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Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  4,103 ratings  ·  355 reviews
A rising young star in the field of economics attacks the free-trade orthodoxy of The World Is Flat head-on—a crisp, contrarian history of global capitalism.

One economist has called Ha-Joon Chang "the most exciting thinker our profession has turned out in the past fifteen years." With Bad Samaritans, this provocative scholar bursts into the debate on globalization and econ
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published December 26th 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published July 5th 2007)
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Randal Samstag
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, favorites
Ha-Joon Chang is not widely known (except by astute Goodreads readers!), even among economists, in the United States, but he is a rock star in his native Korea. He is not mentioned in the index or the bibliography of the recent neo-liberal tract, Why Nations Fail, by Acemoglu and Robinson. But on a recent trip to Busan, the Republic of Korea’s second largest city on the southern coast, I stopped beside Haeundae Beach to take in the scene. I began a conversation quite quickly (in English, my Kore ...more
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We all know what a good Samaritan is – someone who, despite the ethnic stereotype associated with them and their racial dislike for people more like us, stops when they see someone in trouble and helps them, regardless of their differences or the personal cost to themselves. This is a book about how developing nations are being ‘helped’ by developed nations – and its message is the exact opposite of the good Samaritan story. That is, rather than those nations being helped to develop, they are be ...more
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book outlines in a light narrative what I have suspected for a long time: free trade *can* be good, but applied wholeheartedly and blindly and at the wrong time is mostly destructive.

Fact: The US and Britain and Japan and South Korea built up their industries through pragmatic tariffs and government-sponsored protection/subsidization. NOT through the path of free trade. Almost no country has.

Free trade does *not* make you rich, it's what you want the other countries to do when you are econo
Ha-Joon Chang was the first economist I read whose methodology seriously considered the real world (i.e. history, and not just that of the winners)… Oh, how dismal is mainstream economics?! I’ve since explored beyond Chang’s State Capitalist/social democrat reformist lens, but he remains useful to learn from and challenge.

The Brilliant:
--“Kicking away the ladder”: do-as-we-say, not-as-we-do. Power does not rely solely on direct violence; it is much more effective when it cultivates participati
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
I think from the title people may assume this book is going to be anti-capitalism and free-trade, but it is not at all. It is a book critiquing neoliberalism and free-trade policies being pushed onto developing nations.

Ha-Joon Chang advocates for capitalism in which the government has more control over the economy.

This book argues that first world countries like the US and UK were protectionist when they were developing, rejecting free trade policies when it would harm their “infant industries”
Leo Walsh
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Amazing when you think how ideological Economics has become. Most of what comes out of the media is Chicago School "Free Market." However, I began to notice that the people with the most intellectual muster, like Princeton's Paul Krugman and Cambridge's Ha-Joon Chang (author of this book) have consistently stood against the tide.

As academics, they "stand outside" the world, and observe. They are also used to searing intellectual debate and precision as they face the peer review process. Which ma
Of the 5 books on economics I read since the crash, this one was by far the one that most challenged what I believed. I try to base my life on evidence and not ideologies I've grown to accept without much thought. Of the five books, his was supported with the most evidence. It challenged my notion that free market is always the best; And made me reevaluate when government spending is bad, when it is OK, and when it is best. It also makes me question my support of the World Trade Organization, an ...more
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I actually thought this book would be much better than it was. There is a coherent theoretical argument behind the whole import substitution, infant industries approach to development. I was hoping to see a more interesting/empirical defense of it (and maybe a more nuanced explanation of when/how it can work, and when it doesn't)...because development is ultimately an empirical question about "what works," not what makes sense in theory. Ha-Joon presents a basic version of theoretical argument, ...more
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
The more I educate myself in economics, the more I am convinced it is a science that can offer no more conclusive answers about public policy than philosophy does about ethics or the nature of the self. The difference being, that when I sit down to a philosophy text, my greatest expectation is that it will be a beautifully articulated series of beliefs that will raise questions I had never pondered, or present the world in a unique light. But I always expect these texts to fall short of their st ...more
Sotiris Makrygiannis
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-book, internet
Despite the fact that he made a mistake on how old Nokia is, the Korean flirting of Finnish economy via a book, the feeling that I got that "piracy might be good" despite all that I find the book realistic enough to give it 4 stars. In fact is pragmatic, it says few truths like how "bad samaritans" can impose gender neutrality in order to obtain loans , even also how much meat one could eat...In any case Im not against totally Freedman, I think the guy was super good - maybe not that ecological ...more
Dec 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Meat imports are restricted…, which not only benefits local farmers but also inspecting firms… The export of raw rattan is about to be prohibited, which will benefit the rattan industry… Businesses have to give priority to local products…”

These are only some of the arguments put forward by Hal Hill and Monica Wihardja in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, ringing alarm bells about anti-reformist forces in the Indonesian Government. They argued that in spite of the upgraded investment ratings
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
The main argument of Bad Samaritans is that most rich countries became rich by using protectionism and rejecting free trade policies that would undermine their economies. When they became prosperous, they kicked the ladder so developing countries couldn't do the same. Nowadays, the same countries, largely controlling institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, dictate which policies should be followed by the developing ones. This is similar to saying : Don't do as I did, do as I say.

The boo
Mar 22, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An important reading for whoever wishes to look beyond the crap fed by Media and governments experts financed by immoral and unethical International Corporations.

The Formula Neoliberalism equals Development is another absurd lie trumpeted by the Good Guys of WTO, IMF and World Bank.

Ha-Joon Chang is not a Communist, a Charlatan or a Terrorist. He is a scientist; a Reader in the Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge. He has also served as a consultant to the World Bank,
Aditya Shevade
I am writing this as I read the book so as not to forget my thoughts:

1. Protectionism is still bad - regardless of the few examples of how it succeeds there are countless examples where it fails - net neutrality for example. The protection provided to ATnT and Time Warner. The current tariffs and the whole fiasco with US trade.

2. The examples of how Korea flourished - it ignores a _huge_ problem that during the initial years people were extremely worse off than they would have been with free tr
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: white
Subtitle: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. Ha-Joon Chang, the author, says he told Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel prize-winning economist) that he felt privileged to have been born in South Korea in 1963, when it was about as underdeveloped as Vietnam is today. South Koreans born even 20 years later have no memory of South Korea as a poor nation (although of course there are still poor South Koreans today, as there are still poor in every country of any size). The topic Chang ...more
Feb 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A detailed rebuttal of free market ideology for the lay person from an award winning Cambridge economist born and raised in pre-industrial Korea. The author shows how the free market policies imposed by the IMF and World Bank have seriously damaged developing countries as well as setting the record straight about how the current industrial giants (far from practicing free trade) consistently protected their infant industries. This excellent and lucid book also deconstructs free market ideology i ...more
Andrew Price
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics, history
Excellent little book that easily refutes neoliberal, free trade dogma. Ha-Joon Chang isn't against trade, he just believes developing countries should act first in their own interest to protect industry and build a manufacturing base before they open up. Ironically, this is what many, if not most of the developed nations have done, and of course it is the exact opposite advice we give to developing countries in Africa and South America etc. By prescribing the latter, we are making sure those de ...more
Nathan  Fisher
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
unsurprisingly throws extremely unnecessary, reflexive sops to anti-communism but successfully dismantles liberal orthodoxy. give it to your mom or dad or use it to brush up on thanksgiving talking points when sparring with WSJ subscribers. stays still well within the bounds of bourgeois acceptability, natch.
Mahmoud Ashour
There is no book that has changed my beliefs about Economics as much as this book. (hence the 5 stars )
This book takes conventional macroeconomic wisdom and flips on its head.
One of the things that I loved about this book is that before the author attacks any idea, he would present first all the arguments that are for this idea and then dismantle it one by one with both logic and empirical evidence from history.

The main ideas that the writer disagrees with are.
1) Free trade is important for th
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a must-read for anyone who pays even modest attention to modern economics. If you are such a person, you're chronically exposed to a toxic sea of neoliberal propaganda -- free trade, open markets, globalization, blahbity blah blah -- even the most liberal experts like Paul Krugman spew it forth. Spending a lifetime in such a poisonous environment is bound to make you sick, but luckily Chang has an antidote concocted of cold, hard historical fact.

I already knew a lot of this in theory but
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't always read books on economy and politics, but when I do... All kidding aside, this is the third book by Chang I've read. The first one was the very informative Economie: de gebruiksaanwijzing (Orig.: Economics: The User's Guide). You can read my (Dutch) review here. It offered insight in what economics is about, which kinds/school exist, how and what role politics play, and so on.

The other one was 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism (my [Dutch] review here), which also provid
Void lon iXaarii
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book brings out very interesting facts and perspectives, and some beautiful historical data that you rarely find referenced. It's a pity this leads the author to very pre-selected conclusions. You know, i never really got why Mises insisted in his treaty of economics to first analyze things on a pure logic abstract level. Now I do: as he apparently knew even almost a century ago, one can use history to argue quite opposing views, by picking data and times from a complex system, and indeed m ...more
Aug 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
In 1963, when the author was born, South Korea was one of the world's poorest countries, with half the per capita income of Ghana. The fratricidal war with interventions by the United States and China had destroyed half her industry and three quarters of her railways. The country's principal exports were fish, tungsten, and wigs made of human hair. In 1982, when the author finished high school, South Korea was a middle-income country, on par with Ecuador. In 1997, when he was an adult professor ...more
Kumail Akbar
You would expect an economist to present a hypothesis, evaluate all the data regarding the hypothesis and come to a conclusion after considering nuance, etc. Not so here. Ha Joon seems to have decided to sell fashionable left/anti capitalist takes to its typical consumers and he goes about doing so without putting in much intellectual rigor. If you want a more thorough history of trade which tries to go through the entire history of trade (or as much of it can be in a single volume history) I st ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
I should know better than to read this piece of mainstream economics. Book cover endorsements by: Financial times, Noam Chomsky and Bob Geldof. lol.

This book ‘Bad Samaritans. The guilty secrets of rich nations and the threat to global prosperity’ by Korean popular economist Ha-Joon Chang (Random House, 2008) is essentially another version of Stiglitz, challening neoliberal orthodoxy in development economics in what is commonly referred to as the post-Washington consensus.

These Ivy League, Nobel
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I will rate this one! It is so easy, so simple and simple facts are put forward so succinctly that there is no way it should be rated anything less than five stars.

Media, intellectuals, journalists and columnists all tell us that globalisation is good for the poor countries. Free market, it is repeatedly exhorted, is good for all. Organisations like WTO, the World Bank, the IMF are there to protect the poor countries and help them grow economically. Some countries are culturally lazy and corrup
Oct 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
An alternative title for this book could be:
Neo-Liberalism is BAD!

If you don't know what that is, no worries. You will be sick of the term just 20 pages into this book.

Anyway, some interesting things this book argues:

- Not only is piracy fantastic for developing countries (hooray for piracy!!!) but almost all rich countries have indulged in it themselves on their way up the global ladder. It follows that advancing patent and copyright laws are having dire consequences for developing countries e
Otto Lehto
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very entertaining book. I would be wary, however, of taking its lessons too seriously.

Basically it is an argument against the free markets as the best system for developmental economics. He makes the case that, in fact, DEVIATIONS from free market doctrine have been occasionally helpful, perhaps even necessary, for the development of almost all Western countries. He also tells the story of Korea, rising fast out of poverty, as an example of market socialism. He claims that preaching all-too-has
Ali Karimnejad
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I think, the best books are those which change us in a way we are not the same person before reading that book. If so, "Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism" is one of the best books I have ever read.

The book is very abstract and doesn't waste time for formalities, although it doesn't mean that you can not summarize it's main points in some sentences:
"The book simply wants to say there is no way to behave as a gentleman (the way developed countries want f
Nov 23, 2008 rated it liked it
When you steal books from Barnes and Noble, I feel you recognize that nearly any mass-produced economics tract deriding free-market capitalism is going to be a bit simple. If you already have an academic grounding in infant-industries theory or even a somewhat informed critique of globalization, you will most likely read this book in two days. With this said, I had a plane to catch in an hour, little pocket money, and limited options.

Anecdote aside, the reviews below me have well described th
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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.

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“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” 19 likes
“free trade economists have argued that the mere co-existence of protectionism and economic development does not prove that the former caused the latter. This is true. But I am at least trying to explain one phenomenon - economic development-with another that co-existed with it - protectionism. Free trade economists have to explain how free trade can be an explanation for the economic success of today's rich countries, when it simply had not been practised very much before they became rich.” 6 likes
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