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Publisher's Summary

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, the International Monetary Fund, and the 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.

©2007 Ha-Joon Chang (P)2007 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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Would Be Better As An Article

Would have made an excellent Atlantic article - not enough for a book. It is good that Chang challenges the conventional wisdom of the Washington consensus on free-trade. As an Economist reader I'm happy to my assumptions challenged. The best chapters are routed in history - not argument.

I very much enjoyed hearing a first-hand account of the risk of South Korea, from one of the world's poorest countries to one of the wealthiest - and the policies that allowed this transformation. This story is particularly interesting to me as my in-laws are Korean immigrants. But Chang does not have enough new to say for a whole book, and ends up repeating himself and his argument far too often.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ginger
  • Birmingham, Al USA
  • 10-20-08

Everyone should have to read this book

If you couple this book with Alan Greenspans book and hold our current economic crisis against them you can easily see where we have failed to apply what we know but instead began to believe our own propaganda.
The only truly successful Free MArket Societies are regulated one. It is not arguable. History simply proves it.

16 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Greats Points

This book delivers great points for those who believe the U.S. does only "good" around the world. I enjoyed the arguments very much and agree with the viewpoint of the author.

However, I liked "The Open Veins of Latin America" better. That book is better composed and more succinctly and historically makes similar points.

It's worth your time but don't expect an easy or comfortable read. It's a kick in the gut---and we deserve it.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Not Convinced!

I read this book as someone in favor of free trade looking for counter arguments from someone who is not. This book, however, failed to change my view. The author makes several good arguments, but ultimately fails to see practical implication of his own views. He repeatedly uses the success of Japan and S. Korea as best evidence that protectionist policies work. In another attempt, he compares an infant industry to a human infant and argues just as an infant needs care until reaches self-sufficiency, infant industries need protection until they are capable of withstanding foreign competitions.

I see several things wrong here. First, the protectionist policies are successful precisely because other countries are not protectionists. If protectionism were to be adopted as a wholesale policy by all countries, it would certainly bring about economic disaster as companies will be squeezed to sell only to their own nationals.

Second, the comparison of infant industries to infants has some validity, but it is too simplistic to be meaningful. Trying to prove a general point using one example is dangerous since often the opposite point can be proved using a counter example.

At last, the author argues for a dynamic protectionism. That is to protect different industries at different periods for different length of times. To pretend to know where, when and for how long help must be provided is sheer madness. Governments can't plan for much simpler things, let alone, the whole economy. Besides, once a company obtained protection, it will devise everything in its power to keep it. It will choke off other potential candidates for help. In long-run, country will have only few companies or industries that will benefit from this policy and other companies or industries are choked off at their infancies. Perhaps, this is why countries like S. Korea (Samsung, Hyundai) or Finland (Nokia) have only a few companies accounting for most of their exports.

31 of 48 people found this review helpful

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  • Carroll
  • Hilo, HI, United States
  • 09-08-11

A unique counterpoint to the media

A well positioned series of counters to the much lauded "conventional wisdom" spouted in the press. All I verified checked out. So a useful way to hear both sides of our 'rich country' spin on trade & money.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Toronto, ON, Canada
  • 10-20-11

after three listens, i still want to come back

this book is phenomenal. the perspective is fascinating, and the arguments provide an enlightening counterbalance to free market talk show hosts who forget the important functions of government. i don't know when i read this again, but i've kept coming back to it over the years, and will again soon.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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I learned a lot.

This is obviously a book of contrarian viewpoints.

I am not an economist, but I am curious about the world economic views. A lot of surprising arguments were presented by Dr. Chang in this book, I enjoy reading them. It is a breath of fresh air. Even though the arguments are unfamiliar to me, but they are clearly stated and supported with many not so well known historic facts and events.

I learned a lot. It provides me with a new reference point to look at many of our contemporary events.

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Interesting details throughout.

Would you consider the audio edition of Bad Samaritans to be better than the print version?

Never had the print version.

Who was your favorite character and why?

No characters. This is non-fiction

Which character – as performed by Jim Bond – was your favorite?

???

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

All of it. Extremely interesting

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Captivating and Convincing

Ha-Joong Chang writes this book with incredible gusto as he seeks to educate the reader about the real impacts of free trade upon the developed and developing world. The argumentation ranges from classical to modern, from Britain in 1602 to the United Nations today, and by the end of the book an uneducated reader on the subject of economics feels that they have really learned the "secret" the author was tempting them with: That free trade is part of a modern power structure, designed to "kick the ladder" from underneath the developing world for their own interests. The only real criticisms are 1) that this book can seem a bit preachy about the author's message, and 2) the author's note at the end is a little more optimistic than the book leads on up to that point, although the reading never gives a sense of hopelessness for the developing world; far from it. Recommended for anyone as an intro to modern economics

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great book on breaking myths

Very good ideas about connection of economic growth with corruption, free trade, barriers, type of authorities in the country - one dictator for 30 years is not a bad thing . It's not what I used to think - and history shows that.