Free Market Capitalism

Did you know that Capitalism comes in many shapes and varieties?  Did you know that the flavor of Capitalism we’ve practiced here in the United States (for the better part of thirty years) happens to be the sort known as ‘Free Market’ Capitalism, and that while some countries employ this form, many others do not?  I’m betting that even among those with college degrees there are many of us out there who didn’t happen to know these things.  But the most interesting of all is that it isn’t terribly difficult to gain a basic understanding of economic principles and practices and the way they are employed by the global economic machinery.

Ha-Joon Chang‘s recent book, “23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism” is ideally suited to the average reader seeking to gain a basic understanding of how all this works, without having to trudge deep into theoretical, high-brow jargonism.  Not only is it accessible to the average reader, but it’s actually a quick read filled with fascinating insights into how policies have changed over the years and how those changes have affected our own national economy.  In short, it’s a critique of ‘Free Market’ Capitalism coupled with a case for looking to an alternative form of Capitalism more suited to economic and social equality.  To give an idea about where Professor Chang is coming from here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:

“…it is not necessary for us to understand all the technical details in order to understand what is going on in the world and exercise what I call an ‘active economic citizenship’ to demand the right courses of action from those in decision-making positions.  After all, we make judgments about all sorts of other issues despite lacking technical expertise…Making judgements about economics is no different: once you know the key principles and basic facts, you can make some robust judgements without knowing the technical details.  The only prerequisite is that you are willing to remove those rose-tinted glasses that neo-liberal ideologies like you to wear every day.  The glasses make the world look simple and pretty…Once you know that there is really no such thing as a free market, you won’t be deceived by people who denounce a regulation on the grounds that it makes the market ‘unfree’…Once you realize that trickle-down economics does not work, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich for what they are – a simple upward redistribution of income, rather than a way to make all of us richer, as we were told…This book is intended to equip the reader with an understanding of how capitalism really works and how it can be made to work better…While it may sound daunting for a non-specialist reader to be asked to question theories that are supported by the ‘experts’ and to suspect empirical facts that are accepted by most professionals in the field, you will find that this is actually a lot easier than it sounds, once you stop assuming that what most experts believe must be right.”

I’ve just finished reading a copy from the local library and plan to purchase another shortly.  Two things you’ll almost certainly come away with is the realization that the 2008 financial crisis (and current recession) could have been avoided, and that the dramatic gap between the rich and the rest doesn’t need to be so stark even in a healthy Capitalist economy.

23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang, Bloomsbury Press (2010)
ISBN: 978-1-60819-166-6

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Published in: on August 2, 2011 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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