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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.

Critic Reviews

"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

Average Customer Ratings

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Very interesting!

The author's focus is on the problems free trade has caused in the world's markets. I have not read his first book, Bad Samaritans, but I will now based on what I learned from this book.

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  • Karen
  • Maple Ridge, BC
  • 03-25-13

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!

18 of 36 people found this review helpful

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  • Mrs
  • West Pymble, Australia
  • 10-24-12

23 Things .. I don't think so

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

I might be a little impatient and I did start flicking through chapters at the end, I would recommend listening to the book but only the first 5 min of last 14 points. I have to say I did take away a few really good points and questions on process, and what I though some solid arguments for the points being raised. The book was detracted from however in the second half as the view for the justifications started to get less factual and more "evangelical" in my view.

All in all I think a 4 star book if you do the "Abridged" version by listening to the first few chapters in full and then just the opening, as the reasoning becomes repetitive and the points less relevant.

I listened to this and then "The Age of Turbulence" gave an interesting view into some of the comments.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

There were some great points raised that I think sparked the thought process and will continue to float in the back of my mind, especially when the discussion of "free markets", "wage control" etc arise.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

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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.

20 of 40 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

74 of 152 people found this review helpful

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If you love straw men you will love this book.

Would you try another book from Ha-Joon Chang and/or Joe Barrett?

This book is balderdash. Hacked up complaints about capitalism - create a straw man and bravely execute him. If you want to learn something, hear an important argument, find a great insight, I have only one bit of advice - look elsewhere!

Would you ever listen to anything by Ha-Joon Chang again?

No

Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favorite?

N/a

What character would you cut from 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism?

N/A

13 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • jason
  • Smyrna, TN, United States
  • 07-06-13

Unsubstantiated garbage.

What disappointed you about 23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism?

This book is so full of baseless assertions, I could not get even a third of the way through it. It reads like a socialist propaganda pamphlet.

What didn’t you like about Joe Barrett’s performance?

Uninspired.

3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • rodi
  • NORWALK, CT, United States
  • 03-06-12

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.

7 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Long Island City, NY, United States
  • 01-17-12

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 32 people found this review helpful

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  • Len
  • Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 11-28-12

Bullet point style doesn't work well for audiobook

I thought "Bad Samaritans," another book by Chang also available here, was the best nonfiction audiobook I have listened to, so I was happy to have the chance to listen to "23 Things" as well.

This one is a bit of a disappointment as an audiobook, because it relies on a "bullet point" style, with headlines announcing the received economic wisdom and then Chang's refutations. This probably makes for a visually appealing book, but it doesn't work so well in the audiobook format, and I found myself getting lost quite a bit.

The audiobook reader doesn't help by over-enunciating phrases which often the points Chang is actually trying to refute. The reader sounds a bit like Casey Kasem delivering a Top 40 list, which detracted from the seriousness of Chang's ideas.

As a complete stranger to economics, I learned much from this appealing book, but I had to rewind often to follow the flow of the argument. I may just check out the physical book from the library instead of trying to listen to it again.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Upal
  • 02-19-16

Good insight

Very insightful but the author left out the crucial economic factor - impact of war

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 09-29-11

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

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  • pheeqzie
  • 11-08-15

Brilliantly presented

Delivered in a way that any listener regardless of educational level can comprehend. You don't have to agree with all the views expressed but can't help but appreciate the differing views offered by the author.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • MR
  • 04-01-15

Simple and insightful

On the whole, a great book if you would like to learn about the mechanisms of modern capitalism. The author generally keeps it simple and explains any jargon that is necessary. I did get a little bored occasionally when numerous facts and figures are mentioned but this is obviously important with a book about economics.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig
  • 02-18-14

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 2 people found this review helpful

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  • firemonkey
  • 12-10-13

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 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • William Marshall
  • 04-08-13

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 3 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Ian
  • 12-05-11

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 9 people found this review helpful