Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism

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9781501245633: Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism

With irreverent wit, an engagingly personal style, and a battery of real-life examples, Ha-Joon Chang blasts holes in the “World Is Flat” orthodoxy of Thomas Friedman and other neo-liberal economists who argue that only unfettered capitalism and wide-open international trade can lift struggling nations out of poverty. On the contrary, Chang shows, today’s economic superpowers—from the United States to Britain to his native South Korea—all attained prosperity by shameless protectionism and government intervention in industry. We in the wealthy nations have conveniently forgotten this fact, telling ourselves a fairy tale about the magic of free trade and—via our proxies such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization—ramming policies that suit ourselves down the throat of the developing world.

Unlike typical economists who construct models of how economies are supposed to behave, Chang examines the past: what has actually happened. His pungently contrarian history demolishes one pillar after another of free-market mythology. We treat patents and copyrights as sacrosanct—but developed our own industries by studiously copying others’ technologies. We insist that centrally planned economies stifle growth—but many developing countries had higher GDP growth before they were pressured into deregulating their economies. Both justice and common sense, Chang argues, demand that we reevaluate the policies we force on weaker nations. Bad Samaritans calls on America to return to its abandoned role, embodied in programs like the Marshall Plan, to offer a helping hand, instead of a closed fist, to countries struggling to follow in our footsteps.

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From the Back Cover:

'A smart, lively and provocative book that offers us compelling new ways to look at globalization' – Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate in Economics, 2001

It's rare that a book appears with a fresh perspective on world affairs, but Ha-Joon Chang has some startlingly original things to say about globalization. In theory, he argues, the world's wealthiest countries and major institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, want to see all nations become modern, thriving societies. In practice, though, those at the top are 'kicking away the ladder' to wealth that they themselves climbed.

In the course of his exposé Chang reveals double standards at work everywhere: in policy-makers' understanding of history, in their attitudes to such key issues as free trade and foreign investment, and in their baffling prejudices about national stereotypes and 'ideal' forms of government. He shows precisely why these double standards have become so deeply embedded, and how they have damaged – and continue to damage – the developing world. And he convincingly demonstrates how a fairer and more prosperous global economy could be created if only the Bad Samaritans would accept the evidence that is actually staring them in the face.

'This is a marvellous book. Well researched, panoramic in its scope and beautifully written, Bad Samaritans is the perfect riposte to devotees of a one-size-fits-all model of growth and globalization. I strongly urge you to read it' – Larry Elliott, Economics Editor, Guardian

'I recommend this book to people who have any interest in these issues – i.e. everyone' – Bob Geldof

About the Author:

Ha-Joon Chang has taught in the Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge, since 1990. He has consulted for numerous international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. He has published eleven books, including Kicking Away the Ladder, winner of the 2003 Myrdal Prize. In 2005, Chang was awarded the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought, whose previous recipients include Amartya Sen and John Kenneth Galbraith.

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