Books of the year 2010 | John Lanchester

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang

 

I've been reading a lot of economics books this year, what with having written one of my own. A number of titles stand out. Ha-Joon Chang's salutary 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism (Allen Lane, £20) essentially points out that the model of free-market capitalism a) is riddled with self-contradictions, convenient self-exemptions and errors of logic, and b) doesn't work. It also has a commitment to the idea of creating economically activist citizens which I share and believe is very important. Michael Lewis's The Big Short (Allen Lane, £25) is as compelling as all his other writing and makes a fascinating companion piece to his first book, Liar's Poker. (Interesting that the main works attacking late-1980s boom capitalism, Bonfire of the Vanities, Liar's Poker and the film Wall Street, all became uproariously popular with the people it was trying to satirise and provided three of their favourite catchphrases: "Greed is good", "masters of the universe" and "big swinging dick".) Also entertaining is Keith Gessen's Diary of a Very Bad Year (Harper Perennial, £9.45), based on conversations between Gessen, the editor of the American literary journal n+1, and an anonymous, but wonderfully frank, hedge-fund manager.

 

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