Before reading 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang my knowledge of economics stretched about as far as our monthly household budget. I feel rather embarrassed to have reached my thirties without questioning issues such as interest-rate changes, inflation and market crashes. In light of my apparent lack of enthusiasm toward money matters, it took a lot of self-motivation to persevere through a book that is best approached with at least a basic understanding of economics.
Nevertheless, I did make my way through all 23 chapters and found the book surprisingly enlightening on many issues where I had succumbed to the apparently misconstrued version of the way the world markets function. I admittedly skimmed certain chapters where the theories and statistics threatened to lull me into a numerically-induced coma. However, chapters such as ‘Africa is not destined for underdevelopment’ – which detail the ways in which the author believes developing countries would be better equipped to work their way out of poverty – did prove quite informative and persuasive.
Ha-Joon Chang sets out to challenge conventional thinking about free markets and capitalist economics by suggesting alternative ways in which world economies might avoid a repeat of the 2008 crisis. Where I am most interested in Chang’s theories is when decisions by economists and organisations, such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund), impact the world’s poorest. I found myself becoming rather defensive at the author’s criticism of microfinance when I have always been a big advocate for microloans as a way of people being given an opportunity to work their way out of poverty. If I remain objective I can agree that there are definite flaws in the way many organisations go about providing loans but when it is done properly, microfinance can – and does – change lives. You can read more about how I go about giving loans in small change #52.
Would I recommend this book? For anyone who is interested in becoming a bit more educated on the world financial markets and how we are all impacted by the decisions of economists, I would say, ‘Give it a read’. And if for no other reason, you can always drop into a conversation that you are reading a book about free-market capitalism and economics which makes you sound super intelligent.