Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading. Currently can only be used by a single user (myself), but I plan to extend it to support multiple users eventually.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

xiii

This book is not an anti-capitalist manifesto. Being critical of free-market ideology is not the same as being against capitalism. Despite its problems and limitations, I believe that capitalism is still the best economic system that humanity has invented. My criticism is of a particular version of capitalism that has dominated the world in the last three decades, that is, free-market capitalism. This is not the only way to run capitalism, and certainly not the best, as the records of the last three decades shows. The book shows that there are ways in which capitalism should, and can, be made better.

baby steps I guess

—p.xiii Introduction (xi) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

This book is not an anti-capitalist manifesto. Being critical of free-market ideology is not the same as being against capitalism. Despite its problems and limitations, I believe that capitalism is still the best economic system that humanity has invented. My criticism is of a particular version of capitalism that has dominated the world in the last three decades, that is, free-market capitalism. This is not the only way to run capitalism, and certainly not the best, as the records of the last three decades shows. The book shows that there are ways in which capitalism should, and can, be made better.

baby steps I guess

—p.xiii Introduction (xi) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
xv

Human decisions, especially decisions by those who have the power to set the rules, make things happen in the way they happen, as I will explain. Even though no single decision-maker can be sure that her actions will always lead to the desired results, the decisions that have been made are not in some sense inevitable. We do not live in the best of all possible worlds. If different decisions had been taken, the world would have been a different place. Given this, we need to ask whether the decisions that the rich and the powerful take are based on sound reasoning and robust evidence. Only when we do that can we demand right actions from corporations, governments and international organizations. Without our active economic citizenship, we will always be the victims of people who have greater ability to make decisions, who tell us that things happen because they have to and therefore that there is nothing we can do to alter them, however unpleasant and unjust they may appear.

—p.xv Introduction (xi) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

Human decisions, especially decisions by those who have the power to set the rules, make things happen in the way they happen, as I will explain. Even though no single decision-maker can be sure that her actions will always lead to the desired results, the decisions that have been made are not in some sense inevitable. We do not live in the best of all possible worlds. If different decisions had been taken, the world would have been a different place. Given this, we need to ask whether the decisions that the rich and the powerful take are based on sound reasoning and robust evidence. Only when we do that can we demand right actions from corporations, governments and international organizations. Without our active economic citizenship, we will always be the victims of people who have greater ability to make decisions, who tell us that things happen because they have to and therefore that there is nothing we can do to alter them, however unpleasant and unjust they may appear.

—p.xv Introduction (xi) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
1

The free market doesn't exist. Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them. How 'free' a market is cannot be objectively defined. It is a political definition. The usual claim by free-market economists that they are trying to defend the market from politically motivated interference by the government is false. Government is always involved and those free-marketers are as politically motivated as anyone. Overcoming the myth that there is such a thing as an objectively defined 'free market' is the first step towards understanding capitalism.

The first two sentences are pretty obvious but the political definition angle is interesting.

at the same time, you have to wonder how much of a strawman this is--perhaps a conservative response to this would be that they're just trying to find the right balance of govt interference, and that liberals are asking for too much

—p.1 Thing 1 (1) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

The free market doesn't exist. Every market has some rules and boundaries that restrict freedom of choice. A market looks free only because we so unconditionally accept its underlying restrictions that we fail to see them. How 'free' a market is cannot be objectively defined. It is a political definition. The usual claim by free-market economists that they are trying to defend the market from politically motivated interference by the government is false. Government is always involved and those free-marketers are as politically motivated as anyone. Overcoming the myth that there is such a thing as an objectively defined 'free market' is the first step towards understanding capitalism.

The first two sentences are pretty obvious but the political definition angle is interesting.

at the same time, you have to wonder how much of a strawman this is--perhaps a conservative response to this would be that they're just trying to find the right balance of govt interference, and that liberals are asking for too much

—p.1 Thing 1 (1) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
3

[...] the free market is an illusion. If some markets look free, it is only because we so totally accept the regulations that are propping them up that they become invisible.

—p.3 Thing 1 (1) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] the free market is an illusion. If some markets look free, it is only because we so totally accept the regulations that are propping them up that they become invisible.

—p.3 Thing 1 (1) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
7

All this does not mean that we need to take a relativist position and fail to criticize anyone because anything goes. We can (and I do) have a view on the acceptability of prevailing labour standards in China (or any other country, for that matter) and try to do something about it, without believing that those who have a different view are wrong in some absolute sense. For though China cannot afford American wages or Swedish working conditions, it certainly can improve the wages and the working conditions of its workers. [...]

on the fact that there is no objective way to define "unacceptably low wages" or "inhumane working conditions", especially because it evolves along with our social mores over time. thus free-market economics can't give us the answer

—p.7 Thing 1 (1) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

All this does not mean that we need to take a relativist position and fail to criticize anyone because anything goes. We can (and I do) have a view on the acceptability of prevailing labour standards in China (or any other country, for that matter) and try to do something about it, without believing that those who have a different view are wrong in some absolute sense. For though China cannot afford American wages or Swedish working conditions, it certainly can improve the wages and the working conditions of its workers. [...]

on the fact that there is no objective way to define "unacceptably low wages" or "inhumane working conditions", especially because it evolves along with our social mores over time. thus free-market economics can't give us the answer

—p.7 Thing 1 (1) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
9

Furthermore, reflecting its political nature, the process of re-drawing the boundaries of the market has sometimes been marked by violent conflicts. The Americans fought a civil war over free trade in slaves (although free trade in goods--or the tariffs issue--was also an important issue). [...]

