kill both people and animals.

Outside the window of my Outback, great clouds of mist rolled in from the forests and up the Pastaza's canyons. Sweat soaked my shirt, and my stomach began to churn, but not just from the intense tropical heat and the serpentine twists in the road. Knowing the part I had played in destroying this beautiful country was once again taking its toll. Because of my fellow EHMs and me, Ecuador is in far worse shape today than she was before we introduced her to the miracles of modern economics, banking, and engineering. Since 1970, during this period known euphemistically as the Oil Boom, the official poverty level grew from 50 to 70 percent, under- or unemployment increased from 15 to 70 percent, and public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion. Meanwhile, the share of national resources allocated to the poorest segments of the population declined from 20 to 6 percent.

Unfortunately, Ecuador is not the exception. Nearly every country we EHMs have brought under the global empire's umbrella has suffered a similar fate. Third world debt has grown to more than $2.5 trillion, and the cost of servicing it-over $375 billion per year as of 2004-is more than all third world spending on health and education, and twenty times what developing countries receive annually in foreign aid. Over half the people in the world survive on less than two dollars per day, which is roughly the same amount they received in the early 1970s. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent of third world households accounts for 70 to 90 percent of all private financial wealth and real estate ownership in their country; the actual percentage depends on the specific country.

The Subaru slowed as it meandered through the streets of the beautiful resort town of Baños, famous for the hot baths created by underground volcanic rivers that flow from the highly active Mount Tungurahgua. Children ran along beside us, waving and trying to sell us gum and cookies. Then we left Baños behind. The spectacular scenery ended abruptly as the Subaru sped out of paradise and into a modern vision of Dante's Inferno A gigantic monster reared up from the river, a mammoth gray wall. Its dripping concrete was totally out of place, completely unnatural and incompatible with the landscape. Of course, seeing it there should not have surprised me. I knew all along that it would be waiting in ambush. I had encountered it many times before and in the past had praised it as a symbol of EHM accomplishments. Even so, it made my skin crawl.

That hideous, incongruous wall is a dam that blocks the rushing Pastaza River, diverts its waters through huge tunnels bored into the mountain, and converts the energy to electricity. This is the 156-megawatt Agoyan hydroelectric project. It fuels the industries that make a handful of Ecuadorian families wealthy, and it has been the source of untold suffering for the farmers and indigenous people who live along the river. This hydroelectric plant is just one of many projects developed through my efforts and those of other EHMs. Such projects are the reason Ecuador is now a member of the global empire, and the reason why the Shuars and Kichwas and their neighbors threaten war against our oil companies.

Because of EHM projects, Ecuador is awash in foreign debt and must devote an inordinate share of its national budget to paying this off, instead of using its capital to help the millions of its citizens officially classified as dangerously impoverished. The only way Ecuador can buy down its foreign obligations is by selling its rain forests to the oil companies. Indeed, one of the reasons the EHMs set their sights on Ecuador in the first place was because the sea of oil beneath its Amazon region is believed to rival the oil fields of the Middle East. The global empire demands its pound of flesh in the form of oil concessions.

These demands became especially urgent after September 11, 2001, when Washington feared that Middle Eastern supplies might cease. On top of that, Venezuela, our third-largest oil supplier, had recently elected a populist president, Hugo Chávez, who took a strong stand against what he referred to as U.S. imperialism; he threatened to cut off oil sales to the United States. The EHMs had failed in Iraq and Venezuela, but we had succeeded in Ecuador; now we would milk it for all it is worth.

Ecuador is typical of countries around the world that EHMs have brought into the economic-political fold. For every $100 of crude taken out of the Ecuadorian rain forests, the oil companies receive $75. Of the remaining $25, three-quarters must go to paying off the foreign debt. Most of the remainder covers military and other government expenses-which leaves about $2.50 for health, education, and programs aimed at helping the poor. Thus, out of every $100 worth of oil torn from the Amazon, less than $3 goes to the people who need the money most, those whose lives have been so adversely impacted by the dams, the drilling, and the pipelines, and who are dying from lack of edible food and potable water.

All of those people-millions in Ecuador, billions around the planet-are potential terrorists. Not because they believe in communism or anarchism or are intrinsically evil, but simply because they are desperate. Looking at this dam, I wondered-as I have so often in so many places around the world-when these people would take action, like the Americans against England in the 1770s or Latin Americans against Spain in the early 1800s.

