Mark'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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's review
Jan 21, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: politics, philosophy

Ha Joon Chang is fast becoming a poster boy for the moderate left. His down to earth approach towards solving the worlds problems, within the systems we have in place is quite refreshing and in many ways much more realistic than the radical philosophers that espouse worthy but ultimately futile ideas of violence revolution.. His last book, Bad Samaritans told of the global domination of the west at the expense of developing nations and 23 Things largely follows on from this critique. The book is broken down in to easily digestible chunks, ideal for the reader who wants to break in to the world of economics and globalisation. Chang cuts through the jargon of the system well using simple metaphors and examples to aid the reader. An economist himself, the author is bitter about economists and their influence on global politics over the last thirty years, claiming "Economics, as it has been practised in the last three decades, has been positively harmful for most people." Anyone who still believes that global free trade is beneficial to everyone should read Chang (this book or the previous one) and take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. Present developed nations only became the way they did due to intense protectionism, colonialism and state funded monopolising of industry. Only when economies had grown to a particular level did nations feel confident enough to open up their markets, and not fully even then. Through the IMF and World Bank third world nations have been ordered to free up their economies and open the doors to international competition and cannibalism. In no country has this method worked, including the so called “Asian Tigers” including South Korea where Chang calls home. He expertly shows us that in almost all cases economic growth was higher during pre-neoliberal times (ie pre-Regan/Thatcher) across the world. These 23 Things develop around this central point. Chang explains all this through the prism of capitalism; he himself is no socialist and believes in globalisation, but a form of globalisation that can and should operate for the benefit of all. There’s nothing wrong with being rich as long as no one is abjectly poor. The chapters take us on journeys from entrepreneurialism to free markets, wage labour and “consumer choice” to immigration and many other areas linked to globalisation and each chapter is myth-breaking of the highest order. Although fairly introductory at source there were some points that made me raise my eyebrows as in the section on entrepreneurialism being an increasingly collective process from schools right through to in-house company training, and some new ways of explaining old arguments and paradoxes such as the inherent fallacy of consumption. A book I would recommend to anyone who wishes to understand the world we live in, not as it is professionally understood but how it really operates, and how it can be changed.
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