BOOK REVIEW/Donald McCarthy

The Hidden Side of Capitalism

We have all talked about the current economic situation in the United States and the person we are speaking to refuses to budge from their conservative economic viewpoint. No, they insist, the free market will always make sure that everyone will have an equal opportunity to succeed. Instead of launching into a rant that s/he will only brush off with a comment about free market capitalism,, you should shove a copy of 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang (Bloomsbury Press) into their hands.

For those of you who are educated on economics this book will probably not reveal anything that you are not already well acquainted with. However, it will likely bring up some examples that you might not know about. For example, Chang brings up how the idea of putting more money in the top percentage in order for it to trickle down is not an idea original to Ronald Reagan. Surprisingly, Stalin had a similar economic plan where he hoarded much of the wealth in the planning authority, the Soviet Union’s version of the top 1% in America.

Also beneficial is that Chang’s book is not partisan. He is more than willing to point out how Bill Clinton embraced policies that ended up increasing income inequality in America including promising to end welfare as we know it, something which is clearly not beneficial to the poor.

The best audience for the book is an audience that is not overly educated on the current type of capitalism that is being used in America. Near the start of the book Chang states that he is not against capitalism per se but he is against the type of capitalism that has been practiced in recent times. Instead of just standing by that belief, Chang repeatedly uses examples, statistics and studies to prove his points. The book is not simply an extended editorial; it is an examination of the current economic climate in America. For someone who is not fully aware of the effects of income inequality, of a culture that by and large makes as many excuses for the 1%’s continuous selfish acts and of a political economy that is not at all willing to regulate businesses which are manipulating the economy in ways that are catastrophic, Chang’s book will be an eye-opener.

Critics of the book would likely characterize Chang as a “liberal elitist” who is out of touch. This cannot be more incorrect. Chang’s book is incredibly sympathetic to the middle and working classes. It is them, Chang argues, that have most been hurt by the type of capitalism that is rampant in America today.

Donald McCarthy is a freelance writer and a short fiction author. He can be reached at

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2012

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