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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 Sept. 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 (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,953,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Leading economist [Ha-Joon Chang] has likened the nation's acceptance of free-market capitalism to that of the brainwashed characters in the film The Matrix, unwitting pawns in a fake reality. [Chang] debunks received wisdom on everything (Rachel Shields Independent )

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

Lively and provocative book ... Read this book (David Smith Sunday Times )

Incisive and entertaining ... scathing about the conventional wisdom' (Robert Skidelsky New Statesman )

Important .. persuasive ... [an] engaging case for a more cautious and caring era of globalisation (James Crabtree 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 (Sean O'Grady Independent ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Born in South Korea, 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). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jezza on 3 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
...which is no reflection on Chang, just on how far mainstream economics has become dominated by ideology and equations. There is nothing in here which would be a surprise to any economist (or politician) from outside the Anglosphere. Neo-classical economics doesn't describe the real world very well and is a poor basis for economic policy or business strategy. Pretty much everyone seriously interested in economics knows this except the kleptocracy in whose interest the UK and USA are both run, and their lackeys who help them do the actual running. Come to think of it, they probably know this too, but it serves them well to keep the rest of us doped up on free-market fairy tales.

This is nicely written - very clear, ordinary language, not an equation or a diagram in sight. It's not by any means anti-capitalist. HJC says 'capitalist is the worst system apart from all the others', and he clearly means it. This view is not really examined, and there is no real consideration of any of the alternatives, apart from the way that the USSR tried to do socialism. There isn't even a proper evaluation of that.

Still, it does at least point out that there are other ways of doing capitalism, and that there is some theoretical justification for this within economics as well as from ethics and politics. Perhaps some New Labour policy wonks will read on the flight over for their next fact-finding trip to America, and perhaps something will seep in and remain next time they have to write a briefing paper. Perhaps.
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133 of 144 people found the following review helpful By Bogus Photographer on 16 Sept. 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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82 of 89 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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