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23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism | [Ha-Joon Chang]

23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism

If you've wondered how we did not see the economic collapse coming, Ha-Joon Chang knows the answer: We didn't ask what they didn't tell us about capitalism. This is a lighthearted book with a serious purpose: to question the assumptions behind the dogma and sheer hype that the dominant school of neoliberal economists-the apostles of the freemarket-have spun since the Age of Reagan.
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Publisher's Summary

Thing 1: There is no such thing as the free market.
Thing 4: The washing machine has changed the world more than the Internet.
Thing 5: Assume the worst about people, and you get the worst.
Thing 13: Making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer.

If you've wondered how we did not see the economic collapse coming, Ha-Joon Chang knows the answer: We didn't ask what they didn't tell us about capitalism. This is a lighthearted book with a serious purpose: to question the assumptions behind the dogma and sheer hype that the dominant school of neoliberal economists - the apostles of the freemarket - have spun since the Age of Reagan.

Chang, the author of the international best seller Bad Samaritans, is one of the world's most respected economists, a voice of sanity - and wit - in the tradition of John Kenneth Galbraith and Joseph Stiglitz.

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism equips listeners with an understanding of how global capitalism works - and doesn't. In his final chapter, "How to Rebuild the World", Chang offers a vision of how we can shape capitalism to humane ends, instead of becoming slaves of the market.

Ha-Joon Chang teaches in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Cambridge. His books include the best-selling Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. His Kicking Away the Ladder received the 2003 Myrdal Prize, and, in 2005, Chang was awarded the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

©2011 Ha-Joon Chang (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Shaking Economics 101 assumptions to the core … Eminently accessible, with a clearly liberal (or at least anticonservative) bent, but with surprises along the way—for one, the thought that markets need to become less rather than more efficient." (Kirkus Reviews)

"An advocate of big, active government and capitalism as distinct from a free market, Chang presents an enlightening précis of modern economic thought - and all the places it's gone wrong, urging us to act in order to completely rebuild the world economy: 'This will make some readers uncomfortable... it is time to get uncomfortable.'" (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Sean MANCHESTER, MA, United States 11-10-11
    Sean MANCHESTER, MA, United States 11-10-11 Member Since 2011
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    "A shallow and destructive book"


    This book contains some interesting anecdotes, if you can keep your blood pressure down. I only made it half way through. The only way in which I could recommend this work is as an example of everything that's wrong with political and economic discourse. It's not actually a book on economics by any stretch of the imagination. It is an overtly political book, which sets up a straw man in the form of "free market economists" and proceeds, impotently, to attempt to knock it down. Here is a summary of my reasons for hating it:

    - It argues against people, not ideas. For example, it argues that opposing protectionism is an invalid opinion because several illustrious American politicians were in favor of it. It then counters the perceived "counter-argument" that Jefferson was for free trade by stating that he was also against patents, which makes him inconsistent with other free market economists. No discussion of the actual merits of free trade seems to be present here.

    - It throws around lots of statistics about prices, wage rates, per capita income, and so on very carelessly. No specification is ever even given as to whether the figures are real or nominal ones.

    - The book assumes a great deal about the reader. For example, it seems to pander to an audience that desires secure jobs with as little variation in work responsibilities as possible. The book repeatedly characterizes changing jobs often, working part time, or working harder as bad, with no explanation as to why it makes these assumptions.

    - Many arguments are not arguments at all, and are easily debunked via reductio ad absurdum. Of course the author seems to be attempting to weasel out of this trap by not presenting any concrete opinions of his own, only attacking others', but that doesn't really improve anything for me. For example, he claims outright that capital flow across borders causes instability and is bad for growth. If this is true, then where is the limit? Should each town have capital flow restrictions to neighboring towns? Why are national boundaries the right lines of delineation?

    - Many arguments seem circular. For instance, although lip service is payed to certain historical "collective actions" causing certain countries to become rich, this seems to become a circular argument when it is claimed that the rich only do these "collective actions" because of their existing circumstances. Or maybe the collective actions were something else, and the author was only referring to the productivity of the rich. I have no idea, and the author does nothing to help elucidate his points.

