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How Rich Countries Got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor [Paperback]

Erik S. Reinert
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 July 2008
How Rich Countries Got Rich is a narrative history of modern economic development from the Italian Renaissance to the present day. In it Erik S. Reinert shows how rich countries developed through a combination of government intervention, protectionism, and strategic investment. Reinert suggests that this set of policies in various combinations has driven successful development from Renaissance Italy to the modern Far East. Yet despite its demonstrable success, orthodox development economists have largely ignored this approach and insisted instead on the importance of free trade. Reinert presents a strongly revisionist history of economics and shows how the discipline has long been torn between the continental Renaissance tradition on one hand and the free market theories of English and later American economics on the other. He argues that our economies were founded on protectionism and state activism and could only later afford the luxury of free trade. When our leaders come to lecture poor countries on the right road to riches they do so in almost perfect ignorance of the real history of mass affluence.

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How Rich Countries Got Rich and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor + Bad Samaritans: The Guilty Secrets of Rich Nations and the Threat to Global Prosperity + 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Constable (24 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845298748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845298746
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 141,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Reinhert presents a revisionist account of economic ideas based on free
trade. -- Publishing News 1 September 2006

'Reinert asks the most fundamental questions about economic
development, and proceeds to answer them with clear logic, a sweeping grasp
of history and an immensely readable style.'
-- Network Ideas, 28 June, 2007

It lands powerful punches and leaves the thoughtful free-marketeer
wondering indeed whether we've forgotten so much economic history that what
we think we know today ain't actually so. Moses Abramovitz would be proud
of his protege. -- The Sunday Telegraph

It lands powerful punches' -- The Sunday Telegraph 06/07 The Sunday Telegraph 06/07

Unlike much of the writing produced by opponents of globalization,
these are serious books by serious people. They deserve to be read.'
-- Reviewed alongside H-Joon Chang's book in the Financial Times

`Reinert asks the most fundamental questions about economic
development, and proceeds to answer them with clear logic, a sweeping grasp
of history and an immensely readable style -- Network Ideas - 28 June, 2007 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

How Rich Countries Got Rich buries the economic orthodoxy once and for all and shows why freetrade is not he best answer for our hopes of worldwide prosperity.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Eye Opener 31 July 2009
This book was a great eye opener for me. As a non economist, I was able to follow the argument quite easily. Until I read this book, I wasn't aware of the economic history of the rich countries. The book taught me a number of lessons.

Lesson 1. Sustainable wealth is created by manufacturing industry. This was realised by the Tudor monarchs of England in the 16th century. They set about to create an enabling environment to foster manufacturing.

Countries which base their economies on agriculture and the exploitation of minerals do not become rich. They may attain the status of middle income countries if they are lucky.

Lesson 2. All rich countries, without exception, got rich by practising activist and interventionist policies. They put up barriers to the importation of foreign manufactured goods. They banned the export of raw materials needed by their own manufacturers. They made the import of foreign raw materials as easy as possible. They banned the export of technologically advanced machinery.

The state would invest in areas of the economy which were either too risky or too difficult for the private sector. In some cases the state would co-invest with the private sector.

In the 19th century, the leading nations of the West forced the weak independent nations of the world, such as China, Japan, Siam (Thailand) and the South American nations, to open their markets. These nations were forced to lower or even to remove their tarriffs against the West's manufactured goods. The Western nations, of course, kept their barriers up against foreign manufactures.

During the colonial period, the colonial powers banned their colonies from engaging in manufacturing.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant attack on 'neoliberalism' 31 Oct 2008
Erik Reinert, Professor of Technology, Governance and Development Strategies at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia, has written a most remarkable book. He has shown that the free trade creed - the free movement of capital, deregulation and privatisation - doesn't work. As Keynes wrote, "the worse the situation, the less laissez-faire works."

The American economist Paul Samuelson won a Nobel Prize for `proving' that under free trade prices paid to capital and labour tend to be the same across the world. But in the real world, free trade has led, not to the levelling up of world wages and the end of poverty, but to growing inequality and poverty. Half the world lives on less than $2 a day. In many countries, real wages peaked 30 years ago.

