Economics: The User’s Guide (Ha-Joon Chang)

20702125Economics is a subject I frankly don’t know a lot about, and for some reason I am determined to understand it than I do. The fact that I’ve read this (cos it looked like a potentially useful beginner’s text when I found it at the library recently) and, well, don’t really understand it that much more than I did before is, to be honest, almost certainly not the fault of author Chang (who was apparently brought in to inaugurate the revived Pelican brand with this book). Don’t know an awful lot about Chang apart from obvious details like him being Korean and an economist, but I won’t question his ability to take what I obviously consider a difficult subject and communicate about it as clearly as possible. If I still struggle with it, it’s not because of him. I liked Chang’s determination to present the subject with as few tables and numbers as possible (that was what kind of sunk me when I tried reading that Thomas Piketty book people were raving about a few years ago), and I enjoyed the historical chapter; however, once the book gets down to the brass tacks of how the economy actually works, a lot of unavoidable specific terminology does ensue and, to be honest, a fair bit of it just baffled me. The overall impression I got of Chang’s own beliefs, though, is that he’s cool with capitalism but reckons it works best with some degree of government regulation and oversight; he’s a free trade sceptic like I am, though much better at articulating his objections to it, cos he’s also sceptical about things behaving as they “should” as opposed to how they actually do behave (which goes for governments as well, it should be said). I found this interesting despite my various difficulties with it—like I said, it’s probably my problem rather than Chang’s, I’ve probably jumped in at the deep end of a subject that has no real shallow end—and I’ve got another one of Chang’s books in my reading queue…

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