    - The author is a big fan of China as an example of a heavily controlled economy experiencing great growth. He never addresses the obvious issues that: 1. Much of this growth is in "special economic zones" with more freedom than the rest of the country 2. Much of it is via foreign direct investment 3. The conventional wisdom is that China began to grow after liberalization under Deng Xiaoping.

    - What finally stopped me was the author's quite un-nuanced use of the US as an example of the success of protectionism, while ignoring that the US itself was the largest economic union in history. Given its continual wars with European powers, the only other major economic powers of the time, the US had many security and other non-economic reasons for protectionism. This is ignored.

    150 of 203 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian SCOTTSDALE, AZ, United States 07-05-13
    Brian SCOTTSDALE, AZ, United States 07-05-13
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    "Food for thought, or at least debate"
    What three words best describe Joe Barrett’s voice?

    Much more interesting NPR voice


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    More information about differnent countries handle unemployment/ job training/ welfare.


    Any additional comments?

    This is good for getting more information about how different countries work and other ideas to improve society as a whole. Worth a listen no matter how you feel about capitalism.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Maple Ridge, BC 03-25-13
    Karen Maple Ridge, BC 03-25-13 Member Since 2005
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    "Balanced and informative"

    I love the fact that I can listen to a capitalist who can distinguish between reality (humans are not necessarily rational and the market will not necessarily create the best outcomes if left alone) and fantasy (free markets are the ultimate moral force). I now have a much clearer understanding of where the economy has gone wrong, and what can be done about it. Excellent!

    11 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew Bethesda, MD, United States 05-29-12
    Matthew Bethesda, MD, United States 05-29-12
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    "I found it too hard to follow as a listen."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    We all know that not all narrators are created equal and one listener's favorite is another listener's turn-off. For me Joe Barrett is in the latter category...but you may love to listen to his voice - I do not.


    What was most disappointing about Ha-Joon Chang’s story?

    I thought the structure of the story, didn't work for an audio book. Each "thing" is laid out as 1) What the thing is they don't tell you about capitalism 2) What "they" tell you 3) What "they" don't want you to know. This structure may work when you're reading the book, but for me, it just didn't work as a "listen"...I kept finding myself asking, wait, is THIS the "spin" part or the "truth" part. Maybe my level of concentration isn't up to the challenge of this book - but for me it just didn't work...I found it toomoved on to another book half way through.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The performance was fine I just didn't care for the sound of the narrator's voice.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Dissapointment...I was hoping it would be a more enjoyable listen.


    8 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Toombs Houston 09-17-11
    Toombs Houston 09-17-11 Listener Since 2010
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    "Great, lucid overview of economics"

    First off, this book is not anti-capitalism or a book promoting socialism or some other form of economic system. What this book is, first and foremost, is an indictment of free market economics. Chang is a fan of capitalism (as all people who live in reality should be, as no other form of economic system has come close to realizing the achievements that capitalism and the profit-seeking motive have made possible). However, he is not a fan of the particular variety of capitalism that goes under the name of free market or laissez-faire economics, which lately has mastered a stunning intellectual dominance among the elite policy makers of the world.

    Throughout this book, Chang uses historical examples to counter and disprove common claims by free market economists. For example, free market economists say that protectionism is bad, but Chang points out that there are many examples of countries who used protectionist tariffs to develop their economy when it was in its infancy. The United States is his primary example, which Chang says was one of the most intensely protectionist countries for decades after it was first formed into a Republic. Alexander Hamilton, who formulated most of the economic policy of the fledgling country in the 1790s, actually created an elaborate system of tariffs, duties and excise taxes, which he thought were essential to protect industry at home from potentially stronger business abroad.

    The book is divided into 23 "things" which are usually rebuttals to bits of economic ill-wisdom that have become entrenched in mainstream discourse due to the dominance of free market ideology over the past 30 years. Chang writes in a very easy going, not too-technical style, so even if you don't know much about economics you'll find this book very interesting as the issues he discusses effect us all. This book provides a lot of answers to the question of how can economic policy be changed so that it benefits a greater number of people

    35 of 62 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darlene Austin, TX, United States 01-23-12
    Darlene Austin, TX, United States 01-23-12 Member Since 2009

    Again loving to experience books in a new way. Audible form with my handy ipod has given me the ability to "read"

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    "Accessible & Worthy"

    Appreciated the easy not overtly technical way Ha-Joon Chang laid out points on how USA have interpreted capitalism through domino choices. I walked away thinking Capitalism equals Politics whether that nature of leadership is in government or business with each describing and acquiring their own piece of the pie.

