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'23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang

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'23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang

Post by skwalker1964 on Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:21 pm

This book seeks to highlight the various fallacies and logical inconsistencies of the capitalist system that is generally touted as the only possible one - 'The end of history', as one neoliberal claimed.

What I find especially heartening about it is that it is not written by an anti-capitalist, but by a capitalist who is honest about the flaws, lies and incorrect 'received wisdom' of extreme 'free market' ideology and wants an honest appraisal of the current system so that a better version can be put in place - something he believes is perfectly feasible.

Each 'thing' receives its own chapter, following a format that begins with a section, 'What they tell you', followed by 'What they don't tell you' and then analyses of specific commonly-held or commonly-asserted viewpoints. The chapters are written in straightforward language, avoiding jargon where possible and providing clear explanations where it isn't.

Chapters include such 'things' as:

There is no such thing as a free market

Companies should not be run in the interest of their owners

Governments can pick winners

Equality of opportunity may not be fair

Financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient

The author is a South Korean now living (I believe) in the US, so a couple of chapters are a little too US-centric - however, the US is the natural home of extreme free-market neoliberalism and globalisation, so the points are still very relevant no matter where you live.

Everyone will no doubt find things they disagree with in this book. However, for anyone wishing to become more knowledgeable about, and conversant with, free-market economics and its flaws, this is an excellent starting point and I can't recommend it strongly enough.
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Re: '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang

Post by oftenwrong on Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:38 pm

The Capitalist System is the least worse of all the others.
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Re: '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang

Post by skwalker1964 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:37 am

oftenwrong wrote:The Capitalist System is the least worse of all the others.

Perhaps. But which capitalist system? There is more than one - and the one we have now is not the best available alternative.
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Re: '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:34 pm

Equality for all unfortunately can't provide the incentives that yield great money-making ideas. Logically everyone's needs could be provided by communal dwellings, communal dining and standardised clothing but the suicide rate would be unacceptable.
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Re: '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang

Post by skwalker1964 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 1:28 pm

True, but that wouldn't be a version of capitalism. My question was which version of capitalism is the 'least worst of all the others'? There's lots of room to imagine a form of capitalism that is less predatory, less rapacious, more socially responsible and more cognisant of the wider good that companies rely on because they need a stable, healthy society in which to sell their goods and services.
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Re: '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang

Post by oftenwrong on Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:26 pm


Capitalists don't like to be constrained in any way.

You may be seeking a class of Capitalism that equates to being partly dead or slightly pregnant, Steve.
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Re: '23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism' by Ha-Joon Chang

Post by skwalker1964 on Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:02 pm

As the book explains very well, there is no such thing, objectively, as a free market. Every market has constraints, but they are so much part of the fabric of things that they go almost unnoticed. But that constraint-set can, and does, change.

When child-labour was outlawed in the 1800s, industrialists complained that it was an unfair restraint on capitalist freedom (and, ludicrously, the rights of children to be put to work). Earlier, when slavery was abolished, there were similar complaints. Very few people would now argue that not allowing slaves or child-labourers is an unfair constraint on capitalism.

Actually, scratch that - most people wouldn't, but quite a lot of the current crop of free-marketeers might well!
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