The subtlety of this modern empire building puts the Roman centurions, the Spanish conquistadors, and the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European colonial powers to shame. We EHMs are crafty; we learned from history. Today we do not carry swords. We do not wear armor or clothes that set us apart. In countries like Ecuador, Nigeria, and Indonesia, we dress like local schoolteachers and shop owners. In Washington and Paris, we look like government bureaucrats and bankers. We appear humble, normal. We visit project sites and stroll through impoverished villages. We profess altruism, talk with local papers about the wonderful humanitarian things we are doing. We cover the conference tables of government committees with our spreadsheets and financial projections, and we lecture at the Harvard Business School about the miracles of macroeconomics. We are on the record, in the open. Or so we portray ourselves and so are we accepted. It is how the system works. We seldom resort to anything illegal because the system itself is built on subterfuge, and the system is by definition legitimate.

However-and this is a very large caveat-if we fail, an even more sinister breed steps in, ones we EHMs refer to as the jackals, men who trace their heritage directly to those earlier empires. The jackals are always there, lurking in the shadows. When they emerge, heads of state are overthrown or die in violent "accidents." And if by chance the jackals fail, as they failed in Afghanistan and Iraq, then the old models resurface. When the jackals fail, young Americans are sent in to kill and to die. As I passed the monster, that hulking mammoth wall of gray concrete rising from the river, I was very conscious of the sweat that soaked my clothes and of the tightening in my intestines. I headed on down into the jungle to meet with the indigenous people who are determined to fight to the last man in order to stop this empire I helped create, and I was overwhelmed with feelings of guilt. How, I asked myself, did a nice kid from rural New Hampshire ever get into such a dirty business?


Excerpted from Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins Copyright © 2006 by John Perkins. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Part I1963-1971
1An Economic Hit Man Is Born3
2"In for Life"12
3Indonesia: Lessons for an EHM20
4Saving a Country from Communism23
5Selling My Soul28
Part II1971-1975
6My Role as Inquisitor37
7Civilization on Trial42
8Jesus, Seen Differently47
9Opportunity of a Lifetime52
10Panama's President and Hero58
11Pirates in the Canal Zone63
12Soldiers and Prostitutes67
13Conversations with the General71
14Entering a New and Sinister Period in Economic History76
15The Saudi Arabian Money-laundering Affair81
16Pimping, and Financing Osama bin Laden93
Part III1975-1981
17Panama Canal Negotiations and Graham Greene101
18Iran's King of Kings108
19Confessions of a Tortured Man113
20The Fall of a King117
21Colombia: Keystone of Latin America120
22American Republic versus Global Empire124
23The Deceptive Resume131
24Ecuador's President Battles Big Oil141
25I Quit146
Part IV1981-Present
26Ecuador's Presidential Death153
27Panama: Another Presidential Death158
28My Energy Company, Enron, and George W. Bush162
29I Take a Bribe167
30The United States Invades Panama173
31An EHM Failure in Iraq182
32September 11 and its Aftermath for Me, Personally189
33Venezuela: Saved by Saddam196
34Ecuador Revisited203
35Piercing the Veneer211
John Perkins Personal History226
About the Author248

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“[A] gripping tell-all book.” —The Rocky Mountain News

“Astonishing.” —Boston Herald

“This riveting look at a world of intrigue reads like a spy novel...Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

“Here are the real-life details—nasty, manipulative, plain evil—of international corporate skullduggery spun into a tale rivaling the darkest espionage thriller.” —Greg Palast, author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

Reading Group Guide

"Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the world out of trillions of dollars...I should know; I was an EHM." —Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Following the treacherous road that winds down the Andes mountain range from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito, a Subaru Outback makes a Dante-esque descent into the heart of the Amazonian jungle, where an American oil company has transformed the once-lush rainforests into "flaming cesspools" awash with "oil, heavy metals, and carcinogens." Riding in the car, John Perkins feels a special connection to Ecuador, having first visited this Latin American nation decades earlier. He also bears a special guilt for the country's catastrophic decline over the thirty-five years that followed—after all, his work was instrumental in making it happen.