    Each thing was well explained and seemed uncomfortably factual. The first thing "there is no such thing as a free market" is like "fat-free" there is no such thing as free. Thing 4 "the washing machine has changed the world more than the Internet" helped me understand the efficiency and liberation of what inventiveness has and has not done for our political system. And especially right now, I totally agreed with thing 13 "making rich people richer doesn't make the rest of us richer" - there is no such thing has trickle down in a broad and lasting sense. Hence the 99% vs 1% protests. Thing 15 " People in poor countries are more entrepeneurial than people in rich countries" is just like a kid (adult or young) clamoring to be bored while having way too many toys in the box with the lack of motivation to master anyone of them. The gulp and contrary thought I had was on thing 22 with financial markets need to become less, not more, efficient".

    Chang's views seem arrestingly accurate and yet the reforms seem extremely far reaching with today's leadership. This easy to listen to book is for the "common day" person who is actually trying to understand how the USA is quivering and crumbling each day for a extremely high percentage of people.

    15 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Long Island City, NY, United States 01-17-12
    Paul Long Island City, NY, United States 01-17-12 Member Since 2011

    I get a high from learning new things and seeing the world in a different light. Books do that for me and audio books fit my daily routine.

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    "Time to revisit our assumptions about the economy!"

    I enjoyed the way this book turned many of my previously held assumptions or beliefs up-side-down. The author clearly skewers the economic policies of the free marketeers by demonstrating the flaws in their logic, the important factors they failed to consider, and by presenting the evidence that counters their flawed theories. Everyone interested in the politics and the economy should give this a listen.

    14 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rodi NORWALK, CT, United States 03-06-12
    rodi NORWALK, CT, United States 03-06-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A great read and a fascinating view"

    As someone who grew up in communist Eastern Europe and now lives in the ultimate capitalistic state (the US), I thoroughly enjoyed "reading" this fascinating breakdown of the balance between free capitalism and help/control from the government. It opened my eyes to many things I never knew about how countries don't necessarily do as they preach and a lot of the "advice" to weaker economies is contrary to what is needed for genuine improvement.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nelson Alexander New York, NY, United States 01-30-11
    Nelson Alexander New York, NY, United States 01-30-11 Member Since 2006
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    "Tear Down this Myth"

    Our recent financial meltdown provided a truly dramatic, frightening, undeniable refutation of every single free market verity that has dominated Western thinking since Thatcher and Reagan. It was as if a gigantic mask slipped for a moment. In the event, when all the economic theories proved false, when we learned that our grotesquely overpaid bankers and CEOs have actually been destroying value not building it, what happened?

    They simply grabbed the money anyway. The Bush administration simply violated its own proclaimed ideology, pushed aside legal rules and constitutional niceties, and handed the plutocrats billions in taxpayer funds. It was not just socialism for the rich. It was more like the rich carrying out a brutal smash and grab job on a mammoth scale.

    Since that ugly crime, has free market ideology lost ground in the United States? Hardly. It has only lost its mind. As GOP dissents on the financial crisis report show, Marketism has evolved into a blind, violent fundamentalism complete with a rising cadre of political goons.

    Don't worry, Ha-Joon Chan isn't quite as virulent as I am. He is no fire breathing leftist. I liked this last book "Bad Samaritans" well enough to try this one, and found it an ideal primer on the economic (actually, political) myths that keep our system hurtling towards its next crisis. He takes 23 things you are likely to hear every free market ideologue (and most Americans) utter with confidence, and provides compelling rational and historical refutations.

    And nice tidbits. Did you know, for example, that Marx was actually a bigger fan of the joint stock corporation than was Adam Smith? The brief, thematic chapters and a good reading make this an ideal economics book for the audio format. It is pitched at the average reader, but even those with some background will learn a thing or two.

    Should be required reading for Marketism's brainwashed masses. If you are among them, be brave, read it and think.

    66 of 136 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 04-14-12
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 04-14-12 Member Since 2010

    I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What was I Thinging?"

    I support the free market and capitalism, but nothing is perfect, so I bought this book to see how it could be better. What I got was some unsubstantial arguments and a feeling of who cares.

