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Mr. Chang makes some very good points.... Basically he says that ther IS NO SUCH THING as "Free" trade. Only societies that are prospering in this day and age and in the past have PROTECTED thier markets.

Too bad Clinton was allowed to open the flood gates to our markets by letting the communist chinese into our markets.

Pray for the United States.
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on July 27, 2015
Excellent book for progressives seeking debate-points when arguing with conservatives over the "myth" of Free Trade. Interestingly, no nation ever became a world economic power by practicing "free trade." The United States never even really started to practice it until the 1970s.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2011
"Bad Samaritans" is enlightening, but also disappointing. It makes a strong case historically that some degree of protectionism, industrial policy, and intellectual piracy have benefited all successful developing countries. It discredits the neo-liberal policies of the IMF, although even the IMF has changed its mind about many of these policies in recent years. Disappointingly, the only argument the book can muster for why the developed countries should accept "unfair" practices by the undeveloped, other than altruism, is that the developed will benefit in the long run if the rest of the world prospers. In recognizing that labor and capital are not fungible, the book actually reinforces the opinion that the hurt done to developed countries in industries targeted by the undeveloped, such as steel, is not easily remedied. The book is also disappointing in that while very rewarding, it is often dull; this is forgivable, since the work is scholarly as well as accessible to the layman.

I believe a better case for the benefits of even asymmetrical free trade, such as we currently have, could be made, especially when the developing country does not accrue sizable trade surpluses like China, but even runs a small trade deficit like Brazil. Chang's emphasis on the importance of manufacturing over agriculture and services for developing countries seems somewhat out of date. Great increases in productivity in agriculture are possible, and agriculture is an area where countries can enjoy a classical comparative advantage. For services, think of the companies in India that started as call centers, and then became outsourcers for programming and even financial and legal work. Chang also believes that when foreign companies have control over local subsidiaries, this works to the long term detriment of the developing country. I would argue this may only be true when the foreign country is afraid of piracy and an uneven playing field, else it is more than happy to let economics decide where to do R&D, advanced manufacturing.

Some nuggets: corruption need not preclude good economic growth if the money collected is kept IN the country rather than exported to Swiss bank accounts; especially if it is spent on goods and services which can be provided locally. One advantage of tariffs for undeveloped countries is that they are a form of taxation which is relatively easy to collect (especially on goods not easily smuggled).
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on April 7, 2013
I got a lot out of reading this. It is an interesting lens to view a predominant paradigm. This book introduced me to a new perspective which has added to my general world view. I really got a lot out of this and would recommend for others studying IPE or interested in international finance.
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on January 27, 2014
I had heard the author in a radio interview and was intrigued. He has certainly put a lot of thought into his arguments, and his writing is solid. I'm still working my way through the book, and it raises the issue of free trade versus protectionism in a useful and powerful way.
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on May 29, 2015
Ha-Joon Chang explains it all in language that you can understand. What a wonderful author and mind. Solutions will not work for all societies, but they are well worth reading about and thinking about. Great writer, no falling asleep with him. Loved the book.
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on August 31, 2013
A well-founded, eminently readable book. Obligatory reading, if you live in a developing country and work on innovation, research or the developing of new industries, I like most the life experiences that the author tells about.
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2008
This book attacks orthodoxies of the World Bank, IMF, WTO, neo-liberal economists, free-market economists, and pundits such as Thomas Friedman. Chang often implies that they all share a common orthodoxy, but the ideas he attacks are usually questioned by some of those groups.
His criticisms of the World Bank, IMF, and WTO are often correct, but it shouldn't be surprising that they serve goals that don't coincide with needs of developing countries.
His most important argument is a defense of mercantilist protection of infant industries. He shows that the evidence on the effects of tariffs is sufficiently mixed that his selective use of examples can give the impression that he has shown tariffs promote economic growth in developing countries. He makes claims of the form "X would have failed without protection", but doesn't say why his ability to predict failure is more reliable than other alleged experts (e.g. MITI's belief that Honda would fail in the auto business). This provoked me into searching for more complete tests of the effects of tariffs. The evidence I found confirms that his confidence that tariffs work is foolish, but I was surprised to find that the evidence is too unclear to provide a guide to policy decision.
Chang has a good argument that the common orthodoxy about comparative advantage is a less conclusive reason for removing tariffs than it appears. But his attempts to describe a mechanism by which tariffs can be beneficial are naive. He talks about government protecting infant industries the way a parent protects a child, without any analysis of the political forces which cause governments to protect entrenched declining industries at the expense of less politically powerful startups.
He gives only vague hints about how to distinguish the tariffs he thinks are good from bad tariffs. I'll offer a suggestion: any tariff that is designed to meet his notion of a good tariff should be set by statute to decrease to zero over a period of about a decade and never be reinstated for an industry to which they've been applied under this statute.
His complaints about privatizing state-owned enterprises contain some valid points. I wish people didn't assume government and stockholder control are the only available choices. Having governments spin off enterprises as nonprofits would sometimes (often?) be a better option.
His comments about how patents and copyright affect developing countries are mostly correct. But he underestimates our dependence on drug patents when he implies that the 57% of drug research funding that comes from not-for-profit sources means we could get 57% of the results without commercial funding. A drug startup that will go broke if it doesn't produce something valuable does different work than someone whose success comes from publishing papers.
Chang's modest suggestions for patent reform would provide much less improvement than ideas I've found by reading free-market economists (e.g. prizes instead of patents, or Kremer's patent buyout proposal).
His comments about inflation assume that it produces some benefits, but he shows no awareness of the economic literature which disputes that assumption.
He has plausible hypotheses that increasing market forces might cause an increase in corruption in some countries. I see no easy way to estimate the size of these effects.
His arguments that cultures change in response to economic change more than most people realize are strong enough to lower my opinion of Fukuyama's book Trust (Fukuyama seems unaware that the German current high-trust culture is very different from a century ago when they had a reputation for dishonesty). But Chang exaggerates a lot when he says immigrants from poor countries working much harder in rich countries proves that work habits result from economic conditions rather than culture - those immigrants are unlikely to be typical of the culture they came from.
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on March 23, 2014
Just like in "23 Things They Don't Tell You about Capitalism," Ha-Joon Chang elegantly and indisputably points out the lies and hidden truths of how so-called free trade and capitalism really work.
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on August 24, 2013
Very informative especially on economic history of advanced nations and globalization.
Clear insights into what works and what doesn't with an argument for pragmatism and against dogma.
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