Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism

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Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism
Bad Samaritans The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism.jpg
AuthorHa-Joon Chang
CountryUnited States
PublisherBloomsbury Press

Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism is a book about economics written by Ha-Joon Chang, a South Korean institutional economist specializing in development economics. It criticizes mainstream economics of globalization and neo-liberalism. Chang claims that developed countries want developing countries to change their economic policy and open their markets. Rich and powerful governments and institutions are actually "Bad Samaritans"; their intentions may be worthy but their simplistic, free-market ideology and poor understanding of history leads them into policy errors.[1]


Chang argues that Thomas Friedman's book The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999) presents an uncomfortable truth of capitalism and criticized globalization. He argues that there are errors in prevailing theories of economic development and refutes them with economic theory, historical perspective, and current data. Chang claims that "Market and democracy clash at the fundamental level." In the epilogue, he writes about a fictionalized Brazil in 2037 that faces a gloomy future as a consequence of reckless beliefs in neo-liberal policies. Finally, he makes the case for new strategies to create a more prosperous world.

Critical reception[edit]

Antoine Cerisier in Social Justice wrote that "Despite largely favorable reviews, the book has been criticized in the Financial Times and The Economist. Critics argued that empirical evidence usually supports the main argument put forward by free-trade economists, namely that trade liberalization is good for growth and development. In a 2002 journal article entitled “Growth is good for the poor,” Dollar & Kraay concluded that free trade triggers growth and helps alleviate poverty in the global South. Nonetheless, as Chang would respond, it is probably the opposite: states are more willing to liberalize trade once they reach a certain level of economic development. The journalist admits that the East Asian example can illustrate the use of protectionism and state intervention in the economy."[2]

The Economist reviewer stated that the book presents the writer's personal reflection and rhetorical set-pieces. The book aims to "discomfort neoliberals." The review criticized the author for a "shaky grip on the historical record." The review concludes that the book is an interesting if controversial addition to the ongoing "200-year duel between the Hamiltonian's and the liberals".[3]

In the Washington Post review, Paul Blustein, a journalist in the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution, wrote “Chang's book deserves a wide readership for illuminating the need for humility about the virtues of private markets and free trade, especially in the developing world.”[4]

Tom Gallagher in the San Francisco Chronicle claimed that free market ideology has been enforced by today's dominant countries and they are "kicking the ladder" that they had climbed out of poverty, thereby preventing poor countries from climbing that ladder. He concludes the review by saying that developing countries "have to defy the market".[5]

South Korea[edit]

In 2008, Bad Samaritans was included on a list of 23 "seditious" books released by the Ministry of National Defense of South Korea. The listed books cannot be read or kept on a military base. The ministry argued that it might cause misunderstanding among the readers about the free market economy. The army argued that the book promotes anti-government and anti-American ideology.[6]

American linguist Noam Chomsky said: "It is unfortunate that the Ministry of National Defense is afraid of freedom and is trying to control people." He also said, "The name of the Ministry of National Defense should be changed to Ministry of Defense against Freedom and Democracy.”[7]

In South Korea, in OhmyNews, Gabsoo Kim said that Bad Samaritans pointed out the errors of a global standard that leading countries like the US use to compel a developing country to adopt the liberal market economy. Kim mentioned the book as very pro-capitalistic as Chang is a scholar who thoroughly trusts capitalism. He considers the book perfectly timed with neo-liberalism being confronted with serious challenges by the financial crisis.[8]


  1. ^ Chang, Ha-Joon; Bond, Jim; Audio, Brilliance. Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. Brilliance Audio.
  2. ^ Cerisier, Antoine (2012-03-31). "Book Review: Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang". socialjusticefirst. Archived from the original on 2015-09-26. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  3. ^ "Pistols at dawn". The Economist. 2007-08-30. Archived from the original on 2020-07-04. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  4. ^ Blustein, Paul (2008-02-17). "The Case Against Globalization". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
  5. ^ "'Bad Samaritans' and 'myth' of free trade". SFGate. 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
  6. ^ 전현석 [Jeon Hyeon-seok] (2008-08-01). "국방부 불온서적' 23권 열독운동?" [Let us read Ministry's of National Defense of South Korea list of 23 seditious books] (in Korean). Retrieved 2016-11-25.
  7. ^ 홍경화 ([Hong Kyung-hwa] (2008-10-25). "국방부 불온서적 지정된 촘스키 '생각과 표현통제는 불행한 일'" [Named as seditious book by Ministry of Defense; Chomsky: 'control of thought and expression is unfortunate']. The Hankyoreh. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
  8. ^ "오바마는 '나쁜 사마리아인'일까". 오마이뉴스. 2008-11-08. Retrieved 2016-11-25.