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Twenty-Three Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  4,803 Ratings  ·  501 Reviews
In "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism", one of today's most iconoclastic thinkers destroys the biggest myths about the world we live in. It may have its flaws, but there's no real alternative to free-market capitalism - ultimately it's making us all more prosperous. The West is more efficient and financially savvy than the developing world. And technology is t ...more
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Published (first published March 10th 2010)
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May 15, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Jan-Maat Landlubber
As someone who knows nothing about economics, but is finding herself more and more interested in the subject - this was an excellent read. Ha-Joon Chang is an economist/reader at Cambridge University, but he writes with the simplicity and clarity of a high school teacher, illustrating his arguments superbly well with anecdotes and examples that are entertaining, gripping and easy to understand.
He has been writing for The Guardian since 2008.

The basic tenet of the book is that the USA and UK ha
At first I turned my nose up at this book. I couldn't imagine that it would have anything interesting to say to me. Indeed but for the personal recommendation of the author I would have passed over this book altogether. Well, I say personal recommendation but what I mean is that I listened to this podcast in which Ha-Joon Chang talks through three of the twenty-three things that he discusses in this book. Anyhow the author's presentation convinced me and I seized a copy of the whole book at the ...more
Brilliantly simple yet effective fare which a wide variety on the political compass can digest.

Admittedly not revolutionary. Pure reformist stuff. But makes very important observations on how destructive free-market economics are and have been. One doesn't have to agree with Chang's argument that capitalism itself is not necessarily a bad thing to appreciate his well-founded critisms of the free market.

It debunks the very possibility of the existence of a a free market, it elaborates why owner
Aug 27, 2015 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
This is a book that systematically takes apart neoliberal economic assumptions – the ‘things’ here are all nicely summed up in an opening paragraph per chapter where they are stated in the standard, unforgiving terms of neoliberal ideology. This is a book that really does deserve to be read. This guy is so clear he is a joy to read. Not only that, he also opens up the possibility of understanding what is far too often presented as only available to the expert and in impenetrable jargon. You actu ...more
Mar 05, 2016 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In recent years I've come to accept the fact that I forget most of what I read and that there is very little I can do to change this. Even when I re-read, I forget again. Economics is a topic that excites me as much as doing the ironing, but I am compelled to keep trying to educate myself in the field by rage and disgust. Since I forget things, I force myself to keep reading books like this so that, hopefully, when I need them, I'll be able to pull a few concepts and examples out of my back pock ...more
Barry Pierce
This is a really accessible book on economics and capitalism. It may not sound like the most fun book to read but Chang actually writes this for the "common person" to use somewhat problematic phrase. He uses many references to pop culture and film in order to get his points across as easily as he can. This also contains a good history of economics and mentions many famous economists (Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, John Maynard Keynes, and the such) which is interesting if you are new to economics ...more
Maru Kun
Jul 28, 2012 Maru Kun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
Ha-Joon Chang is one of the few economists who you can actually trust to tell the truth as he sees it based on objective evidence. Shiller and Stiglitz are also rare exceptions among economists as both are in this same category.

This book is a great antidote to the free market propaganda that passes for economic analysis these days. A good example is the section on the birth of the South Korean steel industry. Despite the predictions of every free-market economist worth his Heritage Foundation re
Dec 10, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plain talk about capitalism - from a Cambridge economist who believes in it, but not in the free market ideology which has surrounded it for the last thirty years. Required reading for anyone who wants a grip on what's actually going on with the global economy, and anyone who likes to kid themselves they vote rationally...
Connie  Kuntz
Feb 25, 2011 Connie Kuntz rated it it was amazing
This book is a very convincing argument about how utterly bogus the notions of free market and free trade actually are. You can find a quote in every chapter regarding this point. My favorite is found on page 73:

"The free trade, free-market policies that have rarely, if ever, worked. Most of the rich countries did not uses such policies when they were developing countries themselves, while these policies have slowed down growth and increased income inequality in the developing countries in the
Apr 05, 2011 Ob-jonny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book on economics, the free market, and trade policy. Everything is explained in a very understandable way without getting the reader lost in too many details or obscure terms that only an economics expert would understand. It dispels a lot of myths about how the free-market is good for the economy of the country where it is practiced. It describes in detail about how the free-market ideology has destroyed or stagnated the economies of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin Am ...more
Aaron Jordan
I am a free-market advocate and read this book to examine opposing arguments. I tried to be open-minded, but ultimately found most of the arguments in this book unpersuasive. He makes a few good points, but he also sets up many straw men to tear down positions that nobody holds, and he imbues many of his arguments with abstract plausibilites rather than with logic and empirical evidence. Some of his arguments border on the absurd, such as his claim that the welfare state facilitates economic gro ...more
Tank Green
Oct 18, 2010 Tank Green rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
i was going to give this 4 stars at first b/c i think he's often overly and unnecessarily simplistic to the point that i sometimes got confused over his target audience. also, some of his examples are weak which is frustrating b/c his arguments are not; he could have chosen better examples is all.

however, things 16 and 23 are absolutely brilliant and he goes straight for the jugular: they made me happy! things 9 and 17 are also pretty damn good.

i don't think anything he says is particularly reve
Jose lana
Mar 07, 2016 Jose lana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
This book demolish with powerfull argumentations 23 dogmas of the dominant ultraliberal economical school of think,that that proclaim the virtues of absolutely desregulated free markets,the privatization of public services and corporations,the reduction of state structures ,the free dismissal and the disminution of welfare state.

