By Ha-Joon Chang

23 things they don't tell you about capitalism
Editions:Paperback: $ 25.00
ISBN: 9780141047973
Pages: 286
ISBN: 9780141957869

Ha-Joon Chang's 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism turns received economic wisdom on its head to show you how the world really works. In this revelatory book, Ha-Joon Chang destroys the biggest myths of our times and shows us an alternative view of the world, including:

  • There's no such thing as a 'free' market
  • Globalization isn't making the world richer
  • We don't live in a digital world - the washing machine has changed lives more than the internet
  • Poor countries are more entrepreneurial than rich ones
  • Higher paid managers don't produce better results

We don't have to accept things as they are any longer. Ha-Joon Chang is here to show us there's a better way.

About Ha-Joon Chang

Ha-Joon ChangHa-Joon Chang is a Reader in the Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge. He is author of Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective, which won the 2003 Gunnar Myrdal Prize, and Bad Samaritans: Rich Nations, Poor Policies and the Threat to the Developing World. Since the beginning of the 2008 economic crisis, he has been a regular contributor to the Guardian, and a vocal critic of the failures of our economic system.


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Reviews:John Gray on The Guardian wrote:

"Each of Chang's 23 propositions may seem counterintuitive, even contrarian. But every one of them has a basis in fact and logic, and taken together they present a new view of capitalism. Chang may be our best critic of capitalism, but he is far from being any kind of anti-capitalist. He recognises the failings of centrally planned economies, and rightly describes capitalism as "the worst economic system except for all the others". At the same time he is confident that capitalism can be reformed to prevent crises like the one we have just experienced recurring. Making markets more transparent is not enough. [...] Rather than reforming itself, free-market capitalism looks set simply to decline. But if Chang's reforms are unrealistic, his account of where we find ourselves today is arrestingly accurate. For anyone who wants to understand capitalism not as economists or politicians have pictured it but as it actually operates, this book will be invaluable."

Joan Wilson on LSE Blogs wrote:

"One point of criticism is that it is in his commenting on the actual existence or otherwise of a free-market that the author creates doubt over the strength of his assertions that this system can be held responsible for today’s global problems. In reality, as Chang notes, a free-market does not exist because government regulations are present throughout society, such that the conditions and boundaries of a ‘free-market’ are not clear. [...] It’s not hard to see why Chang’s book is an international bestseller: each of one his 23 propositions provides a truly fascinating insight into the pitfalls of free-market capitalism. The book draws on many of our other present-day economic problems – such as inequality, extremes of poverty and wealth and the financial crisis in the Western world – and how these relate directly to the policies and mixed incentives of free-market economics. The ease with which the text flows, the succinctness of each chapter, and the fact that the author makes no assumptions about the reader’s depth of knowledge on this system of capitalism broadens the appeal of the book beyond those involved in academic study of economics. At the same time, the book would benefit from greater clarity on the exact original principles of a free-market system and the foundations of their formation in economic thinking, given the emphasis the author places throughout on economic problems stemming from free-market policies."

James Crabtree on Financial Times wrote:

"Taken together, his answers take on those who zealously advocated deregulated markets and open trade before the economic crisis. Some of the analysis smacks of bayonetting already fallen enemies: a chapter on the follies of the post-crash Icelandic economy, for instance, attacks folly already much lambasted elsewhere. But behind the sometimes disconnected structure lie two important arguments about how economic theory needs to be rethought. The first involves growth, and the particular importance of manufacturing. [...] the book’s second big argument: countries should be encouraged to protect and promote their own industries. Mr Chang is a “heterodox” economist, who has spent much of his academic career (and two previous books) arguing this with more orthodox colleagues. He has shown in particular that western countries who preach free trade and competitive markets commonly protected their own industries during earlier periods of growth."

Ian Fletcher on Huffington Post wrote:

"This is one of the toughest assaults on what passes for capitalism in the U.S. these days to come out in decades — but it is not especially a liberal or leftist book, and thus supplies the profound need America has for economic criticism that is both radical and bipartisan. [...] This is a theoretically profound book, but emphatically not a book for theorists. It is thus a book for anyone who has grasped that America is being strangled by a set of myths about what capitalism is and how it works. Debunking these myths is thus job one."

Talk on 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism

Table of Contents

  • Thing 1 - There is no such thing as a free market
  • Thing 2 - Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners
  • Thing 3 - Most people in rich countries are paid more than they should be
  • Thing 4 - The washing machine has changed the world more than the internet has
  • Thing 5 - Assume the worst about people and you get the worst
  • Thing 6 - Greater macroeconomic stability has not made the world economy more stable
  • Thing 7 - Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich
  • Thing 8 - Capital has a nationality
  • Thing 9 - We do not live in a post-industrial age
  • Ting 10 - The US does not have the highest living standard in the world
  • Thing 11 - Africa is not destined for underdevelopment
  • Thing 12 - Governments can pick winners
  • Thing 13 - Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer
  • Thing 14 - US managers are over-priced
  • Thing 15 - People in poor countries are more entrepreneurial than people in rich countries
  • Thing 16 - We are not smart enough to leave things to the market
  • Thing 17  - More education in itself is not going to make a country richer
  • Thing 18 - What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the United States
  • Thing 19 - Despite the fall of communism, we are still living in planned economies
  • Thing 20 - Equality of opportunity may not be fair
  • Thing 21 - Big government makes people more open to change
  • Thing 22 - Financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient
  • Thing 23 - Good economic policy does not require good economists
  • Conclusion: How to rebuild the world economy