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  • Bad Samaritans

  • The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
  • Written by: Ha-Joon Chang
  • Narrated by: Jim Bond
  • Length: 9 hrs and 15 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Money & Finance, Economics
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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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.

What listeners say about Bad Samaritans

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Joshua Kim
  • 2012-06-10

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.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ginger
  • 2008-10-20

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.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Chris Reich
  • 2010-05-30

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.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Incognito
  • 2019-09-08

Subsidies, golf handicaps & disorganized Germans

Much needed different perspective on capitalism, free trade, and effects of subsidies. in a world that increasingly focuses on short-term gains and hopes those will magically transform to long-term gains as well. To gain long-term perspective, a fresh look at history is well warranted, and many surprising facts were brought to my attention. Who knew Toyota came into existance only after decades of heavy subsidies, that eventually paid off? Interesting chapter on culture that reminds me of victim-blaming in other contexts. Who knew that the Japanese had a reputation to be lazy not too long ago, and similarly, Germans used to be perceived as disorganized overly-emotional thieves? Excellent points on the fairness of a level playing field when players are unequal (imagine boxing without weight classes, and golf without handicaps ...). Great narrator made listening enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Carroll
  • 2011-09-08

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 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Oldtimer
  • 2008-11-20

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 people found this helpful

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  • John
  • 2011-10-20

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 people found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 2019-09-06

Learned a lot!

Really helped me understand better what is going on with the US China Trade War today.

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  • Muhammad Arrabi
  • 2019-03-03

great book to balance the free market theories

i love to read books in pairs, each arguing for a side.
however with economics vat majority of books are pro free markets. this is a great book from a Cambridge professor that pays a lot of attention to practicality above theory.

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  • wayne goldman
  • 2019-01-16

it's never what you think

well narrated . interesting info. a lot of acronyms so it tests the speed of your brain. i failed. 1 interesting thing was his take on copyright and intellectual property and then the performance ends with a copyright disclaimer. oh well.