23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism: Item #1 -- There's No Such Thing as a Free Market
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Editor's Note: Many books have tackled the great recession of 2008, the second worst economic crisis in history, after the depression. But I doubt there is one book, written in response to the current economic crisis, that is as fun or easy to read as Ha-Joon Chang's 23 Things They Don't Tell you About Capitalism. I'd never heard of this Korean economist, probably because he lives in England and teaches at Cambridge, but he is well known in economic circles, and well respected.
It is no secret that the American society is dominated by the super rich, held for hostage by the banks, dominated in the Nation's Capital by the tens of thousands of lobbyists and their big bucks, as the Republican party and their corporate Tea Partyists provide cover for giant theft of many billions of wealth for the very rich, with of course the cooperation of the Democrats who supported the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy (Check out Rachel Maddow's op-ed, which explains why Dwight Eisenhower, who taxed the rich to balance the budget, which be a radical in today's political reality). In this very discouraging environment it is hard to imagine scenarios where normal folks, every day voters, the non-rich, who are not represented by lobbyists, can have much influence.
On top of that, making change even harder, is an enormously effective propaganda system that perpetuates inaccurate and often destructive myths about virtually every element of capitalism and the US and global economy. And top economic officials in the Obama administration and leading mainstream economists often perpetuate these myths, and the corporate media marches along side repeating them like the gospel.
So, as far as I am concerned there never can be too much truth-telling to attempt to pull away the curtain of propaganda and disinformation that shrouds our economic thinking and actions. I am not under the illusion that the facts will set us free. As research has shown, when people connect their opinions to a set of values or leaders, they will not be open to changing their mind, and presentation of contrary "facts," may make them dig in more clinging their their misinformation. But when it comes to the economy, the propaganda system has been so pervasive, and supported by conventional wisdom that people who need to know better, buy into it, and yes that includes liberals and progressives who have a kind of inertia of the mind of their own. It is hard to change one's sense of things.
AlterNet's Economics editor Joshua Holland made a nice contribution to this public education effort this Fall with his book: The Fifteen Biggest Lies about the Economy Now we have the funny, and sharp Chang. What follows is chapter one of his book: "There is No Such Thing as a Free Market." Other chapters are quite revealing such as: " The Washing Machine Has Changed the World More than the Internet;" "More Education, in Itself, Is Not Going to Make a Country Richer;" "The U.S. Does Not Have the Highest Living Standard in the World;" "Companies Should Not Be Run in the Interest of their Owners."
Chan's main point is the recent economic disaster wasn't by accident, that active government can promote economic dynamism, that tax cuts for the rich simply redistribute wealth upward, and that we will continue on the path to economic disaster,with no end in sight, unless the collective wisdom, goes in a different direction. -- AlterNet Executive Editor Don Hazen