As the title promises, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is the detailed mea culpa of a man with many transgressions to reveal. A social outsider who grew up envying the wealth and status of his affluent classmates at a prestigious New Hampshire prep school, Perkins found himself easily seduced into the ranks of "Economic Hit Men" (EHMs)—corporate professionals who employ "fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder" to mire developing nations in unserviceable debt and bring them under the control of American financial interests.

Recruited first by the National Security Agency (NSA)—which identified his greed and vanity as exploitable personality traits—Perkins instead followed his more altruistic impulses and joined the Peace Corps. Assigned to Ecuador, he was enchanted by the untouched beauty of the land and fascinated by the ancient cultures of its many indigenous peoples. It is here that he met Einar Greve of the MAIN Corporation, an international consulting firm charged with assessing the economic potential of developing nations in order to qualify them for loans from the World Bank and other institutions. Seeing an opportunity to help countries like Ecuador join the modern world—and to gain the wealth and prestige he so craves—Perkins accepted a job as an economist at MAIN in early 1971.

In a twist that might have been lifted from a novel by Graham Greene, one of his literary heroes, Perkins was soon approached by Claudine Martin, a beautiful "consultant" to MAIN, who had been asked to assist in his training. Playing on his NSA-identified weaknesses for women and money, she laid out the true nature of his job: to develop wildly optimistic economic forecasts that justify oversized loans to third world nations, the funds from which are then routed back to U.S. engineering firms, which receive exclusive construction contracts as a condition of these loans. Furthermore, when these nations inevitably default, they will then be under perpetual obligation to their creditors—the United States government and its corporate and financial institutions.

Over the next decade, Perkins traveled around the world under the auspices of MAIN, carrying out his clandestine agenda and manipulating statistics to serve the interests of the American "corporatocracy." He became a rising star, catapulting up the corporate ranks at unprecedented speed and indulging in all the perks and privileges that come with it. But at the same time, his natural affinity for foreign cultures led him to explore the dark side of his profession: the widening gap between rich and poor, the virtual enslavement of native populations, the ruthless elimination of any foreign leader who dared refuse the Faustian bargain offered by the EHMs.

As his status continued to rise, so did his discomfort with the role he was playing in the creation of this new type of empire. Through a series of encounters—a secret meeting with a mutilated Iranian dissident, a chance run-in with Graham Greene, an affair with a Colombian woman whose brother is an anti-American guerrilla, an audience with Omar Torrijos, the principled leader of Panama—Perkins began to grasp the true magnitude of the damage that he and his fellow EHMs have wrought around the world. Ignoring Claudine's long-ago warning that "Once you're in, you're in for life," Perkins resigned from MAIN in 1980.

After being persuaded to remain silent for almost a quarter of a century, the events of September 11, 2001, convinced Perkins to finally share his story with the world. This Confession is not simply the clearing of one man's conscience; it is a call to action. "It is your story too," he writes, "the story of your world and mine, of the first truly global empire. History tells us that unless we modify this story, it is guaranteed to end tragically. . . . It is now time for each and every one of us to step up to the battle line, to ask the important questions, to search our souls for our own answers, and to take action."


John Perkins is founder and president of the Dream Change Coalition, which works closely with Amazonian and other indigenous people to help preserve their environments and cultures. From 1971 to 1981 he worked for the international consulting firm of Chas.T. Main, where he became chief economist and director of economics and regional planning. Perkins has lectured and taught at universities and learning centers on four continents and is a regular lecturer for the Omega Center.


In your introduction, you admit that you put off writing this book at least in part because you feared for your life. Have you received any direct or indirect threats in response to its publication?

Jackals don't threaten you; they kill without warning.

And yes, I have been threatened. While the vast majority of the hundreds of letters and emails I have received are very supportive, there have been a few menacing ones—mostly from people who do not identify themselves. The "official" position of government and other organizations like the World Bank seems to be "no comment." I certainly understand this because, as an EHM, I was trained to ignore opposition whenever possible. We were taught: "Don't give it energy and it may go away." However, as I said, jackals don't issue threats. The fear is of the "crazy" person who comes up to you after a speech and shoots you without warning. "Crazy" people killed John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and John Lennon. We never learned who sponsored them. These types of assassinations have been highly effective at stopping progressive movements in the U.S.

