By Chalmers Johnson
Jan. 25, 2008
Ha-Joon Chang is a Cambridge economist who specializes in the abject poverty of the Third World and its people, groups, nations, and empires, and their doctrines that are responsible for this condition. He won the Gunnar Myrdal Prize for his book “Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective” (2002), and he shared the 2005 Wassily Leontief Prize for his contributions to “Rethinking Development in the 21st Century.” The title of his 2002 book comes from the German political economist Friedrich List, who in 1841 criticized Britain for preaching free trade to other countries while having achieved its own economic supremacy through high tariffs and extensive subsidies. He accused the British of “kicking away the ladder” that they had climbed to reach the world’s top economic position. Chang’s other, more technical books include “The Political Economy of Industrial Policy” (1994) and “Reclaiming Development: An Economic Policy Handbook for Activists and Policymakers” (2004).
His new book is a discursive, well-written account of what he calls the “Bad Samaritans,” “people in the rich countries who preach free markets and free trade to the poor countries in order to capture larger shares of the latter’s markets and preempt the emergence of possible competitors. They are saying ‘do as we say, not as we did’ and act as Bad Samaritans, taking advantage of others who are in trouble.” “Bad Samaritans” is intended for a literate audience of generalists and eschews the sort of exotica that peppers most economic writing these days—there is not a single simultaneous equation in the book and many of Chang’s examples are taken from his own experiences as a South Korean born in 1963.