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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ha-Joon Chang's "23 Things..."

I just finished reading one of my favorite authors, Ha Joon Chang's, "23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism."

I was going to write a review, but then I figured I'm sure any review I do would be inadequate and I'm already a member of a book club so I prefer to not have to discuss specifics in two separate forums.

So, for the purpose of this blog, I will point to a review that I agree with the most and generally say:
Thumbs Up - Recommend!


Ok Ok...maybe I'll comment too:
... All in all, the reviewer is correct in that, while Chang does a great job explaining the myths and our present day problems, he doesn't deliver on solutions.  He doesn't say how we can overcome our political failings to ensure the government can act in ways that don't do more harm than good.  His argument is largely that there are specific cases that show the government can do this, but there are numerous cases of failure as well.  He provides no analysis to show that, if every country adopted his philosophy, that worlds' governments would be able to provide a net gain as opposed to a net loss.

In some sense the problem with Chang's solution(s) are the same problems that plague solutions put forth by mainstream economists: it all sounds great in theory but in reality it is much more difficult.   How do "we" know what are 'good' regulations vs. 'bad' regulations?  How do we hope, even if we could identify these things, that ideologically driven politicians would keep their bias to a minimum?  What is there to prevent corruption and abuse until and unless we address our political system problem first? Until money and media abuse is outside of our political sphere, what hope is there of common-sense solutions for society at large as opposed to solutions for special interests?

That is my major beef with Chang's solutions.  Fixing capitalism cannot start with economics, it must start with politics - because politics is the institution in which economics exists in the real world.  One can argue that our politicians are driven by what they learn from our mainstream economics.  So I do think that one thing that we can immediately change in our economics is the way economics is taught in our schools today.  It's a lot of hogwash mixed in with good thoughts - culminating in the creation of bad Samaritans.   But again, economics departments today are in and of themselves, fraught with bad politics.

Do you see the problem?  I've never heard a good solution.

PS:
Were you to say the "Occupy" movement might propose a solution.  I would respond: no way in hell.

Mr. Chang ironically points out a main reason why.  They have already been branded as crazy anarchists.   It's too late for that brand to change, IMOP.  The media and mainstream detractors is a good deal at fault here.  But Chang I think incorrectly ignores that most of the blame lies with "Occupy" itself.  It has been, from its inception, a poorly planned, poorly led, poorly designed movement with far too much 'kernel of truth' to the detractors.  To be honest, Occupy does consist of a huge portion of anarchists or extreme Marxists.  Indeed their whole system of 100% consensus voting shows how completely unrealistic and anarchic they are.

Occupy could have been great.  Instead it has, in fact, made things worse by providing great fodder for the right-wing ideologues.

9 comments:

Nathan Tankus said...

what you say now is exactly what white moderates said during the civil rights movements. In fact, it's exactly what's said after every mass movement that's ever come into existence starts acting. those moderates were wrong in the thirties, they were wrong in the 1840's and 1850's, they were wrong in the late 19th early 20th century union fights and I think you're wrong now.

You're delusional if you think the media didn't brand Martin Luther King a crazy extremist in his time. That has never stopped the effectiveness of direct action.

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

"First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."

Garth A Brazelton said...

Um,you do realize that this rebuttal is not logical don't you? You are somehow tying my opinion about Chang's solutions to that of a stereotyped population during the civil rights era?

This is a bit of a stretch.

By the way, I don't think Chang is an extremist...or perhaps you are focusing on my last paragraph about Occupy? That may be more likely.

You are trying to compare MLK Jr. and the Civil Rights movement to Occupy? Who are you saying is delusional now? Guess what the Civil Rights movement had coherant leaders - LIKE MLK! Occupy has hippies playing guitars, and people who abhor leadership by preferring anarchy. I know because I've seen it. I tried it. It's a failure. It's time to accept that fact and move on.

Anonim said...

a new book

http://www.amazon.com/Strategies-Improve-Accuracy-Macroeconomic-Forecasts/dp/3848403196

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