You write at length about the "coincidences" that help determine the course of our lives. Have you ever considered what course your life might have taken had you never met Ann—an event that led indirectly to your career as an EHM?

I used to wonder about such things, but I came to understand that it is the way we react to the coincidences that makes the difference. Meeting Ann was a coincidence. Given that, I had many choices. I decided to ask her to marry me and then to seek her father's help and get an interview with the National Security Agency. I chose to go into the Peace Corps and to accept a job with MAIN. Coincidences may have opened the door, but I chose to become an EHM.

As you point out, Jimmy Carter is the only president in recent memory who seemed interested in steering the U.S. away from empire-building. Given today's political climate, do you think there is any hope for another Carter-like presidency in the near future?

Jimmy Carter seemed to have this potential; however, he never defined a vision that stirred the American people. He was unable to mobilize enough support to get any sort of movement going, assuming that was his desire. Unfortunately, the fact is that during the Carter Administration the corporatocracy made great strides.

What we need right now is someone who is not afraid to articulate a new vision—one that truly promotes justice, equality, environmental stewardship, and a commitment to creating a better world for our children—and is willing to fight to turn this vision into reality. We need leaders who are truthful with us, who honestly define the terrible crises we face, including global warming, overpopulation, the extreme gap between the few rich and the multitudes of poor, the anger and hatred directed at the U.S. by people who feel exploited and enslaved, and the irresponsible use of power by corporate and government officials. We need leaders who challenge us to make sacrifices now so that future generations may survive. In summary, the type of leaders who can save us from going the way of all past empires are ones who will honestly expose the problems, come up with a new vision, and inspire us to move forward. We've had plenty of leaders like that over the years—Tom Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Maria Stewart, the Grimké sisters, Rachal Carson, and Martin Luther King Jr., to name a few.

After listing the many inequities that the American "empire" has created throughout the world, you ask, "And we wonder why terrorists attack us?" Some would label you a traitor for suggesting that we are somehow responsible for the events of 9/11. How would you respond?

I am a loyal American. I believe we are a great country and I am committed to doing my part to uphold those values I was raised to respect as deeply American. Anyone who would deny that we have created inequalities has not traveled to the areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East that have been destroyed by U.S. oil companies, has not visited the shantytowns where people live who slave in sweatshops that produce tennis shoes and plastic goods for corporations whose executives zip around in private jets, and has not read about our opposition to international courts of law and environmental protocols. Such inequalities generate hatred. Hatred that has no other recourse breeds terrorism.

A traitor is someone who abets attempts to destroy his country or erode its principles. Corporate executives, politicians, and government officials who place personal greed above the American ideals of justice, equality, and liberty for all—or who contribute to creating conditions that spawn terrorism—are traitors.

The type of hatred that resulted in 9/11 is on the rise not because authors like me write about abuses on the part of the corporatocracy, but because millions of people are impoverished and have been exploited by the international business, banking, and governmental communities, including the World Bank, IMF, and branches of the U.S. government.

Your view of the media—especially your admonition to "read between the lines" of mainstream reporting—strongly echoes Noam Chomsky. Would you consider him a kindred spirit?

The very idea of democracy is based on the assumption that its members are educated. True education—as opposed to propaganda posing as education—requires that we question our leaders. We must constantly demand that they explain themselves, their motives, and their policies. Noam Chomsky is one of the voices seeking to educate us. I haven't met him personally and have no idea whether or not he is a kindred spirit, but I certainly encourage him to continue to ask questions and demand accountability on the part of our leaders.

What are your thoughts on the work of George Soros and the Open Society Institute? Is this an example of a member of the corporatocracy using his power to change the system, or of one (however well-intentioned) who is simply perpetuating it through other means?

Unlike the World Bank, many corporations, and branches of the U.S. government, I have never been involved with George Soros or the Open Society Institute. I try to limit my discussions to things I know about through personal experience. Anything I might say about Soros or the Institute would be speculation.

Do you have any desire to follow in the footsteps of Graham Greene and write novels based on your experiences?

You honor me by asking this question. Graham Greene was a great writer whose novels educated millions of people about conditions in many parts of the world. All my books have been nonfiction and I am hard at work on another, a follow-up to Confessions that goes into detail about things each of us can do to diminish the impact of the corporatocracy, transform the U.S. from empire-builder to a model for democracy, and make the world a better place for our children. For now, I think I should stick to writing about the facts as I know them. When I talked with Graham Greene in Panama, he advised me to write about "things that matter"; I have tried to follow his advice and will continue to do so.


