23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

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Overview

Thing 1: There is no such thing as free market.Thing 4: The washing machine has changed the world more than the Internet. Thing 5: Assume the worst about people, and you get the worst. Thing 13: Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer.

If you've wondered how we did not see the economic collapse coming, Ha-Joon Chang knows the answer: We didn't ask what they didn't tell us about capitalism. This is a lighthearted book with a serious purpose: to question the assumptions behind the dogma and sheer hype that the dominant school of neoliberal economists—the apostles of the freemarket—have spun since the Age of Reagan.

Chang, the author of the international bestseller Bad Samaritans, is one of the world's most respected economists, a voice of sanity—and wit—in the tradition of John Kenneth Galbraith and Joseph Stiglitz. 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism equips readers with an understanding of how global capitalism works—and doesn't. In his final chapter, "How to Rebuild the World," Chang offers a vision of how we can shape capitalism to humane ends, instead of becoming slaves of the market.

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

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Chang (Bad Samaritans) takes on the "free-market ideologues," the stentorian voices in economic thought and, in his analysis, the engineers of the recent financial catastrophe. Free market orthodoxy has inserted its tenterhooks into almost every economy in the world--over the past three decades, most countries have privatized state-owned industrial and financial firms, deregulated finance and industry, liberalized international trade and investments, and reduced income taxes and welfare payments. But these policies have unleashed bubbles and ever increasing income disparity. How can we dig ourselves out? By examining the many myths in the narrative of free-market liberalism, crucially that the name is itself a misnomer: there is nothing "free" about a market where wages are largely politically determined; that greater macroeconomic stability has not made the world economy more stable; and a more educated population itself won't make a country richer. An advocate of big, active government and capitalism as distinct from a free market, 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 some readers uncomfortable... it is time to get uncomfortable." (Jan.)
From the Publisher
“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 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 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

Library Journal
Chang (economics, Univ. of Cambridge, UK; Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism) returns to deliver another candid volume on economics, breaking down his discussion into 23 "things" ranging from a postindustrial society to efficient markets. Each bite-sized section, about ten pages in length, contains a commonly held belief about capitalism followed by Chang's debunking of that myth. His discussion focuses not on moving away from capitalism as an economic system, but on the ways capitalism can be improved. In this vein, Chang offers seven ways to read the book based on the reader's knowledge of capitalism and interests. VERDICT Chang makes no secret of his not being a free-market economist, and all of his arguments demonstrate this. While 23 Things is a good overview of the big issues in economics for a general audience, those who are new to the subject may want to seek out other authors to develop a more balanced view of the topic.—Elizabeth Nelson, UOP Lib., Des Plaines, IL
Kirkus Reviews

Think the market is rational and that business knows best? Ha-Joon Chang (Economics/Univ. of Cambridge; Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, 2007, etc.) argues otherwise.

The author takes clear delight in pricking holes in a variety of received-wisdom balloons, most of them emanating from rightward-tending theorists. Take the idea, for example, that the government cannot pick a winner in the marketplace, which is why the TARP bailout and the takeover of General Motors sat so poorly with so many business types. Wrong, says Ha-Joon Chang (and the success of both efforts would seem to bear him out): Governments are obviously capable of picking winners, but the hard part is getting them to improve their averages, just as is true of private enterprise (for which he cites the dreaded example of Microsoft Vista). "The free market doesn't exist," he writes, shaking Economics 101 assumptions to the core. Instead, all markets are restricted by rules and regulations, and necessarily so, while governments are always involved in the market. Wages, the hallmark distinction between rich and poor nations, are politically more than economically determined. "So, when free-market economists say that a certain regulation should not be introduced because it would restrict the 'freedom' of a certain market," writes the author, "they are merely expressing a political opinion that they reject the rights that are to be defended by the proposed law." Those rights are mostly those of workers, but the author, an equal-opportunity iconoclast, also insists that in rich countries, most people are paid more than they're worth. Only immigration controls keep the labor market from being flooded by workers from poor countries, who will accept lower rates of pay.

