Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang was on Democracy Now! today. (Hat-tip to Taki M.) We ran an online review of his book Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism by Mark Engler a couple of months ago. Here are some excerpts from the DN! interview:
AMY GOODMAN: The US government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the US economy in the wake of the financial crisis. But what steps are being taken to address the crisis on a global scale? On Sunday, the World Bank warned of the first global recession since World War II, with the world economy set to shrink for the first time since the 1940s. The bank also cautioned that the cost of helping poorer nations in crisis would exceed the current financial resources of multilateral lenders. The economic crisis is projected to push around 46 million people into poverty this year.
The financial crisis is forcing some to rethink the neoliberal policies widely blamed for the financial collapse. On Monday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for a new international fund to support poorer countries during the global recession. He also acknowledged richer Western nations have often imposed economic policies on poorer countries that they haven’t followed themselves.
PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN: We will work with the World Bank and our G20 partners to build support for a new fund specifically to help the world’s poorest through the downturn. Too often, our responses to past crises have been inadequate or misdirected, promoting economic orthodoxies that we ourselves have not followed and that have condemned the world’s poorest to a deepening crisis of poverty.
AMY GOODMAN: Brown says he’ll raise the issue of a global fund at the next G20 meeting in July.
Well, my first guest has been among the leading economists to criticize the neoliberal policies imposed on poor nations but not followed by the West. Ha-Joon Chang is an economist at the University of Cambridge specializing in developmental economics. In 2005, he was awarded the Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. He is author of the books Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective, and his latest is called Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, as you come from, well, Gordon Brown’s country to this one. First, what is your assessment of the situation right now? Warren Buffett has just said that the economy has gone off a cliff.
HA-JOON CHANG: Well, I think we are facing the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Now, it probably wouldn’t get as bad as the Great Depression, because, unlike in the Great Depression, governments are more willing to intervene with deficit spending and nationalizing financial institutions and giving subsidies to industry and so on, whereas in the 1930s they more kind of adamantly held onto free market doctrines, which they subsequently abandoned, but, I mean, there was a period of time when they just held onto it and lost the opportunity. So I don’t think the impact would not be as severe as what it was in the 1930s, but yes, I mean, there’s no question that this is as big or possibly even bigger a crisis than what we saw in 1929.