Hope for a 'Life Economy' - an interview with John Perkins

Published: Tue 13 Feb 2018 12:25 PM
Hope for a Life Economy - an interview with John Perkins
John Perkins is the author of The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2016), the New York Times bestsellers Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2004), The Secret History of the American Empire (2007), and many other books on transformation.
He is an ex Economic Hit Man who exposes the clandestine operations that has created the current global economic crises. John speaks regularly at international economic summits alongside prominent world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin & UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He proposes a masterplan to transform what he calls a failing ‘Death Economy’ into a thriving ‘Life Economy’ that provides sustainable abundance for all. John is also recognized as a leading expert on indigenous cultures and shamanism.
Kei te rangatira, tēnā koe (Greetings), He aha te kai ō te rangatira? He Kōrero, he kōrero, he kōrero. (What is the food of the leader. It is knowledge. It is communication.)
Haere mai (welcome) to Aotearoa, New Zealand. I felt the above Māori proverb is appropriate to this discussion as this interview, and the event you will speak at aim to nourish future leaders by feeding them with knowledge and enlightening communication and dialogue.
John, you write in your latest book about the failed global economic system, or death economy – could you expand on what you mean by that? How does this framing differ from talking about an extractive economy?
JP: The Death Economy is an extractive economy. It is based on ravaging the earth, destroying the very resources upon which it depends for long-term survival. It is also based, to a large degree, on killing people and many other forms of life through warfare or the threat of warfare.
Scoop: You also call for a transition to a new reality of a ‘Life Economy’ could you talk more about what you mean by that. How does this relate to calls for a more generative or regenerative economy?
JP: A Life Economy is based on cleaning up pollution, regenerating destroyed environments, recycling, and developing technologies that utilize sustainable resources, like the sun and wind. A. Life Economy is itself a renewal resource. People lived for thousands of years with such economies. Indigenous cultures still do and have a great deal to teach us about lifestyles that honor our deep interconnectedness with the earth, rather than seeing us as somehow living outside the context of natural environments.
Scoop: How important is the spiritual side of this transition? – do you see such changes stemming from a mass spiritual/congnitive shift or a more institutional and cultural shift, or a combination of both?
JP: If we define ”spiritual” as feeling our deep connection with nature, then of course the spiritual side is very important. What we really need is a new perception of what it means to be successful as individuals and institutions on this planet. We must stop defining success in terms of short-term material gains and instead focus on serving a public interest for the long-term. The public in this case has to include all life forms.
When Professor Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 and promoted the concept that the only responsibility of business is to maximize short-term shareholder profits, regardless of the social and environmental costs, it created a catastrophic shift in institutional and cultural perceptions. It gave businesses the right, some would say the mandate, to do whatever they think it takes to maximize short-term profits, including corrupting governments and destroying the environment. We need to shift that perception, tell ourselves new stories about what it means to be successful, and take the appropriate actions to create a global Life Economy.
Scoop: How important do you think movements such as the ‘occupy’, ‘the indignados’, ‘indigenous rights’ and ‘the commons’ movements been in if not stopping, slowing globalisation and corporatocracy and creating a possibility for a different story or vision for the future?.
JP: All of these movements are extremely important. Perceptions are changing. As I travel around the world speaking at many events and meeting with people from all walks of life, I’m very encouraged to see that there is a true awakening on this planet. We are understanding that we live on a fragile space station and our current policies are navigating us toward disaster. We must change.
Scoop: The CPTPP trade agreement is a huge issue here right now. Many are opposed to it as they feel it will limit Maori Sovereignty and expose us to further corporate exploitation under the ISDS clauses. This begs the question of whether small national governments such as NZ can even be independent if we wanted to in today’s global economy?
JP: The truth is that global corporations control all governments, big and small. However, we the people, the consumers, the workers, those who invest, in fact all of us, have power over corporations. They only exist and prosper because we buy from them, invest in them, and work for them. Social media today makes it easier than ever to organize campaigns to convince corporations that they must support a Life Economy or they will follow the path of Kodak, Woolworths, Lehman Brothers, Arthur Anderson and so many others that no longer exist in their original form.
Scoop: Many individuals and even some countries such as Venezuela, Dubai and Sweden have indicated interest in cryptocurrencies. What are your thoughts on the potential for Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology to form part of an emancipatory and more decentralised financial system that could aid countries or individuals to escape the global capitalist system? And conversely, what are the potential threats it presents to global stability?
