Bad Samaritans The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism

Ha-Joon Chang

Bloomsbury Press




288 Pages



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One economist has called Ha-Joon Chang "the most exciting thinker our profession has turned out in the past fifteen years." With Bad Samaritans, this scholar takes on the debate on globalization and economic justice. Using irreverent wit, an engagingly personal style, and a battery of examples, Chang challenges the "World Is Flat" orthodoxy of Thomas Friedman and other liberal economists who argue that only unfettered capitalism and wide-open international trade can lift struggling nations out of poverty. On the contrary, Chang reminds us, today's economic superpowers—from the U.S. to Britain to his native Korea—all attained prosperity by shameless protectionism and government intervention in industry. Via proxies such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization, we have pushed policies that suit ourselves on to countries in the developing world.

Unlike economists who construct models of how the marketplace should work, Chang examines the past: what has actually happened. His contrarian history demolishes one pillar after another of free-market mythology. According to Chang, 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 nations that are struggling to follow in our footsteps.


Praise for Bad Samaritans

"A well-researched and readable case against free-trade orthodoxy."—Business Week

"This is a marvelous book. Well researched, panoramic in its scope, and beautifully written, Bad Samaritans is the perfect riposte to devotees of a one-size-fits-all model of growth and globalization. I strongly urge you to read it."—Larry Elliott, economics editor, The Guardian (UK)

"Lucid, deeply informed, and enlivened with striking illustrations, this penetrating study could be entitled 'economics in the real world.' Chang reveals the yawning gap between standard doctrines concerning economic development and what really has taken place from the origins of the industrial revolution until today. His incisive analysis shows how, and why, prescriptions based on reigning doctrines have caused severe harm, particularly to the most vulnerable and defenseless, and are likely to continue to do so. He goes on to provide sensible and constructive proposals, solidly based on economic theory and historical evidence, as to how the global economy could be redesigned to proceed on a far more humane and civilized course. And his warnings of what might happen if corrective action is not taken are grim and apt."—Noam Chomsky

"A smart, lively, and provocative book that offers us compelling new ways of looking at globalization."—Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, 2001

"Every orthodoxy needs effective critics. Ha-Joon Chang is probably the world's most effective critic of globalization. He does not deny the benefits to developing countries of integration into the world economy. But he draws on the lessons of history to argue that they must be allowed to integrate on their own terms."—Martin Wolf, Financial Times, author of Why Globalization Works

"This is a marvelous book. Well researched, panoramic in its scope and beautifully written, Bad Samaritans is the perfect riposte to devotees of a one-size-fits-all model of growth and globalisation. I strongly urge you to read it."—Larry Elliott, economics editor, The Guardian (UK)

"Chang (Univ. of Cambridge) has written a witty, interesting reply to go-go globalization books. Anyone who believes the myth that today's wealthy nations got that way through neoliberal free trade policies (and that this is the only road for developing countries today) will be entertained and informed by the 'secret history' of protectionism. The book is provoked by Thomas Friedman (The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 1999, and The World Is Flat, CH, Mar'06, 43-4141), informed by Friedrich List, and driven by a deep understanding of the real history of economic development in Asia and elsewhere. This reviewer found the chapter on corruption especially sharp, although there is much to appreciate throughout . . . Too bad there was such a long gestation period between the debates that provoked the book and its eventual appearance . . . Recommended [for] general readers and undergraduate students."—M. Veseth, University of Puget Sound, Choice magazine

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Ha-Joon Chang

  • Ha-Joon Chang has taught at the Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge, since 1990. He has consulted for numerous international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. He has published eleven books, including Kicking Away the Ladder, winner of the 2003 Myrdal Prize. In 2005, Chang was awarded the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.