BOOK REVIEW: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man — 3rd Edition

Anthony Pomes
4 min readFeb 10, 2023

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by John Perkins (Reviewer: Anthony Pomes)

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
–Robert Oppenheimer, quoting the Bhagavad Gita upon witnessing
the world’s first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945

The world is dying. Name nearly any measure of life available to us, and much of the data points towards decline. Scientists predict we have another billion years before the Big Blink-Out, but the condition of life therein seems bleak — the Kardashians may still have a show.

Enter John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man ($21.95 USD, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.). Now available in an updated and expanded Third Edition, this New York Times bestselling book wages a righteous war of words with some very heavy worldwide forces. Chief among them, as readers will learn in the book’s twelve new chapters, is China. The damnation — and salvation, it turns out — is the fact that China’s current global takeover comes from America’s own capricious economic playbook. Having already wrung a score of teachable moments from his decision to go public with his story nearly 20 years ago, Perkins now presents his perspective on how best to harmoniously shape nations in a grave new world.

Along with perspective, perception is a key theme when it comes both to Perkins’ book and its attendant warnings. Before the reader even leaves this new edition’s Introduction, the concept of perception is identified as “the critical factor” in how things — some good, mostly bad — happen in this world. Perkins writes, “Marketing executives, psychotherapists, and politicians know that perception molds reality . . . Nations intent on dominating others understand that the key to their strategy is perception.” Take a closer look at Perkins: Born in New Hampshire on January 28, 1945, he arrives a year before the Baby Boom and six months shy of the first atomic bomb test in a New Mexico desert Army post. He comes of age in the 1960s. He embodies that decade’s contradictions by earning a Business degree from Boston University — then, newly married, he joins the Peace Corps along with his wife, Ann, and they head off to Ecuador. Readers old enough to remember “the Draft” in the US will understand well the palpable need to avoid Vietnam — those born after will have seen enough Hollywood movies about that war to get Perkins’ motivation through proxy. The tragedy of what happens to him — once he gets in bed with the Chas. T. Main Inc. engineering company — far exceeds the carnage ignited by American animus from My Lai to Cambodia in less than two years’ time.

The story of how Perkins becomes an “Economic Hit Man” (EHM) is both entertaining and important, and he conveys his cautionary tale with crisply rendered detail and a rich historical sweep. It is no accident that the title of Perkins’ book evokes thoughts of Gong Show TV host Chuck Barris’ controversial memoir Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (which was made into a feature film in 2002). After all, the story of how Perkins came to understand — and abhor — his complicity in what he calls a cancerous global “Death Economy” (Want to learn more about that? Read the book) is one that would make for one hell of a movie (or, in today’s more fashionable cachet, a streaming series). In fact, the filmmaker most ideally suited to tell Perkins’ story is another idealistic American man who was roughly calloused by the heroes and villains who invaded his dreams in the ’60s and ‘70s — Oliver Stone.

Like Stone, though, Perkins has his fair share of detractors. Although Confessions of an Economic Hit Man was a bestselling title when first published in 2004, its release triggered a firestorm of doubt and objection from within the leviathan worlds of high finance and government. (What else should we expect from arbiters of such naked and desperate power?) And like Stone, whose 2021 documentary JFK Revisited finds the director further fueling the flames of dissent with which he deconstructed the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy in his JFK movie more than two decades ago, Perkins has been branded — wait for it — a “conspiracy theorist,” a confabulator — basically, a well-meaning but wrong-headed nincompoop. Still, his book’s insights and conclusions demand — and deserve — our full attention. In a time when our globe has been yoked together in grim obeisance to a pandemic, there is ample reason to give serious consideration to what Perkins calls a need to transform our world’s “Death Economy into a Life Economy.” The world continues to die, but there is medicine available to still the illness — and this new edition of Perkins’ story is a worthy gateway towards a cure.

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Anthony Pomes

Anthony Pomes has worked steadily as a freelance writer/editor and frequent ghost writer for more than two decades.