Peter Zylstramoore's Reviews > Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism

Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang
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's review
Feb 15, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: politics-economics-development
Read in January, 2008

One of the most readable, enjoyable, and important books on developing country economics.
Describes the history of the how the west developed, how countries in Asia are developing today. It basically recognizes that we developed by nurturing our infant industries, through taxing (tariffs) industrial goods from other parts of the world to allow underdeveloped industries to catch up to the rest of the world. It recognizes how we restricted foreign ownership and investment to ensure that it worked for our infant industry's rather than robbing them. It also talks about how we disrespected patents in other countries to copy from other more-developed countries. It recognizes how Japan and it's colonies developed using these same policies and questions why we don't allow Latin America and Africa the right to use these same policies.
It's one problem is that it doesn't give significant weight to political factors in determining whether we allow countries to protect and develop their industries and subsequently their countries. In the late 40s the state department decided to allow Japan to develop, and to retake control of it's colonies, to counter Britain's former power in the era (securing American hegemony), and to ensure that Japan and it's colonies would counter communist China (rather than turning to Communism themselves). National Security archives suggest allowing Japan to develop provided it stays dependent on the US for food and oil (through US control of the Middle-East).
Because Latin America was closer and easier to control, and because Africa was weaker, and b/c neither were bordered by China (that needed a counterweight), we would not allow them to develop. Really accessible and easy to understand in explaining how countries develop. Again does not give due weight to political factors. Almost every person in Latin America and Africa, knows that it's political institutions backed up by military threat that keeps them underdeveloped.

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