  • Many economic and political theorists would argue that the miserable conditions created by the modernization of developing nations are simply unavoidable "growing pains" on the way to a mature market economy—not unlike the conditions that existed in Europe during the Industrial Revolution. Do you see any legitimacy to this argument? If so, how would you defend it? If not, how would you counter it?
  • History has repeatedly demonstrated that those who benefit from a grossly inequitable economic system will not allow that system to be dismantled unless forced to do so through violent means (such as the French and American revolutions). Do you think it is possible to overcome this historical truth and affect a peaceful "revolution"? Can you point to any modern or historical examples that might serve as a model for doing so?
  • Perkins writes that "Saddam would still be in charge if he had played the game as the Saudis had. He would have his missiles and chemical plants; we would have built them for him. . . ." Even if this is correct, the fact remains that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who has now been deposed. Does this alone justify the war, even if it was not the reason for it? Do you agree with Perkins' assessment of the true motivations for the U.S. invasion?
  • Pat Robertson has infamously called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, and the U.S. government was considering options for removing him from power before the "war on terrorism" took precedence. Before reading this book, were you particularly aware of Chavez and his alleged danger to the United States? If so, has the book changed your opinion of him? What about other Latin American leaders who have taken a stand against U.S. policies, such as Omar Torrijos and Jaime Roldós?
  • In the epilogue, Perkins writes that one of the steps that we can take to change the system is to "shop responsibly"—that is, avoid products that are manufactured by exploited laborers. Do you think this sort of grassroots boycott can really have an effect on the policies of multinational corporations? And even if it cannot, do you think we have a moral obligation to avoid these products?
  • Perkins argues that terrorism is a tactic of last resort that has been employed by exploited populations lacking any other means of challenging U.S. imperialism—much like the "terrorist" actions of America's founders in response to British imperialism. Do you agree with this argument, or do you see it as a case of moral relativism? If we accept Perkins' thesis that these populations have been exploited by the United States, what other, more justifiable tactics could they have turned to in response?
  • Perkins details the great lengths that successive U.S. administrations have gone to in order to retain control of the Panama Canal. Given the canal's strategic and economic importance, does the United States have a justifiable rationale for usurping Panama's sovereignty in this matter? And even if so, do you see any way that this rationale could extend to blocking Japanese efforts to build a second canal?
  • After reading this book, do you feel any personal responsibility for the actions taken by the American corporatocracy? Do you agree that we have a moral obligation to take action against it?
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    Confessions of an Economic Hit Man 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 144 reviews.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book is a fantastic read - fast-pasted, adventurous, informative, and courageous. I wish this was required reading for people of all ages to learn about the corruption and greed that fuels the international banking system and U.S. 'corporatocracy,' and what we can do as citizens of the world to help create a better future. Sometimes Perkins beats himself up a bit, but I think that's understandable given the role he played in supporting this system. In all, I found it to be a highly enjoyable and enlightening book.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    The book feels as if your reading the diary of a secret agent of some sort. Its an easy read and full of information that will blow your mind wide open. He gives first hand accounts of U.S. contractors lying to third world countries and coaxing them into paying the U.S. millions of dollars and causing the countries to go into debt for years and years. Some say the book is not true, but others disagree its an incredible read and super amazing I highly recommend it.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    If John Perkins wants us to believe he has written a confessional, I didn't find much that he confessed. He also wants us to believe he has written an explosive expose. But I didn't find either bombs or blast. According to Perkins there is a huge (non)conspiracy within the U.S.government, operating through large international corporations and the World Bank, to create the appearance of economic incentives to build large infrastructure projects for foreign governments. The trick is to convince the foreign government that the project(s) will create a sufficient return on investment, but in reality, the projects will never perform well enough to ever repay the vast loans. But rather than call the loans, the U.S, like a mafia don, calls for favors instead. That enables the U.S. to build an empire without holding the actual ground of the countries conquered. If the foreign government fails to cooperate, then 'jackals' are sent to either gain the desired cooperation, or overthrow the government by whatever means necessary, including assassinating world leaders. And if that