Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Myth of Free Trade Development

There's a wealth of material on the Post-Autistic Economics website if you poke around the site a little. Many of these are quite pithy and are written in a fairly accessible style (eschewing the pseudo-scientific jargonese, and obfuscatory mathematical pretentions of neo-classical discourse).

I'd recommend two in particular. The first, is 'The Strange History of Economics', in which the quite obviously ludicrous axioms of neo-classical theory are laid bare and criticised and in which the story of the rise, fall and rise again of neo-classical theory - and its recent ascent to the status of only game in town (self-declared) - is given in brief.

The other one is Ha-Joon Chang's essay, 'Kicking Away the Ladder: How the Economic and Intellectual Histories of Capitalism Have Been Re-Written to Justify Neo-Liberal Capitalism'. The title is fairly self-explanatory. Chang provides a remarkably accessible account of the myth of free trade development - the idea that the developed world (particularly Britain and the US) rose to industrial and economic pre-eminence on account of their commitment to the 'open market' and the principles of 'free trade'. They didn't of course - but the myth is a useful one to foster and is used, as Chang suggests, to ensure the continued relative underdevelopment of the West's potential future economic rivals.

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