The author give reasons that this theories prevalent in the last 30 years,drove in search of short time benefits maximizing to salary reductions of the workers while the
Christopher Rex
Feb 03, 2011 Christopher Rex rated it liked it
This book would make an excellent companion to any economics class. It is better as a "discussion starter" and/or "debate" type of hypothesis than a standard economical study. That within itself is the book's greatest strength and weakness. Many of the arguments put forth here are not backed up w/ methodical statistical studies and data - that's obviously a good thing for the "casual" reader, like myself. The problem is, that without widespread and detailed case-studies it opens itself up to cri ...more
Apr 13, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I consider this a must-read for anyone like me, who does not have an economics background and has become accustomed to the misleading free market rhetoric. It was refreshing to have some of the principles of my own thoughts on the economy reinforced by a prize-winning economist, as well as to hear other more complicated principles developed by Ha-Joon Chang that challenge the current orthodoxy. The book is incredibly straightforward and easy to read, in a conversational voice I would almost call ...more
"23 Things They Don't Tell you About Capitalism" is basically a 'pop' version of Ha-Joon Chang's previous work, Bad Samaritans. This book seems to be intended to be very easy to read -which is good to some extent- but unfortunately it has made the discussion a bit too oversimplified.

Ha-Joon Chang starts every chapter with a brief explanation on 'myths' he claimed put forward by the capitalists and free market advocates. I, however, found that some of the 'myths' he mentions in the book are not
Adam Higgitt
Sep 19, 2011 Adam Higgitt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that could only have been published in 2010. A confluence between the style of Freakonomics and an appetite for tracts like The Spirit Level it may be, but the timing of Ha-Joo Chang’s book is important for another reason. It is a reappraisal of economic orthodoxy only possible once appropriate distance has been gained from the manifest failure of that orthodoxy.

23 Things The Don’t Tell You About Capitalism takes the sacred cows of free market economics one-by-one and calmly slaug
Feb 05, 2016 Victoriano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
If there’s one thing an average 20 year-old steeped in Western culture has heard about, it’s capitalism. It seems to be casually referenced in a lot of films, and television shows, and intellectual conversations in college dorms over your third ramen dinner of the week. Any self-respecting adult knows a thing or two about economics, and Ha-Joon Chang definitely capitalizes (pun intended) on that concept. So, for the people out there who want a cursory glance at the development of capitalism in 3 ...more
One of the best critiques of free market capitalism I have read!

Narrated by Joe Barrett

8 hrs and 58 mins

Publisher's Summary

Thing 1: There is no such thing as the 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
May 01, 2014 Onur rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant and accessible critique of free market economics in the last three decades. The simple layout and non-use of jargon makes it easy to follow and understand. Recommended to anyone wishing to understand the world economy.
Batsukh Bat-Ochir
Капитализмын тухай тэд танд юу гэж ярьдаг вэ? Чөлөөт зах зээл, оролцогч агентуудын ашгийн төлөөх үйл хөдлөл, түүнээс үүдэн гарах шинэ санаа, технологийн дэвшил гэх мэт зүйлийн талаар бид хангалттай ярьдаг. Хүний нийгмийг хамгийн сайн удирдан залах систем нь “капитализм” эргэлзээгүй мөн байж болох ч, энэ нь “төгс” систем биш гэдэг нь баараггүй. /Төгс систем гэж оршин байдаг ч үгүй биз/ Тэгвэл тэд капитализмын талаар юуг танд хэлэхгүй орхисон бэ? Юугаараа капитализм “төгс” биш гэж? Капитализм
Jan 05, 2012 Marc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an amazing and enlightening work that every world citizen ought to read. It succinctly breaks down what is wrong with our global economic market in terms that any non-economist can understand. It throws new (to most of us) and important light on the flaws of conventional “wisdom” about free-market capitalism and how those policies over the past 30 years have created the systems and incentives for ongoing economic crises during that time (including our current one). But Chang is not ...more
Al Bità
Jan 14, 2012 Al Bità rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a superb analysis of Capitalism at a time when Capitalism needs all the help it can get.