    He starts out by saying we have no free market because we have laws such as you can not make cars that pollute. I understood this, but thought he was being pretty picky. This then was the foundation for much of the rest of what I listened to. He was as bad as Rush Limbaugh when it comes to cherry picking his arguments and putting words into those who disagree.

    I was educated in that I learned that large corporations that just try to make money for their share holders helped bring down manufacturing. I agreed, but did not see what I could do about this.

    Several of his things left me thinking, And I care Why?

    Unless your a socialist who likes listening to someone who thinks like you, I believe this to be a waste of your time.

    19 of 40 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 38 results PREVIOUS124NEXT
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  • Nada
    Bratislava, Slovakia
    5/23/11
    Overall
    "A MUST-READ!"

    Wow, if only everybody would read this book and start making changes to this increasingly misfunctioning global economy! Ha-Joon Chang named everything that I feel is wrong with today's world and his book has armed me with strong arguments for future debates with free-market zealots.

    Politics aside, this is a must-read for anyone even mildly interested in current affairs, definitely not just for readers interested in economics! It's wonderfuly accessible, engaging and eye-opening book that will make you question everything you have heard about economy in recent years.

    The reader is great and the audiobook is a pure joy to listen to. I like this book so much that I will buy a paper copy for future reference. Plus, I would love to listen to his previous book Bad Samaritans.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • A User
    11/28/12
    Overall
    "Very short review."

    Loved this book, well thought out and fascinating insight in to capitalism. I hold a lot of the same view as the author but regardless I think more people should know of the underlying problems with our current system.



    After listening to the book I can no longer hear a news report when the word "deregulation" is mentioned without me thinking back to this book, and thinking who it is really benefiting?

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Craig
    Worsley, United Kingdom
    2/18/14
    Overall
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    "A very important book!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism to be better than the print version?

    I think this should be mandatory in colleges across the globe. To say its an eye opener would be understatement of the highest order. At once anger inducing and jaw dropping, the book reveals some real truths about our supposed "experts" who sit on high. Excellent book!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Roderick
    Harrogate, United Kingdom
    12/10/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Honestly political expose - restores common sense"
    If you could sum up 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism in three words, what would they be?

    The book explains the difference between politics and structure in national economic choices, their contemporary effects, and where the political levers (and true facts) actually are.


    What other book might you compare 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism to, and why?

    I don't read books like this normally, so no comparison yet.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Comfort with the actual honesty about the political nature of the choices and recommendations. Happy to hear well articulated versions of some of the notions I had already formulated. Trouble at the - not entirely new - insights to the not-yet-being-fixed western education systems.


    Any additional comments?

    I'll be listening to this a few times - making it very good value too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Fredrik
    Eskilstuna, Sweden
    11/14/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Extremely brilliant and insightful!"
    Where does 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best - if not THE best -book about the state of the world today.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • William Marshall
    4/8/13
    Overall
    "Should be mandatory reading"

    I found his book so accessible and enlightening because of the wonderful way Ha-Joon Chang presents problems related to the Economy. I think that this book should be compulsory reading for all Economists past and present. A wonderful introduction to why the world got itself into its various problems and how it could avoid future ones.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew
    Gillingham, United Kingdom
    9/29/11
    Overall
    "Interesting if a bit one sided"

    This is an interesting take on the financial situation in the world at this time with some interesting concepts that are well thought out and explained. It did however come across as a bit one sided and whilst Ha-Joon tries to be moderate at times he sounds like a bit of a know-it-all and that he has the answers and is right and everyone else is simply wrong. The big contradiction I found with the book was in the first chapter he explains that there is no such thing as a truly "free market", which is true, but then go on in the next 23 chapters to explain why free market capitalism is wrong and doesn't work, something which he said in his own words doesn't exist. Given that I would still recommend it but don't just accept what he has written as gospel. Challenge your to challenge his ideas and think through them yourself and come to your own conclusion.

    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Ian
    Beaumaris, Australia
    12/5/11
    Overall
    "Could not get past the narrator's voice"

    Sadly I did not even get into the content because the narrator sounded like he was doing a movie trailer voiceover.

    What little of the content i heard was written in the same style as a student.

    1 of 7 people found this review helpful
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