Reinert proves that the mode of production determines social forms, and that the technology and mass production of industry are the key to economic growth, not capital, property rights and the rule of law. Industry also has good economic, social and political effects. As he writes, "Creating and protecting industry is creating and protecting democracy."

But how can countries build industry? They need to protect their infant industries and to subsidise their industries.

Countries need to have an industrial policy that provides work for their educated people. Otherwise Western countries, outsourcing their education costs, will take them away - education for migration.

For example, 82% of Jamaica's doctors practise abroad and 70% of university-educated Guyanans work abroad. Their remittances fund consumption and dependence, not investment and industry.

It is better to have an inefficient industry than no industry at all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Questioning economic assumptions 22 July 2009
By Graham Mummery TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this book Erich Reinert questions the current Anglo-American consensus of free-market economics.

He looks at the line of economic thinking from Adam Smith, David Ricardo to Keynes as adopted by neo-classical thinkers such as Paul Samuelson, suggesting their thinking bear little relationship to reality. In particular he questions the theory of comparative advantages which states that countries should concentrate on what they produce best. In advising this, he argues, institutions like the IMF are in fact suggesting that poorer countries concentrate on on producing poverty.

His solution is a more flexible approach based on ideas on an alternative tradition of economics which he describes as reality based. This includes figures such as the great German economist, Friedrich List, Joseph Schumpeter and again Keynes (who fits into both traditions).

The book makes an interesting comparison with Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and Its Discontents. A fascinating glimpse of an alternative view of economics to the one in current textbooks. One that could well change assumptions.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Erik Reinert hits the nail on the head in this well written, historically aware criticism of the Neo-Liberal Washington Consensus that has become the global orthodoxy over the last 40 odd years. In short free trade between nations at different stages of development is a form of "asymmetrical warfare" that attends to the interests of those already developed. Countries who have developed do so by protecting their economies and only gradually opening them to international trade as and when they are ready.

His arguments are buttressed by a keen awareness of the experience of nations that have developed, or are developing, from Britain in the 16th to 19th century to the more recent experiences of the Asian tigers and China. These are compared with those countries that have become mired in poverty and "diminishing returns" economic activities - essentially those who have specialised in being poor. The reader will also discover accounts of the theories of Economists from continental Europe and the United States going back centuries who are explicit about the role that protection plays in creating a wealthy nation that - at least theoretically - can improve the welfare and lives of its people. In the post WW2 period this understanding formed the basis of what was known as "Developmental Economics" - in the post Bretton Woods period all that experience became marginalised not least through the efforts of those Institutions that were at the centre of the Washington Consensus (World Bank, IMF and WTO).

Some of the other issues that Reinart covers include the Millennium Development Goals promoted by those such as Jeffrey Sachs (along with the ever present and somewhat vacuous Bono).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "What Adam Smith Asked Britain to do ...and what Britain Actually did"
Adam Smith's book, the wealth of Nations, told America not to protect her manufacturing and to trade freely with Europe but history tells us that America is the most protected... Read more
Published on 24 April 2012 by Michael
5.0 out of 5 stars Killing the Free Market Ideology with 1000 Cuts
This is one of my favourite books. The main theme of this book is to explain why the free market ideology policies pushed onto many developing countries by the Washington... Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2011 by Rob Julian
1.0 out of 5 stars This actually won a prize?
This book would be dull if it wasn't so annoying. I agree with the comment that says that he provides no statistical evidence. Read more
Published on 15 July 2010 by John Doe
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't do what America tells you to do, do what America did.
That's a recurring refrain here as Erik Reinert looks back over the history of economics and examines exactly how rich countries made their wealth. Read more
Published on 18 Aug 2008 by Jeremy Williams
1.0 out of 5 stars A bizarre book...
The previous review of this book is hard to fathom, unless the author wrote it himself. This book is far from a classic. Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2007 by Kate Martindale
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This is truly a great book, a classic. Everyone interested in issues of economic development should get it and they won't be disappointed. Read more
Published on 29 April 2007 by Ragnar
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