Some may think my headline somewhat strange, but in fact I do mean it. Because, in Hbl of Sö 30.08., p.28, Mikael Kosk did something which I think MANY people should do MUCH more often during the political discussion: he mentioned Ha-Joon Chang and his book (which will soon also appear in Swedish, titled “23 saker de inte vill att du ska veta om kapitalism”).
Kosk’s article covers a whole page, and he is discussing several economists, of course Thomas Picketty, also Björn Wahlroos (whose book was seemingly the reason for the whole article), but anyway it was the first time that I saw Ha-Joon Chang mentioned in a Finnish daily paper. Let’s hope that this will happen more often in the future, and anybody who is able to express him/herself in good Swedish is most warmly invited to help the process (e.g. by letters to the editor).
In his article, Kosk is mentioning Chang with the four points “att fria marknader inte existerar, att statsmakten kan skapa framgångsrika företag, att andra inte blir rikare när de rika blir det, och att finansmarknadens problem är att den är alltför effektiv”. Chang is basing these claims on his knowlege of economical history and statistics, but one could in places also use psychology. About, e.g., his claim that there is no such thing as a free market, a psychologist could say that indeed it is not allowed any more to trade in drugs and slaves, and that further restrictions could well be considered, so that the formulation could better be that “there are restrictions which people have got used to (so that they manage to feel free), while there are others which have not yet got used to (so that they would feel unfree) – which allows the conclusion that they will, with time, feel free even if further, reasonable restrictions are introduced”.
The claim that governments can establish successful enterprises is based on the experiences of the East Asian “tiger economies” (such as Japan, South Corea and China), and not much should hinder the thought to be applied in Finland (where decision makers could easily get any amount of advice from highly educated specialists – one just would have to ask them …).
About the idea that everybody would profit if the rich ones get still richer, the statistics say very clearly that the promised “trickle down effect” simply did not happen. To which a psychologist might add the rhetorical question why the hell it should have happened: if people do not have the money to buy things there is no reason why the rich ones should invest in any production. Instead, the rich ones put (very logically) their money into the all-too-well functioning finance markets – because there one can earn money much faster and with less effort than by classical entrepreneurship (which is why Chang is suggesting some measures to make the financial markets a bit less fast-and-efficient, e.g. by introducing the Tobin tax).
Altogether, it could have become clear that Ha-Joon Chang’s book is not too difficult to understand, very supportive of progressive ideas, and consequently VERY WORTH PROMOTING (as suggested above). And praise to Mikael Kosk for, finally, having referred to it at least in Hbl.