The book consists of 23 things they DO tell us about Capitalism, and these are summarised in a paragraph at the beginning of each Chapter of the book. What is fascinating is that each of these paragraphs read very familiarly indeed: they are exactly spot on as concepts most readers will have heard, and possibly even agreed with regarding this subject. The rest of each Chapter then proceeds to discuss
Aug 23, 2011 Ilya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
In the 1960s, South Korea, then a military dictatorship, wanted to be self-sufficient in steel. It founded a steel company with the government as the major shareholder, an ocean away from the nearest deposits of iron ore and coking coal (there was then no trade between Communist China and anti-Communist South Korea), headed by a retired general who knew nothing about steel, using Japanese reparation payments as capital. This project was thought of by most investors as insane. The company is now ...more
It was okay, I liked it enough. This wasn't an anti-capitalism book, but an anti-free market capitalism book. That's not a knock on the book, it's just a clarification of its intent.

Written clearly, the book tackles some of the prevailing assumptions of the neo-liberal orthodoxy that has dominated economic thinking of the last 30 years much to the detriment of people everywhere. Most of the book is spent debunking the Reaganite/Thatcherite school of thought, and argues for a different form of c
Ahmed Salem
Sep 16, 2014 Ahmed Salem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
الكتاب بسيط و صادم

أسرد هنا فقط بعض النقاط التي استرعت انتباهي لأتذكرها لاحقا

- لا يوجد اقتصاد حر مطلق، هناك اقتصاد مقيد بقوانين و قواعد يصنعها السياسيون

- سياسة جعل الأغنياء أكثر غناءا لا تضمن بالضرورة نشاط اقتصادي أكثر يعود بالنفع على المواطنين الأقل حظا فيصبحوا أكثر غناءا بالمقارنة

- الانترنت و غسالة الملابس قاموا بتغيير الحياة البشرية الى الأفضل كل بنسبة متفاوتة. الا ان الغسالة و معظم الأدوات المنزلية ساعدت البشرية على ترقية الحياة بشكل أفضل بكثير مما فعلت الانترنت

- السياسات النقدية القادمة من ا
Alastair Crawford
Cleverly simple. The perfect anti-neo liberal text. Don't think inflation needs to be as low as 2%? Like to see it at 4-6% and economic growth above 2%? This book will explain why Key and Brash and co. will never allow it. A good follow on to Ralston Saul's re-reading of Adam Smith, explaining how the far-right have misread and hijacked a small part of Smith's general economic theory, (the invisible hand metaphor) and why it doesn't fit 21st Century international corporate commerce as well as it ...more
Nov 05, 2013 Katarzyna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
„Czego ci nie powiedzą

Dobrzy ekonomiści nie są niezbędni do prowadzenia dobrej polityki gospodarczej. Urzędnicy zajmujący się gospodarką, którzy odnieśli największe sukcesy, zazwyczaj nie byli ekonomistami. Podczas „cudownych lat” japońską i (w mniejszym stopniu) koreańską polityką gospodarczą kierowali prawnicy. Na Tajwanie i w Chinach autorami bardzo skutecznych polityk gospodarczych byli inżynierowie.”

Czas obudzić się z mylnych wyobrażeń o ekonomii wolnorynkowej. Czas zaprząc rozum w ocenę zj
Neil Collins
Pretty good book with lots of economic insight. Is the current "free-market" ideology backed up with any empirical data? Do countries which embrace a more free-market economic principal do better or worse than those which follow Keynesian approach? What are the real world examples? This book takes a look at myths associated with mainstream capitalism, using a mixture of real world historical and more recent examples, while also providing detailed and graspable explanations. Deals with important ...more
Useful book, that seems to me to fairly effectively demolish most of the important economic talking points and dogmas out there. Although it is not particularly rigorously argued, it seems to me that most of arguments offered by Chang would hold up when defended at greater length. (And anyway, why demand more rigor from Chang than from the freemarketeers on the other side, who generally offer arguments with holes large enough to pilot oil tankers through in them?)
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect publication date 3 20 Sep 20, 2014 09:32AM  
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Ha-Joon Chang teaches economics at Cambridge University. His book 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism was a no.1 bestseller and was called by the Observer 'a witty and timely debunking of some of the biggest myths surrounding the global economy.' He is a popular columnist at the Guardian, and a vocal critic of the failures of our economic system.
More about Ha-Joon Chang...

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“Once you realize that trickle-down economics does not work, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich as what they are -- a simple upward redistribution of income, rather than a way to make all of us richer, as we were told.” 85 likes
“Equality of opportunity is not enough. Unless we create an environment where everyone is guaranteed some minimum capabilities through some guarantee of minimum income, education, and healthcare, we cannot say that we have fair competition. When some people have to run a 100 metre race with sandbags on their legs, the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not make the race fair. Equality of opportunity is absolutely necessary but not sufficient in building a genuinely fair and efficient society.” 70 likes
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