- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition 4th Impression edition (2 Sept. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1846143284
- ISBN-13: 978-1846143281
- Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 2.9 x 22.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 235 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 588,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism Paperback – 2 Sep 2010
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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)
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).
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A couple of examples illustrate the tone of his arguments.
In Thing Five (Assume the worst about people and you get the worst) Chang takes on the assumption implicit in Adam Smith’s free hand of the market that economic progress is driven exclusively by self-interest – the very bedrock of free market principles. Instead, he suggests, a fair proportion of people’s behaviour is almost altruistic; most people, for example, work hard even if there is no-one to check up on them and most people don’t cheat their customers even when they could get away with it. Many good economic systems, he suggests, do better by making use of people’s disinterested and unrewarded input rather than when they assume that people will always be motivated by self-interest alone.
In Thing Twelve (Governments can pick winners) Chang takes on the free-market mantra that capitalism works best when people are able to take on enterprises without government interference – a belief which is, as Chan demonstrates, at odds with the economic history of every wealthy country. Reading this chapter, I couldn’t help but think of Canary Wharf (the most potent symbol of successful capitalist enterprise in the UK in the last fifty years?) and reflect that it wouldn’t have got off the ground without the UK Government creating the London Docklands Development Corporation, granting the Isle of Dogs Urban Enterprise Zone status and funding infrastructure investment in the DLR and the Jubilee Line.
So, overall, then, well worth a read – an ideal book, perhaps, for an A Level economics student?
And, by way of a related postscript, I have a teaching colleague who demonstrates principles of market failure and inequality to his A Level economics students by starting them on a game of Monopoly and then, once the game is underway, he deregulates the game by introducing massive cash hand-outs and free houses, hotels and properties to some of the players. The results are often hilarious and, typically, lead to civil disobedience, crime and violence as those who lose out protest, steal from the bank and even upset the board. The exercise illustrates beautifully how free-booting, unregulated capitalism can create rather than solve problems. Chang would, I’m sure, approve.
Ha-Joon Chang, exposes the insincerities and double standards of the Washington Concenusus (the economic dogma, in which it is asserted that free markets, liberalised trade and deregulation are simpatico with economic development). What's often left out of the classical economic philosophy is the evidence to the contrary. For example the USA is often held up as a paragon of free market efficiency and growth. However it's early economic development (see Land Of Promise: economic history of the US) was founded on three interlocking interventionist policies:
1. High tariffs-to protect their infant industries until they were efficient and productive enough to compete globally
2. Noncompliance with foreign patents-enabling their researchers, inventors and manufacturers to develope industries and companies without the additional costs associated with paying patentees for their discoveries.
3. Large scale publicly funded infrastructure-widening their domestic markets and enabling the development of an interconnected economy.
These policies were in turn developed by observing the UKs policy of protecting infant industries with tariffs and only removing them once they were assured of the superiority of their products.
Thus by analogy the western developed economies (built in no small measure from the dirigiste policies of the past) insisting that the less developed world open up to (superior products) is like a tennis pro insisting on a game with a novice whilst insisting it's 'fair'.
Great book, good read and free of irksome, self gratifying economic jargon.
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