JP: The central bank form of currency creation and what I refer to as “Predatory Capitalism” are failing us. However, like global warming, world hunger, terrorism, and so many other things that are having a negative impact on this planet, those forms of currency and capitalism are symptoms of the Death Economy. We need Band-Aids to fix these symptoms, but none of them will ultimately work until we change the entire system. I discuss these concepts extensively in the New Confessions.
Scoop: Syria – a complete mess. Can you talk about the real agenda with the US insisting on Assad’s removal and regime change. Is there a solution in sight?
JP: Syria, like Iraq, Afghanistan, current wars in Africa, and before them Vietnam, is part of the Death Economy. Many global corporations reap huge profits from war, from destroying countries and then rebuilding them. Assad is a player on the stage of corporatocracy profit-making.
Scoop: There is an ‘Ecuador v Chevron’ court case going on currently in Canada. I know you are personally interested in this issue. How important is this case for indigenous rights and the ability to hold corporations accountable for environmental and cultural destruction they have caused?
JP: It is extremely important. Among other things, it will set a precedent. A victory over Chevron will send a signal to people around the world that oil companies are vulnerable. Oil companies will have to reconsider their policies. They will face massive lawCuits like the tobacco companies in past decades.
Scoop: Your latest book is an update of your 2004 bestseller Confessions of an Economic Hitman which outlined the global empire of the ‘corporatocracy’ and the EHM. Could you define those terms and explain how things have evolved since your days in the field and why you felt motivated to update this book?
JP: I wrote The New Confessions because in the more than a decade following the original, things have gotten much worse. Today, every corporation has its equivalent of economic hit men, as I explain in the new book. Techniques that were developed by us in what we call the “developing countries” have now come home to roost. People in the US, Europe, New Zealand, and throughout the so-called “developed world” have been enslaved by fear and debt, including healthcare debt, credit card debt, educational debt, and many other more subtle forms, as well as the fear of nuclear holocaust and terrorism.
In the New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, I provide lists of things everyone can do to transform the Death Economy into a Life Economy. There is a very comprehensive strategy in this book which I have developed over the years since the original was published and as result of many conversations with economists, politicians, corp executives, strategic planners, workers, consumers --people around the world.
“Corporatocracy” and “economic hit man” are complex issues. Rather than trying to simplify them by definition here, I suggest that people go to my book or my website, My book and the newsletters which are available by entering your email in the little box on the website explain these terms.
Scoop: Finally you still seem have a lot of optimism despite all that you have seen. In the face of the rapidly declining state of the environment and growing risks such as AI, resistant viruses, nuclear war and massively increases in inequality in many countries (including NZ) , what gives you hope and optimism? What actions can we take to herald the new more abundant and sustainable system we need?
JP: I’m blessed to have the opportunity to travel to many countries around the world and talk to people who range from students to presidents of nations and corporations. Everywhere I go, I see changes in the air. We are involved the greatest revolution in human history, a Consciousness Revolution. People everywhere are waking you up to the fact that we live on a fragile space station with no shuttles and we must manoeuvre it in a new direction. What you refer to as a “declining state” is really a sign but the status quo understands there is a revolution going on and it is trying to put on the brakes to that revolution. Human beings have faced many catastrophes in our history, including during the past century, World Wars I and II, the Depression, and the Cold War. We have a strong urge and ability to survive and even to grow from adversity. This Consciousness Revolution is taking us to another step. I think this is an amazingly fascinating and wonderful time be alive and participating in this magnificent revolution.
John will be speaking as part of the InfoReset Seminar series on 25 March 2018 - Auckland at Skycity Convention Centre
InfoReset Seminars provide a professional platform for international authors, researchers and professionals to address audiences at live events in cities around the world. Featuring presentations on some of the most riveting and relevant topics of our time. Are you ready for the Information Reset?
More info at
Joseph Cederwall
Freelance Writer
Joseph Cederwall is Co-editor and Community Engagement Manager at Scoop Publishing. He is a writer and journalist with an interest in 'the commons', participatory democracy, social justice and human rights. He is a Director and Secretary of Freerange Cooperative - an international publishing cooperative. Joseph is also a contributor to Enspiral - a non-hierarchical collective of freelancers and ventures dedicated to collaborative business practice and making social impact through enterprise. With qualifications in law and anthropology Joseph has previously worked in the Immigration and Human Rights field as a lawyer and advocate.
Contact Joe Cederwall

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