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Start by marking “23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism” as Want to Read: 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.
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Capital has a nationality. Capital mobility causes plenty of mischief in our overly globalized world, but it's a myth that capital has been denationalized into free-floating ether. Money always belongs to somebody, and those somebodies have passports and home addresses. It matters who's in charge, and the answer is never "nobody.

We do not live in a post-industrial age. The myth that we do has just led to the neglect of U.

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You can't download a ride to work or the supermarket. Much bad policy, both here and abroad, has been based on the idea that the American version of capitalism is observably superior. But our per-hour average income ranks about 8th in the world on a purchasing-power parity read the book to find out what that is basis. Africa is not destined for underdevelopment. Africans aren't poor because of any mysterious or immutable factors. In the s and s, they were making progress. They're poor for the same reasons other nations were once poor--which means that their poverty can be fixed if the apply the same solutions other nations have.

Governments can pick winners. Not every time, and don't get careless, but the free market isn't always right, and the government isn't always wrong. Not to mention the aircraft and semiconductor industries. In East Asia, governments did even more. Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer. Trickle down economics doesn't work because wealth doesn't trickle down.

It trickles up , which is why the rich are the rich in the first place. America has the highest-paid corporate managers in the world. We don't have the best-performing industries. Are we getting our money's worth? You do the math. People in poor countries are more entrepreneurial than people in rich countries.

This doesn't stop them from being poor, so stop telling them they need to be more "entrepreneurial. We are not smart enough to leave things to the market. In the real world, markets don't take care of themselves. They need to be regulated. How much and in what way is legitimate party politics, but an unregulated economy is a dangerous fantasy.

More education in itself is not going to make a country richer. You need not just education, but industries for educated people to work in. And paper-pushing education isn't necessarily the kind of education you need--something America forgets with its neglect of serious vocational training. Again, ask Germany and Japan. What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the United States. There was maybe once a time when the interests of giant corporations were reasonably closely aligned with the interests of the national economies they reside in.

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That time is long gone. Multinationals will treat nations as hotels if we let them. Despite the fall of communism, we are still living in planned economies. Capitalist planned economies, that is--only nobody calls it that when we get the results that happy suburban consumers like ourselves want.

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The very fact that people are whining to Washington to solve our economic problems reveals how important planning is in this country. Equality of opportunity may be not be fair. A "get what you deserve" society sounds good, and in many ways it is, but there need to be some minimums for what even the losers get. Big government makes people more open to change.


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It all depends on what kind of big government you have. If big government is always a loser, why is America borrowing money from Sweden? Financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient. In his book, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism , Chang — an economist himself, a specialist in the political economy of development — mocked one of the central orthodoxies of his profession: Dip into this witty, iconoclastic and uncommonly commonsensical guide to the follies of economics, and, among many other things, you will learn that free market policies rarely make poor countries richer; global companies without national roots belong in the realm of myth; the US does not have the highest living standards in the world; the washing machine changed the world more than the internet; more education does not of itself make countries richer; financial markets need to become less, not more efficient; and — perhaps most shocking to Chang's colleagues — good economic policy does not require good economists.

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. It is at this point that Chang's analysis, otherwise refreshingly down to earth, seems to me to become unrealistic. Banning opaque financial products might be a step towards a safer world. Unfortunately it is also politically impossible. In the US, Obama's economic policies are being shaped by the same people — many of them with close links to Wall Street — who dismantled Roosevelt's curbs on the banking system during the Clinton era. Again, Chang urges that we ban financial derivatives, but who are "we"?

Reforms of the kind he envisions require a type of global governance that will not exist in any foreseeable future. As he himself recognises, capitalism is not one economic system but many. Free-market capitalism is only one of them — and not a very good one at that. There is no one ideal model. They are also competitors, with conflicting needs and goals. Chinese capitalism, Russian capitalism, Indian capitalism and American capitalism are geopolitical rivals as much as they are different ways of organising the marketplace, and they threaten one another in a number of contexts — not least when they are struggling to secure control of scarce natural resources.