Although I agree wholeheartedly with the author's message, that free-market capitalism needs keeping in check by regulation, I was unimpressed by the way he's chosen to give us this message.
To borrow from the title, here are three things I don't like about this book:
1) Although the author makes some very good points, many of them are really quite obvious, eg: Shareholders are not the best judges of how a company should be run, as they are mostly in it for short-term gain. Or this one: US managers (and many British ones too) are paid too much. Who would disagree with that, apart from US managers?
2) He devalues some of his more interesting points by exaggerating to an absurd level. For example, in saying that most people in the west are paid too much, in relation to workers in poorer countries, he tells us that a Swedish bus driver is paid 50 times as much as an Indian bus driver. Nowhere does he point out that the cost of living is about twenty times higher in Sweden than it is in India.
In other words, he totally ignores purchasing-power parity, which would probably make the Swede's pay about three times higher, not 50.
(Though he makes this very point when it suits his argument, like when he's telling us the US doesn't have the highest living standard in the world, another of his `things' that's hardly controversial).
Another exaggeration is the suggestion that the capitalist system works on the principle that all people are only out for their own gain. It works on the motivation factor, obviously, but it also works on the principle that most people behave decently most of the time, even if the reason for doing so is that decent behavior is ultimately in our own interest.
3) And some of his `things', or points, are rather pointless, such as devoting a chapter to telling us that some earlier inventions, such as telegraph and the washing machine, were more important than the internet. Is anyone arguing the point? And even if they are, so what?
There's a lot of this sort of thing - make a statement that most people would agree with anyway (eg: Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer, or that industry still matters), then go on to show why this is so, as if he's made an amazing discovery.
And I could add another `thing': the author takes political correctness to an absurd level, such as his habit of referring to everyone as `she', whether it be a garage mechanic, a senior manager, a company director ... Much as it might be good to suggest that such people could easily be female, we all know that they're usually male, so `he' would make a lot more sense, and also be a lot less annoying.
In fact, this is really quite an irritating book, even though there's some good stuff buried away amongst all the waffle and repetition. The problem here I think, as is often the case with these kind of books, is that the point can be made perfectly well in a 5,000-word article, but has to be padded out to 80,000 words to make a book.
The author sums up his main points quite adequately in the final chapter, adding to the repetitive nature of the book - anyone who doesn't have time for the whole thing could read this and still get 90% of the message.
So overall, of the 23 `Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism', I'd say that a few of them are interesting, most are obvious, and too many are plain pointless.
And who are `they' anyway? Who is it who isn't telling us these things? Everybody, surely. Or should that be nobody?