It is a real pleasure to read the books of Ha-Joon Chang. In fact, his most recent work has nothing new. It presents in a very clear and comprehensible way the results of his former research. His objective is to give people more knowledge and to equip the reader with an understanding of how capitalism really works.
Reading this book is real fun, however serious the catastrophe of 2008, created by free-market ideology, has been.
The Korean economist explains there is no such thing as a ‘free market’, how ‘free’ the market is will always be the result of political decisions. Why do we not accept a ‘free’ labour market for children to-day? Why did we go to war for a ‘free market in opium’ in the 19th century? Why do we not accept a ‘free market’ for narcotics or organs today? And why did the free market advocates accept government interventions in order to save the banks? In fact, the whole discourse about free trade is about moral values and political decisions. The history of capitalism has been a constant struggle over the boundaries of markets.
In the same way, Ha-Joon Chang shows how stupid it is to talk about the maximization of shareholder value, that many people are paid more than they should be, that washing machines have done more for the economy than the internet, that we do not live in a post-industrial society and that education is not necessarily making a country rich.
Poor countries are not poor because of their poor people, but because of their rich people. Because Africa is not destined for under-development, due to lazy, corrupt and conflict-prone people. And if you assume the worst about people, you will get the worst and not the best.
Knowledge of history and lots of relevant statistics help to show that making rich people rich does not make the rest of us rich.
These are just a couple of examples of an extremely good book. You need not be an economist to understand it, as good economic policies do not need good economists. In fact, according to the author, economists have been worse than irrelevant, they can be harmful for people.
And yes, the book ends with some useful recommendations for ‘how to rebuild the world economy’.
Extremely useful for all critics of today’s economic system. It is a real pleasure to read this book.