fails, the U.S. Army will make the final arrangements by conquering the hapless country, and installing a puppet government. Of course Perkins offers no direct evidence of any of this, other than to allude to the history of Central and South America, and the current events (and Halliburton) in Iraq. What I found remarkable about the book was Perkins' desire to portray himself as a reluctant victim. He admits that he understood completely that he was the initial 'hit man,' albeit through the economic subterfuge built into his proposals. Then after thirty-some years of doing their bidding, cashing in, and looking for more, he finally found his conscience, and wrote this book in spite of the threats against him should he do so. And now, at age 60, he wants us to believe he has finally awakened to the humanity of the world; that he finally 'gets it.' Though I might be less skeptical had he not accumulated and kept so much wealth that he now resides in one of the most affluent places in America. And that his new-found values motivated him, not to give to charity, but to write a for-profit book. I happen to agree that the U.S. government is becoming ever more beholden to international corporations. I just don't find that notion particularly new.
    Christine-Boston More than 1 year ago
    I thought this book was a bit over the top............until.............I was on a tour of the Boston harbor light houses. I was sitting next to a very conservative retired man. After listening to him complain about "liberal america" I asked him what he did before he retired. He asked if I had read this book because that is what he did. I said, "No way, wasn't that book an exaggeration?" "Not really," he said, "It was surprisingly accurate." This is a super fun book to read, it moves quickly. It is easy to mock this book, many people do not want to know about these sorts of things. However, you can research the events in the book. We built these things. George Bush acknowledged that we get more back than we give. He substantially increased US foreign aid.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book was a great book talking about the economy. Another book that was suggested to me when buying this book was "Life After Foreclosure" by Dean Wegner! Both of these books talk in great debth about the economies current meltdown.
    NomadiCat More than 1 year ago
    Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is author John Perkins' mea culpa over his life as an Economic Hit Man, or EHM. If I had read this book a decade ago, during the height of the roaring 90s when few people bothered with looking too closely at the government, corporations, or the world outside the US I may have written this off as unbelievable. But with the rising profiles of Haliburton, KBR, our "reconstruction" in the Middle East, the ever more exposed ties of the Bush family to the oil industry, and the last eight years of an American government and nation sacrificing it's founding principles in the name of greed... what Perkins has to say makes a lot of sense. I have two minor criticisms of this book: 1) I feel that John Perkins treats himself and his role in the world as it is today with kid gloves; 2) Some of the more New Age "kumbaya" overtones weaken the story Perkins is trying to tell. Perkins states repeatedly that he feels a deep sense of remorse and shame for his part in bringing about a global empire. He feels so deeply, in fact, that it seems hard for him to look at his past self head on- while Perkins does an excellent job of presenting difficult facts and stories in a deft and honest fashion, his language softens considerably when the focus turns to himself. Although it is distracting and makes it more difficult to be sympathetic to the author, I think this ironically serves to make the book more believable when contrasted with the way he presents the portions that aren't about him. Those two minor complaints aside, however, I don't think it's possible to overstate the value of this book. Especially as we move away from a White House openly in bed with corporate behemoths and into the new Obama administration that, one week in, looks to be moving in a completely new direction. This book was, for me personally, a catalyst for an Epiphany. It was gratifying, and horrifying, to see things that I'd suspected for years but had dismissed as paranoia articulated by a man who has lived them. But the sheer scope of what Perkins lays out is truly mind boggling. I believe that Perkins made a good choice in this book by emphasizing, repeatedly, that everything he was relating was not a conspiracy, not a single plot being run by a group of shadowy figures, but the way the world really is and works. This book was loaned to me by a friend, and I'm going to dutifully pass it to the next person in the list as it was passed on to me. But I've already ordered my own copy, along with Perkins' follow up book, for my permanent collection. And I know several friends and family members who are going to receive this as gifts this year. Forget "highly recommended". This is a must read.
    SoCalDave More than 1 year ago
    I found this book to be very enlightening and thought provoking. It allowed me to see things from a different point of view that I had not considered. I was an instant fan. Especially since I was in some of the places he describes and now could better piece together the impact my military career had in a global setting.
    josemp More than 1 year ago
    This is a book worth reading and understading about the corporatocracy in America and its affairs abroad. It is a book intended to change the mind of the person who reads it. Plus it has all the items of a real life thriller. Kudos for Mr. Perkins.