—p.9 Thing 1 (1) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

Furthermore, reflecting its political nature, the process of re-drawing the boundaries of the market has sometimes been marked by violent conflicts. The Americans fought a civil war over free trade in slaves (although free trade in goods--or the tariffs issue--was also an important issue). [...]

—p.9 Thing 1 (1) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
13

[...] At the same time, the non-managing investors in a limited liability company would also become less vigilant in monitoring the managers, as their risks were capped (at their respective investments). Adam Smith [...] famously said that the 'directors of [joint stock] companies ... being the manager rather of other people's money than of their own, it cannot well be expected that they would watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private copartnery [i.e., partnership, which demands unlimited liability] frequently watch over their own'.

—p.13 Thing 2 (11) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] At the same time, the non-managing investors in a limited liability company would also become less vigilant in monitoring the managers, as their risks were capped (at their respective investments). Adam Smith [...] famously said that the 'directors of [joint stock] companies ... being the manager rather of other people's money than of their own, it cannot well be expected that they would watch over it with the same anxious vigilance with which the partners in a private copartnery [i.e., partnership, which demands unlimited liability] frequently watch over their own'.

—p.13 Thing 2 (11) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
19

[...] Share buybacks used to be less than 5 per cent of US corporate profits for decades until the early 1980s, but have kept rising since then and reached an epic proportion of 90 per cent in 2007 and an absurd 280 per cent in 2008. [...]

mostly likely explanation: corporations are taking on debt in order to do share buybacks

—p.19 Thing 2 (11) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] Share buybacks used to be less than 5 per cent of US corporate profits for decades until the early 1980s, but have kept rising since then and reached an epic proportion of 90 per cent in 2007 and an absurd 280 per cent in 2008. [...]

mostly likely explanation: corporations are taking on debt in order to do share buybacks

—p.19 Thing 2 (11) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
23

The wage gaps between rich and poor countries exist not mainly because of differences in individual productivity but mainly because of immigration control. If there were free migration, most workers in rich countries could be, and would be, replaced by workers from poor countries. In other words, wages are largely politically determined. The other side of the coin is that poor countries are poor not because of their poor people, many of whom can out-compete their counterparts in rich countries, but because of their rich people, most of whom cannot do the same. This does not, however, mean that the rich in the rich countries can pat their own backs for their individual brilliance. Their high productivities are possible only because of the historically inherited collective institutions on which they stand. We should reject the myth that we all get paid according to our individual worth, if we are to build a truly just society.

it's true, but he could go deeper into what it means for some countries to be rich or poor if it has nothing to do with individual productivity

—p.23 Thing 3 (23) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

The wage gaps between rich and poor countries exist not mainly because of differences in individual productivity but mainly because of immigration control. If there were free migration, most workers in rich countries could be, and would be, replaced by workers from poor countries. In other words, wages are largely politically determined. The other side of the coin is that poor countries are poor not because of their poor people, many of whom can out-compete their counterparts in rich countries, but because of their rich people, most of whom cannot do the same. This does not, however, mean that the rich in the rich countries can pat their own backs for their individual brilliance. Their high productivities are possible only because of the historically inherited collective institutions on which they stand. We should reject the myth that we all get paid according to our individual worth, if we are to build a truly just society.

it's true, but he could go deeper into what it means for some countries to be rich or poor if it has nothing to do with individual productivity

—p.23 Thing 3 (23) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago
27

While they complain about minimum wage legislation, regulations on working hours, and various 'artificial' entry barriers into the labour market imposed by trade unions, few economists even mention immigration control as one of those nasty regulations hampering the workings of the free labour market. [...]

[...] I am not arguing that immigration control should be abolished [...]

Countries have the right to decide how many immigrants they accept and in which parts of the labour market. All societies have limited capabilities to absorb immigrants [...] Too rapid an inflow of immigrants will not only lead to a sudden increase in competition for jobs but also stretch the physical and social infrastructures, such as housing and healthcare, and create tensions with the resident population. As important, if not as easily quantifiable, is the issue of national identity. It is a myth--a necessary myth, but a myth nonetheless--that nations have immutable national identities that cannot be, and should not be, changed. However, if there are too many immigrants coming in at the same time, the receiving society will have problems creating a new national identity, without which it may find it difficult to maintain social cohesion. This means that the speed and the scale of immigration need to be controlled.

other points: investor visas that contribute to capital drain from poor countries; highly skilled people from poorer countries getting visas more easily which results in brain drain & prevents them from contributing more to their own country

—p.27 Thing 3 (23) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago

While they complain about minimum wage legislation, regulations on working hours, and various 'artificial' entry barriers into the labour market imposed by trade unions, few economists even mention immigration control as one of those nasty regulations hampering the workings of the free labour market. [...]

[...] I am not arguing that immigration control should be abolished [...]

Countries have the right to decide how many immigrants they accept and in which parts of the labour market. All societies have limited capabilities to absorb immigrants [...] Too rapid an inflow of immigrants will not only lead to a sudden increase in competition for jobs but also stretch the physical and social infrastructures, such as housing and healthcare, and create tensions with the resident population. As important, if not as easily quantifiable, is the issue of national identity. It is a myth--a necessary myth, but a myth nonetheless--that nations have immutable national identities that cannot be, and should not be, changed. However, if there are too many immigrants coming in at the same time, the receiving society will have problems creating a new national identity, without which it may find it difficult to maintain social cohesion. This means that the speed and the scale of immigration need to be controlled.

other points: investor visas that contribute to capital drain from poor countries; highly skilled people from poorer countries getting visas more easily which results in brain drain & prevents them from contributing more to their own country

—p.27 Thing 3 (23) by Ha-Joon Chang 1 year, 6 months ago