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23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism Paperback – 2 Sep 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (2 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846144159
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846144158
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,663,569 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A masterful debunking of some of the myths of capitalism ... Witty, iconoclastic and uncommonly commonsensical ... this book will be invaluable (Observer)

Important .. persuasive . [an] engaging case for a more cautious and caring era of globalisation (Financial Times)

Myth-busting and nicely-written . the best economists are those who look around at our man-made world and ask themselves "why?". Chang is one (Independent)

In 23 lucid, sometimes breezily didactic chapters, Chang takes apart the stricken ideology of neoliberalism. Chang's method is not to engage with the neoliberals but to knock them down with assertions. (Paul Mason, Economics Editor, BBC Newsnight Guardian)

Ha-Joon Chang is a formidable critic...and a true exponent of the art of political economy (Michael Lind Prospect)

Chang's...iconoclastic attitude has won him fans such as Bob Geldof and Noam Chomsky. (Rachel Shields The Independent on Sunday)

For anyone who wants to understand capitalism not as economists or politicians have pictured it, but as it actually operates, this book will be invaluable. (John Gray Observer) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Born in South Korea, No 1 International Bestselling Author Ha-Joon Chang is a specialist in development economics and Reader in the Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge. In 2005, Chang was awarded the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. He is author of Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective (2002), which won the 2003 Gunnar Myrdal Prize, and Bad Samaritans: Rich Nations, Poor Policies and the Threat to the Developing World (2007). Since the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis, he has been a regular contributor to the Guardian, and a vocal critic of the failures of our economic system. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ben Lomond on 28 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback
Ha-Joon Chang delivers 23 well-aimed shots at dodgy doctrines of free-market capitalism. The questions he raises and the answers he gives are about fundamentals of economic theories that have deeply and disastrously influenced governments the world over, leading to the current series of crises. Each "thing" the free-marketeers do tell you is matched by a brief, brilliantly supported and illustrated debunking. He himself is an example of an all too rare thing: a deeply knowledgeable economist who knows how to cash out theory in properly down-to-earth terms, writing with great clarity and humour. You may be left wondering how anyone was taken in by all that shaky free-market stuff. Here's the answer he doesn't quite state explicitly but implies. Governments are not so much of the people, by the people and for the people. Instead they are too much of corporations, by corporations and for corporations. Free-market dogmas and propaganda suit corporations and their political cronies, even as the latter are rigging things in favour of the former.
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129 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Bogus Photographer on 16 Sep 2010
Format: Paperback
The financial crisis has sparked renewed debate about the free-market orthodoxy of the last 30 years, particularly in the so called Anglo-Saxon economies (US and UK), but also through international institutions like the WTO and World Bank. The crisis has even brought the debate to popular science magazines, asking if our current economic models should be torn up and re-formulated in exactly the same way as any other scientific theory doesn't agree with the results. Climate change is forcing us to face up to the unintended consequences of industry and consumption, forcing us to consider the 'true costs' of our activities and their effects on the wider environment. Many people are left to wonder if complex financial instruments created by hedge funds and banks, have ended up doing more damage to the real economy they were meant to benefit. Capitalism, in the form encouraged for three decades, appears to have turned on itself.

Ha-Joon Chang's book, brings these issues into lucid focus. This however isn't a socialist pamphlet - Capitalism is argued to be the least worse economic system we have invented (he doesn't trumpet for its superiority or inevitability). Like Nassim Taleb's 'Black Swan', the tendency is to go beyond 'what they tell you' (theory) and wish to explore what's really happening.

The 23 things brilliantly de-mythologize tenants of 'free market' ideology, through wonderfully lucid examples and lively discussion of the issues. The style isn't cold or academic (he's actually quite an amusing writer), so it's a lot of fun to read and lands its punches with strong arguments over slogans or empty rhetoric.
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78 of 85 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on 6 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ha-Joon Chang, economist at Cambridge University, is a familiar author to many in the general public by now for his persistent and eloquent efforts (when writing) to combat the economic orthodoxy on several major policy points. In particular, he is known for his defense of protectionism as a means to promote economic growth and for his rejection of the idea that 'free trade' and 'free markets' lead to better outcomes than alternatives such as government dirigisme. In "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism", he attempts to make the lessons of heterodoxy familiar to as wide a public as possible, addressing 23 orthodox economic clichés that are often accepted by a skeptical general public only because they seem to be supported by all in the economic field. In making the counterarguments accessible and generally known, Chang has done the English-speaking world a great service.

The 23 things he discusses can be roughly clustered into a number of groups: he discusses the orthodoxies of free trade as against protectionism, the orthodoxies of free markets as against government intervention, the orthodoxies of wage policy (particularly the idea that wages are infallibly determined by individual marginal productivity), the orthodoxy that inequality of income and outcome does not matter, and finally the idea that financial managers and economists know best. On all of these points, he has very important lessons to convey to policymakers, civil servants, and the general public to show that these things should either be rejected out of hand or be taken with a large truckload of salt. Using the strengths of economic history, he accessibly shows in each of these cases how the cliché is either refuted by the facts or itself an incoherent idea, or both.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By JSaunders on 16 Sep 2010
Format: Paperback
This isn't any old attack on the neo-liberal economic policies that have prevailed for the last few decades - it is devastatingly precise and uses quality evidence to back up all its claims. Having said that it is also very readable (having never studied economics, none of it felt too technical), without feeling like there's not enough detail for you to be getting the whole picture.

It takes apart free market ideology with panache, but gives only an outline of what is needed to take its place. Having said that, the principles he outlines in the conclusion are, you feel, extremely well targeted to reform capitalism in light of the evidence he mounts against neoliberal policies in the main part of the book. The conclusion is the only part where I would have preferred a little more from the author, on his ides for a better type of capitalism to replace the current system, but perhaps that is the next project he has in mind (I hope so!).
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