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23 Things They Don't Tell You About…

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Ha-Joon Chang

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Title:23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism
Authors:Ha-Joon Chang
Info:Bloomsbury Press (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 304 pages
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23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang (2011)


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The 23 things of the title are specific criticisms the author makes against “Free Market” economics. I read and enjoyed his earlier book, “Bad Samaritans”. I enjoyed this book as well, but with have some reservations.

A better title would have indicated that this is a critique of Free Market economics. This book is for a general audience, and most readers would probably not deduce that theme from the current title. I believe that making the intention more explicit in the title could have helped to sell the book, and also even encouraged public debate on the topic.

Each chapter begins with a short, typically half page, description of what Free Market theory says about the topic to be discussed. Then the author supplies his rebuttal. The introductory comments seem fair and honest to me, but I am not an expert in the field. However, his case would have been much stronger if he had included quotes from Free Market economists or at least cited references. This would be in the spirit of “trust, but verify”. As it is, opponents may easily refute his arguments by claiming that his interpretation of Free Market economic theory is in error.

According to the author, Free Market economic theory advocates that markets should be unregulated. This is supposed to yield the optimal economic results: efficiency and justice. However, he notes that no market can ever be completely free, so “unregulated” must only be a matter of degree, and to what degree is not clarified in Free Market theory. He then argues further that increasing regulations and active government participation sometimes increases efficiency and justice. I found the book to be very interesting, if sometimes long winded. I generally agree with the author's view on most of the 23 “things”.

The 23 things:
1. There is no such thing as a free market
2. Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners
3. Most people in rich countries are paid more than they should be
4. The washing machine has changed the world more than the internet has
5. Assume the worst about people and you get the worst
6. Greater macroeconomic stability has not made the world economy more stable
7. Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich
8. Capital has a nationality
9. We do not live in a post-industrial age
10. The U.S. Does not have the highest living standard in the world
11. Africa is not destined for underdevelopment
12. Government can pick the winners
13. Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer
14. US managers are over-priced
15. People in poor countries are more entrepreneurial than people in rich countries
16. We are not smart enough to leave things to the market
17. More education in itself is not going to make a country richer
18. What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the United States
19. Despite the fall of communism, we are still living in planned economies
20. Equality of opportunity may not be fair
21. Big government makes people more open to change
22. Financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient
23. Good economic policy does not require good economist ( )
  dougb56586 | Oct 13, 2016 |
National and world economics is such a confusing thing to normal folks, and this book does a super job of simplifying things in a way that helps the reader see the big picture and the context. The author seems to have the objective of debunking the neo-liberal economic myths that have driven our national economy for the last 3 decades, and much of the world economy for that matter. I think he does an excellent job of presenting the neo-liberal arguments, and then laying out evidence that a rational reader can use to judge the validity of those arguments. Bottom line is that it is the author's opinion that these neo-liberal economic policies have driven us into the mess we find ourselves in, and only through a return to the proven policies and practices from the "golden age" of modern capitalism can we dig out of the mess. I find his argument persuasive. ( )
  bicyclewriter | Jan 8, 2016 |
Tries to give you a bit of the rest of the story beyond the commonly understood beliefs about capitalism. I find it interesting that another reviewer labels the myths Chang addresses as neo-liberal, and I would identify them as free-market conservative.
  2wonderY | Jun 9, 2014 |
Interesting discussion of "truths" of capitalism and free market economies that are taken for granted. ( )
  addunn3 | Oct 18, 2013 |
For someone with no background in economics (and this is probably the first book on the subject I've read) then it was definitely an Interesting read. Chang first explains the common views he is trying to rebut. Enjoyable to start with, but by the end arguments felt a little repetitive, and with only the single author's voice I had no idea how other economists would respond to the views being presented. ( )
1 vote fluteflute | Oct 2, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ha-Joon Changprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ratchford, PattiCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Einführung: Die globale Wirtschaft ist schwer angeschlagen.
Eins: Die Märkte müssen frei sein.
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Challenges popular misconceptions while making startling revelations about free-market practices, explaining the author's views on global capitalism dynamics while making recommendations for reshaping capitalism to humane ends.

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