Tag Archives: Ha-Joon Chang

Book: 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism

Soaked in sunshine. Blurs all boundaries.
285 pages, ★★★★★ 

Reading 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism feels like gazing out of the window on a sunny Sunday morning.  The cover image even spills sunshine around the pages when the book’s open.  See the larger image below.

To feel the calmness and balance of the author, I recommend drinking a very light green tea (绿茶) or even a white tea (白茶) with this book. I chose Yiming Tea (怡明茶) for its light taste, high Qi (气) and pale-peppermint liquor; but a fine White Peony (白牡丹) would have worked equally well.

Author Ha-Joon Chang comments on the world economy like an innocent bystander (including democrats, republicans, Karl Marx and Friedrich Lint).  He writes with delightful balance, and, without getting caught up in frivolous quarrelling or extreme points of view, he tells both economic camps to put down their ideological weapons and make some real progress.  All the ideas he advocates are backed not by hot-headed ideology, but by real-world results.

Despite entering a political (and sometimes ethical) minefield, he remains so calm that there’s even a picture of him laughing on the back cover!  If only all economists were this calm and analytical, then we’d have neither cocaine nor protesters on Wall Street.

Each of the 23 chapters in 23 Things follows a very simple formula: fallacy—truth—anecdotes—metaphor. The metaphors are always very down-to-earth, for example:

“When some people have to run a 100-metre race with sandbags on their legs, the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not make the race fair.” — Ha-Joon Chang, “Thing 20” of “23 Things”

23 Things is what Prosperity Without Growth would have been, were it not written in the midst of an economic panic. Prosperity Without Growth ended up being narrow-minded, CO2-obsessed, alarmist and plainly delusional in places.  It was based more on hot-headed extrapolations into fairy-tale-land rather than real-world situations.  I’ll therefore prescribe 23 Things, sunshine and a light green tea to everyone who was confused by Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth.  For everyone else, 23 Things is possibly the healthiest, and simplest viewpoint in economics from which to start. ★★★★★

"23 Things" is framed by sunshine (see the hard cover poking out the edges of the paper). Reading this feels like gazing out of the window, contemplating on a sunny Sunday morning.