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23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism Hardcover – 4 Jan 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 187 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (4 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608191664
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608191666
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.8 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 938,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“Chang presents an enlightening précis of modern economic thought—and all the places it’s gone wrong, urging us to act in order to completely rebuild the world economy: ‘This will [make] some readers uncomfortable…[;] it is time to get uncomfortable.’”"—Publishers Weekly"

 

“Myth-busting and nicely-written collection of essays”"—Independent" (UK)

 

“Shaking Economics 101 assumptions to the core … Eminently accessible, with a clearly liberal (or at least anticonservative) bent, but with surprises along the way—for one, the thought that markets need to become less rather than more efficient.”—"Kirkus Reviews"

 

“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" (UK)

 

“A lively, accessible and pr

"Chang, befitting his position as an economics professor at Cambridge University, is engagingly thoughtful and opinionated at a much lower decibel level. 'The "truths" peddled by free-market ideologues are based on lazy assumptions and blinkered visions, ' he charges."--"Time"

"Chang presents an enlightening precis of modern economic thought--and all the places it's gone wrong, urging us to act in order to completely rebuild the world economy: 'This will [make] some readers uncomfortable...[;] it is time to get uncomfortable.'""--Publishers Weekly"

"Myth-busting and nicely-written collection of essays""--Independent"(UK)

"Shaking Economics 101 assumptions to the core ... Eminently accessible, with a clearly liberal (or at least anticonservative) bent, but with surprises along the way--for one, the thought that markets need to become less rather than more efficient."--"Kirkus Reviews"

"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" (UK)

"A lively, accessible and provocative book."--"Sunday Times" (UK)

"For 40 years, I have worked as a journalist and trained thousands of other journalists from my former perches as a University of Missouri Journalism School professor and as executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors. I have written newspaper articles, magazine features and entire books with heavy doses of economics policy and business behavior. I wish the book "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism" had been available when I was a rookie; I would have been more alert to the hands-off-business catechism by which Americans are relentlessly indoctrinated."--Steven Weinberg, "Remapping Debate"

"I doubt there is one book, written in response to the current economic crisis, that is as fun or easy to read as Ha-Joon Chang's "23 Things They Don't Tell you About Capitalism.""--AlterNet Executive Editor Don Hazen

Chang, befitting his position as an economics professor at Cambridge University, is engagingly thoughtful and opinionated at a much lower decibel level. The "truths" peddled by free-market ideologues are based on lazy assumptions and blinkered visions, ' he charges. "Time"

Chang presents an enlightening precis of modern economic thought--and all the places it's gone wrong, urging us to act in order to completely rebuild the world economy: This will [make] some readers uncomfortable [;] it is time to get uncomfortable.' "Publishers Weekly"

Myth-busting and nicely-written collection of essays "Independent (UK)"

Shaking Economics 101 assumptions to the core Eminently accessible, with a clearly liberal (or at least anticonservative) bent, but with surprises along the way--for one, the thought that markets need to become less rather than more efficient. "Kirkus Reviews"

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 (UK)"

A lively, accessible and provocative book. "Sunday Times (UK)"

For 40 years, I have worked as a journalist and trained thousands of other journalists from my former perches as a University of Missouri Journalism School professor and as executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors. I have written newspaper articles, magazine features and entire books with heavy doses of economics policy and business behavior. I wish the book "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism" had been available when I was a rookie; I would have been more alert to the hands-off-business catechism by which Americans are relentlessly indoctrinated. "Steven Weinberg, Remapping Debate"

I doubt there is one book, written in response to the current economic crisis, that is as fun or easy to read as Ha-Joon Chang's "23 Things They Don't Tell you About Capitalism." "AlterNet Executive Editor Don Hazen""

Chang, befitting his position as an economics professor at Cambridge University, is engagingly thoughtful and opinionated at a much lower decibel level. The "truths" peddled by free-market ideologues are based on lazy assumptions and blinkered visions, ' he charges. Time

Chang presents an enlightening precis of modern economic thought--and all the places it's gone wrong, urging us to act in order to completely rebuild the world economy: This will [make] some readers uncomfortable [;] it is time to get uncomfortable.' Publishers Weekly

Myth-busting and nicely-written collection of essays Independent (UK)

Shaking Economics 101 assumptions to the core Eminently accessible, with a clearly liberal (or at least anticonservative) bent, but with surprises along the way--for one, the thought that markets need to become less rather than more efficient. Kirkus Reviews

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 (UK)

A lively, accessible and provocative book. Sunday Times (UK)

For 40 years, I have worked as a journalist and trained thousands of other journalists from my former perches as a University of Missouri Journalism School professor and as executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors. I have written newspaper articles, magazine features and entire books with heavy doses of economics policy and business behavior. I wish the book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism had been available when I was a rookie; I would have been more alert to the hands-off-business catechism by which Americans are relentlessly indoctrinated. Steven Weinberg, Remapping Debate

I doubt there is one book, written in response to the current economic crisis, that is as fun or easy to read as Ha-Joon Chang's 23 Things They Don't Tell you About Capitalism. AlterNet Executive Editor Don Hazen

"

About the Author

Ha-Joon Chang teaches in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Cambridge. His books include the international bestseller Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism and Kicking Away the Ladder, winner of the 2003 Myrdal Prize. In 2005, Chang was awarded the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.


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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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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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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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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.
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