Monday, March 3, 2008

Ha-Joon Chang's "Bad Samaritans"

Ha-Joon Chang is Reader in the Political Economy of Development at the University of Cambridge.

He applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, and reported the following:
P. 99 of Bad Samaritans is representative of the book in one important sense but not in another.

While Bad Samaritans deals with big themes -- the history of capitalism, globalisation, the future of world development -- its conclusions are drawn on the basis of careful and detailed examination of empirical evidence, both historical and contemporary. P. 99 happens to provide such an examination in relation to the dominant neo-liberal dogma that trying to regulate foreign direct investment in a globalising world is futile. In this sense, the page is representative of the book's careful empiricism.

However, there is one important sense in which p. 99 is not very representative of Bad Samaritans. Given what it does, p. 99 happens to be rather dry (I wouldn't say boring), which much of the book is not. The book has been written with the general reading public in mind. It deploys quite a lot of popular cultural references in order to sustain the non-specialist reader's interest through many necessary but tedious economic arguments: I don't think you will find many economics books that feature Alexander Hamilton, Orson Welles, Tom Cruise, Monty Python, and Muhammad Ali, to name just a few. Despite this, sometimes the discussion inevitably become a little too dry, and p. 99 happens to contain one of those exceptions. The good news for the reader is that there are not many pages like p. 99 relative to the many more lively pages in Bad Samaritans.
Read an excerpt from Bad Samaritans, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Watch a video of Ha-Joon Chang discussing his book.

Learn more about Ha-Joon Chang's research and publications at his Cambridge webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue