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23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  7,613 ratings  ·  743 reviews

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
...more
Hardcover, 286 pages
Published January 2nd 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published March 10th 2010)
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Jan-Maat
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
Caroline
May 15, 2015 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
...more
Jonas
Jun 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
"23 Things" (for short) purports to be a rebuttal of commonly held views about the free market, capitalism and the science and profession of economics. Chang's position is pro government action and intervention (left wing, if you will), and he seeks to back it up with evidence and arguments.

I find it rather disappointing. It often addresses straw men and commonly held misconceptions about how economists think (rather than how economists actually think), and often fails to present opposing
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Trevor
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Zanna
Mar 05, 2016 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 ...more
Miquixote
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
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Maru Kun
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
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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 ...more
Ana
An incredibly useful read for those who want to challenge their own beliefs, no matter how strongly they adhere to them. Chang is not against capitalism - far from it, actually. He believes, using the words of Churchill, that capitalism is the worst economic system - except for all others. Chang is specifically against free-market capitalism, which has done so much damage to the world economy. The writing is clear, concise and funny at times, managing to treat a difficult topic using the ...more
Nick
Dec 10, 2010 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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...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 ...more
Athan Tolis
Mar 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
The book is full of information, and it's written very clearly. That's a plus, because you can use your spare mental capacity to process this information properly while the author is busy making a terrible hash of it.

I'll be upfront here and admit I come from very similar leanings as the author. But that's precisely why I'm angry with the book. How can somebody so educated and so concerned about the issues allocate the time to write a book and come up so short?

One extremely annoying thing about
...more
Ob-jonny
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jose Moa
Mar 07, 2016 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
...more
Christopher Rex
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 ...more
Sarah
Apr 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Victoriano
Feb 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Adam Higgitt
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 isa reappraisal of economicorthodoxyonly 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
...more
Mat
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this critically-acclaimed book, economic iconoclast Ha-Joon Chang makes a mockery of the beliefs of modern-day capitalists.

Here, in a nutshell, are the 23 points made by the author, who has won the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

1. There is no such thing as a free market.

There are always some rules, and they are set by politics, not the market. Wages are set by government through immigration. Child labour and pollution laws were once contested by
...more
Ushan
Aug 23, 2011 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
Answer
"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
...more
Johnsergeant
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
...more
Ryan
Dec 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang explains the shortcomings of free-market capitalism. Because HJC is poking holes in the broad stories neoliberals tell us, there is a risk of enjoying or disliking this book because of motivated reasoning. But many of these essays are built on easily understood scenarios that are fun to think about. Why, for example, might a bus driver in Switzerland makes 50 times more than a bus driver from India?

The conventional (free market)
...more
Neil Collins
Jun 14, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Ana
“Recognizing that the boundaries of the market are ambiguous and cannot be determined in an objective way lets us realize that economics is not a science like physics or chemistry, but a political exercise... If the boundaries of what you are studying cannot be scientifically determined, what you are doing is not a science.”

....Mind=blown...
Onur
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant and accessible critique of free market economics.
♥ Sarah
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
There’s a lot of information packed into this tiny-ish book just shy of 300 pages. Chang addresses the many popular myths about the free-market economy in the US and then refutes them. I didn’t mind the format. I also didn’t mind – and agree wholeheartedly about a few of Chang’s main points on how we could rebuild a new world economy:

1) More regulation and gov’t interference;
2) Systems that promote self-interest have not worked, so we need to build a system that brings out the best in people,
...more
Kevin
3rd book I read by Chang, a reformist State Capitalist tearing down Free Market fundamentalism. Given his experiences with South Korea's development, he is a worthy State Capitalist to engage with.

Before we go any further, the most accessible real-world econ 101 book is, imho: Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: or, How Capitalism Works - and How It Fails

OK, this book:
*The Good:
--Some reviewers criticize the execution for Issue #1 (There is no Free Market). I agree, especially because
...more
Marc
Jan 05, 2012 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
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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.
“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.” 113 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.” 89 likes
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