    EAGLETERR More than 1 year ago
    Good Story line about the events and people behind the scenes who control and manipulate our government,corporations,and society in general. Non-Fiction accounts of events that took place in the twentieth century which illustrate how the powers that be control our government without our knowledge or consent.Such books as this one will do much to enlighten the American people as to how their government is really run! Sad,Chilling,and shocking accounts of abuse of power on the part of corporate leaders. As time progresses and individuals such as the author of this book come forward with their story we the people will come to understand how our government is really run and the individuals really in control will be unmasked!It will be a big demand on the people to decide how we will change our world for the better! Books such as this one should not motivate the people to seek revenge but to stir us to action to make the world a better place for all humans!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Excellent, very informative and an eye opener
    orgegeorwell More than 1 year ago
    This book trully causes one to think twice before standing up and reciting the pledge of allegiance. "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" is a bone chilling insight into the United States modern forgien policy. John Perkins is a vetran to international corporate crooked bussiness. For an eye opening experience pick up a copy and you will not be able to put it down.
    WorldReader1111 22 days ago
    This is a truly valuable book, in my opinion. 'Hit Man' is, first, well composed and easy to read, with a simple, functional narrative that doesn't get in the way of the facts. Likewise, the author writes with a humble sobriety, largely avoiding sensationalism, bias, and egotism; for me, this quiet, reverent tone made the book read that much better (especially considering the gritty subject matter). Finally, 'Hit Man' ultimately delivers on its premise as an expose of the "economic hit man," as well as a general overview of the dark institutional underbelly in which such individuals perform their work, with much to learn from this aspect of the text alone. Thus, the book is, I think, a complete, successful piece of literature. Additionally, there is another, deeper layer to 'Hit Man,' and it is in this that I took particular interest. Namely, Mr. Perkins' story serves as a broad commentary on the "civilized" world at large, for it not only addresses the sinister practices common within much of the governmental and business spheres, but also offers a profound reflection on the underlying social values and psychological conditions of the respective populations. By exploring these collective misdeeds and their motivations, the author also highlights those on the individual level, as well as the breadth of such practices, and how vast numbers of people, in whatever small way, participate in such "economic warfare." In a nut: a lot of food for thought here, in regards to personal morality and ethics (and spirituality, even) as much as clandestine white-collar treachery, all from which much can be learned. My sincere thanks goes out to this book's author, subjects, and publisher. I am grateful for, and have benefited from, your work. * * * Some notable quotes from 'Confessions of an Economic Hit Man': "Claudine and I openly discussed the deceptive nature of GNP. For instance, the growth of the GNP may result even when it profits only one person, such as an individual who owns a utility company, and even if the majority of the population is burdened with debt. The rich get richer and the poor grow poorer. Yet, from a statistical standpoint, this is recorded as economic progress." -- p.19 "How many decisions [...] are made by men and women who are driven by personal motives rather than by a desire to do the right thing? How many of our top government officials are driven by personal greed instead of national loyalty? How many wars are fought because a president does not want his constituents to perceive him as a wimp?" -- p.210 "The United States prints currency that is not backed by gold. Indeed, it is not backed by anything other than a general worldwide confidence in our economy and our ability to marshal the forces and resources of the empire we have created to support us." -- p.250 "A number of people have also told me that their initial reaction [to the book] was anger at me. 'You lived a great life as an EHM. Now you've come clean and have a bestseller. Do you expect me to forgive you?' They also told me that when they confronted their deeper feelings, they realized that much of their anger was self-directed. 'I shop at Wal-Mart, buy Nike shoes, and use too much oil. It's easy to blame you, the politicians, and the corporatocracy.'" -- p.266
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    Justin007 More than 1 year ago
    I believe that this is a very good book and that John Perkins really informed me on things that I had no idea about. Even though John is really hard and tough on hiself for the things he has done he exploits the truth of what an economic hitman has to do and what role they play in the U.S.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Confessions of An Economic Hit Man is filled with action on every page.  It is extremely fast paced, and hard to put down.  It gives insight on the greed and corruption that consumes the international banking system.  I would highly recommend this book for those who enjoy reading about about scandals within the U.S. government.     