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608191666
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 1/4/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 446,295
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet 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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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 2, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Splendid introduction to economics

    Ha-Joon Chang, Reader in the Political Economy of Development at Cambridge University, has written a fascinating book on capitalism's failings. He also wrote the brilliant Bad Samaritans. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times says he is 'probably the world's most effective critic of globalisation'.

    Chang takes on the free-marketers'' dogmas and proposes ideas like - there is no such thing as a free market; the washing machine has changed the world more than the internet has; we do not live in a post-industrial age; globalisation isn't making the world richer; governments can pick winners; some rules are good for business; US (and British) CEOs are overpaid; more education does not make a country richer; and equality of opportunity, on its own, is unfair.

    He notes that the USA does not have the world's highest living standard. Norway, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and the USA, in that order, had the highest incomes per head. On income per hours worked, the USA comes eighth, after Luxemburg, Norway, France, Ireland, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands. Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, Finland and Sweden have the highest industrial output per person.

    Free-market politicians, economists and media have pushed policies of de-regulation and pursuit of short-term profits, causing less growth, more inequality, more job insecurity and more frequent crises. Britain's growth rate in income per person per year was 2.4 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.7 per cent 1990-2009. Rich countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1980-2009. Developing countries grew by 3 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 2.6 per cent 1980-2009. Latin America grew by 3.1 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.1 per cent 1980-2009, and Sub-Saharan Africa by 1.6 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 0.2 per cent 1990-2009. The world economy grew by 3.2 per cent in the 1960s-70s and 1.4 per cent 1990-2009.

    So, across the world, countries did far better before Thatcher and Reagan's 'free-market revolution'. Making the rich richer made the rest of us poorer, cutting economies' growth rates, and investment as a share of national output, in all the G7 countries.

    Chang shows how free trade is not the way to grow and points out that the USA was the world's most protectionist country during its phase of ascendancy, from the 1830s to the 1940s, and that Britain was one of world's the most protectionist countries during its rise, from the 1720s to the 1850s.

    He shows how immigration controls keep First World wages up; they determine wages more than any other factor. Weakening those controls, as the EU demands, lowers wages.

    He challenges the conventional wisdom that we must cut spending to cut the deficit. Instead, we need controls capital, on mergers and acquisitions, and on financial products. We need the welfare state, industrial policy, and huge investment in industry, infrastructure, worker training and R&D.

    As Chang points out, "Even though financial investments can drive growth for a while, such growth cannot be sustained, as those investments have to be ultimately backed up by viable long-term investments in real sector activities, as so vividly shown by the 2008 financial crisis."

    This book is a commonsense, evidence-based approach to economic life, which we should urge all our friends and colleagues to read.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2011

    Great so far from the excerpts I've read

    Not sure why it didn't download for the other reviewer, but I had no problem purchasing it, and it downloaded just fine to my own Nook Color in seconds.

    BTW, I purchased this book based on other online reviews, including by John Gray of The Observer in the UK, who pointed out the following regarding Chang's criticism of capitalism:

    ?'Chang may be our best critic of capitalism, but he is far from being any kind of anti-capitalist. He recognises the failings of centrally planned economies, and rightly describes capitalism as "the worst economic system except for all the others".

    Chang states that there are a number of competing forms of capitalism, and that it doesn't do much good to cling to one's own definition with blinders vs the others.

    "There are different ways to organise capitalism. Free-market capitalism is only one of them - and not a very good one at that. There is no one ideal model."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Powerful argument against deregulated free-market capitalism

    Economist Ha-Joon Chang challenges conventional thinking about economics with 23 points you may not know about market economies. He takes on those who righteously defend unbridled free-market capitalism and minimal regulation as the only paths to financial nirvana for all. Using compelling research, statistics and case studies, Chang explains how change disarms the fiercest “free-marketeers” of their received wisdom. While some of his arguments may be debatable, he offers an interesting alternative to the other explanations for the world’s currently dismal fiscal dilemma and uncertain political landscape. getAbstract recommends this fresh interpretation to readers interested in their own, and the world’s, economic future.

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  • Posted March 18, 2011

    Don't buy

    This item did not correctly download to my brand new Nook Color. And Barnes & Noble won't respond to my repeated emails/contact forms re: the matter. A real shame as this looks like a very good book.

    Thanks much. Harry Lynn Beck, P.E.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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