Adam Higgitt's Reviews > 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang
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Sep 25, 2011

really liked it
Read in January, 2011

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 slaughters them. It is not a phillipic against capitalism per se – Chang makes clear that he believes our economic system to be the best we can hope for. Instead, 23 Things The Don’t Tell You About Capitalism builds over a sequence of rebuttals an argument for the return of features of older capitalist orders long since discredited: interventionist government industrial policy, the importance of manufacturing, stronger regulation of financial markets and the detachment of corporate interest from the broader public interest. And he points out the persistent fallacies and myths of free market capitalism: how we still live in a planned economy, how there is no international free market in wages, how a rising tide does not lift all boats and how the information revolution is over-hyped.

There are straw men here (has any serious person ever suggested that Africa is “destined for underdevelopment”?) and the chapter on equality of opportunity is horribly confused. The targets of Chang’s ire may occasionally feel justified in demanding he do more than cite anecdote in his counter-arguments, but overall this a welcome corrective, and another part in the jigsaw that will surely in time help bring about the reappraisal he seeks.
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