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The purpose of this book was to reveal the secretes that the government of the U.S holds when it come to the economy. Perkins takes us through his career of an economic hit man and tries to advise us on we Americans can put an end to these practices. Perkins define that the purpose of an economic hit man was to cheat countries This book was a brief autobiography of Perkins life as an Economic Hit Man. He describes his experiences as an Economic Hit Man in Indonesia, Panama, and Saudi Arabia. He became an economic hit man while trying to work for the NSA. He was in Ecuador when the President of MAIN approached him and offered him a job in the company. He accepted this job from the company and was trained to be an Economic Hit Man. He was chosen because the company saw that he can survive in very poor conditions. Perkins defines this job as being a cheat because he forecasted false economic growth in order for countries to take out loans from the National Bank and other sources. Then the country will fall into owning a lot of money then the U.S will pay the money and take control of the country for its own purposes like oil, military bases, and so forth. He forecasted an economic growth in Indonesia of 17-20% per year in projects in electricity. Later he went to Panama to try to make Panama puppets of the American government again. The president of Panama was well aware of the game that was played, and wanted to better his own people and take control of the Canal. At the end a negotiation was made with Perkins and MAIN.  Then in Saudi Arabia he was send as an “economic advisor” and was asked to forecast an economic growth not only for MAIN’s profits, but also for national security. His job was different that time he wasn’t supposed to put Saudi Arabia in debts, but to make sure that money came back to the U.S. I think that the purpose was to expose the truth about what the U.S was doing to other countries. Also I think that this is valuable missing history that is taken off on the history text books at school. This is the unspoken truth behind the U.S massive profits of poor countries. 
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    ILim More than 1 year ago
    This book is incredible. As a young adult i can attest to the fact that a majority of people are not aware of the corruption and greed that fuels the American economy. Although Perkins has a habit of throwing himself a pity party, the book is filled with gripping stories of his travels and meetings with some very important people. Ultimately, I found this book to be a page turner and very insightful read.
    The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
    Confessions of an Economic Hit Man is so unbelievable that it’s entirely believable. An economic hit man? A guy dashing around the world and inflating loan estimates in order to leave countries in debt to the US? Wielding economic influence in order to build a reserve of countries who have no choice but defend us? Helping a country build themselves up only to take advantage of them? No way! But like I said, it’s so unbelievable that it’s believable. I saw this listed as a recommended book by the Tattered Cover, so I knew it had to at least be decent without even reading the jacket. At first, I was a little unsure about where the book was going because the author, John Perkins, was groaning about his privileged upbringing and high-powered connections, so I thought, “Oh, he’s one of those guys.” BUT, because he at least recognized that he had said privileges, I knew he was off to a good start.. And I’m glad I stuck it out because I learned a lot and the author had the good sense to show remorse later on. You know, after  he figured out all of the awful things that occurred in part due to his actions (but not after spending years battling his conscience and raking in millions). Regardless, the book is extremely intriguing. He spends a lot of time blaming (while accepting his part in it) the “corporatocracy” for how it is ruining lives worldwide. He’s anti-Reagan and pro-Carter, which is evident in his explanations of the Panama Canal and oil dependence. Some of what he talks about (assassinations, the Panama Canal treaties, OPEC, etc.) are so sensational that I spent hours researching the conflicts he brought up. But it’s definitely worth it. Anyone interested in international relations, the economy or democracy should read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Even if you don’t agree with the author, the issues that he brings up are very pertinent to today’s current events. I spent a lot of time doing my own research based on things that were mentioned in the book, and I can honestly say that I have a better understanding of how the international economy works now than I did before. And even if you aren’t inspired to share the knowledge, it’s information that you cannot un-know and ignore. So, go learn something!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Overhyped and overdramatized. I didn't see the smoking gun. As a thinking individual, the author's purported profession made no sense to me. He clearly aggregates a lot of disconnected bits of information and extrapolates it into something it is not--both in his work and this book. I love edgy books, but this one was so suspect, I threw it away rather than give anyone else a chance to read this dreck--a fate I've never given to a book before...
    ICAO More than 1 year ago
    This is a book of much importance to understand how our society functions and where we stand and where we are going. A must read. Hugo Dietrich
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Well worth reading